Details of £200m Welsh Government lockdown package – but firms already voice concerns about funds lasting

Welsh Government has revealed further details of the £200m package of support for non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses.

Wales went into lockdown on December 20 – wiping out Christmas for retail and hospitality.

Funding was allocated by Welsh Government through the Restrictions Business Fund while further money has been made available through the Sector Specific Grant for hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses.

Businesses have been asking for a top-up of funding with lockdown set to drag on for weeks.

This latest funding announced for firms is linked to the non-domestic rates system and is now expected to last until the end of March.

Businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or under will be eligible to receive a payment of £3,000.

Businesses with a rateable value between £12,001 and £150,000 will be eligible to receive a payment of £5,000.

The Welsh Government is also extending the £5,000 grant through to businesses with a rateable value of up to £500,000.

A further £30m is also being made available through the discretionary fund to provide up to £2,000 grants for businesses not on the non-domestic rates system.

Supply chain businesses will be able to apply for support if they have had a reduction in turnover of more than 40%.

Welsh Government said it bring the financial support since December up to £650m and will help businesses with operational costs through to the end of March.

But businesses have already voiced concerns about this funding lasting more than two months.

Simon Hall, who owns Secondhand Shed in Wrexham, said: “Whilst I’m happy we are getting funding I find it bizarre no one is questioning the fact they closed us down a week earlier than planned and at the busiest time of the year. 

“So far have received £3,000 to cover from mid-December until the next grant, then he announced today we get another £3,000 that has to last two months .

“He must think shops cost nothing to rent or standing charges on gas and electric still have to be paid even when not in use as does phone and broadband.”

He did praise Wrexham council for the speed in getting grants to companies.

Angela Harper, from Pale Hall hotel near Bala, said: “We fully accept the need to stay locked down until vulnerable groups are vaccinated but from March on our season takes off.

“We need some additional support to cover the fixed costs that we have to pay even when we are closed over and above furlough.

“In our case these are in region of £60,000+ a month.”

Welsh Government said the combined package since December will have provided businesses with an NDR rate of £12,000 or under with a £6,000 towards their operating costs, and an eligible business with an NDR rate of between £12,001 and £150,000 with a £10,000 payment.

They said this does not include funding secured through the ERF Sector Specific Fund which could be an extra £15,000 for a hospitality, leisure and tourism business with 10 employees.

Local authorities, who have been absolutely vital in getting money to businesses quickly, will again be administering and distributing these payments.

Businesses that pay non-domestic rates and have already received a payment since the firebreak in October do not need to take action.

However, businesses that have not registered with their local authority, should take action now to ensure they receive the financial support they are entitled to.

Welsh Government said £1.7bn of business support has reached the bank accounts of Welsh firms since the pandemic started.

Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a severe impact on our economy and our businesses, particularly those in the leisure, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors.

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy and Transport, and Minister for North Wales
(Image: Ian Cooper/North Wales Live)

“The additional £200m we are making available will provide reassurance to firms across Wales and help them with their operating costs through to the end of March.

“Our support is in addition to that available from the UK Government, including the Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, and I encourage businesses to explore those options as well.

“I am also calling on the UK Government to provide further certainty to businesses and individuals by assuring that support available through interventions such as the Job Retention Scheme will not be withdrawn before the economy is ready.

“Local Authorities have been crucial throughout the pandemic in supporting our efforts by administering and distributing this funding to firms in their area and I would like to once again thank them for their fantastic work and everything they continue to do to help our businesses when they need it most.”

Local Government Minister Julie James also paid tribute to the efforts of local authority staff.

She said: “I know that staff across Wales have worked incredibly hard to make sure support was available to their local businesses as quickly as possible.”

Sara Jones, from the Welsh Retail Consortium, said: “It is welcome to see that further funding is being made available to those retailers unable to open and trade. 

“However, the threat of a return to full business rates liability in April still looms.  We are seeking an urgent commitment from the Welsh Government to extend the business rates relief beyond April 2021, mirroring at the very least the statement made this week by the Scottish Government.”

UkHospitality Cymru

UkHospitality Cymru  said: “UKHC welcomes Welsh Government’s recognition that further support is clearly necessary to help our businesses get through this very dark trading period but for many of our key medium and larger employers, who provide vital jobs in communities across Wales.

“They will need more assistance to survive and to retain jobs and we are currently in further discussions to seek appropriate discretionary and targeted help to do this.”

FSB response

Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said: “Businesses will be pleased that Welsh Government have listened to FSB’s urging that future business support be articulated clearly and easy to access.

“We are pleased that businesses will be able to leave the briefing with a clear understanding – and signposting – of where the funding will come from, that they don’t need to apply if they have received funding before, and that it will have to cover the period from 25 January to the end of March. This is the level of detail that will enable businesses to plan for the coming weeks.

Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy chair
(Image: FSB)

“The increased funding will be very important for those firms that have no choice but to rely on Welsh Government funding in order to survive this incredibly difficult phase of the pandemic. However, as this funding will need to last until the end of March, it may yet not be enough for businesses which find themselves facing significant accumulated costs as the lockdown drags on.

“The First Minister offered little in terms of acknowledging the challenges faced by our members who have now spent the best part of a year trying to keep their businesses afloat week-to-week. There was no indication of how or when businesses might be able to reopen, beyond an ask that UK Government extend the furlough scheme.

“We ask, once again, that Welsh Government talk to Wales’ businesses about what their plans or hopes are for reopening Wales and restarting our economy. Business owners are individuals with mortgages to pay, families to provide for and staff to provide assurances to and cannot operate in a vacuum without any indication of their future from Welsh Government.

“Further, prolonged uncertainty will cost businesses, jobs and livelihoods.”

Ian Price, CBI Wales Director, said: “With public health the number one priority as we seek to significantly lower transmission, business understands the rationale for further extension of lockdown restrictions. 

“News of additional business support through the Economic Resilience Fund for non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses is clearly welcome, but we must also recognise that the economic impact of the pandemic is being felt across all parts of the business community.

“Getting funds as quickly as possible to those firms that need them most remains key to protecting jobs and livelihoods. Longer term business is looking to the Welsh and UK governments to work together to provide certainty around business support over the coming weeks and months – including extending the successful Job Retention Scheme until at least the end of June.”