By Mary Contini, Author and director of Valvona & Crolla


IN THE last 12 weeks we have become our own chief cook and bottlewasher!

We have been cooking from scratch at home and now we appreciate why we love going out to eat.

We don’t have to do the shopping, the cooking, and serve the meal.

We don’t have to time the meal like a demented juggler, take the criticisms, agree the changes that may have improved the dish and then, just as we pop an indigestion tablet, clear the table, wash the dishes and soak the pots.

The hospitality business in the UK provides work for upwards of three million jobs, many from the younger generation, and contributes to £106 billion of the UK economy.

The core industries it supports – farming, fishing, cheesemaking, travel, etc – are part of a huge infrastructure already suffering from loss of trade. Thousands of jobs have gone already.

Re-opening under the shadow of a Covid cloud, forecasters estimate it will take at least two years to recover.

Although the furlough, rates freeze and business loan schemes are providing emergency support, as this is relaxed and most businesses are operating at far from capacity, thousands of companies will fold. Hospitality also acts as an unpaid tax collector.

Many of us gratefully pay our coffee bill or lunch tab without a thought that a fifth of the money we hand over is purely tax.

Value Added Tax was introduced at 10 per cent in the UK in 1971 when we joined the European Union, fluctuating and expanding over various budgets.

The latest grab from our wallets was from George Osborne in 2011 as an ‘emergency rise’ to the current 20 per cent in 2011.

That emergency has long passed. There is a greater one looming.

As a tax, VAT is criticised as unfair, as statistically it is the lowest paid workers who pay the highest percentage of their income.

That’s those very same chefs and bottle washers we are missing so much.

Hospitality is calling for a reduction in VAT to stimulate the sector and give a chance to survive.

It’s time to put VAT on the table.