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Tourism businesses 'face losing support before they can get back on their feet', says Shadow chancellor

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Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds with Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill and (right) Hospitality Ulster chairman Danny Coyles in Ballycastle yesterday

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds with Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill and (right) Hospitality Ulster chairman Danny Coyles in Ballycastle yesterday

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds with Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill and (right) Hospitality Ulster chairman Danny Coyles in Ballycastle yesterday

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds urged the Government to step up and address the escalating crisis facing the economy as she visited Northern Ireland yesterday.

Ms Dodds was in Londonderry and the north coast for a series of engagements with representatives from the hospitality and tourism sector.

The shadow chancellor heard directly from industry stakeholders during a roundtable lunch in Ballycastle.

Hospitality and tourism have been among the hardest hit areas as a result of the pandemic, with many traditional pubs still closed across Northern Ireland.

Experts raised the need for targeted and ongoing financial support with Ms Dodds.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, the shadow chancellor said she had heard concerns from across business.

She added the pandemic had caused huge and lasting economic damage, highlighting that the local unemployment rate had doubled in two months.

"Unfortunately, the UK government simply is not rising to the level of the challenge," Mr Dodds wrote.

"This month the Chancellor started to withdraw the income support schemes he introduced at the start of this crisis, not just for businesses that have reopened but across the entire economy.

"What have we got in its place? A new Jobs Retention Bonus that will hand out billions to companies that freely admit they do not need it.

"It won't be enough for all of those that do."

Yesterday the challenges facing the hospitality and tourism sectors were underlined by representatives from Hospitality Ulster, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, the National Trust, the NI Tourism Alliance and the Taste Causeway Collaborative Growth Network.

The shadow chancellor visited the Giants Causeway and Londonderry, where she visited the Guildhall and signed the council's book of condolences for former SDLP leader John Hume.

Speaking after meeting Hospitality Ulster and a range of other stakeholders on the north coast, Ms Dodds said: "Northern Ireland is a wonderful place to visit.

"I've been overwhelmed by the friendly welcome I've received from everyone here.

"But it's also clear to me that the tourism industry here is really struggling in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

"The UK government's decision to withdraw wage support across the economy in one fell swoop will only make things worse."

Ms Dodds called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to support jobs in hospitality and tourism.

"Many businesses are set to lose support before they've been able to get back onto their feet," she said.

"The Chancellor must think twice before more jobs go in sectors like tourism and hospitality, both in Northern Ireland and across the UK."

Colin Neill, the chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said it was valuable to have had the shadow chancellor hear at first-hand about the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic has had.

"We were greatly encouraged by her support for the sector, which contributes £1.2billion annually to the local economy," he said.

"We welcome how engaged the shadow chancellor is to our issues right across the sector, including on the challenges which Brexit will pose and the need for a reduction in VAT and a targeted extension of furlough, among others."

Mr Neill also urged the Executive to ease the present restrictions placed on pubs that do not serve food.

"With our traditional pubs still closed after five long months, there is an urgent need to allow these to reopen in a safe and controlled manner," he said.

Belfast Telegraph