Will the Minister make a statement on grant funding for local businesses in Aberconwy?
Ken Skaets AM, Minister for Economy and Transport:
Yes, of course. We offer a wide range of funding options to all types of businesses across Wales. As an example of recent funding in Aberconwy, we've supported 16 businesses with their research and development projects through SMARTCymru, with a total value of £1.1 million, over half of which was grant funding.
Thank you. With Wales celebrating Small Business Saturday this weekend, it is essential that the Welsh Government, and you as Minister, are doing everything you can to support business development, and Aberconwy certainly does have a fantastic range of small businesses. Now, according to the Welsh local shop report 2020, 73 per cent of independently owned convenience stores fund investments in their own businesses from their reserves. So, so many—in fact, the majority—are going without any financial support. So I suppose it then makes us want to scrutinise the grants that you do provide, to make sure that these have been given wisely.
Now, in 2016, the Welsh Government provided £400,000 to G.M. Jones to build the most fantastic bespoke suite of offices. Now, you know I've raised several written Assembly questions on this, because the property has laid empty for more years than I can remember, and it was only occupied for a few months before the business, sadly, went into demise. I'm approached on a frequent basis about smaller businesses wanting to perhaps use these offices. I've phoned myself and spoken to Business Wales, and I've tried against all odds to see new life breathed into these properties, because, at the end of the day, it's had £400,000 of taxpayers' money and now there is no business there at all. It's in the rural part of my constituency. So, I'm very keen to see this business occupied and fully utilised so that we can't say that there's been a waste of taxpayers' money. What actions are you taking or could you be taking to work with our local authority and other stakeholders to see how we can bring a resolution to this issue going forward, because I can tell you that other business owners in Conwy and, indeed residents are furious to see this wonderful suite of offices just falling into decline through non-occupation?
Well, there's certainly demand for business units, for office space, and for industrial units as well across north Wales, and in particular in the area that the Member represents. I will ask my chief regional officer in north Wales to liaise with Business Wales and with Conwy County Borough Council to assess the demand that is currently in existence for business units of this type and to ensure that they are matching that demand with the operators of the particular units so that we can get jobs created in that area.
It has to be said that Business Wales have done an excellent job across north Wales since 2015 in assisting the creation of more than 740 new enterprises, which, in turn, have created more than 2,780 jobs. I'll make sure that our regional team works closely with the local authority and with Business Wales to realise the potential of this particular facility.