Labour has pledged Sussex will see a share of the £24 million earmarked for the hard pressed rural tourist industry.

Tony Blair's tourism minister Janet Anderson said the Rural Task Forces would spread the money more evenly to help tourism recover from the foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

An earlier rescue package of £15 million had been targeted at the worst hit areas including the West Country and Cumbria.

Ms Anderson, supporting Labour candidates in Brighton, said small rural businesses hit by the crisis would continue to be able to defer income tax, National Insurance and VAT payments.

She said Labour would also keep spending money marketing Britain abroad and encourage councils to reopen footpaths and other countryside attractions.

She said: "What the tourism industry needs more than anything is to get its visitors back, which means getting foot-and-mouth under control which we seem to be doing.

"Increasingly, the footpaths are opening, we are saying to the county councils where you can open the footpaths please do so.

"The need at the moment is to market Britain as a visitor destination."

Resorts including Brighton and Hove and Eastbourne have weathered the crisis well, but rural businesses have been badly affected as people stayed away from the countryside.

Briget Logan, of the Cuckmere Cycle Company, at the Seven Sisters County Park, near Seaford, which was closed for more than two months, has lost almost all her spring income.

She said: "It is next winter that worries everybody. We know farmers get compensation but is there anything that is going to help us over the winter months?

"We are very, very anxious, doing well now is great but we have so much ground to make up on to keep going through the winter."

The Weald and Downland Museum, in Singleton, West Sussex, was closed for five weeks at the height of the crisis and has cancelled some events scheduled for later in the summer.

Marketing officer Gail Kittle said: "What we would like to see is the emphasis maintained and pushed forward once the crisis is over, meanwhile it is financial support that is needed."

Tourism is worth an estimated £746 million to Sussex's economy every year, more than three times the financial value of agriculture.

About a third of the tourist take comes in the spring, when much of the Sussex countryside closed down.

Chris Berry, Lib Dem candidate in Eastbourne, said resorts were beginning to suffer as well as the countryside, and individual businesses needed to be targeted with grants, interest free loans and a business rate holiday.

He said: "The Treasury and the natural tendency of the Labour government to over regulate everything means it has not been nearly as effective as it could have been."

Howard Flight, defending the Arundel and South Downs seat for the Conservatives, promised interest-free loans and more effective advertising. He said: "I think the advertising the Government has done is pretty feeble."