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‘Nothing to apologise for’ over Wales Covid rules says Mark Drakeford

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FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford has rejected Conservative calls for him to apologise to pubs and restaurants for the impact of Wales’ coronavirus restrictions. 

During the weekly First Minister’s Questions, Tory leader Andrew RT Davies accused Mark Drakeford of keeping tighter restrictions in place than were in force in England during the outbreak of the omicron variant. 

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS called on Mark Drakeford to apologise to business owners across the country and increase financial support to help them survive and thrive.

But during today’s First Minister’s Questions, Drakeford insisted he had “absolutely nothing to apologise for” and refused to make more cash available for businesses.

The Tories say that many business owners are anxious that the money set aside by Labour ministers won’t even scratch the surface when it comes to recouping losses over the festive period and covering staffing costs.

Davies also pressed the First Minister to reveal what metrics will be used to judge when restrictions such as vaccine passports and masks to be removed in Wales.

However, Drakeford swerved the question, failing to outline criteria that would have to be met.

Commenting after the FMQ exchange, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS, said: “The First Minister’s refusal to apologise for the damage his overzealous restrictions have done to companies across Wales will feel like a massive slap in the face for business owners.

“Traders have been shouting from the rooftops that the current financial package isn’t enough and it’s clear they need more, but as well as refusing to say sorry, the First Minister is also refusing to provide them any additional support to compensate for the lost trade.

“It was also disappointing that the First Minister couldn’t give the Senedd a full and frank answer about what criteria has to be met before the use of COVID passports and other anti-business restrictions are dropped in Wales.

“Welsh residents and businesses deserve answers and clarity so they can start planning for a time when they can trade and live their lives as normal again, but Labour ministers are leaving the country in limbo.”

In response the First Minister said he had “absolutely nothing to apologise for.”

He said: “The Conservative Party in Wales has a great deal to apologise for, in the way that it has time after time, sought to deny people in Wales and businesses as well the protections that are needed from a global pandemic.

“We put in measures that were designed to make sure that lives were saved in Wales, and that businesses could go on trading and there’s absolutely nothing to apologise for in doing that, because those measures were necessary, and those measures have been effective.”

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Business

New McDonald’s restaurant to be built in Milford Haven if planning approved

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MC DONALD’S will be coming to Milford Haven if plans are passed by local councillors. Planning applications have been submitted this month by the fast food giant to open a new drive-thru style branch at Haven Heads Business Park.

Currently Milfordians who are hungry for a Big Mac and fries have to drive to Haverfordwest or Pembroke Dock.

The plans require the existing Unit G – next to Hakin Bridge – to be demolished and a new building to be constructed.

From the plans submitted we can see that – if approved – the restaurant will look like the computer image below.

How the Milford Haven Branch will look

The fast food giant has over 1300 branches in the UK, with Birmingham Liverpool and Glasgow having the most outlets with 17 stores each per city. Mc Donalds has over 136,000 staff or ‘crew members’ as they call them in the UK.

Location for the proposed McDonald’s Drive Thru (Google Streetview)
Plans for new Mc Donalds are on the PCC website
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Business

Employment figures show ‘labour market is strong’ says local MP Stephen Crabb

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FIGURES published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics show that unemployment is falling across the country while the number of unfilled job vacancies continues to increase.

The UK unemployment rate for January to March 2022 decreased by 0.3% on the quarter to 3.7%. The number of job vacancies has also increased nationally with 1.295 million job vacancies on average across February to April 2022, up from 1.261 million in the previous quarter. For the first time ever, there are fewer unemployed people than job vacancies. 

In Preseli Pembrokeshire, the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits aged 16-64 has decreased by 37% from 2,316 to 1,445 in a year, as more people take advantage of the growing number of job opportunities locally. Those claiming unemployment related benefits in Preseli Pembrokeshire remains lower than that of the national average at 3.2% compared with 4%.

But figures published today show that prices are rising at their fastest rate for 40 years with inflation at 9%. The rate is expected to sustain and is on course to continue to increase over the course of the year. Mr Crabb has consistently spoken out to protect those on the lowest incomes, calling on the Government to offer further support to help ease the soaring cost of living.

Commenting on the latest figures, Mr Crabb told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We know that the pandemic has put a strain on the labour market, and I have been told by local businesses that staffing and recruitment has been a cause for concern. But these employment figures are extremely positive for Pembrokeshire, and show that the labour market is strong”

“The local job centre does a tremendous job at helping to fill vacancies through providing a tailored recruitment service for local employers. It is great to hear and see that people are making use of these services and seeking work”

“With the summer tourist season looming, no doubt local tourism and hospitality businesses in Pembrokeshire will continue to see an increase in the uptake of work”

“However, these positive figures sit in the backdrop of the cost of living crisis. Having recently met with Citizens Advice locally, and received many emails from worried constituents, I am acutely aware of the financial pressures that so many are facing and the need for some easing of the burden”

“I have been consistent in my calls for the Government to offer further support to those on low and middle incomes. With the latest inflation figures released today, this problem is only set to get worse and it is clear that without targeted action many will fall into real hardship and debt”

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Pembroke Dock: Five years in jail for Asda cashpoint robbery

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A PEMBROKE DOCK man has been jailed for five years for robbing a woman at knifepoint at the cashpoint at Asda on April 15.

Kieran Steven Brumby, 36, held a knife to the woman’s throat and demanded she hand over the £160 she was withdrawing from the cash machine.

He admitted the charge of robbery, and further pleaded guilty to charges of both possessing a knife in a public place and possessing 0.9g of cocaine.

Caged: Kieran Steven Brumby

Those in the court watched intently, as shocking CCTV footage was played, of the defendant holding a large kitchen knife against the victim’s throat.

When police arrested Brumby, who lives at Water Street, that evening, he denied that he was the person show in the CCTV footage. But at Swansea Crown Court on Monday (May 16) he pleaded guilty as charged.

The victim had stopped at the cash point to withdraw money before meet friends in Haverfordwest.

Brumby held the knife to her throat saying: “‘Give me the money”.

In a victim impact statement the woman said that she was suffering from sleepless nights, palpitations and nightmares about being attacked.

She said: “I feel depressed and anxious and constantly feel like somebody is behind me. I am checking over my shoulder every five minutes. If I leave the house feelings of panic rise.”

Brumby has previous conviction for possessing a shotgun without a certificate in 2009 and for breaching community orders.

Jon Tarrant, defending barrister, said his client’s long-term partner had walked out on him last year and that he had lost his employment and his home – affecting his client’s mental health.

“He can provide no explanation for his actions on this day,” said Mr Tarrant.

“He offers his profound apologies not only to the court but to his victim. He has profound regret and deep remorse for what he has done.”

Judge Geraint Walters said: “The victim impact statement shows the profound effect that your offending has had on your victim. A woman alone out in a, relatively speaking, remote location given the time of day.

“The effect of your offending in this case seems capable of being described as significant if not serious.

“I am not in doubt that this was to do with your cocaine habit.”
Judge Walters handed down a five-year sentence for the robbery, with a 12-month sentence for possession of the knife and a one-month sentence for cocaine possession to run concurrently.

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