Senedd committee suggests business rates relief to ease cost of living pressures

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Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A Welsh parliamentary committee has called for interventions to support businesses weather the escalating cost of living.

In a report launched today (28 July) by the Senedd’s Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee, the members have pushed for short term measures similar to the relief businesses received though the Covid pandemic and then longer-term support to reduce dependency on oil and gas.

The report on the impact of the cost of living crisis on businesses and communities across Wales has also told the government to simplify Welsh-devolved benefits, warning that people may be losing out on key lifeline services because of an over-complex applications system.

“The escalating cost of living can be felt all across Wales. Although the Welsh Government is trying to support people through the crisis, our inquiry has shown that the support is simply not reaching enough people -the benefits available are complex and that can affect take up,” Paul Davies MS, Chair of the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee, said.

“We need to see a simpler system, so the schemes are easier and more accessible to increase take-up. The Committee believes the Welsh Government should use its considerable ‘soft power’ to improve terms and conditions for the lowest paid, for example by improving sick pay for social care workers and providing a fair wage for those paid from the public purse.

“I’m particularly concerned about the impact of the increased costs of heating fuel. I urge the Welsh government to act before winter to support people living in rural off-grid properties.”

The report’s recommendations for the Welsh government include

  • Use business rate relief to support the most affected businesses until inflation returns to a level close to the Bank of England’s target
  • Consider supporting businesses to invest in efficiency savings which will help them lower fuel and energy costs
  • Set out plans to provide further cost of living related support to households at the start of the 2023-24 financial year
  • Commission labour market research to better understand the reasons behind high rates of economic inactivity

Commenting, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The cost of living crisis has had a significant impact on people living in Wales but it is vital to remember that businesses, including convenience stores, are also experiencing a cost of trading crisis. Local shops provide thousands of jobs to communities across Wales and access to essential products and services but this is becoming increasingly difficult as a result of rising costs and issues with the supply chain.

“We are pleased that the committee has listened to the concerns that we raised during the oral evidence session at the end of May. The Welsh government needs to consider the recommendations in the report and provide urgent and adequate support to individuals, businesses and communities across Wales.”

Figures from the 2022 Welsh Local Shop Report show that Wales’ 2,975 convenience stores provided over 25,000 local jobs and generated around £2.7bn in sales in the last year.