Following the recent news of the gradual reopening of towns, with non-essential retail expected to reopen from 12th April, Monmouthshire County Council has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting businesses in the county and its intention to continue to ask Welsh Government to look at ways to help those businesses that have fallen through the gaps in the funding schemes.
At the Business Resilience Forum meeting, held on 17th March, attended by representatives of businesses and business groups across the county, Councillor Bob Greenland, and officers from within the council’s business support team and VisitMonmouthshire, the request was for more support from Welsh Government. Businesses in the meeting expressed frustration and concern that the current criteria for the existing grants exclude too many who desperately need help.
Councillor Bob Greenland, Deputy Leader of Monmouthshire County Council and Cabinet Member for Enterprise, said: “We are grateful for the money that has come from Westminster and Welsh Government to help businesses – an unprecedented amount – which has helped many businesses. In Monmouthshire, we have passed on £40million in business support since the beginning of the pandemic.
“However the schemes that Welsh Government has brought forward have sadly failed to support thousands of legitimate businesses across Wales who have fallen through the gaps, due to rules they have brought in for these schemes. Both Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, and I have been pressing Welsh Government over this issue time and time again. Even so, we feel that we have not been listened to”.
“The current offering of grants does not help those who have fallen foul of certain criteria – such as the need to have been actively trading up to 4th December 2020, or, in the case of self-catering accommodation, to have been trading for two years. Many start-ups have been excluded from much needed support, as have many self-employed people. The needs of these businesses – who contribute so much to the county’s economy, reputation and appeal – deserve to and should be met.
“I believe we need a scheme that is administered by the council, because we can see where the gaps in these schemes are, we can see the businesses that are going to the wall because they have fallen through the gaps. I feel we must speak up for those businesses that have been forgotten,” said Cllr. Greenland.
“In addition, we have heard from businesses who need more information and advance notice, in order to prepare for reopening. Two days’ notice is, for many, simply not enough. We would like to see non-essential retail permitted to open at the point when supermarkets can sell non-essential goods. We’re hearing of a need for a consistency of message and for a greater integration of messages between England and Wales. In a Welsh county such a Monmouthshire, that lies on the border with England, the disparity is causing confusion and in many cases, such as the reopening of hospitality, putting Welsh businesses at a disadvantage.”
In the recent meeting, the council confirmed that it would also continue to promote businesses as they prepare to reopen via a new Spring Shop Local campaign. The work VisitMonmouthshire has been undertaking to keep Monmouthshire at the front of people’s minds further afield – showcasing the wonderful locations, innovative businesses, and quality produce in its recent Monmouthshire Foodscapes campaign – was also discussed.
As hopes are raised for a lifting of the Stay Local restrictions and overnight stays in self-contained visitor accommodation for residents of Wales from 27th March, visitmonmouthshire.com will be promoting safe and responsible tourism and a wide range of outdoor experiences, including walks. A series of press and influencer visits are also being organised for later in the year to raise the profile of Monmouthshire as the Food Capital of Wales and the wide range of high quality food and drink experiences on offer.
Details of current business support, advice and latest guidance can be found on the council’s website: monmouthshire.gov.uk/business-advice, which is updated regularly.