The document underpinning the formation of the new Government includes a commitment to additional support measures for the hospitality sector on the back of the current Covid-19 crisis.
The LVA stated that it has been campaigning for such assistance for pubs which were the first sector to close en masse across the country with many pubs expected to be among the last businesses to re-open while the Federation is encouraged that the new government will establish an SME task force to co-ordinate the response to Covid-19.
As the VFI has stated since the crisis began back in March, pubs will require a sustained support package as they begin to trade in the new normal required by Social Distancing which will dramatically reduce capacity across pubs, making it much more difficult for these businesses to remain viable. In these circumstances, Government support will be essential in the months ahead.
“The Programme for Government says that a ‘concerted focus’ on SMEs is required along with balanced regional growth,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “The so-called ‘July Stimulus’ will be a crucial weapon in the new Government’s armoury and must be used to support the hospitality sector as we emerge into a new trading reality for our members.
“The formation of an SME and State Bodies Group chaired jointly by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Business to coordinate the Government’s ongoing response to Covid-19 for SMEs is to be welcomed.”
Night-time Economy Taskforce
Other measures welcomed by the LVA and VFI in the Programme for Government include the creation of a Night-time Economy Taskforce where the licensing application process and trading hours for pubs are to be reviewed.
“The LVA looks forward to engaging on these issues with the sector having strong views on both licensing and late trading hours,” stated the Association, “The LVA believes the reform of the licensing application process is long overdue as the current process is overly expensive and bureaucratic.”
Participation on the new Night-time Economy Taskforce will be a key issue for Dublin pubs.
The Night-time Economy Taskforce’s brief to review, in part, trading hours and licensing laws also represents an opportunity for the VFI to put forward its members’ views on how best to promote and encourage the late-night economy.
Both organisations welcomed the commitment to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing on alcohol in consultation with Northern Ireland and the LVA believes that this should be implemented in the coming months.
“Overall there are a number of very positive measures in this document which, if implemented correctly, will make a major difference to the recovery of the pub sector in this country,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, speaking in reaction to the Programme for Government, “Of course the devil will be in the detail and that’s why we’ll be seeking to engage extensively with the new Government on several of these proposals. What’s vital is that nothing is done to further damage a pub sector that has been forced to take unparalleled action and which will require support and assistance over the coming months if it is to recover.
“In particular the measures to support pubs and the rest of the hospitality sector in the stimulus plan will be vitally important. The pubs in this country are unique. They are not only significant employers but also a part of the community in every city, town and village across the country while also being a strong contributor to our tourism offering. This will need to be recognised in any recovery packages, something we will be discussing with the new Government as soon as the opportunity arise,” he concluded.
“We look forward to working with the new Government to promote our pub culture, one of the country’s greatest assets. During this period of vulnerability for the pub trade, where Social Distancing requirements will hugely impact on our members’ ability to trade, it’s important we do everything possible to support pubs until all restrictions are removed,” concluded Padraig Cribben.
AIR disappointed at dropping of insurance reform cabinet subcommittee
However not everyone was happy with the government’s final document. The Alliance for Insurance Reform reacted with disappointment and frustration to the dropping of the proposed cabinet subcommittee on insurance reform featured in the original draft programme for government circulated.
In the final Programme for Government document, Our Shared Future, responsibility for insurance reform has been subsumed under a Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment which, according to the final document, will “prioritise” the issue of insurance reform.
“We’re deeply disappointed and frustrated with this last-minute decision,” said Peter Boland, Director of the Alliance which has advocated a real sense of urgency from everyone now charged with getting reforms over the line, “While we welcome the priority afforded to insurance reform by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment, without the focus of a dedicated subcommittee the rest of the insurance reforms in the PFG document are in danger of becoming a series of vague commitments and considerations.
“We would ask the parties to reconsider this decision given the centrality of the issue to our economic recovery and the need for focused urgent action if we’re to stop insurance getting in the way of our national recovery from Covid-19 and halting the damage to Irish charities, community groups, sports organisations, our arts and culture and SMEs, caused by unsustainable insurance costs. Further delays to reform are just not an option any more”.