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9th April 2020

Technology Coronavirus: Welsh business fund to help self-employed – BBC South East Wales

Technology Coronavirus: Welsh business fund to help self-employed – BBC South East Wales

Technology

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Cafes and bars are particularly feeling the strain of having few customers

Welsh ministers will invest just under £1.4bn to help businesses in Wales deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Economy Minister Ken Skates said the devolved government will match plans to help English businesses through grants and further rate relief.

He added that an additional fund will be established to assist businesses and the self-employed.

It follows the UK government’s package of financial measures to shore up the economy.

The measures include £330bn in loans and £20bn in other aid.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a business rate holiday for all firms in England in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors for 12 months and funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small businesses.

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Ken Skates says he is liaising with the UK government over funding

The Welsh Government has received money to establish its own package of measures because business rates and small business support is devolved.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Skates said: “After confirming all of the figures with the UK government, we’re going to be investing just under £1.4bn in businesses in Wales.

“We’re going to match what’s happening in England completely.

“But we’re also going to be establishing a fund that will assist some self-employed people and businesses outside of those sectors and those areas of the economy that are going to benefit from the business rate holiday and the grants.”

Mr Skates explained the new fund could help “people who are self-employed who are facing particular strain at the moment because of the effects of coronavirus or it could be businesses outside of the retail sector, the leisure sector, the hospitality sector that are facing a particular struggle right now”.

He called on the UK government to introduce a “wage subsidy for businesses so that they can hibernate if necessary through the coronavirus outbreak, or continue to struggle on through the outbreak whilst guaranteeing a basic income to their workers”.

“Hopefully we’ll have an answer back [from the UK government] by the early part of next week,” he added.

Technology Analysis by Sarah Dickins, BBC Wales economics correspondent

In setting up a hardship fund for some who are self-employed the Welsh Government is acknowledging how important people who work for themselves are for the Welsh economy.

One in eight workers in Wales are self-employed, ranging from farm workers, builders, technology start-ups and experienced consultants .

It’s also significant that the Welsh Government’s support goes beyond the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses to which the Chancellor has offered a rates holiday.

With some self-employed people already having work cancelled and uncertain weeks ahead anything that can help to pay for their overheads will be welcome .

The big question is whether it will be enough to keep the majority of businesses running until the health crisis is over.

Ben Cottam, of the Federation of Small Business Wales, has called for “better connectedness between the UK and Welsh governments” on business support.

“Because what we now have is a process of catch up, where we get an announcement which predominantly outlines the headlines for England and obviously now we have to go away and do some number crunching and figure out what this means for businesses in Wales,” he said.

Responding to that point, the minister said: “We’ve now been promised [by the UK government} that we’ll be an integral part of forming those interventions that are so important for the economy.

“Businesses cannot afford for necessary time lags between hearing what UK government is going to be making available and then allowing us to qualify what we’re going to be doing based on those figures.

“We have to be there devising the interventions at the earlier stage,” he added.

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