As Wales continues to show vacancy rates higher than the rest of the UK and footfall in Welsh town centres continue to fall, Plaid Cymru will use a Senedd debate to call on the Labour Welsh Government to take swift action to help small businesses on the high street.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Adam Price, has also encouraged shoppers to choose the high street over shopping centres or online-shopping in the run-up to this Christmas.
The latest figures show that the high street is continuing to suffer at the detriment of out-of-town shopping centres, and suggest that more needs to be done to help the centres of smaller towns.
Small Business Saturday, which takes place on the 3rd of December, gives us an opportunity to draw attention to how shopping locally helps the Welsh economy.
Speaking ahead of the Plaid Cymru debate in the Senedd, Adam Price said:
“The most recent figures show that shop vacancy rates are still much higher in Wales than in England and Scotland, with 15.1% of retail properties in Welsh town centres empty, compared with 11.3% in England and 12.1% in Scotland.
“This is a cause of great concern, especially considering that the Welsh shopping centre vacancy rate is the lowest of the nations of Britain. This means that while shops on our high streets are empty, big companies in out-of-town centres are thriving.
“There is a specific problem in towns in the south Wales valleys. While investments in Cardiff have led to improvements, this is at the detriment of the high streets of smaller towns in the surrounding region.
“The latest figures show that while Cardiff has seen a large increase in city centre footfall of over 80% between 2008 and 2015, many towns in the valleys have seen dramatic decreases. Bargoed North, Blaina and Caerphilly have seen the largest percentage decreases in footfall in this period, with 49%, 36% and 31% decreases, respectively.
“The story is no different for many towns in other parts of Wales. In Ynys Môn, Holyhead has seen a decrease of 20% in average hourly footfall between 2011 and 2015.
“The Welsh Government needs to implement innovative solutions to attract retailers to open on our high streets and to reverse the decline in footfall in towns.
“In opposition, Plaid Cymru is doing just that – working hard to help small businesses through getting funding for innovative solutions. Due to the Plaid Cymru budget deal with the Welsh Government, a fund will be established that will enable local authorities to offer free car parking in town centres throughout Wales, providing a vital boost to town centre regeneration.
“We are also pressuring the Welsh Government to expand the transitional relief available to small business affected by the 2017 rates revaluation. The 2017 business rate revaluation will have a negative impact on some small businesses in Wales, which is unfair when considering the adverse conditions they are already facing.
“I will be supporting Small Business Saturday this weekend, and I hope people all over Wales will do the same. SMEs are the backbone of the economy, so shopping locally on the high street will not only help those businesses but will also help improve the resilience of the Welsh economy.”