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UPDATED: New deadline in Murco negotiations

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Uncertainty over deal: Murco, Milford Haven (IMAGE: MIKE HILLEN/HERALD)

Uncertainty over deal: Murco, Milford Haven (IMAGE: MIKE HILLEN/HERALD)

UPDATED – NOVEMBER 3.

THE DEAL to save Murco oil refinery in Milford Haven from closure was not finalised by an agreed deadline of midnight on Friday (Oct 31), and a new time limit has been set for the sale of the plant to the Klesch Group.

The Pembrokeshire Herald understands, from sources close to the negotiations, that buyer Gary Klesch is still interested in proceeding, but the challenges of getting all the funding in place by the original deadline proved insurmountable.

A presentation which was due to take place on Monday (Nov 3) at the refinery, where workers would have met Mr Klesch as proud new owner of the plant has been put on hold, sparking worry amongst workers and their families.

However, the best information that this newspaper has this evening (Nov 3) is that the deal – which involves a £100m loan guarantee from the Treasury and a £10m grant from the Welsh Government – has been delayed rather than cancelled. The new deadline for the plant to be sold is now Thursday (Nov 6).

Negotiations were going on at the highest levels of government over the weekend, and into Monday, the Herald has been told

Stephen Crabb MP who is central in the negotiations was in contact with The Herald on Saturday, and although was unable to comment did say that he felt that the lack of a break-though in the negotiations was “deeply frustrating”.

“This must be an awful time for the workers and their families”, said Mr Crabb.

He added: “Everyone is trying to keep the deal alive and talks continue.”

The refinery, which can process 135,000 barrels of oil per day opened in 1973 and its owner, Murphy Oil Corporation, had struggled to find a buyer since it was put on the market nearly four years ago.

KLESCH ALSO INTERESTED IN TATA STEEL

Sources: Negotiations at the 'highest levels of government' this weekend (IMAGE: MIKE HILLEN/HERALD)

Sources: Negotiations at the ‘highest levels of government’ this weekend (IMAGE: MIKE HILLEN/HERALD)

Tycoon Klesch, whose £4bn Klesch Group spans chemicals, metals, oils and trading, has also agreed last week to buy half Tata’s European steel business. The loss-making Long Products Division makes about 3m tons a year for buildings and railways

The deal sparked fears of heavy job cuts among its 6,500 workers, with almost 4,000 based at the 150-year-old Scunthorpe steelworks. Tata picked up the site when it bought Anglo-Dutch steel-maker Corus in 2007 for $13bn but has racked up heavy losses as sales slumped and cheaper Asian products flooded Europe.

Klesch insisted the sale does not include a dowry from Tata to cover redundancies, pensions, investment or future losses, but refused to give details of the terms.

Sources said the sale hinges on a deal with Tata — owner of Jaguar Land Rover — not to close Scunthorpe for up to four years. Klesch Group said: “The assertion that Tata Steel is transferring any monies in relation to this transaction is complete rubbish.”

The billionaire, who reportedly has yet to visit Scunthorpe, said he has given no guarantees on keeping sites open and has not spoken to the government.

Speaking to a reporter from The Times he said: “It’s not on the table. I’ve not been asked about it, but it’s not been something we’ve discussed. Until we go on site and determine what the right size of this workforce is, there’s not much we can do.”

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Learners ‘Dream Team’ logo is a hit

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Learners studying on the Cornerstone programme at Pembrokeshire College recently entered a competition set by Pembrokeshire People First (PPF) to design a logo for their Dream Team.

Made up of PPF’s four learning disability champions, The Dream Team make sure that the voices of people with learning disabilities are heard and they needed a logo that shows what they do.

College lecturer, Heidi Baker saw the competition and thought this would be a great project for her Cornerstone learners – a group of 14 students with learning disabilities who love to get creative.

To start the process the learners undertook some research into what makes a good logo and found that effective logos are: easy to recognise, colourful, simple, vibrant and don’t contain too many different colours or words.

The learners then invited members of The Dream Team into the College to ask them questions about what they do and what kind of logo they needed. This allowed the learners to build everything they needed into the design, including the fact that the logo had to be bilingual.

The learners submitted several designs and provided the judges with information on how they had developed their ideas. The judges were overwhelmed by the learners’ ideas and the efforts they had put into creating a logo including providing mock-ups of their designs on t-shirts and bags.

Following a couple of tweaks, The Dream Team will soon proudly be wearing the logo designed by Cornerstone learners.

Lecturer Heidi Baker commented: “It is great to have students with learning disabilities designing for The Dream Team. We’re proud to have created a truly collaborative logo – all the students had a hand in creating it – and we hope The Dream Team enjoy using it. We might be up for designing more logos in the future if anyone else out there is interested in commissioning us!”

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Pembrokeshire cottage letting agency offers free holidays to NHS heroes

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PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED holiday letting agency St Brides Bay Cottages has teamed up with its property owners and Operation Recuperation to offer free holidays to frontline healthcare workers. The family-run firm has announced the scheme to say thank you to the healthcare heroes who are risking their lives to keep the UK safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

The generous initiative will see healthcare professionals enjoy a well-deserved break in picturesque St Davids, Solva, Newgale or Porthgain, after the crisis is over. The scheme is part of Operation Recuperation, a UK-wide campaign launched to gift future stays in beautiful places to frontline healthcare providers.

Sam Sibbald, manager of St Brides Bay Cottages, based in Solva, said: “This is our way of showing our dedicated healthcare workers that we appreciate everything they’re doing in such difficult circumstances.

“I saw first-hand the pressure the NHS is under, when my dad had a stay in hospital last year. I could tell how pushed they were on a normal day-to-day basis, let alone with having COVID-19 to deal with. Now my dad is at home, needing carers every day, and I can see, more than ever, how much we rely on the people who look after us.

“We’re taking part in Operation Recuperation thanks to the generosity of our cottage owners. By gifting stays to these dedicated workers, we’ll be helping them to recover from the fight against coronavirus.”

Several cottage owners, whose properties are let by St Brides Bay Cottages, have come forward to donate stays in their holiday homes.

Among them is Sheila Morgan, who together with her husband Chris, owns The Anchorage, a two-bedroom apartment in Solva. She said: “As a retired nurse with medical staff in the family, I can fully appreciate the strains and stresses all NHS staff are going through at present. Thank you all for your sterling work. Hopefully the peace, quiet and Pembrokeshire air will aid recuperation.”

Debbie and Patrick Bowie-Moore, the owners of five-bedroom holiday home Mount Pleasant, in Solva, said: “The healthcare workers have offered their all, and it’s our privilege to give a family – who may have been kept apart – the opportunity to stay in Mount Pleasant as a massive thank you.”

Simon Baker, who owns Cefn y Mor, a four-bedroom property in Solva, said: “We are backing the Operation Recuperation project because we have family members on the frontline of the NHS, and know what risks they are taking, and what effort they are putting into saving lives. Our only effort is to stay at home and avoid infection. A small price to pay.”

Jim and Maureen Dale, whose three-bedroom holiday home, May Cottage, is situated on a grade II-listed farm, near St Davids, said: “Rarely do we get an opportunity to say thank you to the staff at the NHS – we tend to take the service so much for granted. Now the chips are down and there they all are, on the frontline looking after us all. Thank you all at the NHS.”

David and Judith James, who are offering a free stay at their converted watermill, Melin Llanrhian, near Porthgain, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support Operation Recuperation as a very small thank you to everyone in the NHS who has worked so hard in such challenging circumstances.”

Operation Recuperation is collecting donations – in room nights and cash – to give free stays to frontline healthcare staff, once the virus restrictions have been lifted.

Rachel Sherwood, who launched Operation Recuperation, said: “A huge thank you to St Brides Bay Cottages for proudly supporting Operation Recuperation and to the cottage owners who have donated stays in this stunning part of Wales, despite very challenging times.

“Sometime in the not-too-distant future, a number of our frontline healthcare staff will be enjoying long clifftop walks, fresh seafood, lazy days on the beach and cosy evenings in sea-view cottages.”

To find out more about St Brides Bay Cottages and Operation Recuperation, visit: https://www.stbridesbaycottages.com/, email enquiries@stbridesbaycottages.com or call 01437 720027.

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Council pays out £2.5m in business grants to date

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has revealed that since Wednesday, 1st April, it has already paid out £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

The Authority’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller, said Council staff had been working hard to make the Covid-19 business grants payable as soon as possible

Explained Councillor Miller: “Payments started on Wednesday this week for those who qualify for grants linked to the National Non-Domestic Ratings (NNDR) system. We have already paid out around £2.5 million in grants to local businesses.

“Daily payment runs are being made in order that these can get into business bank accounts as soon as possible.

“We cannot unfortunately acknowledge receipt of applications but, once authorised, businesses will be emailed and the grant will be paid within two to three working days.”

Councillor Miller added: “If there are any issues with a grant application, or information is missing, a Council officer will be in touch to discuss the matter. A dedicated team has been set up to do this.”

For further business advice refer to the Council’s Business pages which can be accessed via the following link: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

This will enable access to the application form for the above grants, provide answers to frequently asked questions and links to further sources of advice through HMRC, Welsh Government, Department of Work and Pensions, Public Health Wales and other organisations.

For further enquiries not answered through the business pages, email: covid19@pembrokeshire.gov.uk and an officer will respond. Please view the business pages first.

For those who don’t qualify for the grants, Welsh Government will soon be making details available of how business can access other funding through an Economic Resilience Fund.

Details will be available on the Council’s business pages as soon as they are released by Welsh Government.

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