Following welcome measures to support small businesses in the UK Government's Budget on Wednesday, the Welsh Government has been called upon to take urgent and similar actions to offset some of the likely consequences on small businesses in Mid Wales from the Coronavirus.
The Member of the Welsh Parliament for Montgomeryshire, Russell George, who has long been a proponent of a permanent solution which would see the abolition of business rates for all small businesses has now called on the Welsh Government to follow the UK Government's lead and take immediate measures to ensure that businesses are adequately supported in order to shore up their financial position as they prepare to navigate the unpredictable time ahead.
In a letter to the Welsh Government Minister for Finance, Mr George said:
"The UK Government’s commitment to abolish business rates for SMEs for 2020 is a welcome measure which will provide confidence to small businesses. However, given that a number of the Chancellor's announcements are applicable to England only, the Welsh Government has a role in using the additional money which is provided to the Welsh Government arising from the budget by responding to this emerging and uncertain situation which will undoubtedly put small businesses under severe pressure over the forthcoming weeks and months."
In the UK Government Budget on Wednesday (11th March), the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak announced that business rates would be scrapped for small venues and shops; a proposed £500 million hardship fund, a proposal that those businesses qualifying for 100% rate relief could claim a £3000 grant for support; and the announcement of additional business rates relief measures for pubs and other businesses within the hospitality and leisure sector.
Mr George added:
"The impending Coronavirus epidemic could have a significant impact on the wider Welsh economy. With small businesses at the frontline of the Welsh economy and potentially more susceptible to the negative consequences of such a widespread Coronavirus outbreak, I strongly encourage the Welsh Government to react quickly and without delay in following the UK Government's lead in responding to the needs of the business community by immediately introducing business rate relief measures for small businesses and consider introducing other short term economic stimulus measures which will provide a safety net to Welsh businesses.
"This will allow small businesses to continue to operate and provide them with confidence that the Welsh Government will support and protect them from the challenges and potential hardships which this virus will undoubtedly inflict on the small business sector.
"From my perspective, I will continue to work collaboratively and constructively with the Welsh Government and all other stakeholders, but strongly advocate that the Welsh Government takes immediate and urgent action to respond to this emerging crisis facing our small businesses and mitigate the worst effects of the Coronavirus virus on the Welsh economy."