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Business must be at the forefront of a plan to reopen Wales

Photo credit: Matthew Horwood

As UK and Welsh Government begin to look at how and when to ease lockdown measures, many of us naturally turn to how we can begin to reopen Wales and restart our economy in the coming weeks and months.

Welsh firms have faced significant impacts from the outbreak of Covid-19. New FSB research found that 70% of firms in Wales have experienced a very negative impact on cash flow as a result of the pandemic. Only 3% have seen no impact on their cash flow, and 7.5% have seen a positive impact.

Furthermore, almost a third of firms had concerns about whether they would be able to reopen following the pandemic. This demonstrates how important it is for Wales’ businesses to be supported when lockdown measures do begin to lift, so that as many firms as possible are able to trade.

Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said: “It is not possible to overstate the immediacy of the situation facing Wales’ businesses. These are the firms that invest in our local economies, create jobs and have done so much to help support our communities through the outbreak.

“For Wales to be successful in a post-Coronavirus world, we will need our smaller firms. That means that those firms need us today.

“Data shows us that firms are facing significant challenges, and yet they are still doing everything that they can at this time to support their communities. From K Sharp, a human sciences research firm that is now repurposing their 3D printing machine to produce PPE, to Red Dragon Flag Makers, who are turning their textiles skills to making scrubs for the NHS and other organisations.

“I am so proud to work alongside organisations like these, who are putting their communities first and working tirelessly to support those around them at such a difficult time. Businesses in Wales clearly are in and of their communities. We would be so much worse off without them, and so we must take action to protect these firms and help them restart – for the sake of our economy and our population as a whole.”

FSB has today published a new paper Reopening Wales and has identified a number of actions that Welsh Government should take to support smaller firms as we begin to ease restrictions:

  • Business Wales should provide advice and guidance on the 2 metre rule and social distancing
  • Welsh Government should introduce a Social Distancing Grant Fund
  • Welsh Government should support tourism firms with a Tourism Hibernation Scheme
  • Funding should be refocused on town centre regeneration
  • A cybersecurity campaign to keep businesses safe online
  • A focus on the HR Support firms will need
  • Welsh Government should take action to address late payments

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In addition to this, there is a role for UK Government in terms of relaxing Welsh Government’s borrowing limits and to provide clarity on the Shared Prosperity Fund. It must be made clear that Wales will receive the same amount of funding, and that this money will be under the control of Welsh Government, in order to provide stability moving forwards.

Ben Francis commented: “We want to present Welsh Government with positive ideas to contribute towards a plan for how businesses can be supported to come out of lockdown, because there must be a plan to assist firms as they seek to navigate such uncertain terrain.

“The pandemic has caused an unprecedented strain on Wales’ smaller firms, but there is now an opportunity to look at how we ensure that the post-lockdown period is as successful as possible.

“Our tourism firms, for example, will have to take a very different approach to how they work for this season and into the next. There are ways for Welsh Government to support these firms and ensure that they can still come back next season despite having lost a significant amount of income this year, and a Tourism Hibernation Scheme is one way to do this. These are difficult questions that must be answered by Welsh Government to ensure that we can all benefit from the contribution of Wales’ smaller firms, and at FSB we want to contribute towards how we answer those questions.”