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Keir Starmer urges UK Government to follow Welsh Labour’s action on pandemic business support at Budget

KEIR Starmer today, Monday, (Mar 1) urged Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to follow Welsh Labour’s lead at the UK Budget on Wednesday, as the UK Labour leader praised the action taken by the Welsh Labour Government to protect jobs and businesses.

Labour wants the Chancellor to follow the targeted, responsible example set by Mark Drakeford in Wales, where the right calls have been made to secure a more generous package of support for businesses that most needed it.

Ahead of a virtual visit to Wales on St David’s Day, Starmer and Drakeford called on the Chancellor to provide certainty at the Budget over business rates relief, so that the tax relief can be extended in Wales and across the UK. Labour has called on Sunak to follow Wales in targeting business rates relief in England to companies that need it most.

New figures show Welsh Labour’s action has now supported over 165,000 jobs in Wales. The Welsh Labour Government has prioritised financial support for businesses, over and above the funding it receives due to spending in England. As a result, the £2bn support package is the most generous anywhere in the UK. This is part of Welsh Labour’s plan to help businesses through the pandemic and get them moving again as soon as conditions allow.

Starmer and Drakeford will meet today with small and medium sized businesses who have been supported by the Welsh Labour Government, to discuss the ongoing support they need from the Chancellor to recover.

Starmer praised the Welsh response to the pandemic, particularly the Welsh Labour Government’s decision to prioritise money reaching businesses that need it most, while capping the money flowing to larger stores such as supermarkets.

Both leaders expressed concern that the UK Government’s ‘Levelling Up Fund’ is a cynical ploy to take decisions away from Welsh communities and withhold funding that has previously been promised.

The visit brings Welsh Labour’s ‘Spring Forward’ series of online events to a close. Over recent days, Welsh Labour has set out the ground on which it will contest May’s Senedd elections, with a bold and ambitious vision of the future – optimistic, outward looking and unapologetically patriotic.

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“This week’s Budget is a decisive moment. It’s time the Conservatives followed the targeted, responsible approach adopted in Wales, where businesses most in need have been backed by a Labour government that stands with them.

“The Chancellor must provide clarity on business rates so the Welsh Government can provide certainty to businesses across Wales. And he should follow Mark Drakeford’s lead to ensure this support is targeted to the businesses which need it most.

“We must give businesses the breathing space they need to recover, and protect families by preventing a furlough cliff edge. We need a relentless focus on jobs, growth and protecting family finances in this Budget – priorities that Mark’s leadership displays day in, day out.”

Mark Drakeford, Welsh Labour Leader & First Minister of Wales said:

“The Welsh Labour Government has taken action to protect Welsh jobs and livelihoods. We have targeted that support at business who need extra help in these difficult times, and I believe we made the right choice to prioritise them over large supermarket chains.

“In recent days, I have been setting out an outward-looking, optimistic vision of how we can move Wales forward beyond the pandemic. What we need now is certainty for businesses across Wales. We will continue doing all we can in the Welsh Labour Government, building on the most generous package of business support anywhere in the UK.

“The Chancellor should use this Budget to explain how he will keep the pledge that Wales would not lose a single penny of funding. People in Wales simply do not believe the Tories when they talk about ‘levelling up’ across the UK because the reality almost always is more money for their friends at the expense of communities in greatest need.

“Here in Wales, we have shown the difference that Welsh Labour can make in government and the great ambition we have to move Wales forward. I’m grateful to Keir, Anneliese Dodds and the entire Labour team for their support in holding the UK Tory Government to account in Westminster.”

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