MAJOR measures worth £30bn introduced by the government to help the economy bounce back from the Covid pandemic have been welcomed around Swindon.

Restaurant owners supported a so-called 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme, which will give everyone at participating eateries a 50 per cent off discount of up to £10 each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays in August.

Managers can join the initiative from Monday and later claim the discounted money back from the Treasury.

And VAT for food, accommodation and attractions in the hospitality and tourism industries will be slashed from 20 per cent to five per cent for six months from next Wednesday.

Dotty’s Cafe in Devizes Road co-owner Graham Rowcliffe said: “These measures will be a big help to the industry and especially to little businesses like ours.

“That reduction is a huge benefit for us because VAT is like a millstone around our neck at times and there’s little we can claim back.

“It’s very difficult for us right now. We’ve been open for three days and it’s hard, so anything the government can offer us is more than welcome. What the government have done so far has been absolutely incredible.”

Abdul Amin of Lalbagh Indian Cuisine in Rodbourne said: “The VAT cut is very encouraging. It might not be for long enough but it’s a good step forward.

“The voucher scheme needs to be well-promoted and I look forward to how it’s received by customers. Being paid another £1,000 to keep furloughed staff through to January is another good idea.

“My business is not going to be the same as it was pre-Covid for a very long time but I hope this announcement will help lots of businesses survive and stay open.”

The furlough scheme will be wound down in October but employers will be given £1,000 if they keep furloughed workers on into the new year.

The principal of the town’s University Technical College praised the extra incentives, which will encourage employers to recruit apprentices and young trainees.

Companies will get £2,000 if they hire apprentices, and £1,500 for apprentices aged 25 or older, as well as £1,000 to hire trainees.

A £100 million increase in funding will create more places on Level 2 and 3 training courses at colleges, and £250,000 will be spent on employing more careers advisors.

A 'kickstart' scheme will directly pay employers to create new jobs for 16-to-24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment, which will be at least 25 hours a week and minimum wage.

UTC Swindon head Jon Oliver said: “Our core purpose is to be the bridge between education and employment so we work very closely with employers and have had good success rates with students getting apprenticeships.

“Fortunately, none of our students’ plans fell through because of lockdown so things are looking promising, though if students do struggle to find a placement, we will work with them.

“We have not seen what employers have made of this announcement but anything that provides more opportunities to students and makes them more aware of their post-education choices will be beneficial.

“I think there will be more emphasis on providing vocation training, transferable skills and employment information for young people now. Exams are important but they are not the be all and end all, and them being cancelled has led to more of a focus on other options.”

But Swindon Labour’s economic spokesman Coun Junab Ali argued that more still needs to be done. He said: “We were promised a New Deal, but what we got was a 'meal deal'.

“Labour welcomed businesses reopening, yet many sectors of the economy are in trouble not because people want money for meals but because customers don’t have the confidence to return yet.

“The government was too slow into lockdown, too slow on PPE and too slow on testing. Now it runs the real risk of being too slow on jobs and the economy.

“We should have had a Back to Work Budget but these announcements failed to face up to the scale of the challenge our country faces.”