Pembrokeshire is on a “slow path to recovery” Preseli MP Stephen Crabb has warned following the second meeting of the Covid-19 business forum.
In the week that UK Government released figures showing the scale of emergency support going to businesses, Preseli politicians held the second round of their forum to hear direct from local firms about the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
Figures from the Treasury show that the UK Government is now paying the wages of 7,700 people furloughed by businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and 2,600 self-employed people in Pembrokeshire have accessed the Self-Employed Support Scheme.
On Friday Stephen Crabb MP again brought together a selection of key local businesses, Paul Davies MS, Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire College to continue the discussion about the Government’s business support packages, accessing bank support, the economic impact of the lockdown and strategies to drive economic growth in the county.
Businesses from the construction, retail, manufacturing, agricultural, events and financial sector where all present to share their views. Key concerns raised includes the speed of easing the restrictions in Wales, the impact of the 2m socially distancing rule and further Government support measures to help boost the economy and safeguard jobs.
Following the meeting, Stephen Crabb MP said:
“There has never been a more important time for Pembrokeshire business to be able to speak to all tiers of government about immediate challenges and the outlook ahead. Right now, we are on a very slow path to recovery and the local economy is still very much on life support. Wales is moving at a slower pace to the rest of the UK.”
He added, “Pembrokeshire has a strong entrepreneurial spirit which has always allowed us to buck national trends. Some of our local firms have already adapted to the crisis and have even seen sales increase. But others won’t be able to re-start properly until some of the movement restrictions are lifted.”
“A clear message from the meeting was the importance of buying from local businesses wherever possible and for the Council, the National Park and local housing associations to use Pembrokeshire firms for their supplies. Pembrokeshire should lead the way in the move to a more local, less global, economy.”
“One big talking point during the meeting was the impact of the two metre rule in the workplace. My personal view is that full economic recovery is impossible with that rule in place and that this rule is going to have to be revised soon. Other countries in Europe use 1m or 1.5m. That makes a big difference to how a business operates.”
Paul Davies MS added: “It was very useful to once again hear from local businesses about the impact that the Covid-19 is having on their sustainability and the feedback received will be crucial in scrutinising the Welsh Government going forward. Whilst the support that has been received has helped keep businesses afloat, more needs to be done to protect businesses in the medium and long term.”
Stephen Crabb will be hosting another discussion with tourism and hospitality businesses on Friday, June 19 following the First Minister, Mark Drakeford’s review of restrictions in Wales.