Lockdown: 'England has better vision for easing lockdown'

By Brian Meechan
BBC Wales business correspondent

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image copyrightPaul Slater
image captionPub landlord Paul Slater says he is frustrated at the lack of information from the Welsh Government

"The English seem to have some vision and we don't seem to have a road map out of it."

Pub landlord Paul Slater said he is frustrated at the lack of information from the Welsh Government about when businesses might be able to reopen.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) wants more details about the conditions for lifting lockdown.

The Welsh Government said new variants of coronavirus mean it cannot provide as much certainty as they would like.

Ministers also argued the package of business support is the most generous in the UK.

The head of the FSB in Wales, Ben Cottam, said there is a danger tourism firms will lose a significant amount of Easter trade.

image captionBen Cottam, head of Wales for FSB, calls for security on funding for businesses

Mr Cottam said it was "welcome" that the Welsh Government gave some indication to retail and close contact businesses as to their path out of lockdown on Friday.

But he said there should be "a clearer conversation now" about what businesses will need to do ahead of reopening.

Mr Cottam argued this did not happen as the country came out of similar lockdown measures last year.

"It's been really frustrating for businesses that the day they're able to reopen, they get the guidance."

What do businesses say?

image copyrightPaul Slater
image captionPaul Slater says his staff want "to know what's going on"

Paul Slater is the landlord of The Trotting Mare pub which sits the Welsh side of the border with England, between Whitchurch and Oswestry, in Shropshire.

Mr Slater told BBC Radio Wales he had been closed for eight of the past 12 months, and called for more information from the Welsh Government.

"It's the uncertainty - I have got staff wanting to know what's going on," said Mr Slater.

"Even if it was a long term date, we would have something to work towards.

"Wales and England have both got the same data and evidence but Wales are taking a different route, which after three lockdowns is becoming a bit frustrating, whereas the English see to have some vision and we don't seem to have a road map out of it."

image captionSue Muddeman has owned the Bay Bistro in Rhossili for 16 years

Sue Muddeman, who has owned the Bay Bistro in Rhossili for 16 years, said they closed just before Christmas and decided not to reopen to provide a takeaway service.

Ms Muddeman doesn't expect a reopening date but called for as much notice as possible in order to prepare.

"There's lots of things that they could be telling us now so that we could be prepared, so when they do have a date for opening we can literally open those doors and we're ready to go," she said.

"We probably can't solve the problem of people coming from England that have different rules. That was an issue. But it needs to be laid out very clearly."

image captionSwansea shop Hiatus director Matt Bryer said he will "persist to make this work"

Meanwhile in Swansea, Hiatus, a sustainability conscious surf, outdoors and lifestyle store, had to delay it's opening due to the pandemic.

The company's director, Matt Bryer, explained they finally managed to open the shop in September 2020, but said the past few months have been "challenging."

"You've never had to be as dynamic as you have now," he said.

Mr Bryer said it feels like "neglect" when he sees other sectors "getting access to more funding".

"It seems like we might be misunderstood on how we operate, how our cashflow operates and how our commitments operates," he said.

image captionThe past few months have been "challenging", Hiatus shop director Matt Bryer says

Mr Cottam also called on the Welsh Government to offer security on funding for businesses with relief for certain sectors to be extended by a year.

"We would like to see Welsh Government commit to 100% rates relief holiday," he said.

"That will just give businesses a little bit of breathing space they need to get back up and running and to help restart the economy."

The FSB wants the Welsh and UK governments to provide consistent messages and trading conditions.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said it will move to the alert level three in "gradual steps, assessing the impact as we go along".

It said a first step, in the next three weeks, would be to consider the rules around non-essential retail and close contact services, and the possibility of re-opening self-contained accommodation for Easter.

"We recognise everyone wants certainty and to be able to plan for the future, and that businesses want to be open and trading - we want that to happen as soon as it is safe to do so," the spokesperson said.

"We are actively reviewing our options for providing further support for firms aligned to the review process and have active planning in place to extend if required."

It added that the Welsh Government has provided £650m to help businesses through the December to March period in addition to a £180m support fund for the tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors.

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