It’s welcome news that Devon and the South West is in the lowest tier of national restrictions. This is testament to all of the public services protecting us from the virus and to the community spirit of the people of Devon throughout the pandemic.
Much of our daily lives can continue where it is safe to do so. We can meet friends and family in up to a group of six. We can visit our fantastic local shops, hospitality businesses, entertainment and tourist attractions.
Even so, the restrictions have born a heavy economic cost on particular sectors during the pandemic.
After speaking with publicans and restaurant owners across East Devon, I couldn’t support the new restrictions on their businesses, including the 10pm curfew. That’s why I didn’t vote for these restrictions in Parliament. I don’t see the benefit and believe they are unnecessary. I rejected the curfew and stand firmly with our pubs, bars and restaurants. Sadly, this will remain in place for now.
I live in Sidmouth and the streets were quieter than usual during the summer despite the welcome influx of tourists, who helped many businesses survive after lockdown.
The Sidmouth Folk Festival is an important fixture in the East Devon calendar with talented musicians from across the world coming to town and bringing joy to the thousands of visors who enjoy live music, dancing, crafts, food and drink.
The town bustles with activity and it’s a huge boost for the economy. Sadly, it couldn’t take place this year and that hit the team behind it hard.
Sidmouth Folk Festival’s recent crowdfunding campaign raised over £100,000 and I’m delighted the government has now given the team £62,000 to help them prepare for future festivals.
It’s not just Sidmouth that needed support for its cultural landmarks, and Exeter’s much-loved Northcott Theatre will get investment from the government’s culture recovery fund too.
Staying active is important for our mental and physical wellbeing. That being said, sport is social too, and I’ve spoken to many fans of our sports clubs who want crowds back.
Cases have sadly risen nationally and that’s why some of the larger sporting pilot events were put on hold, including those in the English Football League that Exeter City FC play in.
I recently visited Exmouth Town FC to meet the volunteers who’ve put their heart and soul into their local club. They’ve worked tirelessly to make sure the club is safe for supporters and players and I’m really pleased to see the Premier League give the club £4,000 to support those efforts.
Sidmouth Town FC will receive £2,000 from the Premier League to help The Vikings continue the battle on their pitch and across the South West.
It’s not just football. Local rugby too is in need too.
Sport England’s Community Emergency Fund gave Topsham Rugby Club £9,000 which is a big boost for a club which punches well above its weight.
I’m proud to have the Exeter Chiefs based in my constituency. They’ve already done Devon proud this season and we’re all wishing them the very best in their upcoming finals in the Heineken Champions Cup against Racing 92 and in the Premiership against Wasps.
Despite the on-field success, the Chiefs are currently losing around £1 million pounds a month because games are being played behind closed doors.
The losses are hitting the club hard and they are going to need a helping hand over the coming months. That’s why I spoke in Parliament last week to urgently raise their financial situation with the government and HM Treasury, asking for a package of support to help the Chiefs and other clubs now in the red.
If we really want to achieve our goal of improving the health of our nation, the government has to back amateur and professional sports clubs – so we send players, fans, and future sporting stars the message that it isn’t game over.