During a Westminster Hall Debate today, Fay Jones MP called on the Welsh Government to urgently produce a plan for the end of the second Welsh lockdown on 9th November and extend the Welsh business rates cut.
The at times heated Westminster Hall Debate was held by Chris Evans MP to discuss ‘support for people and businesses in Wales affected by the COVID-19 outbreak’.
The UK Government has provided a significant package of support for Wales throughout the pandemic. Schemes such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme have supported businesses of all sizes, to the tune of £1.42 billion across Wales.
In Brecon and Radnorshire alone, 11,000 jobs have been protected through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and 3,100 self employed people have been supported through the Self Employment Income Support Scheme.
Over the summer the UK Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme provided over 77,000 discounted meals in Brecon and Radnorshire, helping to boost the hospitality sector’s recovery from the first lockdown.
Given the recovery that Brecon and Radnorshire has seen over the summer, Miss Jones slammed the Welsh Government’s decision to put Wales into a second lockdown. She pointed to the low rates of COVID-19 in Powys and the disruption this will cause for Brecon and Radnorshire constituents and businesses alike. In particular, Miss Jones stressed the impact this would have on the Welsh tourism and hospitality sector as they face “the third winter of 2020” having worked incredibly hard to enforce social distancing.
While she welcomed the £300 million made available to tourism and hospitality businesses by the Welsh Government, Miss Jones called for the cut to Welsh business rates to be extended into next year and for this funding to be focused on the sectors who are most impacted by the second lockdown.
The events sector continues to be one of the hardest hit, and Miss Jones highlighted the plight of the Royal Welsh Show in her constituency. Despite cancelling their spring summer and winter shows and facing significant uncertainty in the future, the Royal Welsh Show has seen next to no financial support from the Welsh Government. Miss Jones urged the Welsh Government to change this.
Above all, Miss Jones stressed the urgent need for the Welsh Government to bring forward a plan for what will happen as we emerge from the second lockdown on 9th November. Businesses in Brecon and Radnorshire have already contacted Miss Jones asking for clarification. Some have even said that their decision on whether to permanently close will be based on the restrictions which will be in place when Wales after the lockdown.
Commenting on her speech, Fay Jones MP said:
“It is no secret that I have some serious concerns about the Welsh Government’s decision to impose a second national lockdown. I believe it unfairly penalises individuals and businesses in Powys where the levels of COVID-19 are relatively low. Unfortunately, it has meant that businesses have already taken the decision to permanently close, such as ‘Aromas’ coffee shop in Llandrindod Wells.
“Whilst I welcome the support which the Welsh Government has announced for businesses, it is a drop in the ocean compared to the losses they are facing. I urge the Welsh Government to ensure that this support is channelled towards the sectors worst impacted and to extend the cut to Welsh business rates.
“The Welsh Government continues to stress that this is a “time limited” second lockdown, but this means nothing when we have no idea what will happen at the end of this time limit. We deserve to know what measures will be in place when we emerge from this lockdown on the 9th November. The viability of many businesses in my constituency rely on this.”
Fay Jones MP’s full speech can be watched here.