‘We feel neglected’ - chef claims restaurants ‘scapegoated’ for Covid spike

A top Norfolk chef and restaurant owner is among voices urging the government to appoint a minister

TV chef Galton Blackiston. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

A top Norfolk chef and restaurant owner is among voices urging the government to appoint a minister for hospitality amid claims the industry is being “scapegoated” for rising numbers of Covid cases.

Galton Blackiston, owner of the Michelin starred Morston Hall Hotel in Holt, is among industry names calling for the sector to be represented at the highest levels of government.

The restauranteur joined world renowned chefs Marcus Wareing, Angela Hartnett, Asma Khan and Tom Kerridge to demand the appointment of a dedicated minister for the industry which is responsible for millions of jobs and billions in revenue.

A petition to parliament calling for the move has garnered 33,176 signatures so far - and if the petition reaches 100,000 the suggestion will be debated in the House of Commons.

READ MORE: Cromer restaurant hits back at Tripadvisor to get racist review removed

Mr Blackiston, who also owns the seaside fish restaurant and chip shop, No 1 Cromer, said: “We are underrepresented. In Norfolk especially, hospitality and leisure are the biggest industries.

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“We do need a voice in the heart of the government in these unprecedented times.

“Businesses are going through very hard times.”

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He added he felt restaurants and other venues were being unfairly blamed for the creeping uptick in coronavirus across the UK.

“We do feel neglected - there’s nobody in our corner,” he said.

“We’re all abiding by the rules and going above and beyond to make sure people are safe.

“You do just feel that we are being scapegoated.”

READ MORE: Norfolk TV chef on ‘heartbreak’ of closure and fears for hotel and restaurant industry

Claire Bosi, editor of Chef and Restaurant Magazine, said the sector had been “heavily impacted by Covid-19 and the government’s thoughtless policy and communication surrounding the pandemic”.

“2020 has been detrimental for our entire sector,” she said. “Policy has been made and unmade without consulting those that are impacted most.”

A spokesman for the department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) said: “We understand how much the hospitality sector contributes to our economy and society and the pressure it is currently under.

“We have taken decisive action from the start of the outbreak, including the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, VAT cuts, business rates relief and billions paid in grants, loans and tax deferrals.

“Our winter economy plan will help the industry in the months ahead and businesses required to close due to local lockdowns can claim £3,000 a month.”

• To sign the petition, follow this link to the parliamentary petitions website.

READ MORE: Latest graphs show big differences between coronavirus cases in north west compared to East Anglia

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