Small businesses will be the engine of recovery say Welsh Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats hold their on line conference this weekend – the last before the Senedd – Welsh Parliament – elections in May. The Party is ambitious in its aim to win seats across Wales in both urban and rural areas and the conference this weekend will focus on putting the recovery first through policies on the environment, mental health and rebuilding our economy. The party has focused on businesses and green economic growth.

Wales is a nation of towns and villages, and small businesses. We know our small businesses will be the engine of our recovery from Covid, and will be key to rebuilding a resilient, strong and sustainable economy, putting right the failures of decades of under-investment in Wales.

So, when we talk about putting recovery first, that means putting small business at the heart of everything we do. And as we approach elections for the Welsh Parliament, I am proposing a five-point plan for business in Wales.

First, we want a return to the trading terms that Welsh businesses have long enjoyed. The new trading arrangements are neither fair nor sustainable, and the problems will get worse – these are not teething problems, but inherent in the decision to leave the Single Market and Customs Union. We are calling on Governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay to make rejoining the Single Market and Customs Union a central objective in the renegotiation of the trade deal with the EU due in 2025. Returning to the Single Market and Customs Union need not mean rejoining the EU, and we accept that is not realistically on the agenda in the immediate future; but equally we are not prepared to accept the economic damage caused by erecting barriers against our largest trading partner. This is not what we were promised by the Conservatives in 2019; and unlike the Welsh Conservatives I am not prepared to see Welsh jobs, Welsh businesses, Welsh farms and Welsh livelihoods sacrificed in this way.

But there is much more we need to do.

Welsh Liberal Democrats will be the champions of the high street. We will press for a £500m fund to reinvigorate our Welsh towns, and make them more sustainable and more attractive to visit; and we want to abolish business rates, which are unfair and a tax on growth and innovation, while disproportionately hitting small businesses, and replace them with a new system of land value taxation.

And we want to see a proper post-Covid plan for Wales. Each successive lockdown has further sapped the resilience of our small businesses – especially in retail, tourism and hospitality. We have called for an Economic Recovery Council to bring together business and government in Wales to plan recovery, and in particular we want to see support made available for the microbusinesses, freelancers and sole traders left behind by the Welsh Government’s Covid support.

We want a level playing field for small businesses, supporting small business and microbusinesses to develop their skills and capacity. And we want to support businesses to take advantage of the digital revolution. And we want in particular to ensure that broadband and mobile networks across Wales are fit for purpose for a modern digital economy, and will tackle the issue of “not-spots”, especially in rural areas.

In all of this, we understand that putting recovery first in Wales means putting our small and medium-sized businesses first. Our message at our conference and beyond to Welsh business is that we’re on your side; and it is in partnership with you that we will build a prosperous, fair, resilient, and sustainable Wales.

* Jane Dodds is Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

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  • Gwyn Williams 5th Mar '21 - 3:35pm

    With Welsh Independence being supported by 39% in the latest opinion poll, the Welsh Liberal Democrats cannot stay silent. Unlike Scotland where the SNP is the focus for all those supporting independence, in Wales support is spread across Labour, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru.
    The Welsh Lib Dems have never described themselves as Unionist nor Nationalist but federalist. Since the referendum in the North East of England rejected the formation of a regional assembly 20 years ago the concept of federalism has failed to gain traction in England. While this vacuum exists, it is pointless to talk of a federal United Kingdom.
    In Northern Ireland in recent years the Alliance Party has successfully avoided the trap of Unionism and Nationalism by pragmatically saying that it will examine the options as they are presented. Wales would benefit from the same approach.

  • There is some fertile territory for the party in Wales to be supportive of small business folk. That means though actually engaging and ideally having in bird people who know what the problems are. You could start by supporting the petition to get the Assembly to match covid relief funding for Wales’ small businesses to that of England. It’s roughly half as much again in England for those lockdown, and twice as much in Scotland. The assembly wants to use some of the Barents money for other purposes – argue against. If business fails you have more unemployed and less tax. In terms of what this means in the ground, a small shop will have received £6k in relief since 20 December (ie missing out on the richest earning shopping days of the year and the subsequent 3 months takings. With rents at about £1100 a month you can see this isn’t generous – especially as virgin business charges every month, lockdown or not.

    And for goodness sake dump the federalism turkey, the case for that went past its sell by date years ago. Just relax and be liberal and democratic- if Wales wants an IndyRef be open to it and its outcomes … it’s day if you try!

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