Welsh businesses got more support because of different Covid approach to England
Welsh businesses received more support because Wales had a different approach to the Covid-19 crisis than England.
The Welsh Government saved hundreds of millions of pounds by using the public sector to run coronavirus response programmes.
It then pumped the extra cash into schemes to help small businesses survive during the pandemic.
An analysis of the figures has shown that spending per head on personal protective equipment (PPE), and on the test and trace programme during the last financial year was half that in England.
While UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Westminster government paid billions private companies such as Serco to run contact tracing in England, the Welsh Government invested in local authority tracing teams, which proved to be much more cost-effective.
The Welsh Government also used trusted suppliers to get their hands on PPE while the UK Department of Health turned to companies without any experience. These includes several firms with ties to Tory MPs and ministers.
A report by the National Audit Office, found the UK paid a colossal £10bn above pre-pandemic market prices to secure stock. It has also been revealed that Wales gave more to other UK nations in stock than it received.
Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Government’s Economy Minister, told the Financial Times: “The fact we were able to run a more successful and more efficient test and trace system meant we had more latitude, the same on PPE. We didn’t give ‘contracts for the boys’, there was no VIP lane,”
“That has meant we have been able to support businesses in a more generous way.”
In 2020/21, the Welsh Government received almost £1.1bn from Westminster for test and trace and PPE.
It has been estimated by Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre that the Welsh Government spent £533m on those areas, which was £158 per person – 48 per cent lower than in England.
Wales used the saved money to exempt small and medium-sized companies in the leisure and hospitality sector from business rates until next April.
Those in England are still paying a third of their usual rates from July 1 and full rates from April 1 2022.
Grants available for business in Wales are also more generous – up to £25,000.
This compares to the so called “restart grants” of up to £6,000 are being paid to non-essential retail business premises in England. Grants of up to £18,000 are being given to hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses with premises, which were closed for longer and more affected by restrictions when they did reopen.
The Welsh government said: “If the English restart grant was applied in Wales, 85 per cent of businesses here would receive between £2,000 and £8,000. The minimum an eligible business in Wales with a property of any size will have received is £10,000,”
Wales has also given up to £7,500 to self-employed people who had not received any support from the UK Government.