Reopening roadmap for Wales but fears over slow pace and business funding

A reopening roadmap has been published for Wales – but pressure is growing for a funding update to keep firms in business until they can open and help them restart.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has now provided a list of dates for sectors like hospitality, tourism and opening dates for shops, gyms and leisure centres.

Many will be waiting weeks for that reopening date and when the last set of £150m in funding was announced Welsh Government said it was to cover costs until March 31.

But last week Business Live revealed Welsh Government didn’t expect to update funding until after the Senedd election on May 6.

Sector representatives like UKHospitality Cymru and the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective and individual businesses are fuming at this ‘moving of the goalposts’ with pressure today for Welsh Government to give more clarity on what extra support will be available.

Plaid Cymru and Welsh Conservatives are also calling for extra funding to be announced.

Dave Chapman, UKHospitality Cymru’s Executive Director, today said: “It’s great to have some of the clarity for which UKHospitality Cymru has been asking Welsh Government for some months now: dates for outdoor hospitality, attractions, gyms and other related activities.

“However, we believe non-alignment with England will cause confusion over opening, encourage cross border travelling and damage our competitive offer by driving away eager customers. It would be a smoother and more sensible route for indoor hospitality to be opened in line with England on the 17th May.

“In addition, the timelines show that we could be shut for another seven weeks or so and so more vital funding will be required to help keep jobs and our businesses afloat.

“We are in constant discussions with Welsh Government over additional support and appeal to them to ensure that the effect of the backing we have had to date is not jeopardised by failing to top up assistance in this period.”

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said: “Labour has a duty to provide extra financial support to help those businesses to get back on their feet – increasing the pot of cash that’s available to businesses.

“Time and again, hard-working Welsh businesses that form the backbone of our economy have been let down and left behind by this Labour government – the very least they can do is to dig deep and support key sectors of the Welsh economy.

“Meanwhile, gyms should be able to safely re-open now – not least to help with people’s wellbeing and mental health which has suffered so much during the last few months.”

Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies pointed to restart grants in England of up to £18,000 for the hospitality sector – where reopening outdoors (April 12) and indoors (May 17) will take place around two weeks before pubs, restaurants and cafes in Wales.

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He believes hospitality has been less well supported in Wales although Welsh Government pointed towards the Sector Specific Grants in Wales for hospitality, leisure and tourism, which have not been available in England.

Dr Davies added: “Here in Wales our pubs are in limbo.

“The grant they thought was to last them until the end of March, they have now been told needs to last until the end of May.

“They need a clear roadmap out of lockdown with adequate financial support until they can reopen.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “We will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government but our pubs and publicans in Wales are suffering, and cash reserves are rapidly becoming exhausted. If the First Minister wants to prevent pubs from falling at the final hurdle, we must have more support.”

Welsh Government has been accused of “sitting on” extra Covid funds from UK Government due to unallocated money in the budget.

Wales Fiscal Analysis team at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre did say in February that they estimate the allocated Covid-19 grants and reliefs to businesses in Wales (approximately £2.3bn) now far exceeds the funding flowing from business support in England (approximately £1.9bn).

Welsh Government has consistently said its support has been the most generous of any UK nation.

But Steve Gill, Landlord of the New Inn in Rhuddlan, said funding in Wales had been “very hit or miss”.

Ian Price, CBI Wales Director, said: “Businesses across Wales will welcome the publication of a roadmap for economic restart that puts safety first. Unless people feel safe, employees won’t return to work, customers will stay away and the restart will falter, putting people’s livelihoods at further risk.

“We know from experience that the economy can’t be turned on and off like a light switch, meaning that a challenging and uncertain few months still lie ahead. Every effort should be made to support businesses as they seek to get back up and running following such a long-term break in trading.

“While businesses recognise that timings may vary based on scientific evidence, the principles and guidance that underpin the restart should be transparent and as consistent as possible across the UK – that means staying in-line with the UK Government wherever possible to avoid divergence.

“A unified approach to reopening the economy – involving the UK and Welsh governments, business and employee representatives – is vital to instilling public confidence and getting the economy back on its feet.”

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