Column in the Barry and District News by Alun Cairns MP
As the Prime Minister announced the latest road map for easing lockdown restrictions earlier this week, I am encouraged that we can return to normality sooner rather than later. Looking ahead to Easter, we can be optimistic that freedoms will return, many local businesses could be in a position to reopen and life will start to look and feel a little more normal.
Of course, it will be down to the Welsh Government to decide on the timeframe that they follow and which specific measures are eased here in Wales. However, I firmly believe that a united, four nation approach will offer the most sensible and consistent way out of this lockdown.
Key to our emergence from the lockdown is ensuring that our local businesses, and the many jobs which depend upon them, have the best possible chance of rebuilding. Small businesses have gone through the toughest of times since March 2020 and must be at the very heart of our recovery.
Throughout the pandemic, the Government has consistently sought to protect businesses through the furlough scheme and business rate holidays. This pause in business rates has already been extended in other parts of the UK and I hope that the Welsh Government will also commit to extending this vital support. It has helped so many businesses survive throughout the Vale. Without such extended support, businesses would face a significant increase in their operating costs just as restrictions are being lifted.
Making sure that businesses in Wales are fully supported adds further strength to a four-nation approach to easing lockdown restrictions. This is because businesses in Wales will be unfairly affected if those across the border in England open before their Welsh competitors. We saw how this played out last Summer, with money that could have been spent in Wales spent in England instead. We do not want to risk this happening again and, therefore, it is necessary that the Welsh Government works cooperatively with Westminster to ensure a sensible and united approach.
I firmly believe as vaccination targets continue to be exceeded and Covid-19 cases keep falling, that we can have a positive attitude as we look into the spring and beyond, to the summer of 2021.