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County holds its breath over refinery’s future

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big playerAN ARTICLE published on Sunday by a leading national newspaper has reignited fears amongst workers that a Milford Haven oil refinery may close, putting 400 jobs at risk.

It was reported that mounting losses as well as a shift in focus by parent company Murphy Oil – from refining to exploration – meant that the refinery was now at risk. The American oil giant has tried to sell the refinery, which opened in 1973, but no buyer has been found. This is despite the offer of a multi-million pound dowry.

According to accounts published by Murphy Oil in the USA, the refinery made a loss of $105m (£63m) in the last three months of 2013.

Murphy Oil classified the refinery, which is the smallest site in the UK, as a “discontinued operation” in its accounts, according to The Sunday Times. The Sunday Times has also reported that Murphy Oil said that it expects to complete the “disposition” of the refinery by this year.

Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, has spoken to The Herald about her concern about the future of refinery following the report that it may face closure.

Mrs Evans said: “This is deeply concerning. The accounts, filed in America, show Milford Haven representing a loss to the company of $105 million for the last quarter of 2013.

The site has been for sale for three years, but Murco has been unable to find a buyer for the site and had to write-down the company’s value by $73m (£44m) from its value last year.

“Murphy Oil has said that it expects to complete the “disposition” of the refinery at Milford Haven by the end of the year. I am seeking urgent clarity from the company as to what
that means.

“Assurances were given in November that the refinery would not close – and yet three months later the company is talking about “disposition.”

If disposition means a sale, then that could be positive as it would end a protracted period of uncertainty for the 400 strong workforce. However, if disposition means closure, then that would be a devastating and terrible blow to Milford Haven and the surrounding area.

“I know that there are several serious challenges facing the Milford Haven operation, including the downturn in demand for petrol. There is also new competition from giant refineries being built in the Middle East and Asia which can operate at a fraction of the cost of Milford Haven refinery, which is the smallest in Britain.

“I have written to the Minister for the Economy, Science and Transport asking what discussions she and her officials are having with the company, what assistance Government might be able to offer in terms of helping find a buyer for the refinery, and what support can be offered to the workers.

“I also am seeking a meeting with union representatives.”

Plaid Cymru AM for the Mid and West, Simon Thomas said: “Just a couple of months ago the current owners were adamant that closure was not on the cards at Milford Haven but comments by the company’s CEO and the write down of UK assets, namely Murco, appear to suggest a real threat to ongoing operations at Milford Haven.

“Four hundred jobs are at stake so it is vital that the Welsh Government intervenes now. In November we were told that talks between the Welsh Government and the company were not in relation to the plant’s closure which at the time was a great relief. But it is unfair to expect workers to live with such uncertainty hanging over them.

“I expect the Economy Minister to address the Assembly at the earliest possible opportunity to reassure us that the Welsh Government is fighting for those 400 jobs.”

Paul Davies, Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said, “The Murco oil refinery is an important employer in Pembrokeshire providing hundreds of skilled jobs.

“Further uncertainty over the refinery’s future is most unwelcome and I hope the company will be offered every possible support.

“I hope Welsh Labour Ministers are doing all they can to help secure the future of this refinery and the contribution it makes to the Welsh economy.”

Patricia Haylock, Head of Legal Services for Murco, told the Herald: “The sale of the refinery is an ongoing process.”

When asked by the Herald if the company would be giving assurances to employees and contractors, Mrs Haylock said: “We will be giving assurance that the sales process is continuing.”

The Pembrokeshire Herald asked Mrs Haylock if the mounting losses would make it more difficult for Murphy Oil to find a buyer, Mrs Halylock said “We obviously need to publish our financials, I cannot comment on whether or not this will make the sales process more difficult.”

The Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb, said: “It’s my understanding that nothing has happened in recent days or recent weeks to put a question mark over the Milford Haven Oil refinery. What is going on is a very long sale process which involves several different buyers, I understand, expressing an interest in buying the refinery. Now it’s up to the sellers, the Murphy Oil Corporation, and any interested parties to reach an agreed purchase price”.

It has been reported that Greenergy, who are part owned by Tesco, were bidding for the Murco business. However, yesterday Greenergy spokeswoman Alex Lewis told the Herald:

“We are a major fuel supplier in South Wales and across the UK and in recent years have invested in several former refineries. We are keeping the developing situation at the Milford Haven refinery under review, but currently we do not have plans to purchase this site.”

The sale of the refinery was being handled by Goldman Sachs, but yesterday a company spokeswoman for the firm refused to confirm if they will still involved with the refinery.

A Murco spokesman said: “Murco Petroleum Limited (Murco) can confirm that the sales process by Murphy Oil Corporation of Murco’s UK Downstream business continues and it is actively progressing the sale process.

“The Milford Haven Refinery continues with safe reliable operations in a difficult market environment. The UK retail marketing business continues to perform well and delivered one of its best year end results on record in 2013.”

In spite of the fears, which have been extensively covered by national media, on social media sites workers at and with links to the refinery remain positive that a buyer will soon be found.

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Welsh Deputy Minister visits New Farm Shop

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Pictured : Julie Morgan AM

A new farm and produce shop on the Scolton Manor estate outside Haverfordwest has been visited by a Welsh Government Minister.

Julie Morgan AM – Deputy Minister for Health and Social Care – called at the shop to see the Welsh Government’s Intermediate Care Fund (ICF) in action.

The shop provides work experience, training and supported employment opportunities in retail and customer service for people with learning disabilities, disabilities and autism.

It is an addition to Pembrokeshire County Council’s existing supported employment offer through Norman Industries, the Authority’s sheltered employment factory in Snowdrop Lane, Haverfordwest.

The shop is the result of partnership working involving Workways+ and Experience for Industry – both funded by the European Social Fund through Welsh Government – Norman Industries and the management and staff at the Council-run Scolton Manor attraction.

The shop, which opened just a few weeks ago, will be supplying the public with fresh produce from the walled gardens at Scolton Manor, local meats, produce, tea and coffee.

It also provides a retail outlet for some of the arts, crafts and products made at Norman Industries.

Over the coming months the shop will also be supplying chutneys made by participants and employees at the supported employment café in Milford leisure centre ‘Caffi Man Cwrdd’.

The Deputy Minister was welcomed by County Councillor Tessa Hodgson, the Authority’s Cabinet Member for Social Services.

The farm shop has been partially resourced and staffed through some of the £400,000 ICF money allocated to expand supported employment opportunities regionally.

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Haverfordwest: Police promise extra patrols for GCSE results night

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THERE will be an increased police presence in Haverfordwest tonight, in response to an anticipated influx of young people who will be celebrating their GCSE results.

Parents are being asked to go over their child’s plan for the evening, before they head out. Sergeant Haydon Mathias is overseeing the operation.

He said: “It’s a big day for teenagers, and we understand they want to celebrate after all of their hard work.

“We’ll be there to make sure they do that safely, and without disrupting others.

“This is usually a busy night for us, and historically we have seen crime and anti-social behaviour rise. You’ll notice my team out and about from early this evening to stop that happening. They’ll be seizing alcohol from anyone they suspect is under the age of 18, and dealing with any other issues that arise.

“We’re asking parents to take the reins and discuss plans before your child goes out. Make sure you know where they’re celebrating, who they’re with, and how they’re getting home. It’s useful to make sure your child’s phone is fully charged, in case of an emergency.

“I encourage anyone with concerns to come and speak to an officer or Police Community Support Officer around the town, or contact Dyfed-Powys Police.”

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Llangwm Church Donation Box Stolen

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St Jerome’s Church: Second theft in a year!

 

A DONATION box has been stolen from a village church, the second theft from the historic building in a year.

The donation box at St Jerome’s Church, Llangwm, is believed to have been taken in the last few weeks.

The box is usually kept next to the Talking Tapestry of Langum, a project which tells the story of the village’s origin with the invasion of the Flemish in the 12th century and its later history.

Pamela Hunt of Heritage Llangwm said: “This theft is the second from St. Jerome’s in a year.

“If anyone has seen or knows anything, then please let the police know.

“If they feel unable to do that, but would like to contact us at St Jerome’s Church, then email info@heritagellangwm.org.uk

“We will treat your contact in the strictest confidence.”

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