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Chancellor’s economic update includes VAT cut for hospitality sector, and customer discounts

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THE CHANCELLOR, Rishi Sunak, set out the measures in his summer economic update in the House of Commons on Wednesday (Jun 8), as he faces pressure to assist those who are most vulnerable to the financial crisis.

The Chancellor said he will cut VAT from 20% to 5% for food if people eat out to help those businesses which he said had been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor announced discount to encourage people to eat out in August.

He says restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels as well as other attractions will be able to claim the money back within five days. It had been reported he was considering giving all UK adults a £500 voucher to spent with companies hit by coronavirus, but the Chancellor has decided not to go ahead with that proposal.

Another announcement is that employers who take back staff on furlough and continuously employ them until January will get £1,000 cash bonus per employee.

Instead Sunak announced a discount worth up to £10 per head for eating out in August. He said his final measure has never been tried in this country. It is an “eat out to help out scheme”, offering customers as discount worth up to £10 per head when they eat out from Monday to Wednesday in August.

Speaking in the Commons today, he said: “Our plan has clear goals, to protect, support and retain jobs.”

Regards furlough scheme, he said it must wind down, adding: “flexibly and gradually supporting people through to October” but that he is introducing a bonus for employers who bring staff back from furlough.

Employers who bring someone back from furlough and employ them through to January, paying them a minimum of £520 a month, will receive a £1,000 bonus.

He says that “in total we have provided £49bn to support public services since the pandemic began”.

He added: “No nationalist can ignore that this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”

Mr Sunak says the UK economy has already shrunk by 25% – the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.

He also announced:

  • A £2bn kickstart scheme paying employers to take on unemployed 16 to 24 year olds for a minimum of 25 hours a week – he says the Treasury will pay those wages for six months plus a sum for overheads. He says there is no cap. This will apply in England and Wales.
  • VAT on food from restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels will be cut until January 12 from 20% to 5%
  • Funding for apprenticeships and trainee-ships in England, there will be a separate announcement for Wales.
  • £1bn for the DWP to support millions of people back to work through Job Centres
  • A £2bn green homes grant in England to cover two thirds of the cost, up to £5,000, for energy efficient home improvements. Again the Welsh Government will have their own proposals on this given time.
  • A temporary cut to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland.

Stephen Crabb has given his strong backing to the Chancellor’s coronavirus recovery plan, calling it “a huge step towards getting Pembrokeshire back on its feet”.

The Preseli MP said that the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ includes a £1000 bonus for businesses to bring back furloughed staff and the Kickstart scheme which will provide high quality work placements for unemployed youngsters. In England businesses will also be offered £1000 bonus to take on a trainee and £2000 for each new apprentice. Welsh Government has been given equivalent money to support their training schemes.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the Chancellor’s statement, Crabb said: “Make no mistake, this action to save a generation of young people from bearing the brunt of the economic crisis is incredibly positive and to be welcomed.”

The MP has previously warned about the prospect of a surge in unemployment as a result of the lockdown.

The Chancellor also announced a cut in VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector, giving a much needed boost to some of the sectors hardest hit by coronavirus. Early on in the lockdown, Crabb wrote to the Chancellor to call for a package of support for Tourism that included a VAT cut.

Responding to the announcement today, he said: “I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened to the proposals that many MPs from coastal areas have put forward. Tourism and hospitality need a real shot in the arm and the VAT cut will be very welcome.”

Today’s statement also saw the launch of a new ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, giving people 50% off meals out to encourage more families to eat out or get a takeaway during the month of August.   These measures will be important for Pembrokeshire’s many hospitality businesses who are still awaiting an announcement from Welsh Government on when they can open again.

On Friday Stephen Crabb will be bringing together more than thirty local pubs and restaurants for an online discussion with the County Council and others about how the sector can re-open safely and successfully.

 

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Milford Haven: ‘Unnerving droning sound’ coming from LNG tanker

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RESIDENTS of Milford Haven and Hakin have been complaining on social media about the noise coming from an LNG tanker berthed at the South Hook LNG terminal.

The Bu Samra arrived in Milford Haven at 10am on Tuesday (Aug 4) and there has been a noise, described as sounding like a distant droning helicopter, or low vibrating sound ever since.

The sound is caused by the reliquefication plant compressors on the 163,000-tonne vessel as she is waiting to offload her cargo of liquefied natural gas.

It is not the first time that there have been complaints. Eleven years ago, in 2009, official complaints were made to Pembrokeshire County Council over a similar vessel, the Tembrek.

At the time officials from South Hook LNG said: “South Hook would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the sound residents may have heard coming from the LNG Carrier since its berthing
“This is due only to this particular phase of the initial commissioning as she is keeping her cargo in a liquefied state.
“In the meantime, the Master… will do everything he can to minimise the impact of the sound on local residents.”

Local marine expert Berty Barrett said on Facebook: “All part of living alongside these oil and gas installations.”

Sianie Roberts, a Hakin resident, commented: “It’s really unnerving. Never heard anything like it before for so long a period.”

South Hook has been contacted for a comment.

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Haverfordwest: Primary school teacher accused of 34 sexual assaults

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher was in court on Monday (Aug 3) accused of 34 sexual assaults.

James Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, denies all the charges.

Oulton, who was granted a continuation to his bail, was represented in court by his barrister Chris Clee QC.

The case is listed for administrative hearings in November and the trial date is provisionally set for April 12, 2021.

Oulton is currently suspended from work at Mary Immaculate School.

It is understood that the case does not involve children who are pupils at the Roman Catholic primary school.

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Phased re-opening for Leisure Centre facilities

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FACILITIES at Pembrokeshire County Council’s Leisure Centres will begin to re-open in a phased and safe manner from Monday, August 17.

Following further easing of Welsh Government restrictions, Pembrokeshire Leisure will be opening its doors for the use of fitness suites only in the first phase.

The fitness suites at Fishguard Leisure Centre, Haverfordwest Leisure Centre, Milford Haven Leisure Centre, Pembroke Leisure Centre and Tenby Leisure Centres will open from Monday, August.

You must book and pay for your gym slot in advance.

Without a pre-booked slot you will not be able to gain access to the facilities.

There will be no bookings or payments taken at the centres. In order to make a reservation you will need to be a registered user of Pembrokeshire Leisure.

You can register via the website https://pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk/ or by calling 01437 775504, Monday to Thursday, 9am – 3pm.

See below for further membership information.

Bookings can also be made via the website and telephone numbers above and through the Pembrokeshire Leisure app which is available to download on both Apple IOS and Android.

You will be able to book your session from Tuesday, August 11, onwards.

For everyone’s safety please do not attend any Pembrokeshire Leisure facilities if you are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms.

Users are asked to bring only a full water bottle (drinking fountains will not be in use), a towel and their Pembrokeshire Leisure Card for their exercise session.

Please note there will be no changing facilities available so please arrive dressed ready for your session.

Buildings may operate one-way systems and equipment may be set out differently than normal with some equipment set up in other areas of the centre to allow more space to exercise.

Those visiting with pre-booked appointments are respectfully asked to adhere to social distancing rules in operation.

There will be an enhanced cleaning operation in place with hand sanitising stations and customers will need to use the provided cleaning products to clean equipment before and after use.

The second phase, from Tuesday, September 1, will see Crymych Leisure Centre re-open and swimming pools, indoor fitness classes and facility hire available at all centres.

Again, all activities will be via pre-booked appointments only.

Further details will be released in due course, including opening arrangements for all of the remaining leisure facilities.

Currently all Pembrokeshire Leisure memberships are frozen with no payments being taken.

To allow members to return when they feel safe and happy to do so Pembrokeshire Leisure will be offering the following:

If you are ready to return to us:

  • Everyone with a frozen current membership will be able to access the fitness suites for free from August 17 to 31.
  • We will be offering a ‘BeActive’ membership while our facilities have a reduced offering at £19/month.
  • You will need to sign up to the membership using our app or website.
  • This membership will be paid on a monthly basis with no minimum term.
  • It will be available until our centres are able to offer a more complete selection of activities, when existing membership subscriptions will be restarted.

If you don’t feel ready to return to us yet:

  • All memberships will remain frozen and you will not need to contact us until you are ready to return.
  • All subscriptions will receive an extension as Appropriate.
  • When we are able to offer a more complete provision of activities then memberships will be restarted. Members will be given notice before the payments are taken.

More information regarding the BeActive membership will be sent to all members.

All relevant information will also be published on

https://pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk/ and the Pembrokeshire Leisure App.

If you are unclear on the process of re-joining please contact 01437 775504.

Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism. Leisure and Culture, Cllr Paul Miller, said: “With restrictions easing further in the coming weeks the team have been working hard to ensure we can offer a safe, phased, return to leisure facilities across the county.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming back members and the general public from the 17th.”

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