Plaid Cymru has urged the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme for as long as Covid-19 restrictions make it necessary in Wales.
The party’s treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, made the call ahead of the 2021 Budget, where he told Rishi Sunak to prioritise the survival of the hospitality sector.
There was an outcry in the autumn when Wales went into a firebreak lockdown and Sunak refused to extend the job saving scheme after a request from the Welsh Government, only to do so shortly after when England went into its own lockdown.
Lake said the furlough scheme should be extended “for as long as Welsh Government restrictions require it” and that financial support should be provided in accordance with devolved regulations rather than decided unilaterally by the Westminster government.
He added that the lowered 5 per cent rate of VAT should be maintained for the hospitality and tourism sector until March 2022. A failure to do so would “not only deal a blow to the sector but also to the wider Welsh economy”, according to the Plaid Cymru MP.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020.
Of each UK country and English region, Wales has the highest proportion of total jobs in the hospitality sector (8.5 per cent) relative to total employment, employing over 123,000 people.
At a crucial stage of the pandemic, Lake said that “we cannot afford to throw away successes by prematurely ending much-needed financial lifelines to small businesses across Wales.”
‘Thousands of jobs’
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP said: “Thousands of jobs in Welsh pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants are at risk this Spring, when several support programmes are due to come to an end. 123,000 people in Wales are employed in the hospitality sector – that’s around 8.5% of total employment.
“A failure to support hospitality on 3 March will not only deal a blow to the sector but also to the wider Welsh economy.
“We in Plaid Cymru are therefore calling for an extension of the furlough scheme for as long as Welsh Government restrictions require it.
“We are also calling on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022.
“Firms must be given the chance to get back on their feet, and should therefore benefit from at least one summer earnings season and return to profitability.
“The economic impact is likely to be felt for years to come, with businesses facing mounting debt and taxes.
“I therefore urge the Chancellor to set out a sustainable repayment programme for hospitality businesses, to allow staggered payments over a period of time, rather than as lump payments.
“The pandemic has been a nightmare for most businesses – but the end is in sight. We cannot afford to throw away successes by prematurely ending much-needed financial lifelines to small businesses across Wales.”