The Member of the Welsh Parliament for Montgomeryshire has outlined his plan for a post-pandemic economic recovery in a Senedd debate.
This week, Wednesday 14th October, Russell George MS, who is also the Shadow Minister for Economy, outlined the Welsh Conservative Party's approach to business support to revitalise our post-pandemic economy.
Speaking after the debate, Mr George said:
"The absence of support for Small and Medium Enterprises – the bedrock of the Mid Wales economy – will cost us dear. Wales is already an unwelcoming environment for business owners, with crippling business rates and low thresholds for business rate relief. This has been compounded by COVID-19 restrictions and a lack of urgency in ensuring that much needed support is delivered to the frontline rather than sitting in the Welsh Government’s coffers.
"While I welcome the announcement of the £60 million additional funding from the Welsh Government to support businesses that are being affected by lockdowns, more clarity will be needed, especially for SMEs, and there needs to be no further delay in businesses accessing the money to which they are entitled.
"In contrast, through the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, the UK Government has provided support for around 30% of the working population in Wales, protecting 316,500 livelihoods in Wales while the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme is providing support for 102,000 Welsh people with a share of nearly £300 million.
"This is without taking into account the Winter Economy Plan which will also allow businesses to access a range of loan schemes and also extends temporary VAT cuts for tourism and hospitality businesses as well as deferring repayments of VAT to support businesses until March 2022.
Outlining the Welsh Conservative approach, Mr George added:
"The Welsh Conservative approach to business support would revitalise the Mid Wales economy. We would introduce a generous £250 million COVID-19 Community Support Fund which would be used to help towns across Wales. Business Rate-Free Zones, where all businesses would be free from paying business rates, would enable them to reinvest or provide local jobs, and the scrapping of business rates for businesses under a rateable value of £15,000 outside of these Zones would boost the Welsh economy.
"Going forward, it is important that the Welsh Government waives the 10% investment required by businesses in order to access the third phase of the Economic Resilience Fund. Many businesses, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector here in Mid Wales, have faced a drastic loss in revenue over the summer with many businesses using their reserves to save them from going under. It is therefore unhelpful to ask that these businesses to provide capital investment in order for them to access vital economic support.
"While the Welsh Government has provided financial support for businesses, those with a rateable value over £500,000 will not receive any business rate relief, despite employing thousands of people. This is in stark contrast to the UK Government, which has granted a rates holiday to all retail, leisure and hospitality firms for a year irrespective of size.
"It is also important that the Welsh Government extends business rates relief to landlords who are unable to let vacant commercial properties. With the closure of many businesses, it is important that landlords are supported by the Welsh Government.
"I believe that this represents a sustainable plan which is a more effective way of helping Wales to economically recover."