LEADERS in Carmarthenshire want more people and businesses to buy local to strengthen the county’s economy and protect against future shocks.

Executive board members have approved a draft Covid-19 economic impact and recovery plan, which drew on questionnaire responses from 574 businesses.

Many of them, at the time of responding in May, said they would struggle to operate for more than three months.

A worst-case scenario, said the report before the executive board, was that just under 1,000 jobs had already been lost and that the county faced a £500 million hit to the economy.

The recovery plan has identified 11 key areas, among them the continuation of infrastructure projects, business support – including a new hotline, boosting town centre economies, exploring the idea of more local procurement from small to medium-sized businesses, and developing a local food strategy as part of a focus on the rural economy.

New commercial and production units could also be created, more promotion given to cycle tourism, and better digital infrastructure rolled out county-wide.

An internal recovery group has been established to coordinate development and delivery of the recovery plan, with an overarching advisory group comprising key private leaders to be set up in due course.

“This group will set the vision and direction for recovery,” said the draft report.

The tourism and hospitality sector has been in hibernation for months but bed and breakfast owner Karen Lee hopes that could change soon.

“We just want to be open,” said Mrs Lee, who runs Melin Pandy bed and breakfast in Newcastle Emlyn with her husband.

“We’re getting a bit fed up of not being able to do anything. We have got a grant from HMRC – we will survive.”

Mrs Lee said the odd key worker had stayed during the lockdown and that she and her husband had done some DIY and deep-cleaned the four guest rooms.

“We think we could open about July 13 but the Welsh Government has not given a definite date,” she said.

“We’ve got masks and gloves and sanitiser (for guests) and we’re going to serve breakfast in the rooms.”

Speaking at the executive board meeting on June 29, Plaid Cymru council leader Emlyn Dole said the authority would need to be imaginative, determined and flexible in its economic response to the coronavirus.

Referring to the report, Cllr Cefin Campbell, said: “The 127% increase (in people claiming unemployment-related benefits) suggests to me that we are going to have more poverty to deal with as a county.”

Some businesses, he said, were “going to the wall”.

He added: “Now we know what the challenges are, we have to go and tackle them.”

A buying local report is being prepared separately – and individuals had a part to play, according to Cllr Mair Stephens.

“Most people listening to this today will do just that, and perhaps help stem the tide we are facing,” she said.