Written by CWS Chief Operations Officer Edward Sumner:

Since the start of the pandemic we have seen Governments struggle to adapt to the everchanging situation and struggled even more trying to balance the risk to public health and the risk to the economy. Governments around the world lined up to introduce national lockdown, in some cases, for months on end.

The results of these measures being taken in Wales are now coming to light. Statistics released by Statistics for Wales have shown that employment in Wales at 72.1% for July to September 2020, down 2.5 percentage points on the quarter and down 1.8 percentage points on the year. When you compare this to the UK employment rate, which was 75.3%, we see that Wales has fallen behind the UK average.

The unemployment rate in Wales was 4.6%. This 1.9% up on the quarter and 0.8 percentage points up on the year. This is the largest quarterly increase of the unemployment rate in Wales since records began in 1992. This should send shockwaves through Cardiff Bay and the Senedd, they have overseen the largest increase of the unemployment rate in Wales and we’re yet to see an economic plan to truly kickstart the economy.

When you lay it out in percentages the reality does not seem so stark but in real terms the number of paid employees decreased during the pandemic to 1.23 million in July, a decrease of 31,000 people compared with February 2020. That’s 31,000 less people in work in Wales, 31,000 less people earning a living and 31,000 people with more uncertainty in their lives.
The price of lockdown is now starting to show, with this being just the tip of the iceberg, I fear we will see so many more of the unintended consequences of national lockdown. The political decisions taken by the Welsh Government are now starting to show, with Wales just coming out of it’s second lockdown and the threat of a third hanging over us. These dire figures should be a stark warning to every member of the Welsh Government, lockdown is not the answer nor is it the cure.

We must now look to the long-term future of the Welsh economy and how we safeguard it from any further long-lasting damage. How does Wales truly recover if we have a third lockdown looming over us, can a business really prepare for the long term in these circumstances? We need a targeted and local approach if any measures are to come back a blanket lockdown only means extra jobs being lost in low infection areas and that must stop. We cannot build back better, if there is nothing to build back.

Instead of harming the Welsh economy, now should be the time to financially liberating Welsh businesses and employees from the state and Covid-19. We need not-so-radical new polices such as:

–          Raising the business rates threshold up to £15,000 to give Welsh businesses a level playing field with England.
–          Encouraging international investment and give incentives to those who do invest heavily in Wales
–           Tax breaks for SMEs who have been hit the hardest by the continual lockdowns
–           Tax breaks for employees who have seen their hours drastically cut.

Had these measures already been in place they could have limited the damage Covid-19 has caused to the Welsh economy but there is still time now to see the positive effects if implemented.

Big government, nannying policies have been tried during this pandemic and failed, now is the time to give freedom a chance and liberate Welsh people and businesses from any threat of a lockdown in the near future and put economic measures that have been suggested in place to support and aid their recovery.