Every hospitality operator should email their local MP about the current situation with rent debt to ensure the government grasps the full extent of the problem, implored Hugh Osmond, director at Various Eateries.

Osmond, who recently challenged the government on its roadmap dates in the High Court alongside Sacha Lord, told MCA’s The Conversation audience that while there are many businesses that have reached an agreement with their landlords – “we have with the majority of ours but not all” – for those who haven’t it’s a potential existential threat, which if landlords claim the full back rent means closure pretty much the next day.

He said that despite the likes of Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality, banging the drum about the government’s call for evidence, there had been “a slightly disappointing response rate from the industry”.

“I know it was shockingly confusing and actually difficult to respond to, but everybody… email your local MP and for god’s sake tell them what the situation is with rent as I’m not sure the government gets how serious this is,” he urged.

Osmond also spoke about the “strange” situation with the furlough scheme, whereby there are people on jobs that probably don’t exist post the end of furlough, “but if they move jobs and the government doesn’t release the lockdown or restrictions so furlough or part-time furlough is required, they can’t qualify in the new business”.

“There are dozens of people we are talking to who are in jobs where they qualify for furlough and they are kind of stuck,” he said. “The government was obviously trying to do the right thing but it’s got these unintended consequences of locking a whole bunch of people in the industry into jobs that may not exist at the end of it.”

Nicholls agreed with Osmond’s comments and said it was something the government had struggled with all the way through the pandemic. She said the impact is that furlough is deterring some people from making a positive career decision. Nicholls said the government needed to rethink the “unduly rigid” rules around furlough and introduce some greater flexibility as the sector reopens.

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