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Pembrokeshire MP calls on Government to Secure Access to Cash

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Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb has joined the Association of Convenience Stores, British Retail Consortium, Federation of Small Businesses, Positive Money and Responsible Finance in urging the Chancellor to use next week’s Budget to secure long-term access to cash across the UK.

Stephen Crabb has endorsed action on access to cash in a private letter to the Chancellor submitted today (Thursday). The letter outlines that to secure long-term access to cash, the Chancellor should use his Budget to:

• Reverse the arbitrary cuts to LINK interchange fees paid by banks to fund the network
• Exempt free-to-use ATMs from business rates bills
• Recognise that ATMs are the only infrastructure through which to guarantee national access to cash

ATM closures and big banks leaving communities behind are threatening the future of cash. Research commissioned by the Payment Systems Regulator shows that ‘the majority of consumers use cash regularly’ while the Access to Cash Review has found that eight million adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said: “In many rural areas cash machines have been disappearing at an alarming rate despite the fact that lots of people still prefer to use cash. Many small businesses have yet to make the move to contactless or digital payments because mobile and internet coverage is so weak in rural areas. There is a danger of cash deserts emerging in areas where there are no ATMs or bank branches. I hope the Chancellor and his team at the Treasury consider what steps need to be taken to address these trends”.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We acknowledge the growth in digital payments but access to cash remains crucial for the millions who still rely on it for essential purchases. We need a planned approach to changing payment methods instead of the haphazard removal of free to use ATMs from communities.

“Cash back is not a workable replacement for the whole ATM network and comes with costs and security risks for businesses. We need the Chancellor to take action at the Budget to reverse cuts to interchange fees and exempt free to use ATMs from business rates that are making them unsustainable for ATM operators and local shops to host.”

British Retail Consortium Head of Payments Policy Andrew Cregan said: “Cash accounts for almost 40% of retail transactions and is important to many vulnerable people, especially as a tool for budgeting and control. Government should safeguard consumers’ access to cash by ensuring retailers are fairly rewarded for providing cashback services to customers and protecting the viability of free-to-use ATMs.”

Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Cash is the payment method of choice for millions of small business customers, and millions more see it as an important part of the payments mix. There are some straightforward steps that the Chancellor can take on Wednesday to bolster our rapidly declining cash infrastructure. Removing business rates on free-to-use cash points is a good starting point. This a prime example of the many stifling quirks that exist within the archaic rates system. Equally, if the Treasury wants more small businesses to offer cashback, it must ensure they are given sufficient financial support to take that on.”

Positive Money Executive Director Fran Boait said: “After being bailed out by the public, banks have repaid the favour by slashing support for free ATMs, making us pay to access our own money. The Chancellor must stand up to banks’ cost-cutting in the Budget and make sure it is them and not the public who pay for Britain’s cash machine network.”

Responsible Finance Chief Executive Theodora Hadjimichael said: “The perils of relying on a single payment method have been illustrated by the weaknesses of digitalised financial systems, and the rapidly decreasing availability of free-to-use cash machines leaves million of people struggling to make payments, including the elderly and vulnerable. Paying for access to cash can compound the poverty premium for low-income families who rely on cash for their day to day budgeting and spending. It is critical that the Chancellor acts now to secure long-term access to cash across the UK.”

LINK, the ATM network body, is required under Specific Direction 8 from the Payment Systems Regulator to ensure the ongoing availability of access to free-to-use ATMs for consumers across the country. However, LINK’s own data shows over 500 free-to-use ATMs are closing every month and one-in-ten areas no longer have free access to cash via an ATM despite LINK’s commitments under the Financial Inclusion Programme.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet endorses STEP Fusion application

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Cabinet have today endorsed proposals from Cllr Paul Miller (Cabinet Member for Economic Development) to further progress the nomination of a Pembrokeshire site to host a Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion power station in the county.

Working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), the proposed site is adjacent to the existing energy facilities on the South Shore of the Haven waterway.

If approved, the facility will initially host research with the ultimate aim of developing this technology which could offer a virtually limitless source of clean electricity by copying the processes that power the sun.

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Development said: “I am pleased my Cabinet colleagues endorsed this important programme of work. The Haven Waterway has provided livelihoods, underpinned by fossil fuels, for thousands of Pembrokeshire families, mine included, for more than 50 years. It’s my job to help ensure the waterway continues to provide high skilled, engineering, science and technology jobs for the next generation of this county – and so linked to our focus on climate change (and in addition to our existing multi-million pound commitments to supporting wind, wave and tidal clean power generation) my team have been exploring whether we can also support the development of clean, green fusion technology.

“It’s very early days in the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s site selection process but we’ll provide regular updates as things progress.”

•       STEP is an ambitious programme to design and build a prototype fusion power plant;
•       It is a UKAEA programme, currently with £222m funding from the UK Government to produce a concept design by 2024: https://step.ukaea.uk/

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Re-opening of indoor hospitality and attractions at Milford Waterfront

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RESTAURANTS and indoor visitor attractions in Milford Waterfront are welcoming the return of indoor services from today.

The re-opening of indoor dining allows all restaurants at Milford Waterfront to seat customers indoors. As well as all restaurants on the Waterfront now being able to offer this service, the brand-new Foam Domes overlooking the Milford Haven Waterway are able to open, with bookings being taken from the 19th May.

Indoor visitor attractions are also allowed to re-open. This includes the Waterfront Gallery, which is open today and Phoenix Bowl & Pirate Pete’s Adventure Play which is making preparations to open from Wednesday 19th May. Also, Milford Museum, which has had a new rendered exterior finish, is preparing to open for the end of May.

Lucy Wonnacott, Marketing Manager for Milford Waterfront commented: “We are delighted to see the re-opening of indoor hospitality and visitor attractions here at Milford Waterfront. Each business has their own safety and social distancing measures in place and we kindly ask that you respect and adhere to these for your own safety, and that of others. We hope you enjoy your visit to Milford Waterfront and stay safe!”

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Newly elected Member of the Senedd completes first week in the role

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FOLLOWING on from the Welsh Parliamentary elections, the newly elected member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Samuel Kurtz MS, has reflected on his first week in his new role.

The election saw Samuel receive 11,240 votes from across the constituency, the largest number of votes for any Welsh Conservative candidate in the constituency for a Senedd election. It was a closely fought campaign which was conducted respecting Covid-19 restrictions.

Commenting after a busy first week, Sam said:

“It has certainly been a whirlwind. From the moment that the results were announced last Friday my feet haven’t touched the ground.

“After speaking with a number of local and national media outlets, I managed to spend some time with loved ones before heading up to the Senedd early on Monday morning to be sworn in.

“As a Welsh speaker, I was delighted to swear my oath bilingually and will ensure that I continue to do so when speaking in the chamber.

“I’m in the process of recruiting my staff and getting both my Senedd and Constituency office set up to ensure that I can continue the good work of my predecessor, Angela Burns, in standing up for the interest of all my constituents whether they voted for me or not.

“On Wednesday, we elected the Llywydd and Deputy Llywydd as well as confirming Mark Drakeford as the First Minister. As one of 19 new members across the chamber and nine Welsh Conservatives, the coming weeks will be spent learning the ropes and procedures in Cardiff Bay. Over the course of the campaign, I have picked up a several issues and pieces of  casework from across the constituency and will be ensuring that the constituency work is always my priority.

“As we emerge from the Covid restrictions and society begins to open back up I am looking forward to getting to every corner of the constituency, meeting more businesses and individuals.

“I am planning in making use of both modern and traditional methods of connecting with constituents, from email newsletters, social media platforms and virtual surgeries to doorstep surgeries and face to face meetings, to ensure I provide a strong voice in Cardiff Bay for this beautiful part of the country.”

Samuel is contactable via email on Samuel.kurtz@senedd.wales

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