I was bitterly disappointed by the eleventh-hour decision made last night by Southampton City Council to cancel BOATS 2020 and the Ocean Village Boat Show which were due to commence this morning. Labour have followed up their assault on the motorist with an assault on our economy. It shows they do not care about helping businesses to recover or protecting jobs in our city.

Cancelling two significant events critical for the rebuilding of the city’s economy with just 12 hours’ notice was an extremely poor decision. After months in the Covid doldrums, Southampton’s hospitality industry had a glimmer of light to look forward to but the Council has snatched even those small crumbs away. It shows that under Labour, Southampton is not open for business.

The events have been in the planning for months. The British Marine Boat Show only decided to go ahead with this scaled down boat show to show loyalty to the city. What loyalty have they been shown by Southampton’s Labour City Council in return? The organisers got the original go ahead because they demonstrated that the boat shows would be in full compliance with strict COVID-secure guidelines. Social distancing rules, hand washing facilities and one-way systems were in place. These events would have been safe.

We are no longer in lockdown and our economy is slowly recovering. The boat shows were scaled down and would have attracted just 1000 – 1500 visitors per day for 10 days, insignificant in comparison to the 40,000 students who are already starting to arrive from across the country and world.

These two events were critical in supporting the economic recovery in the city and promised to provide a boost to Southampton’s flagging hospitality industry and the thousands of jobs which depend on it. It looks like the Council is going out of its way to damage what is left of our economy and throw thousands of hardworking people to the wolves.

The Council made the decision to cancel far too late yesterday evening. They waited until almost 10pm on the eve of the shows to even bother announcing their decision publicly – far too late for many who had already travelled here for the event. I feel so sorry for all those people who have made arrangements and business who have invested time and money to welcome visitors to our city to help rebuild the economy. Frankly I’m embarrassed by this Council.

It is yet another example of poor decision making by Southampton City Council which is damaging the prospects of both our city, our economy and everyone who lives here.