MP invites chancellor to discuss restarting visitor economy

MP Bob Seely has asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, how the extension to the furlough scheme, announced today, will help the Isle of Wight’s devastated visitor and festival economy.

The Chancellor announced in a parliamentary statement this afternoon that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – where employers can claim a cash grant covering up to 80 per cent of the wages for a furloughed employee up to a cap of £2,500 a month – would be extended until the end of October with some flexibility built in to allow furloughed employees to return to work part-time.

Bob said: “The Isle of Wight is Britain’s Festival Island. We have a unique tourism sector supported by events in arts and music and sport.

“Can the Chancellor confirm that the furlough extension will help Islanders in this devasted part of the economy and will Ministers meet with me and others to discuss how we further protect the visitor and festival economy which relies on specific parts of the year, sometimes only weekends, to generate an entire annual livelihood?”

The Chancellor replied by thanking the Island for its part in testing the new app. He said: “If I could start by saying to my honourable friend to convey the thanks I think of the whole house, but certainly of the government, for his constituents in the role that they are playing trialling the new app that will be important as we look to gain control of this virus in the second and third phase of our approach to tackling it so please pass on our thanks to all of his constituents.

“That sector that he mentioned is one that we know is struggling and we know will need support, and the document that was published yesterday by the Government talks about creating an industry task force – so I look forward to working with him and others as we can chart a future for those in the leisure and hospitality and tourism sectors.”

Speaking afterwards Bob said: “I am grateful that, yet again, a senior Government Minister has recognised the valuable role that Islanders are playing with the new app and the trace and test scheme. We are helping the Government to shape it before the national rollout.

“The extension to the furlough scheme the Chancellor has announced is good news for furloughed staff in industries unable to revive in the next few weeks.

“We now need MPs to work together as part of a task force to work out how we revive the tourism economy – including the festival economy on the Isle of Wight – and to look at whether realistically there is anything that can be done this year.”

Bob said he would contact other MPs and Ministers to talk about events, hospitality in general and festivals to see what can be done.

“We need to look at the wider picture to make sure the whole Island economy can restart to generate jobs and wealth again – which supports our public services – and when that can happen.”