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Skates off to Australia

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Ken Skates: Promoting Wales in Australia

ECONOMY Secretary Ken Skates is on the Gold Coast this week, supporting Team Wales at the Commonwealth Games and promoting Wales as an excellent place to visit and do business.

His visit comes one month before the start of daily flights between Cardiff and Doha which will pave the way for increased trade links between Wales, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

The Commonwealth Games is the only elite multi-disciplinary event in which Welsh athletes can compete under their own flag.

And at the 2018 Games Ken Skates will be supporting Wales’ 223 competing athletes who are representing their country in a range of sports including swimming, diving, athletics, boxing, cycling, gymnastics, hockey netball, lawn balls, rugby, shooting, squash, table tennis, triathlon, weightlifting and all 5 para sports.

The Economy Secretary will attend the Commonwealth Games’ opening ceremony, and join other Commonwealth Government representatives and figures from business, academia and sport in an event to explore the value, power and influence of sport beyond the playing field.

He will also represent Wales at business events, aimed at maximising trading opportunities between Commonwealth countries and the Gold Coast.

Later in the week he will travel to Sydney to meet the Council of Australian Tour Operators and attend a business event with the Australian British Chamber of Commerce and Qatar Airways, before returning to the Games.

Ken Skates said: “Sport is a huge part of our culture and the Commonwealth Games represent a unique opportunity for Wales to compete as a nation in a world class sporting event.

“This is a magnificent opportunity for Wales and our 223 athletes who, with the support of Commonwealth Games Wales and Sport Wales have worked so hard to be here, and I am proud to be cheering on team Wales as they test themselves against the very best in the world.

“The Gold Coast Games, and the new Qatar Airways flights between Cardiff and Doha which kick off next month, provide us with an excellent opportunity to further build our links with the Middle East, Asia and Australasia – and of course, these links are more important than ever as we prepare to leave the EU.

“With that in mind, my focus this week will be flying the flag for Wales, strengthening partnerships and connections, and promoting Wales as a great place to set up a business, and as a truly first class trading partner, tourism destination and place to study.”

Business

Conservatives press for lagoon decision

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Lagoon could inspire vast economic regeneration: Says Conservative AM Russell George

WELSH Conservatives have renewed calls for a decision to be made by the UK Government on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, and for fresh consideration to be given to the devolution of Air Passenger Duty to Wales.

Last year, the Hendry Review concluded that backing the £1.3 billion Tidal Lagoon is a ‘no regrets policy’, costing households less than the price of a pint of milk each year. Welsh Conservatives have consistently backed the tidal lagoon and it is hoped that the UK Government will give the scheme the green light.

Shadow Economy Secretary, Russell George AM, has also called on the UK Government to give fresh consideration to the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD), following the Chancellor’s Spring Statement announcement of a consultation on the impact of devolving short-haul APD to Northern Ireland – a country which already enjoys the benefits of long-haul APD.

Calling for a decision on the Tidal Lagoon to be made ‘sooner rather than later’, Mr George, said: “The Tidal Lagoon project could be the inspiration for vast economic regeneration in South West Wales as well as ensuring Wales and the UK becomes pioneers in the delivery of this technology.

“The scheme also holds great promise to be the most reliable and resilient source of green energy available, and the Welsh Conservatives have been supportive of this ambitious scheme since day one.

“Last year’s Hendry Review was emphatic and we remain as convinced as ever that this transformational project should be given the go ahead.

“Our green agenda is winning plaudits across the globe and this project will only serve to strengthen those credentials in the bold new world post-Brexit.”

In 2012 the UK Government’s Silk Commission recommended APD should be devolved to Wales for direct long-haul flights initially, followed by full devolution as part of the UK Government’s future work on aviation taxation.

Requesting the UK Government give fresh consideration to devolving APD, Mr George added: “We believe Air Passenger Duty should be devolved to Wales, just like it is to Scotland, and in part to Northern Ireland.

“With a consultation recently announced by the UK Government on devolving the remaining element of APD to Northern Ireland, we see no reason why such a process cannot be forthcoming for Wales.

“We acknowledge concerns held in some quarters but a consultation on this subject would be welcome progress and would allow for these issues to be explored in greater detail.

“Welsh Conservatives believe the devolution of Air Passenger Duty holds the key to increasing passenger numbers and overseas route options for Cardiff Airport, helping to make it more competitive and providing a shot in the arm to the Welsh economy.”

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New Welsh taxes come into force

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Mark Drakeford: Landfill tax to benefit affected communities

ON APRIL 1 2018, the first Welsh taxes for almost 800 years ‘went live’.

The new Land Transaction Tax (LTT) and Landfill Disposals Tax (LDT) will replace UK Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and Landfill Tax (LfT) respectively.

These taxes will be collected and managed by the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA).

LAND TRANSACTION TAX

The Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Act 2017 will legislate for LTT in Wales. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford, announced the new LTT rates and bands alongside the draft budget in October 2017. However, in response to the UK Autumn Budget in November 2017, he revised the rates and bands for residential properties in December 2017.

LTT will be based on a marginal rate system like SDLT, which means the purchase price is taxed at a specific rate which applies to that band. For example, table 1 below shows that a £190,000 residential property would be exempt from the first £180,000 with LTT charged on the remaining £10,000 at 3.5%.

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES

The proposed LTT rates and bands for residential properties are different to those that are currently in place in Wales under SDLT. As shown, residential properties up to £180,000 are exempt from LTT in Wales whilst it is currently properties up to £125,000 for SDLT.

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance commented that “this new threshold, which is £55,000 higher than the starting threshold for SDLT will reduce the tax burden for around 24,000 homebuyers in Wales.” Additional rate for residential properties.

In November 2015, the UK Government announced the higher rates of SDLT would apply from 1 April 2016 to purchases of additional residential properties, such as second homes and buy-to-let properties.

In response to this, the Welsh Government decided to impose an additional rate for LTT of 3% on all price thresholds.

NON-RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES

There are also differences in rates and bands between LTT and SDLT for non-residential properties. LTT in Wales will include an additional rate for properties over £1 million. Individuals will pay less LTT for properties between £150,000 and £250,000 when compared to SDLT but more for properties over £1 million.

The price threshold for incurring a 2% LTT rate for non-residential lease rents is £3 million lower than SDLT. The Welsh Government explained this is due to generally lower lease rates in Wales meaning very few transactions would pay the top rate of LTT if it was consistent with SDLT.

LANDFILL DISPOSALS TAX

The Landfill Disposals (Wales) Act 2017 legislates for LDT, which will replace UK LfT in Wales from 1 April 2018. It will be a tax on the disposal of waste to landfill payable by landfill site operators. LDT will consist of a lower and standard rate like LfT but will also include a new unauthorised disposals rate.

In the Welsh Government 2018-19 budget, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance confirmed that the lower and standard rates of tax will remain consistent with LfT for 2 years with the unauthorised disposals rate set at 150% of the standard rate.

Professor Drakeford said: “The Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme recognises there can be a negative impact for communities through the disposal of waste.

“Funding from the scheme will directly benefit the environment for those who live near a landfill site helping to offset the impact of waste to landfill.

“Grants of £5,000 to £50,000 will be available to projects in 2 bidding rounds every year and one project will receive funding of up to £250,000 a year.”

WELSH REVENUE AUTHORITY

The Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) has been established to manage and collect devolved taxes in Wales. The WRA was established in October 2017 and is the first non-ministerial department to be set up by the Welsh Government. The authority will operate independently from Welsh Government and be accountable to the Assembly.

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WG invests another £6m in Cardiff Airport

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Cash injection queried: Conservatives question £6m equity deal

THE WELSH Government has invested an additional £6m in Cardiff Airport with the facility performing ahead of expectations, according to economy secretary Ken Skates.

With the airport hitting targets sooner than expected, the government believes the introduction of additional private equity is moving closer.

The money will be used to improve terminal buildings.

Roger Lewis, chairman at Cardiff Airport said: “On behalf of the board of Cardiff Airport I thank our shareholder, the Welsh Government.

“This is a ringing endorsement of confidence in the Airport business and will enable us to continue to grow, develop and serve our customers, our people and Wales.”

Skates added: “This is clearly an investment not just into the airport, but into Wales.

“Our £6m equity injection in exchange of common shares is expected to increase the equity value of the airport by around £12m. We would not be investing this heavily if we had not had sound evidence that the airport is succeeding in its plan to move towards profitability.

“When I launched our Economic Action Plan at the end of 2017, I recognised the importance of connectivity within Wales, the rest of the UK and the world, to businesses and people. Clearly, for South Wales, Cardiff Airport is a fundamental part of the solution.

“Since we acquired the airport, it has seen year-on-year growth in passenger numbers, which are now nearing 1.5m a year. This is a nine per cent year on year passenger growth, on top of 16 per cent growth in 2016.

“Performance is ahead of the company’s projections, and the airlines taking off from Cardiff fly direct to over 50 destinations including 9 capital cities, and to over 900 destinations via 11 hub airports.

“This, alongside the launch of Qatar Airways which strengthens Cardiff Airport as a gateway for Wales to the wider world, shows very clearly some of the achievements reached to date.”

Just weeks ago, the airport’s Chief Executive, Roger Lewis, revealed plans to attract private sector investment in the airport to pay for a new terminal.

The Economy Secretary, at the time, also confirmed that the Welsh Government expect private sector investment to form part of the airport’s “long term masterplan”.

However, Shadow Economy Secretary, Russell George, said: “If the outlook for the airport is as positive as the Welsh Government claims, you have to ask why they’ve been unable to secure private investment.

“Frankly, a cash injection of this kind is usually taken as a sign of a company in financial distress – not a company on the up and up.

“We all want to see the airport succeed, but we have been repeatedly told that the route to success is through private equity. Now we see another cash injection of taxpayer cash.

“It’s not the long term master plan we were sold by the Cabinet Secretary in January.

“Welsh Conservatives will continue to support the Chief Executive in his efforts to make the airport a success, but Welsh taxpayers will understandably roll their eyes at news of another bailout by the Welsh Government.”

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