Welsh Economy Minister questioned on financial support for businesses

Welsh Economy Minister questioned on financial support for businesses

Welsh Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething MS, underwent General Ministerial Scrutiny from the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee on Wednesday 7 December, and was questioned on financial support for businesses amid the cost of living crisis we find ourselves in.

When asked by Vikki Howells MS about what financial support may be continued following the ending of the UK Government’s energy bill relief scheme in April 2023, Vaughan Gething MS said:

“On the one hand, I can understand why there was shorter term initial help for the energy bill relief scheme. We know that, up to that point, there hadn’t been a worked-through plan on how to define businesses in need, how to define energy-intensive businesses. The challenge, though, is that we will need a longer-term statement.

“One of the things that we have consistently been saying is that the sooner an announcement is made on the future scheme, the better,” Vaughan Gething MS continued. “We’re consistent, as you’d expect, with what we said publicly about wanting a longer-term answer, wanting clarity on who is an energy-intensive business, and clarity on when people start to receive money… cash-distressed businesses really do need the support sooner rather than later. And, even with the support, there’s been a significant rise in energy prices for a range of businesses.

“We’re still not entirely clear whether every third sector organisation will be covered; now, that could be the difference between whether an organisation can survive or not. So, businesses have very clear needs and, in every business survey we do now, it’s moved from the availability of labour being the big challenge, to inflation, and energy costs as the biggest part of that, being the biggest concern for businesses in pretty much every sector. The UK Government are very well aware of that too. So, I’m hopeful that we’ll see early action, with an announcement to be made.”

We can expect an announcement on what the UK Government sees as vulnerable sectors and who will continue to be eligible for financial support for energy costs this month.

Vikki Howells MS went on to question the Economy Minister on Welsh Government’s plans to support businesses with decarbonisation and helping them become more enery efficient.

“We’ve already got advice available through Business Wales, about the point about energy efficiency within a business,” explained Vaughan Gething MS. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to launch our decarbonisation business fund; there are some details to be confirmed, but I’m hoping that, early in the new year, we’ll be able to launch that.

“And indeed, the Development Bank of Wales, which I’ve indicated previously, I’m expecting that they’ll also be launching a new fund in the new year,” the Minister continued. “That’s designed to help businesses to get finance to undertake decarbonisation and energy efficiency, energy generation measures. They’re looking at a range of loan support to help give people the capital to do that, knowing that they will de-risk and reduce the costs of running their businesses in doing so, from a relatively small level of loans, which could start at around £1,000, to much more significant amounts, which could go up into the hundreds of thousands of pounds, which could be made available.”

Vaughan Gething MS went onto reveal that more detail on what Welsh Government will look to do, both to help organisations decarbonise and to reduce their energy costs, will be laid out in Tuesday 13 December’s Budget announcement.

The Welsh Sports Association (WSA) will continue to engage with Members of the Senedd to keep members informed on the cost of living challenges currently facing the sector.

You can find the whole transcript and recording of the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee’s meeting on 7 December on the Senedd website.

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