The chancellor has announced 12-month business rates holidays for all retailers and pubs as part of a sweeping set of measures designed to support business in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press briefing from 10 Downing Street, Rishi Sunak said he would be suspending the payment of business rates for all UK retailers, hospitality chains and theatres for a year.

Rishi Sunak press conference

Rishi Sunak said ‘we will get through this and we will do whatever it takes’

Sunak also said in order to offset the possibility of smaller businesses not being covered by insurance, he would provide cash grants of up to £25,000 per business to “help bridge through this period”.

In what effectively amounts to a second Budget less than a week after delivering his first, Sunak unveiled a suite of government-backed loans and guarantees worth £330bn, with the promise of more being made available should it be needed in the coming weeks and months.

As part of this, Sunak said he would be opening a new lending facility with the Bank of England for large businesses and would extend the business interruption loan he announced last week from loans of up to £1.2m to up to £5m.

He also said the government would be working with unions and business groups to “urgently develop new forms of employment support to protect people’s jobs and incomes through this period” in the coming days.

The chancellor said the UK had “never faced an economic fight like this one” but added that “we will get through this and we will do whatever it takes”.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The chancellor has acted swiftly to back retail businesses dealing with the unprecedented challenges created by coronavirus. He is to be congratulated for listening carefully to the concerns of retailers and has delivered a big, bold package of measures that will be a huge cashflow boost and will improve confidence for those affected.

“Business rates are a huge burden for retailers at the best of times. The business rates holiday, together with the announcement of a loan package, represent a vital shot in the arm for a sector facing enormous uncertainty. We still need to see the details and make sure that retailers can access cash with the minimum of delay, but it is a welcome and necessary first step to protect jobs.”

Head of UK business rates at Altus Group, Robert Haydon said: “The chancellor has acted quickly and decisively but we now encourage him to instruct councils to suspend immediately all enforcement action on arrears by extending the time to pay scheme whilst instructing the Valuation Office Agency to divert resources to speed up the resolution of outstanding appeals which, in itself, will act as a cash injection.”