MPs have backed The Gazette’s Slash the VAT campaign – and called for Blackpool to be made a tourism blueprint for the future.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Marsden, and Fylde MP Mark Menzies were invited to the Pleasure Beach as part of British Tourism Week.
And there they declared their support for The Gazette campaign’s call to reduce VAT on the tourism industry in line with other European countries.
While there they suggested Blackpool should become a pilot area – akin to a Government Enterprise Zone – with a reduced VAT rate to see if the scheme would work.
Mr Menzies said: “The suggestion of a tourism zone is exactly the sort of thing we should have in Blackpool and we should try to give it a go.
“We need everyone involved to get everything on the table to see how it could work.
“That is something, as representatives of our constituents here, that we’d be prepared to take to the Government if that’s what people want us to do.”
Pleasure Beach secretary David Cam, one of Blackpool’s biggest supporters of a VAT rate cut for the industry, invited the MPs to the fun park to see the level of investment which is needed to keep it running.
He was joined by deputy managing director Nick Thompson who said: “We’re currently overhauling the front of Valhalla at a cost of £1m, we’re refurbishing shops, spending £500,000 sandblasting and repainting the Revolution. It’s what we need to do to keep on top.”
Mr Cam added: “What we need to do is make the Government take tourism seriously.
“There’s a lot of talk about it from them, but then very little seems to happen.
“I’ll be raising the issues with tourism minister John Penrose on Monday.”
Mr Marsden said: “We need to talk to the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership about any future funds.
“They’ve spent on infrastructure but I think a second round of money is on its way and tourism leaders need to talk about their projects.”
All three MPs have backed the call for lower VAT, but Mr Maynard warned that a united front was needed to ensure a message got through to Government.
He said: “What the tourism industry needs to do here is speak with one voice to make sure it is heard, rather than separately with lots of little messages all the time.”
The Gazette yesterday launched its Slash the VAT campaign after 91 per cent of businesses backed a rate cut. in a straw poll conducted by this newspaper.
Countries across Europe have far lower rates for tourism – some as low as six per cent. Surveys suggest a five per cent rate would create more than 20,000 new jobs across the UK, and actually generate more money for the Treasury.
The Pleasure Beach has already opened its doors this season for March Madness weekends, but workers are tidying the park up midweek and revamping various rides.
The old mine cart ride is undergoing a full refurbishment with a top secret ride planned on the same site.
Mr Cam added: “We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes with rides and our ice show. But people don’t come here to see a show any more. If they’re here, they will come and see it, but it is difficult generating visits from outside the area.”
Mr Marsden said the BBC had provided a boost to the town by filming Strictly Come Dancing at the Tower Ballroom – and that hopefully would be a catalyst to attracting other shows to the town and encourage visitors.