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Culture secretary Hancock promises government help over stable staff

Culture secretary Matt Hancock is looking to support stable staff
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The government is to help racing with its staffing issues, culture secretary Matt Hancock revealed at Cheltenham on Friday.

The sport is concerned about the shortage of stable staff in the industry, with BHA chief executive Nick Rust saying this year that in 2017 more people had left the frontline than had been recruited.

Hancock, whose West Suffolk constituency includes Newmarket, told the Racing Post: "We're doing a new piece of work making sure we can support staff that we're working on with the BHA and others.

"There's a lot more to be said in the coming weeks but, especially having landed the levy reforms, making sure we support people right across the industry – without whom none of this could happen – that is what we're going to focus on next.

"It's a government initiative in the first instance to open up what more we need to do."

BHA chairman Steve Harman said he had been speaking with Hancock about the issue for some time. "We're working with Matt and DCMS to have a round-table review of the recruitment, retention, development and wellbeing of stable staff," he said.

"It will accelerate what we're already doing. We're in a good place but need to improve, especially around recruitment.

Steve Harman: "Matt and I have been talking for around nine months about how we need to up our game around recruitment and retention"

"Matt and I have been talking for around nine months about how we need to up our game around recruitment and retention in some parts of Britain, and Matt wants to help a bit more. That's why he's saying let's get around the table.

"We're doing some good things already but have a lot more to do. As I've said before. that's what keeps me awake at night."

Earlier Hancock had told ITV he wanted to ensure that support for racing remained strong as he was asked for the latest on the government's review of FOBTs.

The government is set to reduce the maximum stake on the controversial machines from the current £100 and has consulted on a range of options from £2 to £50.

At the lowest level bookmakers have claimed there would be thousands of betting shop closures, with racing losing tens of millions of pounds of income from levy and media rights as a result.

Hancock is understood to have had an informal meeting with betting industry representatives while at Cheltenham.

He told ITV: "We're in the middle of the consultation on exactly what we reduce it [the stake] to.

"I'm going to respond to that in the coming weeks and we haven't made an exact decision yet, but at the same time we want to make sure the support of racing is strong. As a big fan of the sport, I want to make sure that is supported too."

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Making sure we support people right across the industry - without whom none of this could happen - that is what we are going to focus on next
E.W. Terms