Wales seeks Treasury help to solve ‘admin issue’

The Welsh Government is “continuing to press” the UK Government to provide support to businesses during the two-week firebreak lockdown, economy minister Ken Skates has said.

The restrictions, which will require people to stay at home and non-essential businesses such as pubs and shops to be closed, will last until November 9.

The lockdown will be brought in to coincide with the school half-term.

Mr Skates said at the Welsh Government briefing that First Minister Mark Drakeford had again written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to resolve a “simple administrative issue” to allow the job support scheme to be topped up in Wales.

He also announced the Welsh Government was doubling the third phase of its Economic Resilience Fund, making nearly £300 million available to support businesses.

“The virus has not gone away and if we do not act now with a two-week firebreak there is a very real risk that our NHS will be overwhelmed and we could see large numbers of people dying because of coronavirus this winter,” Mr Skates said.

“This cannot be allowed to happen and doing nothing is simply not an option.

“The firebreak is an absolute necessity and through the firebreak businesses will be supported with a combination of UK Government and Welsh Government support.

“As the First Minister explained yesterday, we pressed the Chancellor to bring forward the new jobs support scheme to ensure that all those working for businesses which are forced to close would receive financial support….

“We even offered to make up the difference between funding for each employee under the job retention scheme and the job support scheme.

“But the UK Government has so far refused this offer. We are continuing to press the Treasury to do all they can to ensure employees and employers in Wales will benefit from UK Government support during the firebreak to the maximum possible extent.”

Under the third phase of the Economic Resilience Fund there will be:

Payments of £1,000 for businesses that are eligible for Small Business Rates relief and occupy a property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

Payments of up to £5,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that are required to close and which occupy a property with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £50,000.

A discretionary £2,000 top-up grant for businesses closed or materially affected by the firebreak lockdown.

A further discretionary £1,000 grant for businesses that were materially affected by local lockdown measures for 21 days or more prior to the start of the firebreak.

Mr Skates also said that introducing the firebreak now would allow businesses to plan for the upcoming Christmas trade.

“Countless businesses have told me in recent weeks how important the pre-Christmas period is to their trade and we hope that through this two-week, short, sharp firebreak, we can give them a clear run at that vitally important economic opportunity,” Mr Skates said.

“I’d like to acknowledge very clearly that I recognise businesses in Wales face a very difficult time over the next few weeks.

“I hope that what we are announcing today will offer our businesses, our workers, the people of Wales, the security of knowing that the Welsh Government has your back as we enter this necessary period of action to control the virus and save the NHS.”