TRADERS in Penarth 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 understood the need to remain closed, they have lamented a lack of funding since Christmas.

Jim Brooks Dowsett – owner of Pura Vida Boardriders, in Herbert Terrace – will receive £6,000 to prop up his business until March 31. He received the first £3,000 on January 7, and the second is yet to arrive.

Penarth Times: Jim Brooks-DowsettJim Brooks-Dowsett

He said in the first lockdown, through Wales Economic Resilience Fund, he received £10,000 for an equivalent period.

He says the new funding has been “brutal and crippling” for his business, and he believes if the low level of funding continues as traders approach a new financial year, for many small businesses the strain will become too much.

“We’re approaching a period where business rates could start to rise again, we’ve had £3,000 so far which hasn’t touched the sides,” he said. “It doesn’t even pay the rent.”

Many traders in small businsses said the £3,000 they received from the government would have been gained in the few days they lost in the build up to Christmas, while one said they were gaining £1,500 a day last year. 

“We didn’t just lose Christmas – we purchased so much stock for that period too that we’ve been unable to sell since”, he said. “It’s been brutal – people just aren’t coming out this time around.

“Not only have we got less funding, the winter months have caused a change in atmosphere. This lockdown feels different in every sense. We’ve had hardly any click and collect business.

“As we approach Easter I think there needs to be a more sensible and sustainable approach.”

The Welsh Government has insisted it is offering the “best package in the UK” for traders, but Justin Horton – owner of Funky Monkey, in Windsor Road – says a business he owns in England is receiving better funding.

Penarth Times: Windsor RoadWindsor Road

“We keep hearing that [Wales has the most generous package] but in my experience that isn’t the case,” he said. “I don’t know why they keep saying it.

“It’s been a very difficult period. Week by week [this year] all that good work we did pre-pandemic has been undone.

“We sacrificed so much to make the business profitable, and it’s upsetting to be where we are now. But we’re fortunate we did all that hard work, because it is helping us to survive.

“If we hadn’t done that work we’d have been on the brink considering how low the funding is this time around.

“Our rent is £20,000 a year – so what is £3,000 going to do for us? 

“I feel fortunate we’re able to take orders and still do the click and collect service. I think the majority of businesses able to offer an online presence will survive – but I really fear for others.”

Hugo Slorach, joint-owner of The Beauty Box and Wax and Glow, said: “As local businesses contributing to our community I would have expected more than we’ve received. 

Penarth Times: Justin HortonJustin Horton

“While we appreciate this lockdown needs to happen, the support hasn’t met what is required.”

He says if the lack of funding is to continue then there needs to be a review of business rates come April. The Welsh Government is yet to decide on a plan for business rates relief.

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.”