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Business

FSB calls for domestic focus

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LOOKING ahead to the beginning of 2019, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said: “Small business owners tend to be an optimistic bunch. They are used to being nimble, adapting to circumstances and making the most of opportunities. They are creative and entrepreneurial.

“And yet as we head into 2019 small business confidence is on the floor, and desperately needs lifting.

“Of course the political turmoil of recent months and the ongoing lack of clarity about what kind of Brexit they should prepare for is playing a part – particularly around investment decisions.

“Yet there are plenty of headwinds in the coming months which are nothing to do with Brexit whatsoever, which is why politicians should resolve this New Year to re-focus on the domestic issues which affect small businesses day-in-day-out.

“The start of the new financial year in April will see a whole host of changes, leading to higher costs and greater bureaucracy for many small firms – from higher costs of employment to the rollout of quarterly, online tax reporting for VAT-registered firms.

“There are chill winds gusting down our High Streets. Thankfully most town centre and high street small businesses will benefit from relief on their business rates, which FSB fought hard to secure. But many small firms elsewhere will see previous reliefs taper off, and therefore higher bills from this out-dated tax.

“More optimistically, I believe 2019 could be the year in which we finally see poor payment practices by some big businesses to their smaller suppliers and contractors finally stamped out.

“The government recently listened to FSB calls to stop giving lucrative tax-payer-funded contracts to big firms which pay smaller suppliers late or subject them to supply chain bullying.

“I’m hopeful boardrooms will finally do their bit too, with larger firms having a non-executive director specifically responsible for overseeing the fair treatment of suppliers and contractors.

“As Brexit approaches on March 29, the Government must give proper help and support on how to comply with whatever will be required. Adapting to whatever the new trading circumstances with the EU are will mean changing business procedures, taking valuable time out from running a business, and for many, it will involve paying for external expertise.
“Clear advice and support will be needed with a voucher scheme operating as it does in both Ireland and the Netherlands to help small businesses or tax-free allowances.

“Longer term, whatever happens with Brexit, we already have one-in-five small businesses exporting and growing their business through overseas trade. This could be doubled with the right support available to encourage them to take that bold step.

“Back at home, I want to see in 2019 a greater recognition of the vital role small businesses play at the heart of local communities. These businesses don’t just provide goods and services, they bring much more to their local economies; support local charities or football teams; those on high streets bring character and individuality to an area; many provide opportunities for skills training, where an apprentice can benefit from the guidance and expertise of an experienced business owner.

“Smaller businesses are also disproportionately better at employing people from harder-to-reach parts of the workforce – those who have recently left military service; those who have taken time out of working because of caring responsibilities; people with disabilities; and ex-offenders seeking a new life on the straight and narrow.

“I strongly believe that it is in the interests of the country and the economy as a whole that we nurture skills and talent wherever they exist. Education and FE must work more closely with business around the skills needed, and the government could help smaller businesses to do even more in this area with an employer National Insurance holiday for those who employ people furthest from work.

“Even in these uncertain times, there are lots of ways in which the UK’s 5.6 million small businesses can be encouraged and supported to thrive and grow. This is absolutely vital for UK PLC. It’s time for politicians to remind themselves of this, and stop spending so much time on political infighting at the expense of the domestic agenda.”

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Double acquisition as Certas Energy acquires two Pembrokeshire filling stations

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CERTAS ENERGY has added two West Wales fillings stations to its growing company portfolio with the acquisition of Square & Compass and Letterson Filling Stations, both formerly owned by Roger and Anne Shackleton.

The couple have operated their Pembrokeshire forecourt business for 22 years, its two Gulf branded forecourts are integral to the local community, with large and successful convenience stores and a combined fuel volume of 5.6ml.

“We are delighted to have concluded this deal, it’s a very good fit for our business as we continue to grow our company operation across the UK,” enthuses Richard Billington, Retail Director, Certas Energy. “We already have a strong Gulf presence within Pembrokeshire and these two flagship sites will complement our thriving and expanding Dealer operation.”

“Anne and Roger have put their heart and soul into their business and its standing within the locality is testament to their hard work and that of a very talented team, whom we look forward to working with. We’ll bring the sites into harmony with the rest of our company-owned operation, investing in the latest back-office technology and on-site facilities to future proof the business. We will also remain true to the values established by the Shackletons to be at the heart of the local community.”

Square and Compass filling station in north Pembrokeshire

The two forecourts currently employ 20 people. They are seven miles apart, both situated in the town of Haverfordwest. Dave Morris, Director at specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, acted on behalf of owners Anne and Roger and comments; “The two forecourts presented a great opportunity for a buyer as they are in a good location and well regarded locally. It has been a pleasure to work for Anne and Roger who have been passionate fuel retailers for over 20 years and we wish them all the best with their retirement. Both sites are a good fit for Certas Energy and we look forward to seeing them transition into Certas’ company owned portfolio.”

Reflecting on his departure from the business, Roger Shackleton says: “We have fantastic staff and a successful business that has been nurtured to the needs of our community. I’ve loved every minute of the ever changing environment of forecourt and convenience retailing. I still get up every morning at 4am to prepare for the day ahead but now seems the right time to retire. Certas Energy and Gulf Retail are better suited to unlock the future potential and get the very best out of our two sites. It’s a very emotive time for us both, we regard our staff as family but we know they are in good hands. The Gulf team are genuine, the process has been relatively smooth and David Morris of Christie and Co. has been brilliant, working tirelessly keep the deal progressing and to get us to this place.”

“When we drive past the sites in the future, we may feel saddened that we are no longer at the helm but in Gulf Retail, we are happy that we have sold to the right people.”

This latest acquisition by Certas Energy increases its company portfolio to 35 sites as it continues to grow the Gulf network in size and scale.

Fuel family’s final farewell

IT WAS an emotional farewell at two north Pembrokeshire filling stations this week as the popular owners Roger and Anne Shackleton handed the reigns over to new owners Certas Energy, Britain’s largest independent distributor of fuels and lubricants.

Staff at Letterston filling station say good bye to old owners Roger and Anne

After 22 years, Roger and Anne are looking forward to a more relaxed life on their farm, and to see more of their family, they told The Herald.

In 1997, the couple sold their pedigree herd and bought Letterston Filling Station. In 2007 Square and Compass Filling Station was purchased and plans were made to rebuild the shop into a convenience store to serve the neighbourhood. They were able to provide a wide range of goods and competitive fuel prices over a long period at both sites, an important resource for the local community in both cases.

The staff at Square and Compass filling station

Roger and Anne said in a statement: “We would like to thank our suppliers, and the loyal and long-standing customers for their support over the years. A final thank you goes to the staff, past and present that have helped make the business what it is today.

They added: “We would like to extend our best wishes to Certas Energy for success in the future with both Letterston and Square and Compass Filling Stations.”

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Business

Solva: Farm’s new ice cream enterprise is a family affair

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WITH views over the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline, Pointz Castle Ice Cream’s new on-farm parlour is the perfect place for a refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day.

Pointz Castle Ice Cream is a family collaboration spanning four generations, located on the Lawrence family’s farm located between the fishing village of Solva and the expansive sandy beach of Newgale, on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Richard and Gill Lawrence and their son William, daughter Rachael, daughter-in-law Lydia, and son-in-law Thomas all bring a range of skills which enabled them to establish and run the new business.

While the critical job of tasting the final product is down to the youngest – and oldest – members of the family: grandchildren Charlie, Freddie, Rhodri, Rebecca and Beatrice (who range in age from one to seven-years-old), and Gill’s father Leslie.

Rachael with Beatrice, Lydia with Rebecca, and William. (Pic Coleman Communications)

The step into making ice cream is a new chapter for the family, explains William, who with his sister Rachael makes the ice cream.

“Against a backdrop of continuing volatility in the dairy sector, coupled with the uncertainty created around Brexit, we decided to fulfil a long-term ambition for adding value to the milk we produce. Based on our coastal setting and growing tourism industry, ice cream was the natural fit.

“Located on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, this corner of Wales possesses both a fantastic climate for producing grass for the milk required for our ice cream and in an area of spectacular scenery and coastal walks for our visitors to relax and enjoy.”

Visitors to the ice cream parlour can enjoy a complete cow to cone experience, enjoying the creamy, smooth texture ice cream and sorbets in some of the 70 different flavours.

Says William, “We use locally sourced ingredients such as cream, and Halen Dewi- St Davids Sea Salt to create some of the flavours which include Blueberry Pannacotta, Strawberry Cheesecake and Lemon & Mascarpone as well as the firm favourites Vanilla, Raspberry Ripple and Chocolate. The flavours on display in the cabinet alternate regularly and may well include a seasonal special such as Welsh Cake, Pumpkin or Mince Pie flavour.”

As well as ice cream, coffee and cake can be enjoyed in the traditional stone built converted cow shed with wooden beams and whitewashed walls or just sit and relax outside in the sun trapped courtyard watching the cows coming in for milking.

As the café is set within a working farm, this provides an opportunity to explain to visitors what farming entails.

Says William, “We calve in the spring and autumn, and that has been a real attraction for people who have different levels of knowledge about farming. It sparks all sorts of questions and helps people connect to where their food comes from. They come away knowing that the grass the cows were grazing today will produce tomorrows ice cream.”

As well as the on-farm cafe, the business takes their ice cream on the road with a converted vintage trailer available for all occasions from weddings to festivals.

The family has had help with its new venture from the Food Centre Wales at Horeb, and from Cywain – a Menter a Busnes delivered project that supports the development of growth orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.

“Setting up a new business has had its challenges,” says William, “but Cywain has been great. They have excellent contacts and have been able to put us in touch with people who have helped us to launch the business.’. They have kept us going and signposted us to any assistance and training we’ve needed.”

Steeped in history, the dairy, beef and arable farm is on the site of a Norman castle, with the raised mound of the original motte-and-bailey castle still visible while a public footpath links the farm to Porthmynawyd, a small cove west of Newgale Sands.

But it is not only the ice cream and café side of the business that has attracted visitors in their droves. Should the weather prove to be less than perfect Pointz Castle has got it covered – literally!

The area is popular with holidaymakers, many of whom are families drawn by Pembrokeshire’s magnificent beaches and lush countryside. Therefore, with the enjoyment of children – and parents – in mind, the Lawrence family recently created indoor play facilities at Pointz Castle.

There children can enjoy farm-themed activities including riding on toy tractors and diggers, as well as view the young dairy calves.
Continuing the educational theme, customers are also able to try milking a life-sized model cow for themselves in the play barn.

Says William, “In Pembrokeshire, we’re not guaranteed good weather, so we created the play area in the barn to give families another entertainment option. Our children have been very much involved in building it, and it is proving very popular!”
Said Lowri Davies of Cywain, “We are delighted to be part of the Pointz Castle story. By diversifying into producing ice cream the family is helping to showcase the flavours of Pembrokeshire, and at the same time opening a window for visitors on dairy farming in Wales.”

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Port of Milford Haven appoint Andy Jones as Chief Executive

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THE PORT of Milford Haven has appointed Andy Jones as its new Chief Executive. Andy, who has been with the organisation for eight years, starts his position with immediate effect.

Andy brings much needed experience and expertise, drawn from his years as Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director, at a time when the UK’s largest energy port is moving to diversify earnings and develop new business opportunities.

Chris Martin, Chairman at the Port of Milford Haven, said: “Following a rigorous recruitment process it gives me great pleasure to announce Andy Jones as the Port’s new Chief Executive. Andy has an excellent grasp of the Port’s vision as well as the challenges it currently faces. Whilst wholeheartedly championing our two flagship projects – Milford Waterfront and Pembroke Dock Marine – Andy brings a thorough and realistic approach to the delivery of our diversification plans whilst prioritising the continued delivery of excellent and safe port operations.

“Andy’s knowledge, skills and personality have enabled him to build solid relationships with our customers and stakeholders and I am confident his appointment will be welcomed by them all.”

Andy Jones said: “I feel a huge sense of excitement about the future for our organisation and I am really pleased to be in a position to continue advancing the opportunities ports have to act as catalyst locations for the growth of key UK industries.

“In Wales, and certainly in Pembrokeshire, we have particular strengths in the marine renewables, leisure and tourism sectors. Through our Pembroke Dock Marine Project, part of the Swansea Bay City Deal, and the development of Milford Waterfront, we aim to deliver vibrant spaces which will underpin our regional economy and attract new investment, offering life-long career opportunities for future generations.

“There is a fantastic team working at the Port of Milford Haven and I am delighted to be continuing as part of that team.”

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