Meet the Sunderland economist whose idea helped spark Government's restaurant voucher scheme

Mackem Dictionary author Paul Swinney has revealed his role in the Government’s plan to get Britain’s hospitality industry back up and running.

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 3:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 3:52 pm

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced an “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme on Wednesday which will see diners receive a discount for cafes, pubs and restaurants – in a bid to boost the hospitality industry following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Customers eating out Monday to Wednesday throughout August will be entitled to a discount of up to £10 per head in the party – including children.

And one of the masterminds behind the idea was Sunderland-born economist Paul Swinney.

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Paul Swinney (left) and Rishi Sunak

Paul, who works for independent thinktank Centre for Cities, has been in talks with civil servants in recent weeks over ways to get the economy moving again as the lockdown ends.

He floated the idea of a voucher scheme to encourage spending in a blog on the centre’s website just yesterday.

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Today’s announcement actually does not go as far as Centre for Cities had originally proposed.

Paul said: “We put something out about six weeks ago, setting out possible ideas.

“They have applied it only to restaurants. I think we would have suggested it be a bit broader and applied it to pubs, shops, holidays. It is all about getting people out spending more money because that supports jobs.”

“The job retention scheme, allowing businesses to place staff on furlough rather than make them redundant, had been successful, but the Government needed to get people spending while recognising the public health risks of easing the lockdown.

Paul added: “There is a tightrope to walk between trying to keep the virus under control and trying to protect as many jobs as possible.

At this stage experts say it is hard to predict how long the economic downturn after lockdown could last:

Paul said: "It is difficult to say whether it is going to be a very short, sharp shock recession or whether it is going to be much longer.

“We just don’t now how many people are going to come out and spend money. Clearly, the longer there are businesses that aren’t taking money in, the more difficult it becomes.”

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