ELIGIBLE businesses can apply for grants of between £2,500k – £25,000, with grants dependent on their size and number of employees.
Businesses in Wales impacted by the rapid spread of the Omicron virus can now find out how much they can expect to receive in emergency financial support from the Welsh Government.
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething previously said £120m would be available for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism business and their supply chains affected by the move to alert level 2 announced by the First Minister on Wednesday 22 December.
The support package includes funding from the Economic Resilience Fund (ERF), with an eligibility checker for this fund now live on the Business Wales website.
This will help businesses, including charities and social enterprises, to gauge how much they can expect to receive from the ERF.
The application window for the ERF will open in week commencing 17 January 2022, with payments starting to reach businesses within days. The application window will be open for two weeks.
Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “We recognise that businesses are facing another hugely uncertain time due to the Omicron variant of Coronavirus. The eligibility checker which goes live today will help them forward plan during this challenging period.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve provided over £2.6bn of support to businesses throughout Wales to help them manage their way through difficult circumstances. This latest £120 million package of support will further assist impacted businesses and we will get financial support to them as quickly as possible.”
Non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses in Wales will also receive support from the Non Domestic Rates (NDR) linked grant which will be administered by Local Authorities. Businesses will be entitled to a payment of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000 depending on their rateable value.
Local Authorities will also be administrating a discretionary fund for sole traders, freelancers and taxi drivers and businesses that employee people but do not pay business rates.
The registration process for the NDR linked grants and application process for the discretionary fund will open week commencing the 10 January 2022.
The ERF eligibility checker can be found at: https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/businesssupport
Appeal to get Pilgrim sculpture back on its feet nearing target
A FUNDRAISING appeal to raise £7,500 to re-erect a sculpture of a pilgrim on the hilltop above the ruins of the famous Strata Florida Abbey in the Cambrian Mountains is within £700 of hitting its target.
The Pilgrim, or Y Pererin in the Welsh language, was created by artist Glenn Morris and erected on Penlan, the hill overlooking Strata Florida Abbey, near Pontrhydfendigaid, in 2012.
Sadly, the sculpture collapsed in high winds in 2019 and now lays forlorn on the hilltop, located between Devil’s Bridge and Tregaron.
This sculpture, created as part of a temporary exhibition, has become a popular and iconic part of the Welsh landscape, with strong connections to Welsh culture, language and identity.
Following its collapse, the sculpture is now missing from the skyline of Strata Florida and the fundraising appeal aims to rebuild a new stronger, permanent Pilgrim to stand the tests of time.
Planning permission for the new sculpture has already been secured and Glenn Morris is eager to begin the project.
The World Monuments Fund has offered to provide match funding if the community raises £7,500 by February 3. Anyone wishing to contribute to the fundraising target can donate online at https://localgiving.org/appeal/pilgrim/ .
An extra fundraising event for the Pilgrim appeal is being held on February 18. A 3.5 mile walk along a mixture of logging roads, farmlands and through ancient forest to reach the 12th century Cistercian abbey ruins of Strata Florida will be followed by a guided exhibition tour and Welsh tea.
This pilgrimage will be led by Guided Pilgrimage, a not-for-profit company providing a range of Celtic pilgrimage experiences in West Wales.
Strata Florida was a thriving community 900 years ago. Today, the conserved ruins of the old abbey church and part of the cloisters are in the care of Cadw, the Welsh Government’s heritage agency, and can be visited by the public from Easter to late autumn.
The remains are only a small fraction of what was once a much larger abbey, stretching over an area of 126 acres where the rest survives below ground as a well-preserved archaeology.
Denial of Wales-specific Covid inquiry ‘no longer tenable’ say Welsh Conservatives
THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have reiterated their call for an inquiry that focuses exclusively on the actions of the Welsh Government in tackling coronavirus in a letter to the First Minister.
It was prompted after it was revealed that the Welsh Government have been aware that NHS Wales was not prepared for an airborne virus as far back as 2004, following the SARS outbreak. Despite committing to an audit and allocation to rectify the lack of isolation facilities, this did not materialise.
The letter from Andrew RT Davies MS, which states “decision made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales” follows a weekend when Mark Drakeford was keen to highlight that his government had “always taken a different approach in Wales [compared to the British Government], one that does things step-by-step”.
In the letter, the Welsh Conservatives leader questions why, despite him stressing divergences in the approach to coronavirus, the First Minister still feels it “inappropriate to separate” from the British Government “when the time comes for accountability”.
The Labour Government policy is for its actions to be included in the UK-wide inquiry that will chiefly investigate the actions of the Conservative Government. There will be a Scotland-specific inquiry after Nicola Sturgeon commissioned one.
Joining the Welsh Conservatives in their calls for a Wales-specific inquiry are the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, the British Lung Foundation, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales, the Institute for Welsh Affairs, and Plaid Cymru.
Commenting on the letter, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The position of exercising wide-ranging emergency powers that curtailed the liberty and closed the economy of the Welsh people but avoiding accountability through an inquiry that focusses on how those decisions were made is no longer tenable.
“Under Mark Drakeford, Wales has experienced the highest Covid death-rate of UK nations, seen its children lose more time for learning than anywhere else in the country, and imposed economically cruel and clinically unnecessary restrictions in an overzealous attempt to tackle the Omicron variant.
“We, along with bereaved families and medical groups, believe that the decisions that led to these outcomes need to be put under the spotlight, not hidden in the shadow of an inquiry that will inevitably focus on the British Government.
“Indeed, if Mark Drakeford is so confident in the actions of his government, then why is he against having them examined in a Wales-specific inquiry? That is what people will be asking when British and Scottish leaders have ordered investigations into their own handling of the pandemic.
“As I say to the First Minister in my letter, it is not too late for him to change his mind and take this opportunity to do the right thing and order that inquiry.”
Ceredigion MP supports calls on UK government to address energy crisis
BEN LAKE MP, Co-chair of the APPG on Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency, has signed a cross-party letter to the UK Government calling for a range of financial support measures to address the current energy crisis.
Following a record increase in October 2021 to the price cap, energy bills are set to increase again significantly in April across the UK, and could reach as high as £2000 for the average household, an increase of £700 compared to today’s prices. Experts have also said that these prices are likely to be sustained for two or more years.
Polling conducted by YouGov has shown that 6 out of 10 British households say they would reduce their heating use by a fair amount/great deal if the cost of heating doubles.
Ben Lake MP said: “The hike will be a disaster for those who were already struggling to pay their bills and could leave over 6 million households in fuel poverty across the UK. These price increases will impact all households. But for those who were already struggling to pay their bills, it will be catastrophic. Without any additional support, millions will sink further into debt, and many will turn off the heating, leaving them at acute risk of serious ill-health and putting further strain on our stretched health services.”
The cross-party letter calls on the UK Government to ensure that any support package to address the crisis works in the best interests of fuel poor households, for example, by increasing the support available through existing schemes such as such as the winter fuel support scheme in Wales or an additional targeted rebate which could be delivered this winter.
The letter also adds “that any effort to reduce energy bills should not include the removal of green levies.”
Ben Lake MP added: “While there are arguments about whether green levies should remain on energy bills or be added instead to income tax, there is no justification for removing them completely. To do so would be to compound the gas crisis which we face by exacerbating fuel poverty and further delaying the transition away from fossil fuels.
“I will continue to work alongside colleagues to ensure the most vulnerable households are protected as far as possible from the current threat of significantly increased domestic energy bills.”
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