TRADERS in Monmouthshire have called for clarity and better funding after the health minister hinted at further extensions to lockdown this week.

On Monday Vaughan Gething told reporters at a Welsh Government briefing that despite figures across Wales improving, the headroom the Welsh Government has for lifting restrictions is “limited”.

He extended his sympathies to traders, but poured cold water on suggestions some might reopen to customers after the next review on February 19.

It means it will be at least March 12 - the date of the following review - until traders can expect any changes.

And while business owners across Monmouthshire understood the need to remain closed, they have lamented a lack of funding and transparency since Christmas.

Denise Jones at HairByJones in Monmouth, and Dawn Floyd of St Mary’s Collectables in Chepstow, will both receive £10,000 to prop up their businesses by March 31. So far they’ve both received half of that, with no news on when they will receive the rest.

Free Press Series: Chepstow High Street in lockdownChepstow High Street in lockdown

Nine months ago the pair received £25,000 respectively to keep their businesses going for three months between April and July, and say they have received no explanation as to why they are now being asked to survive on less than half that amount from December 20 until March 31.

Ms Jones, who has been on Monnow Street for 20 years, says she feels let down.

“Closing in December, before what would have been a big week for us, cost us £10,000,” she said. “So this funding is clearly no where near enough.

Free Press Series: Monnow Street in Monmouth during lockdownMonnow Street in Monmouth during lockdown

“I do feel unfairly treated, as a hairdresser, because we are living off a loan now and are not bringing in a penny. Surely we should have consideration for more funding. I know we’re all struggling, but there will be some businesses operating delivery services, and we can’t do that.


“If it carries on as it is, with this little funding, I really do worry.”

Ms Floyd says she feels fortunate she owns her premises, but says she cannot see a future for many traders who are renting properties, especially approaching a new financial year with the pending return of council tax and business rates for those who have had a reprieve up to now in the pandemic.

Free Press Series: Dawn FloydDawn Floyd

The Welsh Government is yet to decide on a plan for business rates relief, but suggestions of a complete bypass of rates for many businesses like the last financial year are understood to be wide of the mark.

“I’ve had no money at all since January 7 and I’ve heard nothing in regards to an update,” Ms Floyd said. “I do think there are a lot of small businesses that will die here if this continues. You can’t live off a £10,000 grant for more than three months. Where has the money gone?”

Lucy Hywel, who runs the business community group in Abergavenny and owns That’s Lovely That in the town centre, says it is particularly difficult for businesses to survive on less funding when they have missed a crucial trading period.

Free Press Series: Lucy HywelLucy Hywel

Since December 19, when new regulations were announced, she has received £3,000 and doesn’t know when she will receive further funds.

“It’s a misconception that January is a quiet month for traders,” she explained. “The funding will not cover anything like what it would need to. I feel fortunate I’ve built up savings and sacrificed a lot in my life.

“We haven’t seen a single representative of the Senedd or the government here in the last few months. I’d ask them to come here and talk to us and find out what it’s really like.

“We are expected to pay tax and contribute to our communities more than big businesses - and yet when we need the help it doesn’t seem to be reciprocated.”

Free Press Series: Caldicot's Newport Road high streetCaldicot's Newport Road high street

Tracey Clements and Nick House, who have owned Caldicot’s Wye Valley Studios for more than 70 years, have also received £5,000, but said Caldicot’s businesses cannot continue to receive such low funding and pay rates in the upcoming financial year.

“£5,000 barely pays for wages and the upkeep of the premises,” Mr House said. “It is upsetting. Amazon doesn’t pay taxes and doesn’t contribute to our community, and yet they could be the reason we close.

“I am trying to take the positives. The current regeneration plans for Caldicot are exciting, but it’ll be wasted if the high street shops have to close. As we approach the new financial year we need help – it does worry me.”

Free Press Series: Tracey Clements and Nick HouseTracey Clements and Nick House

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We know businesses want to be open and trading – we want that to happen as soon as it is safe to do so. The public health situation is improving thanks to everyone’s hard work and sacrifices but we all need to stay at home for a while longer to bring levels of the virus down further. We keep all restrictions in Wales under constant review and we will always work with sectors to ensure businesses have as much notice as possible about changes to regulations.

“We are providing £650m to help businesses through the December to March period. It is good to hear that traders have received their first instalment and we expect payments for the second to be issued imminently.

"Our support will mean every eligible business with a rateable value of less than £12,000 receiving £6,000 for December to March, while those with a rateable value below £150,000 will receive £10,000.

"This is in addition to support from our £180m fund for tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses which closed for applications, as planned, on 29 January and on top of UK Government support such as the Job Retention Scheme.

"Our package of business support is the most generous in the UK and we will continue to review our options for supporting firms further.”