Peter Aldous calls for more targeted support for sports and leisure sectors

8th October 2020

Peter Aldous praises the support given by the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic, but calls for more targeted support for sectors such as holiday parks, coach companies, indoor leisure centres and local football clubs who are all facing financial difficulties.

It is important to state at the outset that throughout the pandemic the DCMS ministerial team has been approachable, has listened and has responded with bespoke measures to address the concerns of the many businesses, charities and other organisations whose governance falls within its remit. However, notwithstanding that welcome support, many people are facing an uncertain and worrying next few months, with the prospect of further restrictions and local lockdowns stopping a fledgling and fragile recovery in its tracks. Those businesses and other groups employ large numbers of people. Quite often, they have been run by the same families for generations. They are deeply embedded in the culture and wellbeing of their local communities.

The home tourism industry worked its socks off in the summer to catch up on what it had lost in the lockdown. However, research carried out by the British Holiday & Home Parks Association shows that it was not able to do so. With the closures now in place in Wales, the opportunity to make up more lost ground in the coming months may well have been taken away.

Coach companies have fallen through the cracks of the support that has been provided. Belle Coaches, based in Lowestoft and Leiston in Suffolk, is a family-run business that has been trading for 96 years and employs 50 people. The coach sector should be treated as part of the leisure sector and finance holidays should be extended to ensure that no coaches are repossessed this winter.

Indoor leisure and sports centres, such as those run by Sentinel Leisure, are struggling as social distancing measures, customer confidence and limited capacity mean that it is difficult, if not impossible, to be financially viable. The terms of any loans for which such businesses may apply need to take account of their ability to repay being affected by the inevitable slow recovery.

Turning to local football, Lowestoft Town, who play at step 3, and Kirkley & Pakefield, for whom I have the honour of being president and who play at step 5, both welcome the support that has been provided. However, the season will be tough for both of them. There is a worry that some small community clubs, at step 7 and below, will struggle to survive, and I urge the Minister to consider targeted support for them.

It will be a long, bleak winter. DCMS has done a lot of good work since March, and I urge it to go that extra mile in the next few weeks and months.



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