SOUTHAMPTON business leaders have accused the government of not doing enough to help the crisis-hit hospitality sector survive the latest surge in Covid cases.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has devised a £1bn support package for the industry following days of intense lobbying by campaigners including GO! Southampton, which represents the city centre's commercial community.

One-off grants of £6,000 for pubs and restaurants will be administered by local authorities but may not be available for several weeks.

The government also intends to cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees.

However, the measures have failed to impress GO! Southampton.

The executive director, Giles Semper, said the organisation supported a statement issued by the #businessbooster campaign following the Chancellor's announcement.

It said: "This isn’t the bailout businesses across the UK need and have been waiting for since Plan B was announced over two weeks ago.

"A £1bn package of support sounds impressive but these are token measures.

“A £6,000 grant in no way compensates for the dramatic loss in trading hospitality businesses in particular are facing, and more important they can’t wait weeks for financial aid.

“With speculation mounting of further restrictions, we need the government to ensure any announcement is accompanied with a revised raft of financial support and measures to ensure hospitality, retail and leisure businesses get the support they need to mitigate closure and redundancies.”

But the measures were welcomed by Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.

She said: "This is a generous package building on existing hospitality support measures to provide an immediate emergency cash injection for those businesses who, through no fault of their own, have seen their most valuable trading period annihilated."

Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen, added: "The funding announced by the Chancellor will go some way to protecting businesses and jobs.”

A huge number of people planning Christmas get-togethers in pubs and restaurants have cancelled their bookings in a bid to dodge the Omicron variant.

Cafes and other businesses that rely on the trade generated by office workers have also been hit by the huge rise in infections.

Ross McNally, chairman of Hampshire Chamber, said: “New financial support measures are welcome but grants must be available immediately. Speed is paramount."