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Circuit Breaker Lockdown Signals Anxiety for Businesses

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Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair Comments on the proposed circuit breaker lockdown from Welsh Government.

“Many firms will not yet feel that they have been able to recover from the first national lockdown and all of the subsequent disruption caused by local restrictions, so to be moving into another national lockdown will be disheartening to say the least.

“The proposed circuit breaker comes at a difficult time for retail businesses as well, because many would be trying to take advantage of the run-up to Christmas and the boost in trade that should come with it. It is of real concern that a call for people in Wales to stay at home would drive the majority of pre-Christmas sales into the arms of Amazon and other large online businesses at a time when our independent, community businesses need our support so badly.

“Tourism and hospitality businesses too will be very significantly hit by these measures. This comes on the top of the impact of local control measures and Welsh Government’s travel ban. Many of these businesses have worked hard to extend the season and would have been looking forward to Half Term to make up for lost ground this year. That option may now not be open to them and consequently, they face a bleak few months. Welsh Government should bring forward an extensive Tourism Hibernation scheme to support our vital tourism and hospitality businesses.

“Whilst we understand that these are difficult decisions, led by public health advice, they have stark economic consequences and that is our area of concern. To implement a circuit breaker lockdown of the kind we saw in March will require significant, new funding to be made available – not just to those firms that are instructed to close but to all those businesses who face a serious indirect economic impact of the decision.

“We expect Welsh Government to urgently clarify how it intends to support businesses through this latest upheaval and we will be making clear that this requires both financial support and clear, concise guidance that is available before any circuit breaker lockdown comes into effect. We’ve seen previously that guidance has only been published on the day that changes come into effect, and in a situation as serious as this that would simply be unacceptable.

“Furthermore, Welsh Government needs to be clear now any plans for further restrictions in coming months to help businesses plan and give them the best opportunity to weather any measures. This is important to protect those businesses, the jobs which depend on them and the health of the Welsh economy.

“Once again, Wales’ businesses will step up and do what is necessary to keep Wales and our communities safe – as they have done throughout this pandemic. We cannot ignore however, the potential threat to these businesses from uncertainty and disruption.”