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AM raises concerns for rural businesses during lockdown

NEIL Hamilton, AM for Mid & West Wales, and Leader of UKIP Wales has urged the Welsh Government to do more to help businesses in his Region.

Speaking in virtual plenary Mr Hamilton, a member of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs committee, said he was concerned for many small firms who were suffering to cope with the consequences of the lockdown

He said:
“It is vitally important we start the gradual process of lifting restrictions as soon as possible so we protect the health of the economy and well as the health of the public.

“In Mid and West Wales, we have a huge dependence on farming, tourism, hospitality etc and many of these businesses fall through the safety net of the various funds on offer.

“Farms, for example, are excluded from the Economic Resilience Fund because, almost by definition, they are in receipt of publicly funded grants through the Common Agricultural Policy.

“Yet we have seen the dairy industry face a 25-30 % fall in demand with gallons and gallons of milk being poured down the drain and farmers forced to sell at a loss. You cannot furlough a dairy cow at the peak of spring production. Dairy farmers need help and they need it now.

“The livestock sector is similarly suffering with high end, high value cuts of meat no longer being used by hotels, restaurants, etc. Far too many of these businesses cannot be helped under the existing schemes.

“Some businesses fail to qualify because the VAT threshold is used as the test for applications for the ERF. One such business which falls through the gaps, because it is not VAT registered, is the iconic Penmaenpool Toll Bridge, near Dolgellau, a tourist attraction loved by visitors and locals alike. Wholly dependent on income from tourism, the bridge is in serious danger of closing if financial assistance cannot be found and soon.

“We urgently need a more flexible discretionary scheme if we are to avoid hundreds of businesses going under and untold damage to the Welsh economy, particularly in rural areas.”

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