BUSINESSES in Worcester have reacted to the emergency support package announced by the chancellor.

Rishi Sunak's plans will see businesses which have furloughed staff given a £1,000 bonus to keep workers in jobs, stamp duty cut, an “eat out to help out” scheme for dining out in August to boost the hospitality sector with a 50 per cent discount per head from Monday to Wednesday up to a maximum saving of £10 per diner.

He has also slashed VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, a tax cut worth up to £4 billion.

Under the Jobs Retention Bonus, firms will be paid £1,000 for each employee they bring back from furlough and continuously employ through to January on an average of at least £520 a month.

Mr Sunak said: “Our message to business is clear: if you stand by your workers, we will stand by you.”

Francini Osorio, owner of Cafe Francini de Colombia, said: “I am very happy because I was wondering if I might have to lose staff but they are going to give us £1,000 for every employee we keep. It is amazing that we are being given this support, it makes me feel that when I pay my taxes, it really goes towards helping and support people.”

Adam Giagnotti, who runs the Olive Branch bistro in Worcester, said: “What we would be looking to do is extend our opening hours so people can take advantage of the discounts.

“The money to keep staff is great, but I certainly won’t let anyone lose their job from here and hopefully we will be creating jobs with our new pizzeria which is opening later this year.

“It is a good system and it will really help the hospitality sector.”

Nigel Smith runs the Cardinal’s Hat in Worcester, as well as the Fleece Inn at Bretforton. He welcomed the news, saying he hopes it will incentivise customers to return to pubs and support the industry.

“I think it is a great opportunity to move forward and it will be an excellent encouragement for people to come back to the pubs,” he said.

Mr Smith said the money to keep on furloughed staff was a major boost, adding “good people are hard to find, so it is always difficult to let people go. We’ve not taken any decisions yet about keeping people on, but this certainly helps.”

Sharon Smith, chief executive of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The government measures announced will boost consumer confidence and power the country’s economic recovery, whilst also addressing the issues young workers are facing. It was the worry of many that the effects of coronavirus would force businesses to put the development of younger workers on the backburner, adding to the skills shortage the country is already facing. This announcement will be welcomed by many businesses and local authorities.

“Businesses will still be looking for answers on how key support they are relying on can continue and what government support will be available after the Job Retention Scheme closes in October which the government will need to address.”

City law firm Thursfields welcomed the news Mr Sunak is cutting stamp duty on homes under £500,000.

Nick O’Hara, managing director, said: “This is the right move at the right time to get the property market moving again.

"There was a degree of pent up demand, delayed house moves and an initial surge of interest after lockdown was eased, but it was in danger of stalling.

“The Chancellor’s decision to introduce a temporary increase to the Nil Rate Band of residential Stamp Duty from £125,000 to £500,000 until 31 March 2021 is a welcome shot in the arm for the housing market.”

Mr Sunak told MPs that in England and Northern Ireland this meant that nearly nine out of ten people looking to move would pay no Stamp Duty at all, his intention being to drive growth and support jobs across the housebuilding and property sectors.

Mr O’Hara added: “Although many of our staff are still working remotely, this has not impacted on our ability to carry out conveyancing and we have seen a peak since the lockdown rules were relaxed.

“We look forward to seeing many more clients now feeling confident enough to move or sell their home.”