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200616 | ‘Irresponsible’ to open Cornwall to a large number of visitors

‘Irresponsible’ to open Cornwall to a large number of visitors

Cornwall Council says it is facing a difficult balancing act between helping tourism businesses stay afloat with preventing a second spike of coronavirus.

by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Tim Dwelly, Cabinet member for economy and planning, said he would rather the Government provide financial support for businesses than see a huge influx of visitors to Cornwall.

He said: “The council would prefer there to be more government money and support for businesses that rely on the summer season because of the risk of covid rising if our population rises by 50% this summer.

“We do want an unlocking of the tourist economy but we want it to be safe and gradual. We have seen predictions of a potential rise of coronavirus if we have an influx of visitors in Cornwall.

“What we need is an acknowledgement of the tourism sector from the Government and the support that it will need.”

Cllr Tim Dwelly (Ind Penzance East)

Cllr Dwelly said the council was looking to the Government to provide additional help for tourism businesses with more grants and extending furlough to help them through this period.

He said: “There are only two ways that these businesses can make money this summer, one is the influx of tourists to Cornwall that might risk the rise of coronavirus.

“The other is for the Government to make a special case for this sector to make additional grants available and extending furlough. We would prefer that.

“We want money for those businesses and we are actually getting grants out to those that have applied as quickly as we can.

“Many businesses in Cornwall want to avoid the additional cost of this – those businesses desperately need support from the Government.”

And the independent councillor said he considered it would be “irresponsible” to open Cornwall up to a large number of visitors considering the risks of the virus.

He said: “I do not accept that the only thing to be done is hope that what has been a dead season so far is rectified with a large number of people coming here.

“We know that businesses want to get on well with local residents and they want their customers to return to Cornwall. It just seems a bit too soon.

“But I want to stress that it is not up to Cornwall Council whether people come in their droves after July 5, it is a government decision.

“We are prepared for this even if we have doubts about it.”

 

Last week a report published by the council stated that an estimated 72,800 jobs could be lost in Cornwall as a result of the pandemic and lockdown – more than a quarter of the total workforce.

Cllr Dwelly said: “We are very worried because we have some predictions that at least 70,000 jobs could be lost in Cornwall. This autumn and winter will be as difficult than it has ever been.

“Cornwall has been recognised as one of, if not the, hardest hit regions in the country economically by Covid-19.

“We have that struggle already, we don’t want a big spike in coronavirus as well as that. If we did have a big spike we could have another lockdown which would be even harder for businesses.

“It is a dilemma and it is difficult to get the balance right. It is about supporting businesses and the safety of residents, workers and visitors.”

Cllr James Mustoe (Con, Mevagissey)

Conservative councillor James Mustoe said he wanted to see the council do more itself to help tourism businesses.

In a Facebook post he said: “I can understand both sides of the argument, the health side and the economic side, but it is pretty rich Cornwall Council saying they would rather support the tourist and seasonal business with grants than have a summer season take place.

“Cornwall Council were given the power and funding by the Government to set up a discretionary payment scheme for businesses not covered by the national schemes.

“They were given a large amount of discretion, as per the name, to tailor their scheme to best support businesses in Cornwall.

“But I have lost count of the number of businesses who have contacted me because they have been turned down because the scheme Cornwall Council ended up coming up with was very prescriptive, taking the Government’s guidelines as being completely inflexible and awarding large grants to a relatively small sector of businesses.

“There is nothing in this scheme so far for the vast majority of seasonal tourist businesses who are the bread and butter of the Cornish summer economy, the charter skippers, furnished holiday lets, businesses operating on larger camp sites, single car park operators, beach businesses and so many others.

“And Cornwall Council sticking to just awarding £10,000 and £25,000 for every award given so far is again not allowing the flexibility that the Government said could have been built into the scheme, meaning that they have used up the money they had allocated faster than it otherwise might have been.

“It’s all very good telling the national press you want people to stay away, but the council should at least be honest about the support it has given to the seasonal and tourist business so far.

“It must do better and I hope its scheme going forward, as it looks at the businesses it has chosen not to support so far, reflects the words of its leadership.”

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