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Budget is good news for Pembrokeshire

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AS PART of a series of payments made from the Westminster Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ Fund, the regeneration of Haverfordwest’s town centre got a massive shot in the arm.

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb has welcomed the announcement that £17.7m has been secured from the UK Government Levelling Up Fund for Pembrokeshire.

Pembrokeshire is in the first tier of areas eligible for the Levelling Up Fund created by the UK Government to replace EU funding. The funds are being financed directly by the Westminster Government. Today, local Councils across the UK are finding out which bids have been successful.

Mr Crabb has been working with Pembrokeshire County Council on the bid to the Levelling Up Fund to support the ongoing regeneration of Haverfordwest town centre. The bid focused on the need to make the historic town centre a more attractive place for visitors.

Now that this money has been secured, it will enable the restoration of the 900-year-old historic castle into a high-quality all-weather visitor attraction and develop the river’s potential as a feature of the town centre.

Commenting, Mr Crabb said: “I have worked hard to support Pembrokeshire County Council in their bid to the Levelling Up Fund and make the case to the Treasury about why Pembrokeshire should be put at the front of the queue for this funding.”

“I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened.

“It means that the money I have secured for Pembrokeshire can turn these plans and aspirations for Haverfordwest town centre into reality. It is now up to Pembrokeshire County Council to use this money to support traders and boost local economic activity.”

MINIMUM WAGE RISE

The headline takeaway from a Budget long on levelling up and short of detail on what it would like is a hike in the UK’s minimum wage.

From April 1, 2022, workers over 23 will get a minimum wage rise from £8.91per hour to £9.50.

While the increase is welcome, it is counterbalanced by increased personal taxation on income, rising prices, and the accompanying cut in entitlement to Tax Credits for those who get the rise.

However, the Chancellor took the chance to change a system that perversely punishes working extra hours or earning more by a loss in Tax Credit payments and/or Universal Credit.

Before the Budget, for every £1 earned over the Tax Credit limit, Universal Credit recipients lost 63p in what the Chancellor described as “a tax on work”. Mr Sunak cut that to 55p/£1. Setting the level at that originally intended when the taper in Tax Credits was originally proposed by Iain Duncan-Smith.

While that sort of measure would usually only come into effect at the start of a new tax year (in this case, next April), the Chancellor told the Commons the cut will come into effect no later than December 1.

That means earnings by those affected by the current arrangements will rise in the run-up to Christmas.

An increase in the National Minimum Wage will be affected by an increase in inflation, especially as the rise in the former will not come in until next year.

On top of that, the Chancellor announced a £500 increase in the threshold for the basic income tax rate.

Mr Sunak claimed a single mother with one child earning the National Minimum Wage would be better off by over £1,100 per year.

DUTIES CUT AND FROZEN

In what’s bound to be a popular move with pub-goers, the Chancellor announced an overhaul of duties on alcohol.

Describing the system as ‘outdated’ and ‘complex’, Mr Runak slashed the number of different duties from sixteen to five.

The strongest drinks (for example, white cider) will see their prices rise. However, beers, ciders, and fruit ciders will see a significant reduction in duty for on-licensed sales.

Fruit ciders, subject to their own duty, will see the largest cut in duty, while beer and cider will fall in price by an average of around 3p/pint.

There will be no increase in excise duty on whiskies. At the same time, sparkling wines had a massive duty cut, reducing their price to reflect their increased popularity and lower alcohol content.

The Chancellor combined those announcements with an extension of rates relief for licensed premises and specific relief on draught beer sales.

Mr Sunak also announced a freeze on fuel duty.

NOT SO NEW MONEY

A Raft of spending pledges made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Budget speech on Wednesday (October 26) consisted of repackaged spending commitments already made.

A large announcement that England’s city regions would get £6.9bn to spend on new transport infrastructure contained £1.5bn of new funding. The balance consisted of £4.2bn committed in 2019 under Theresa May’s Government and further funding for public transport, which the PM announced in 2020.

Similarly, £5.9bn of NHS funding for England is extra cash plus old spending commitments put in new wrappers.

MORE MONEY FOR WALES

Wales will receive extra funding through the Barnett formula – a mechanism the UK government uses to allocate additional money to the devolved nations when it spends more in England.

However, Mr Sunak said Wales would benefit by £2.5bn over the Barnett formula over the term of the three-year spending review.

The most contentious uses of Westminster’s powers, the levelling up and shared prosperity funds, are added to that funding. Money from them will be paid directly to those commissioning eligible projects and not to the Welsh Government.

Part of Westminster’s rationale is that the Welsh Government does not target spending on priorities it identifies as UK-wide.

For example, if the Westminster Government said it would invest £6bn in the NHS in England, Wales would get £300m. However, that money could be spent where the Welsh Government saw fit and not necessarily where Westminster intended it to go.

The Welsh Government’s position is straightforward; all money spent in Wales on matters over which it exercises control should be allocated to the priorities it identifies. It will not or cannot separate specific funding from Westminster’s overall spending grant.

The Chancellor’s announcement of extra funding for specific projects in Wales, bypassing Cardiff Bay, will increase tensions between Westminster and the Welsh Government.

RAISING REVENUE

The Chancellor cannot long put off dealing with two specific problems affecting government funding.

The first is well-known, but action has so far been avoided: the shrinking tax base.

The UK government raises around £800 billion a year in receipts – income from taxes and other sources – equivalent to around 37% of the size of the UK economy, as measured by GDP.

The majority are from three main sources: income tax, National Insurance contributions (NICs) and value-added tax (VAT). Together these raise over £460 billion.

The UK’s working-age population is rapidly contracting. That means less money raised from direct taxation. The effects of the contraction on public finances are already being felt.

What the UK’s current workforce pays in National Insurance now doesn’t pay for or contribute to their pensions but their parents’ and grandparents’.

As people live longer and in worse health, workers now and in the future face paying more of their wages in tax to support the retired and elderly ill.

The weight of the pensions bill was £101bn in the last financial year, approximately two and a half times the total defence budget.

As a point of comparison, the total amount paid out in working-age unemployment benefits was a fraction under £2bn.

Taxes on consumption fall proportionately most heavily on those with the lowest incomes.

Imposing increased taxes on consumption would effectively cut the incomes of the lowest earners. It would also hit those voters in post-industrial marginal seats upon whom the Government depends for its majority.

REPLACING DUTY

The second issue is less acknowledged but no less challenging.

Fuel Duty raises £21bn a year.

Increased fuel efficiency in motor vehicles means they need to refuel less often. That means less fuel duty coming into the Treasury.

The Government aims to decrease reliance on cars for commuting, which will cut the amount of fuel duty even further.

Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles pay little or no Vehicle Excise Duty, and purely electric vehicles pay no fuel duty, either.

Unless there’s a significant change in tack, the Treasury will lose both fuel duty and Vehicle Excise Duty from its annual tax take in pretty short order.

Fuel duty alone amounts to £28bn of revenue each year, and Vehicle Excise Duty is another £6.5bn a year.

Planning to replace that revenue cannot be delayed.

Community

Haverfordwest Youth Club hosts successful open evening

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Credit - Haverfordwest Youth Club

HAVERFORDWEST Youth Club posted to their Facebook page to thank those who attended their open evening last night (June 30). 

They celebrated Youth Work Week by sharing their amazing new facility in Haverfordwest with the local community. 

Haverfordwest Youth Club

The open evening was located at the new venue at The Picton Centre. They had a range of activities including VR goggles, face painting and jewellery making.

Haverfordwest Youth Club wrote: “A special thank you to Haverfordwest Town Council, Sian – Haverfordwest Morrison’s Community Champion and Martin Jones from Ogi for supporting the evening. Also, to our members Sara, Amelia, Sureya, Pippa and Lily for volunteering their time to help on the evening”.

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Community

Milford Haven’s “To The Sea” carnival returns this weekend

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To The Sea is this year's theme

THE CARNIVAL returns to Milford Haven this Saturday (July 2), after a two year break. With a variety of events, rides and food, it is expected to be fun for all the family. 

This year’s theme is “To The Sea”. Milford Haven Round Table have organised an Under The Sea Parade which will form part of the procession.

This year’s procession will take on an exciting new route, ending at the new and exciting  Carnival Arena on Milford Waterfront. 

It will leave Waterloo Square at 1pm, and travel across Hakin Bridge and up Hamilton Terrace. The carnival will then proceed down Charles Street and Dartmouth Street before arriving at the Carnival Arena. 

Map of the procession (Credit – Milford Haven Round Table)

Acrobats, an animal club, live music, street food stalls, and an amazing “fly board” act on the water are among the fun activities and events planned for the Carnival Arena.

Entry to the arena is £1 for adults and 50p for children. The festivities are expected to begin at 1:30pm. 

Andrew Holmes Fun Fairs will be providing a range of rides and stalls at the Arena, such as the Sizzler, the Can Can, the Terminator and a Circus Funhouse. A superslide and games stalls will also be available. 

Rides and stalls will not accept cash on Carnival Day, but will instead be accepting tokens which are available from the grey token box at the entrance of the arena. 

Each token costs £1. It is advised to pay for tokens with cash. Although card is accepted to purchase tokens, due to the location of the Carnival Arena the signal may be a problem so the card readers may not work as planned. 

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Deputy chief whip made ‘massive misjudgements’, says cabinet minister

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A PEMBROKESHIRE MP has said that Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher appears to have made “massive misjudgements”.

Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, told GB News: “…my first reaction with all of this is always one of sadness rather than anger because so many people are affected by this.

“Clearly massive misjudgements appear on the face of it to have been made and and I think our first priority, rather than turning this into a sort of part of political discussion, with which it sounded almost dangerously like it was about to be, that we look after the interests of people who have been adversely affected by this.

“They must be and will remain our absolute first priority so that anybody in Parliament for any party who feels that they have ended up in one of the very unfortunate positions has an independent grievance procedure they can go to.

“They can expect to be heard, as I say, anonymously, and independently and I, that for me seems to be the priority that we should be addressing, rather than so try to use this as an opportunity to say notch up a couple of political goals that seems sort of sounds and feels to me a bit unedifying, in a very difficult situation.”

Speaking during an interview on Breakfast with Stephen Dixon and Anne Diamond, he was asked what he could say that will restore people’s faith in MPs.

Mr Hart said: “Me standing here alone, I probably, there isn’t a sentence or a word that I can use which is instantly going to change all of this and suddenly make everybody feel better about it.”

He added: “There isn’t a workplace in the land, which could say with absolute certainty that these sorts of things never happened.

“We want to minimise the risk and above all, we want to make people, we will make people proud to work here, people love working in this place, it is fantastic that most MPs do a really good job and take their standards incredibly seriously as do most of the staff who work here too.

“So yes, there are some really sad and unfortunate, very stark examples of where this goes wrong.

“Nine times out of 10 it doesn’t go wrong but when it does, I hope that there are measures in place…it’s still in its infancy. I hope it protects people’s interests as well, best we can.

“Nobody likes hearing these things. I mean, I’d much rather come on here and talk about other stuff but we have to confront these things when they come off.”

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