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As the CEO of Welsh ICE, I find myself reflecting on the upcoming general election and what it means for businesses across Wales. This moment in our political landscape is more than just an event; it’s a crucial time for the Welsh economy, and we, as a business community, need to approach it with both care and optimism.

The Stakes for Welsh Businesses

Wales has a strong tradition of enterprise, from our vibrant tech startups to our robust manufacturing sectors. The policies and priorities set by the next government will shape the environment in which our businesses operate. Key areas such as taxation, infrastructure investment, and support for innovation will be influenced by the election outcomes, making it essential for all stakeholders to engage actively.

Our vision at Welsh ICE is to build resilient entrepreneurial communities. This election is a unique opportunity to push for policies that support this vision. We strive to empower individuals within marginalised communities to start and grow businesses, becoming drivers of positive change. The election’s outcome will directly impact our ability to create an environment where innovation thrives, support is felt, and milestones are celebrated.

SPF Levelling Up Funded Workshops from Welsh ICE in Newport
SPF Levelling Up Funded Entrepreneurial Course delivered by Welsh ICE in Newport

The Importance of Funding and Support

One crucial aspect to consider is the impact of the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) and the UK government’s Levelling Up funds. These funds are vital for regional development, providing necessary resources to support infrastructure projects, business growth, and community initiatives in Wales. Welsh ICE itself has benefitted from these funds, particularly in Caerphilly and Newport. We look forward to seeing what the next phase of these funds will look like post-election, but the uncertainty we currently face—as do many other businesses across Wales and the UK—makes it very difficult for us to plan beyond March 2025. This uncertainty can potentially stall growth and innovation across the country.

The SPF and Levelling Up funds were introduced to cover the EU funding gap post-Brexit, but they haven’t fully filled this gap. As a result, we were already worse off as a country before the cost of living crisis hit, pushing many businesses and services into survival mode. For instance, we’ve lost impactful organisations like Chwarae Teg, which promoted gender equality in Wales, due to the funding shortfall. Chwarae Teg played a crucial role in advocating for gender equality, building skills, and supporting women in the workplace. Their closure is a significant loss, highlighting the urgent need for stable and adequate funding. Both in quantity and implementation, the continuation and ideally the improvement of SPF and levelling up funds are vital to support the future of the entrepreneurial landscape in Wales, as well as the wellbeing, innovation, and growth of the country.

There are also concerns around recent proposals to redirect the SPF to fund a mandatory national service scheme. While aimed at providing young people with real-world skills, such a shift could mean a significant reduction in funds for community and economic development in regions like Wales. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has highlighted that such a move could leave Wales £275 million worse off annually, severely impacting efforts to level up the country and support disadvantaged areas.

Addressing the Cost of Living Crisis

Additionally, we can’t ignore the ongoing cost of living crisis affecting individuals and businesses. Rising costs are squeezing budgets, making it harder for businesses to manage expenses and for consumers to maintain their spending. This economic strain adds another layer of complexity, emphasising the need for supportive policies that can help alleviate these pressures.

The Broader Impact on the Welsh Economy

The general election’s outcome will set the tone for our economic future. A government that prioritises business-friendly policies can stimulate job creation, enhance competitiveness, and attract investment. On the other hand, neglecting the needs of the business community could hinder economic progress and stifle innovation.

At Welsh ICE, our values are deeply intertwined with our vision for resilient entrepreneurial communities. We are dedicated to making a positive impact in the communities where we operate, tackling isolation among entrepreneurs to support the longevity of businesses. Our commitment to community, collaboration, excellence, empowerment, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and even fun underpins everything we do. This election is a chance for us to advocate for the conditions that will allow us to realise our mission.

A Call to Action

I urge all business leaders and entrepreneurs to actively engage with this election. Educate yourselves on the issues, ask pointed questions, and make your voices heard. The decisions made in the coming months will shape our economic environment for years to come.

Together, we can ensure that the next government understands and supports the unique needs of Welsh businesses, paving the way for a prosperous and innovative future. This is our opportunity to shape the future of our economy, and we must seize it with both hands.

Read next: Shaping Wales’ Economic Future: Key Questions for Election Candidates