Restaurants in Tower Hamlets claimed over £16m from the government in the summer’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the campaign ran from August 3 to August 31 last year.
A total of 506 restaurants, pubs, cafes and other eateries with under 25 branches* in the borough took Chancellor Rishi Sunak up on his incentive scheme to support the hospitality sector.
Eat Out to Help Out, which was designed to give struggling hospitality businesses a financial boost during the pandemic, saw foodies across the country dine out for a fraction of the usual cost.
On average, each outlet in the borough which participated claimed £11,900 from the government.
There were 844,000 meals consumed across Tower Hamlets under the scheme with the average discount per meal coming out at £7.14.
Areas with relatively high discount per meal include Westminster, Manchester, Tower Hamlets, City of Edinburgh and Kensington & Chelsea which are all city-centre areas.
Research from the University of Warwick suggested the scheme may have contributed to between 8% and 17% of newly detected Covid-19 clusters – a claim denied by the Treasury.
At the time, Dr Thiemo Fetzer, who led the research, said: “‘Eat Out to Help Out’ may in the end have been a false economy: one that subsidised the spread of the pandemic into autumn and contributed to the start of the second wave.”
Data published by the Treasury now shows areas with the high take up of the scheme also still had the low virus levels between August and October.
The figures show places such as Westminster had very high take-up of Eat Out to Help Out, but very low subsequent Covid cases.
The Treasury said: “These figures confirm that take-up of Eat Out to Help Out does not correlate with incidence of Covid regionally – and indeed where it does the relationship is negative.”
*The figures, released by HM Revenue and Customs only show data from groups with fewer than 25 outlets.