THE shadow chancellor held a meeting with business owners and representatives from the arts in Bolton to listen to their experiences during the pandemic.

During the online forum, shadow minister Anneliese Dodds, who has held the position since April, heard the views of several Bolton representatives.

Roddy Gauld is the chief executive of the Octagon Theatre.

He explained the difficulties facing many in the cultural sector.

He said: “For every pound generated at a theatre, three pounds are spent in the local economy in restaurants, on taxis, in Bolton town centre.

” To put on a production requires months of planning so we’re now at the stage where we’re thinking about the next financial year and we have no certainty.

“The current support package for culture runs to March 31.

“We need the government to look again at support for culture for the next financial year as I think we’re going to be in the same place 12 months from now.

“70 per cent of our industry are self employed, half of those people have had no support whatsoever and for the other half that support is running out.

“I’m really quite worried about the number of people who work in our industry.

Ms Dodds, said : “I’m aware in the cultural sector you don’t know about support beyond March.

“We will be pushing for clarity on spending on culture as part of the next spending review.

“There’s a lot of uncertainly that could be cleared up if government grasped the nettle.

“So many people who are self employed have been shut out of many of the support packages and that should have been dealt with in the new versions of the packages.”

Nusrat Khan runs a wedding venue business in Bolton.

She said: “We’ve been hit very hard by the fact that we’ve not been able to host weddings.

“The maximum now is 15 people and our venue has capacity for 1,200.

“It’s not viable for 15 people’

“But our businesses are totally viable, the majority of weddings have booked for next year so hopefully we will have a very successful year if we are able to survive.

“If we’re open next year we will be thriving but if we are not given help over the next six months a lot of these businesses will go down.

“What will happen with that is people’s deposits are gone with it and it will cause a massive problem.

“We’ve had all the mental stress of couples being upset.

“This is an industry where people are supposed to be the happiest of their lives and they are now very stressed and emotional.

“We are asking to be engaged with as an industry.”

The shadow chancellor said: “This is one of many cases where there doesn’t seem to be an understanding in government about the economic capacity for the future.

“People will want to get married, the fact those bookings are staying is very encouraging.

“You need support to get over this very difficult patch so we don’t see large numbers of viable businesses going to the wall and many staff losing their jobs.

“It’s incredibly important that government listens to you.

“We want to listen to the ideas about viability for the future and we’ll look at those suggestions.”