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Norfolk chef claims industry has been made a Covid scapegoat

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, showed his support for the NHS during the initial phase of the crisis with a shift in the kitchen at Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

And he is now among industry names calling for the sector to be represented at the highest levels of government.

Galton with members of the QEH's catering team (34461818)
Galton with members of the QEH's catering team (34461818)

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.

Mr Blackiston said: “We are underrepresented. In Norfolk especially, hospitality and leisure are the biggest industries.

Galton Blackiston in the QEH kitchen (34461800)
Galton Blackiston in the QEH kitchen (34461800)

“We do need a voice in the heart of the government in these unprecedented times. Businesses are going through very hard times.”

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 feel we are being scapegoated.”

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, visit: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552201

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