Business owners in Caerphilly have written to the Welsh Government urging it to offer further financial support.
Firms operating in the tourism, hospitality, and leisure sectors, as well as non-essential retail, were forced to close with around five hours of notice given on December 19.
While companies in those specific sectors have been able to access some business support, business owners say it is not enough to cover overheads.
Other businesses, for example those not registered as limited companies, have also struggled.
The Caerphilly Borough Business Owners/ COVID 19 group on Facebook has around 600 members. They have been supporting each other throughout the pandemic.
They have now written a letter to the Welsh Government’s Economy Minister Ken Skates demanding that more support is made available.
The letter points out that Wales had the smallest trading window of all the nations of the UK when lockdown was announced before Christmas. Many not only lost crucial sales, but also invested in stock and had perishables wasted.
The letter reads: “The month of December is, indeed, ‘vitally important’. for the businesses in our group, it represents an average of 25% of annual sales, regardless of sector. The final week of Christmas trading accounts for 10% of all sales, and even in normal times, sustains a business through quieter months. Closing hospitality, close contact services and non-essential retail with five hours’ notice was perhaps the most costly and consequential of all the closures we have endured so far.”
Sarah Bruton, owner of Caerphilly’s Captiva Spa, is one of the signatories of the letter and has helped co-ordinate business owners in calling for action.
She told Caerphilly Observer: “What’s available at the moment is not really fit-for-purpose. So many people are falling through the gaps. People trading sometimes aren’t limited companies and there isn’t a right of appeal either. If you are a business that can’t upload a bank statement, you are declined automatically.”
The group has spoken with Caerphilly MS Hefin David of their concerns and he is due to meet with Ken Skates to discuss the raised issues.
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Caerphilly Observer understands there is the possibility that more support is planned from the Welsh Government.
Applications for a fund worth £180 million to businesses is currently open.
The fund will remain open for a maximum of two weeks, but will close once it has been fully committed.
The Welsh Government’s latest Economic Resilience Fund package was originally announced in December as part of £450m worth of support. It is in addition to the grants paid out via councils for businesses that pay non-domestic rates.
The fund is expected to support up to 8,000 hospitality, tourism and leisure firms impacted by the restrictions and potentially a further 2,000 in related supply chains.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to doing all we can to protect businesses during this very challenging time.
“Our package of support is the most generous in the UK and more than £1.67bn of Welsh Government financial assistance has reached businesses since the beginning of April. This has been crucial in supporting thousands of firms across Wales and protecting many more jobs that might otherwise have been lost.
“The £450m package announced by the Welsh Government to support businesses in dealing with restrictions enforced in December has been designed to cover the particular impact of the Christmas period and ensure support through to February. In Wales, this could see a typical hospitality business employing six people receiving a grant of between £12,000 and £14,000 in total, which is significantly more than would be on offer in England.
“We will continue to develop our package of support aligned to any necessary restrictions beyond February.”
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