South Shields MP slams lack of support for businesses hit hard by Great North Run route change
The Labour MP wrote to the Government to explain how pivotal the Great North Run is to businesses in South Shields after organisers announced the race would not be finishing in the town in 2021
Instead, the world-famous event will start and finish in Newcastle on September 12 to help organisers plan for the event during the ongoing Covid situation.But the resulting loss of footfall in South Shields is expected to have a huge impact on the town’s hospitality industry, which has already been hit hard by the pandemic.
Ms Lewell-Buck called on the Government for more financial support to help businesses who will be left out of pocket on what would normally be one of their busiest days of the year – but was left reeling by its “uncaring and dismissive” response.
“It is a huge blow to all of us that the Great North Run finish line won’t be in South Shields this year,” she said.
"Whilst this decision wasn’t the Government’s, it is the Government who have provided loans to businesses that have been affected by Covid.
"The Great North Run was an opportunity for our town to recoup losses suffered through the pandemic.
"I was hoping that since the Government wanted to ‘level up’ and help our economy recover they would’ve recognised this and given us extra support as they have done for other areas.
"Sadly, I was issued with a standard response and a link to a website I am already familiar with. It’s an insult.”
In a letter to the South Shields MP, Kemi Badenoch, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury of the United Kingdom, directed Ms Lewell-Buck to a website detailing the support businesses could benefit from, but failed to offer additional financial help in light of the route change.
She said: "I am sorry the Great North Run will not finish in South Shields in 2021.
"I am pleased to hear organisers have given reassurances that the event will return to South Shields next year.”
She continued: “Measures businesses in your constituency can benefit from include the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, VAT and business rates relief, a moratorium on evictions to protect commercial tenants, cash grants to protect businesses and a UK wide recovery loan scheme.
"We are confident that all the financial aid packages announced will provide substantial support to businesses.”It will be the first time in its 40-year history that the Great North Run will not finish in South Shields – a move that has been met with anger by businesses and runners alike.
Michael Ward, the landlord of the Marsden Inn – a landmark pub on the Great North Run finishing line – said it came as a “major blow” after seeing all his bookings fall through in wake of news.
Meanwhile a petition calling on Great North Run organisers to either refund runners who do not want to participate, or return the route to South Shields, has gathered more than 800 signatures.
Paul Foster, chief executive of the Great Run Company, wrote to runners expressing his apologies to South Tyneside.
He said: “Moving the finish to Newcastle means runners disperse from the finish much more easily – from the middle of the transport network, rather than the end.
"The staggered start means runners are arriving and leaving over several hours, not all at the same time.”