Business leaders are calling for more urgent support for companies and the self-employed in North Wales so they can survive the corona virus crisis.
The North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, the regional umbrella body for the private sector has written to the Westminster and Cardiff Bay governments saying it was imperative to act quickly.
The same letter has been sent to the Welsh Government’s Economy Minister, Ken Skates AM, and the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP.
The £14.2 billion economy in North Wales has over 65,000 enterprises and has world class businesses in manufacturing, tourism, and creative and digital sectors.
The region’s business and labour markets are also very closely linked to both Cheshire and the Wirral with many companies operating and employing people on both sides of the Wales-England border.
According to Commercial Director Ashley Rogers, the “unprecedented” multi-billion packages of support funding already announced were greatly appreciated.
But more is needed to be done to plug the gaps in the support that is now available so that thousands more North Wales businesses can be safeguarded and helped to survive the crisis.
The previously booming tourism and hospitality sector is being hit hardest, which normally generates 30 million visits a year.
Manufacturing, which makes up 20 per cent of the regional economy compared to the UK average of 10 per cent and is the largest sector in North Wales, has also been hit hard.
Additional support for social care is important because 23 per cent of people living in North Wales are aged over 65, which is five per cent higher than the rest of the UK.
They added that small businesses, sole traders and freelancers in every sector should be made a priority because in many cases their work had been wiped out.
The measures they are calling for include:
- Extending the new business rates relief scheme to cover manufacturing, logistics, professional services, creative and digital and social care sectors
- The self-employed to receive the same income support as employees, with hardship payments of up to 80 per cent of last year’s earnings up to a maximum of £2,500 per month
- Increased coordination of support to cover businesses operating on both sides of the Wales-England border
- Removing the €200,000 cap on state support funding
Mr Rogers said: “The beginnings of the Corona virus pandemic have already hit some of our sectors incredibly hard, notably the tourism and hospitality sector just as we approach the key Easter holiday break.
“The effective shutdown of tourism and hospitality has also had a domino effect on the creative and digital sector, which is deeply connected to it, especially in relation to large scale events which have now been cancelled.
“As a result, many of the Freelancers in the creative and digital sector have seen the loss of the majority, if not all of their income streams overnight.
“Manufacturing has also been hit with many of our major manufacturers in the cross-border region having to temporarily shutdown, including Toyota, JCB, Vauxhall.
“This then affects the viability of our logistics providers, which are also an essential component in our supply chains for food distribution.
“In short, the immediate major negative impacts on businesses in certain sectors, is having a domino effect on others.
“The unprecedented multi-billion pound packages of support funding for businesses has been very much appreciated but we still need to plug the gaps in the available support.
“Whilst we fully appreciate the speed and scale with which both Governments have responded to this crisis, we wanted to raise a number of immediate and urgent areas for our regional economy and business community.”
The Business Council has also called for a potential joint letter from both Governments to all enterprises in the region outlining all the supports available and how to access them.
Mr Rogers added: “We feel a straightforward written piece of communication to all businesses and the self-employed, potentially a joint letter from both Governments outlining the key supports from each would be an excellent initiative. Such an intervention would give a clarity of message improving business confidence and show close partnership working.
“The Business Council and its Members are ready and willing to do our best to support the joint effort to get through the pandemic.”