The Lowdown: Liz Truss

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

What does the appointment of Liz Truss mean for the hospitality industry

Related tags Liz Truss Trade bodies Legislation Government ukhospitality Finance

What might the appointment of the new Prime Minister mean for the beleaguered hospitality sector?

Which one are you talking about? 
The new Prime Minister @trussliz. Not @liztruss, although some believe the woman that has delighted the Twitterverse with her humorous responses to misdirected tweets might be a better fit for the top job. We particularly liked her response to a tweet criticising her for snubbing her rival for the Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak by not shaking his hand before her victory speech: “Sorry, I was in Nando’s”. 

What is first on the real Liz Truss’ to-do list? 
Soaring energy bills, both commercially and domestically are the most pressing problem, which she addressed earlier this week in the form of a six-month energy support programme that would be the equivalent to a domestic energy price cap. Details are still scant on exactly what this cap will be but Truss did at least acknowledge that the hospitality and pub sectors were “vulnerable” and that there would be a subsequent review of what more can be offered to be published within the next three months. More ominously, maybe, Truss also told businesses that it was up to them to cut their energy costs, saying: "Companies with wherewithal need to be looking for ways they can improve energy efficiency and increase direct energy generation.” It’s not quite telling businesses to buy a new kettle, but it’s not far off.

How has the industry reacted to this?
Better than a kick in the teeth is probably the best way to describe it. While larger businesses that managed to lock in their energy costs for a couple more years might not feel the benefit as much the move will undoubtedly help many smaller businesses that did not – in the short term at least. The boost to consumer confidence that they might not freeze this winter will also help hospitality in the run up to the typically – and hopefully – lucrative Christmas period.

And the trade bodies?
The usual “we welcome it, but…” message has come from parts of the sector who are still putting pressure on Truss to do more for hospitality. Although Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, didn’t mince his words when he said that “the Government had failed businesses”.

A tough start then. What else is she expected to do? 
Truss is supposedly planning £30bn of tax cuts, which could be good news for restaurants in the short-term as it will boost people’s spending power. However, critics – including Sunak - argue that tax cuts could fuel inflation and would only provide a short-term ‘sugar rush’. 

What about VAT? 
Some of Truss’ allies are urging her to cut VAT and it is rumoured that she was considering cutting the tax across the board by at least 5% - which would save the average household £1,300 a year and reduce inflation by 2 percentage points if the temporary reduction were maintained for a year. The move would be welcomed by the industry, which has been making the case for a permanent reduction in VAT for hospitality - in line with many other countries including France - for many years.

What do we know of her new cabinet? 
It’s nearly all new faces that will make the decisions likely to have the biggest impact on the sector. Kwasi Kwarteng holds the country’s purse strings as Chancellor, Chloe Smith is Work and Pensions Secretary while, as Home Secretary, Suella Braverman will have the pressing issue in hospitality of whether EU nationals can come and help fill the staff shortage as part of her remit (spoiler alert: her stance on immigration makes Priti Patel look like Ma Larkin). Then there’s the Edwardian Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Business and Energy Minister that is a fan of ‘traditional English food’, doesn’t like spice and is ideologically opposed to vegan restaurants. It’s progressive stuff.

What’s Truss’ voting record like? 
Truss is something of a political shape shifter. She was once a monarchy-opposing Lib Dem and, more recently, backed the remain campaign in the Brexit vote. However, people change, and she is now a flag-bearer of the Eurosceptic right wing of the Conservative Party. In general, Truss is a fan of shrinking the state and cutting taxes, but she has voted to raise the tax on alcohol a few times.

Do we know anything of her eating habits?
She has expensive tastes. When she was Trade Secretary, she attracted criticism from some quarters for insisting on Tory donor-owned private members club 5 Hertford Street for a meeting with Joe Biden’s trade representative. A receipt showed her party of eight got through two bottles of gin, three £153 bottles of albarino and two bottles £130 of Château de Beaucastel. A recent speech showed she has more modest tastes as well, championing British cheese, Cornish sardines, Melton Mowbray pork pies, and black pudding. How she eats a burger will be the real test, though.

This article was written before the news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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