Wales’ biggest business organisation calls for cross-government working on potential future localised lockdowns
- Business group identifies needs for a Rapid Reaction Business Fund to support smaller businesses in the event of local lockdowns
Today, (3rd August) FSB Wales has written to Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales and Ken Skates MS, Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport, to call for UK and Welsh Governments to work together on potential local lockdowns. This is because as it becomes increasingly apparent that Coronavirus will be a feature of daily life for some time to come, attention must naturally turn to how localised, community outbreaks will be managed.
In England, restrictions have been reimplemented in Leicester and most recently in Greater Manchester to deal with local-level outbreaks. Whilst Welsh Government has not yet had to deal with a community-level outbreak, attention must be turned to contingency planning for how the business sector can be supported through any such local shutdown, and how lessons can be learned from local issues elsewhere. This is particularly important given the significant disruption that the country-wide lockdown had on Wales’ business community, many of firms are only just beginning to recover from this and cannot yet withstand another lockdown without external support.
With the Job Retention Scheme beginning to wind down and expected to end completely in October, firms are once again liable for their full running costs. This leaves them more exposed to significant financial issues in the event that local lockdown restrictions were to prevent them from trading once again.
Today, FSB Wales has called for a Rapid Reaction Business Fund which would be fully worked up by Welsh and UK Government, and would be ready to deploy quickly and efficiently in the event of another lockdown situation. This would be targeted at the particular geographical focus of the lockdown and support businesses through a short-term disruption to their ability to operate.
FSB has also called for a ready-to-go communication plan, drawing in business organisations and other partners from across Wales who can help inform the business community about what is happening, who is affected and how they need to respond.
Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:
“The last few months have been incredibly tough on businesses in every sector and every corner of our country.
“We are all finding ways to adapt our everyday lives to the reality that Coronavirus is going to be part of our lives for some time to come. It’s also important that we look at what continencies we can plan for in order to ensure that any future action to prevent the spread of coronavirus does not do any more damage to businesses, because frankly, many won’t be able to sustain it.
“Many firms have already exhausted their reserves and taken on debt in order to survive the first lockdown, we must look ahead now at how we can ensure that a second wave – and the restrictions that could come with it – are not the final straw for the businesses that are central to our communities.
“A Rapid Reaction Business Fund would give Welsh Government the agility to provide financial support where it is needed to get firms through a short-term set of restrictions, and could be the difference between a firm surviving and not. However, we know that UK and Welsh Government must work together to ensure that appropriate financial firepower is available to support these firms.
“In order for Wales to properly make contingency plans for any future restrictions on business, it is imperative that UK and Welsh Governments work closely together and engage the business organisations now to ensure that when and if the occasion comes, businesses are prepared, communicated with effectively and supported. We must learn the lessons from Leicester and Greater Manchester, take action now to protect the Welsh economy, and prevent another cliff edge situation from which many firms may not come back.”