WQ91570 (e) Tabled on 28/02/2024

What action is the Welsh Government taking to encourage more small businesses to open shops on high streets?

Answered by Minister for Economy | Answered on 07/03/2024

The Welsh Government continues to work closely with the retail sector and Unions through our social partnership arrangements at the Retail Forum. The Retail Forum developed the Retail Action Plan bringing together several key actions which will support the sector together with a number of programmes and initiatives supporting our high streets.

We are investing an additional £78m of support for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with their non-domestic rates bills next year. This builds on the almost £1bn of support provided through our retail, leisure and hospitality rates relief schemes since 2020-21. Eligible ratepayers will receive 40% non-domestic rates relief for the duration of 2024-25. This is in addition to our range of fully funded permanent reliefs, which are worth £250m annually. Our Small Business Rates Relief supports ratepayers for around 70,000 properties across Wales, with over 50,000 of these receiving 100% relief.

A new £20m capital fund is being developed for 2024/25 will provide support for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses to future-proof their businesses. We will be providing full details on eligibility this month.  This is on top of the £125 million Transforming Towns capital fund announced in 2022 to support the regeneration of our town centres. 

We are also providing revenue funding to local authorities to develop Placemaking Plans for their cities and towns. In addition, we have established a Transforming Towns Empty Property Enforcement Fund to de-risk enforcement action and continue to support local authorities to use the full range of legislative powers at their disposal to tackle empty properties - we realise what a negative impact this has on our town centres and local communities.

Work on the Programme for Government commitment to ‘Support the development of a register of empty buildings and help small businesses move into vacant shops’ is ongoing. We have commissioned independent research which will help establish what small businesses would find most useful in terms of accessing empty properties in town centres.

Business Wales can also provide advice about start-up loans where individuals can access them, as well as business advice and on-going support. In addition to access to the Development Bank of Wales’ micro-business loan fund. The £32.5m Wales Micro Loan Fund available through the Development Bank, provides loans to small businesses, sole traders and social enterprises based in or willing to move to Wales. The fund is delivered by the bank and loans are available between £1k and £50k with repayment terms over 1 to 10 years.