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Business forum weighs up Covid-19 impact

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AN ONLINE meeting of Pembrokeshire businesses has shone a spotlight on the impact that Covid-19 is having on the local economy.

Using video conferencing, local MP Stephen Crabb assembled a forum of 17 key businesses, along with Welsh Parliament Member Paul Davies and representatives from Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire College, to discuss the impact of the pandemic on local firms. Businesses included building merchants and contractors, manufacturers, food producers, software developers, tourism and transport firms.

The conference call was organised by the Preseli MP as a way for the County’s key employers to meet together whilst adhering to the government guidance. It gave businesses the opportunity to speak directly to their MP, raising their experiences of running businesses during these unprecedented times.

Following the meeting, Stephen Crabb said:“Coronavirus has sent shockwaves through our local economy with many businesses closing overnight as the country ground to a halt under lockdown. Numerous support packages have been announced by UK and Welsh government. But while some businesses have been able to get support quickly, others have run into a brick wall. Hearing first-hand feedback on the way these schemes are working is vital if we are going to work out which businesses are falling through the gaps.”

“Pembrokeshire’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic and the future is far from clear. We need our local firms to come through this crisis and help rebuild the economy on the other side. It has never been more important for all tiers of government to be listening to those who work incredibly hard to create and sustain jobs in our community.”

Paul Davies MS added: “The Forum was a great opportunity to hear first-hand some of the challenges that businesses across Pembrokeshire are facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and that feedback is invaluable in making representations to the Welsh Government. I’ll continue to raise the issues faced by local businesses with the First Minister at every opportunity as it’s clear that more work needs to be done to address the gaps in the Government’s business support packages.”

“The economic impact of Covid-19 is huge and if significant changes aren’t made, then many local businesses will simply not be able to weather this storm. These are unprecedented times and we’ve all got to work together to mitigate the impact that coronavirus is having on our local economy and our communities. I’ll certainly be doing everything in my power to raise the concerns of local businesses and I’ll continue to encourage the Welsh Government to provide further support, where it can, to those sectors that are most vulnerable.”

The Welsh Affairs Select committee, chaired by Stephen Crabb, is seeking evidence from Welsh businesses who have been impacted by coronavirus. If your business would like to submit evidence, please visit https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=nt3mHDeziEC-Xo277ASzSsdf6aRbb_hHi61kcnJ3-KJUNEpKUVQ3ODkxU0tTQUdVV05ZMFhYRFozRy4u before the survey closes at 5pm on May 15th.

UK-wide, 6.3 million workers have been furloughed since the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme opened on April 20, with 800,000 companies making use of the scheme. The Bounce Back Loan scheme which opened Monday (May 4) saw more than 100,000 applications in its first day. Further conference calls with the tourism hospitality sector and the charity sector will be held in the coming weeks.

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Storm Christoph set to batter Wales says Met Office [Video]

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STORM Christoph will cause heavy rain and flooding in Wales on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Met Office has said.

Forecasters are warning that there could be up to 200mm in some parts of north Wales and say that the heaviest and “most persistent” rain will be in Wales.

The warning states: “Several days of persistent, and occasionally heavy, rain are expected to affect the region as Storm Christoph affects the UK.

The heaviest and most persistent rain is likely to be across Wales and the high ground of northern England.

“By early Thursday, 30-60 mm of rain is expected to have fallen widely across the warning area, with 100-150 mm over the high ground of Wales and northern England.

“Up to 200 mm is possible across parts of north Wales and northwest England.

“Melting snow across higher parts of the Pennines may exacerbate the potential for flooding. Strong winds will also accompany the rainfall and may add to travelling difficulties across areas higher and more exposed routes.”

The warning is in place from midnight on Tuesday until noon on Thursday (January 21).

Welsh forecaster Derek Brockway says: “Large rainfall totals on high ground in south and northwest Wales.

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Enabling works start at regeneration site in Pembroke

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WORK has started on the highly anticipated South Quay regeneration project in Pembroke.

Ambitious plans by Pembrokeshire County Council will see the site next to Pembroke Castle developed into a Visitor Centre, celebrating the town’s history and heritage and incorporating a new Library and Café.

The scheme will also include major enhancements to the public realm and landscaping improvements and public access to the building’s gardens at the rear.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economic Development, welcomed work starting on site.

“I’m delighted to see work getting underway. These buildings, right in the heart of Pembroke, have been left to rot for more than a decade by previous Council administrations but thankfully no longer. I am committed to Pembroke and am personally determined to help the town see a brighter future.

“Our investment in South Quay is just the first and most visible part of our commitment to the future of Pembroke and I’m looking forward to engaging with the community on the next steps over the coming months.”

The enabling works, undertaken by contractors Lloyd and Gravell are to ready the site for the development contract. They include the clearing and preparation of the site ready for the stabilisation of derelict buildings in Castle Terrace.

The South Quay project has secured £901,590 of Welsh Government Transforming Towns funding to support delivery of the first stage enabling works.

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said: “The regeneration of South Quay is a fantastic example of how support though our Transforming Towns programme can be used to breathe new life into an old building to create a centre that will become as asset to the local community and celebrate the town’s history.  I look forward to seeing how this work progresses.”

Cllr Aaron Carey, County Councillor for Pembroke St Mary South, said it was good to see progress on site.

“No amount of plans or drawings can prepare you for the huge task at hand when the project is seen up close,” he said.

“We as a community are putting our generation’s mark on a thousand year old town and it’s really exciting to see the work being started on site after so many years as an eyesore in the castle’s shadow.”

(Pictured are Cllr Paul Miller and Cllr Aaron Carey at South Quay in Pembroke, where work has started on a key regeneration project.)

 

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Stephen Crabb MP to defy whips on Universal Credit uplift

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb will defy the Conservative whip for the first time today.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary will ignore an instruction to abstain on a non-binding Labour motion to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit beyond March 31.

In his Spending Review last November, Chancellor Rishi Sunak refused to commit to keeping the £20 payment. The Chancellor introduced it last year to compensate families of the unemployed or
those on low incomes for the extra costs they incur during the Covid pandemic.

Stephen Crabb has repeatedly made it clear that he wants the £20 top-up to continue to give the poorest and most vulnerable at least some cushion from the effects of the deepening recession.

Although the Westminster Government claims it is optimistic about the economy’s future, the short-to-medium term looks grim.

Many businesses have closed and are unlikely to reopen. Not all of those who lost their jobs will get back into employment. It is likely any jobs on offer once the economy picks up will be low
paid and leave many still dependent on Universal Credit in some form.

Speaking on Times Radio this morning, Mr Crabb said: “No one can say we have a generous benefits system. We don’t. The unemployment component of benefits is at its lowest for a generation.

Withdrawing that additional £20 per week at the end of March will cause hardship. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

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