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Welsh Government announcement on towns is a welcome step towards delivering a sustainable future, but more work to do

Commenting on the Welsh Government announcement of £90 million of measures for Wales’ towns, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:
                              
“Welsh towns are at the heart of our civil, economic and cultural society. Towns are where we live, study, and work, where things are made, goods are sold and services are provided. They are a vital part of the conversation about how we deliver a strong Welsh economy.

“At FSB Wales we hear from businesses every day that are facing unprecedented challenges in our towns. From changing demographics, the disruptive impact of new technology, and issues such as online shopping and empty stores, from business rates to out-of-town shopping developments, there are a huge amount of issues for a small business to overcome.

“In today’s announcement, we are pleased to see that Welsh Government has taken several positive steps to address the concerns faced by these businesses, and that Welsh Government has listened so closely to FSB on this issue. The Town Centres First principle marks an important shift change in how Welsh Government and local authorities make decisions, and we look forward to seeing this implemented across the country.

“The increased investment in the Town Centre Loans Fund will help bring empty buildings back into use – and whilst this fund only applies to property – we are hopeful that it will continue to have a positive impact. We are also interested to see the announcement of funding for green infrastructure and biodiversity – the climate crisis is a problem for all of us to tackle and our towns should rightly be part of that conversation.

“We look forward to seeing how funding for digital communication will be used to help small businesses compete with online shopping and how the funding can be used to bring further technological advancements to the high street.

“Ultimately, no single approach or initiative will deliver sustainability for towns. Welsh towns are as vibrant and diverse as the people and the businesses that occupy them, and we firmly believe that the best way forward is for those communities to be empowered to develop new ideas as to what their town needs for the future, and to pitch into a Welsh Government Future of Towns Fund in order to deliver this. We are pleased that Welsh Government is clear that this is only the beginning of the conversation and we look forward to continuing to work with ministers to deliver a thriving future for our Welsh towns.”