Monmouthshire’s businesses are facing an increasingly challenging time. Monmouthshire County Council is concerned that they would not currently be eligible for grants from the £60m fund announced this week, designed to help businesses under local lockdown. The council is appealing to Welsh Government to expand the reach of the fund when it is launched to support businesses in Monmouthshire that are facing reduced customer numbers as people from neighbouring counties can no longer visit.
At this time the plan is for grants to only be available for those businesses in a county that has been in local lockdown for three weeks or more and who have experienced a drop of 40% in turnover. This would leave Monmouthshire businesses without the ability to access this important source of financial support.
While Monmouthshire is currently not in local lockdown, its businesses have already started to feel the impact of the lack of footfall from residents living in neighbouring local authorities, including Torfaen, Newport and Blaenau Gwent, who would normally travel to Monmouthshire to shop or to eat out. In addition, there are reports of tourism businesses already dealing with cancellations. This is hitting businesses at a time when they were working hard to recover following the lockdown earlier this year.
Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, commented: “We are concerned that while this latest raft of support will undoubtedly offer a vital lifeline to businesses in lockdown areas, there is nothing for those in Monmouthshire whose livelihoods rely on trade with customers and businesses in neighbouring counties and that are being similarly affected.
“While we are not in local lockdown, we are already hearing that owners of holiday accommodation in the county are receiving requests for cancellations and refunds. People are wanting their money back, rather than accepting a new booking or credit note, which has an immediate effect on these businesses’ revenue. Meanwhile, we are anticipating that some of our towns, if not already, then soon, will be experiencing a reduced footfall due to the travel restrictions our neighbouring local authorities have in place. In light of this, we will be making representations to Welsh Government to consider widening the reach of this fund to reflect this.”
“These changes could make all the difference to businesses facing this latest set of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cllr. Greenland. “We know that details are currently being finalised with regards to this fund and hope that Welsh Government will take this as an opportunity to appreciate the challenges that areas not in lockdown are facing.”
Kim Waters, Chair of Monmouthshire’s Destination Partnership and CEO of Abergavenny Food Festival said: “Monmouthshire’s Destination Partnership fully supports the council’s request to extend the eligible area of Welsh Government’s £60m funding beyond local authority areas currently in lockdown and across the whole of the functioning South East Wales economic area. Accommodation and hospitality business members of the Partnership already report an increase in cancellations and requests for refunds alongside a decrease in new business since the local lockdowns came into place, and desperately need access to this additional support to survive.”
Councillor Bob Greenland added: “Monmouthshire’s businesses need all the support possible at this difficult time. In light of this, I would encourage all Monmouthshire residents to continue to shop locally and thank them for their support.”