Managing director of SB Machines, Paolo Sidoli, takes a pragmatic view of the UK government’s Covid-19 response, acknowledging that while its restrictions have made an impact on case numbers, they have been inconsistent and brutal to many businesses, including many of his local customers in Welsh seaside resorts.
The government has a balancing act on its hands between Covid-19 and the economy, but in South Wales, managing director of SB Machines Paolo Sidoli sees the leisure industry bearing the brunt of government restrictions.
“From a medical point of view, the restrictions seem to be achieving the desired result,” he said.
“The economic impact, especially over the last few weeks has been devastating for leisure, catering and hospitality. The customer facing businesses that depend on complete freedom of movement and feet through the door are witnessing spectacular declines in incomes. It is a similar story for ourselves in South Wales. People are not venturing out, they are fearful and they also lack confidence knowing that the generous furlough scheme will end soon”
Wales has experienced some of the most stringent Covid-19 measures in the country, but it is not necessarily the measures that Sidoli puts at fault , but the inconsistency of them across the UK.
“In terms of adjustments, I would like clarity – a clear and definitive message. There are four devolved governments and each government is conveying a different message. This leads to confusion, especially amongst the general public and as a result comes poor compliance of the rules”continued Sidoli. “All businesses have embraced and followed the necessary protocols to allow their premises to open safely. Why close them down once again? The general public in many instances have not followed the rules, therefore rigid enforcements should have been adopted from the outset by the authorities to ensure that the rules are followed correctly, as is the case in many European countries.”
Sidoli’s company, SB Machines, has been supplying the UK seaside sector in particular with “high quality Italian-made children’s rides for over 25 years” he proudly says, “ but these resorts are now all but empty. As the key calendar dates of half term and Halloween approaches, Llandudno is a ghost town, according to local press reports, and ghosts do not make for great customers.
Ongoing support from the government is going to become scarcer and he understands that certain businesses will fare better than others, for example, food retailing, but he would at least, however, like to see his customers, receive a small break as an undoubtedly difficult winter approaches.
“For ourselves at SB Machines, at this moment in time we are receiving nothing. The government are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. To keep the economy open whilst reducing rates of infections is a challenge for them and we all know that one cannot keep asking for money from the government that is simply not there to give, and that at some point in the future it will all have to be paid back in higher taxes or by cuts in national budgets,” explained Sidoli. “But, for example, a reduction in MGD is not an unreasonable request or a reduction in annual licencing fees from the Gambling Commission. Free weekend parking in towns provides a feelgood factor and lifts spirits.
“But I would also like the government to get a comprehensive trade deal with Europe. It would raise our confidence no end and help us to navigate through these turbulent times”