Dear Prime Minister
Leader of Forest of Dean Council, Councillor Tim Gwilliam, has today written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to point out that the Forest is ‘betwixt and between UK-wide and Welsh-only decision-making’ and while impacted by the ‘fire break’ in Wales, businesses here are not able to access the support that Welsh businesses are able to.
In his letter, Cllr Gwilliam writes:
‘Our proximity to Wales on our westernmost border (we are, of course, west of the River Severn), means we are directly affected by the recent decision of the Welsh Government to institute a ‘firebreak’ until November 9, (with the prospect of ongoing restrictions beyond that point). The porousness of the border is, in normal times, a strength for us, allowing tourists and workers to cross the border and come into the Forest each day from Wales. This is, of course, especially important for our daytime visitor economy.
‘We do everything we can to encourage economic diversity and resilience, however the fact remains that tourism represents £137 million to our local economy and employs around 8,000 people and this contribution cannot easily be replaced. Many of our businesses, supporting thousands of jobs in our local community, have been seriously affected throughout 2020 and a lot of small business owners found that they did not qualify for original furlough payments.’
He added: ‘The fear of many in the Forest is that we will find ourselves betwixt and between UK-wide and Welsh-only decision-making and a prolonged downturn for our tourism industry, with all the effects this will have on employment, prosperity and the wider economy. We are directly affected by the Welsh lockdown - which is less than a mile down the road from us - but, clearly, our businesses do not qualify for the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund payments, designed to support local economies dealing with the firebreak impacts.
‘On behalf of the council and the wider Forest of Dean community, I would urge you to help us find a way through and design a bespoke package of support our areas like ours, that are normally engines of economic growth, but which are, for the foreseeable future, unable to operate in the normal way.’