An MS has pressed the Welsh Government’s Economy Minister to provide support to workers impacted by the closure of Wilko stores in North Wales.
Llyr Gruffydd, who represents the region in the Senedd, raised the issue with Vaughan Gething in the wake of the news that the high street retailer was shutting all 400 of its UK stores, leaving its 12,500 employees facing redundancy.
While Poundland has agreed a deal to take over the leases of up to 71 of the units, and B&M has swooped into buy 51, there is no news about whether buyers have been found for Wilko’s locations in Rhyl, Llandudno, Wrexham and Holyhead.
In the summer First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government was facing an eye-watering £900m shortfall in its budget.
Mr Gruffydd, of Plaid Cymru, has called on ministers to make sure that budgets for programmes of support that could help Wilko workers who lose their jobs are “safeguarded”.
Speaking in the Senedd, Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “Clearly, towns like Holyhead, Llandudno, Wrexham and Rhyl are facing losing Wilko stores that have either closed or are about to close.
“We heard earlier how that leaves a gap on the high street, and that undermines the broader viability of some of those town centres.
“But from the perspective of the workers particularly, you referred to the programmes and support that might be available.
“What assurance can you give that the budgets for those programmes will be safeguarded in the coming years, because we hear of the cuts happening within Government?
“There is a risk that, in reducing the support, the impact will be so much worse. So, what assurances can you give that those budgets will be protected wherever possible?”
Vaughan Gething replied: “I think I can give the Member the assurance that in areas where we'll need to support workers, we'll have the means to do so.
“The Wilko example is particularly difficult, as Poundland and B&M between them bought around 120 stores, but we're not sure where all those locations are yet. So, that's real uncertainty for lots of workers in Wales and across the rest of the UK.”