Kevin Mayne, head honch at the CTC, yesterday got himself onto one of the nine regional economic taskforces in England, the bodies set up by the DETR to co-ordinate relief packages for businesses affected by the FMD crisis. Hes got a ton of practical measures bikes businesses adversely affected by FMD can take...

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The over-riding thing to come out of the meeting is that businesses need to get facts pronto. The hotel industry can easily provide drop in bed night statistics, the bike trade needs to quickly build up some case studies of bike shops affected by foot and mouth, said Mayne.

The only businesses which will get support will be those who can back up their claims with hard facts. Bike shops need to be able to demonstrate that figures for this March are down on those of last March.

Any bike shop or supplier which feels it has a good case for receiving support should collate year-on-year sales data and start the ball rolling by getting in touch with their nearest small business advisory body (this will usually be a BusinessLink office). And this information should be copied to the Bicycle Association (for suppliers) or the ACT (for IBD members). will also gladly act as a case studies depository.

Mayne believes representatives of the cycle industry should also get themselves on their own regional taskforces so the cycle voice is heard. At the meeting he attended he was the only representative from a countryside users group. The scratch taskforce working party was made up of representatives from the National Farmers Union, local government agencies, English Nature, tourism boards and Rural Community Councils.

No final decision has been taken on how often the regional taskforces will meet but its likely to be at least once a week. All members with email addresses are to be CCed with taskforce information.

There are nine regional taskforces in England, plus one each for the devolved administrations. The taskforces are administered by and geographically defined by Regional Development Agencies. These are the quangos with names like Yorkshire Forward and One North East.

As well as regional rates relief, the regional taskforces are also drawing up plans for disseminating information on where its perfectly safe for people to walk, ride, cycle, climb, surf, sail and fly. This information will be fed into the £10m get out there publicity campaign started by the DETR today. Full page adverts have started to appear in national newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph and others. This says You can freely drive, cycle and walk along tarmac roads and visit country towns, villages and seaside resorts.

The ad is text only. Kevin Mayne stresses that the bike trade should lobby for this campaign to include pictures of outdoor activities, including cycling.

In the media no positive pictures are getting past the images of dead cows at the moment. But that will change. The media will get bored of those images in the next week to ten days. Then well get a chance to see people actually enjoying themselves on those foot-and-mouth free areas the government will increasingly tell us all about.

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