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New vision to secure a bright future for Wales’ retail sector

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BETTER pay and conditions, greater job security, improving career progression and a commitment to creating a skilled future workforce are at the heart of a new vision to revitalise Wales’ retail sector being launched this week by the Welsh Government.

The Shared Strategic Vision for the Retail Sector sets out how the Welsh Government, the sector and trade unions will work together in social partnership to ensure retail has a bright and sustainable future in Wales, which provides fair and rewarding career opportunities for its current and future workers.

The retail sector is hugely important to the Welsh economy. It is Wales’ largest private sector employer, providing jobs to more than 114,000 people, contributing 6% of Wales’ GVA.

The Welsh Government values the jobs, goods, community services and benefits the sector provides. Ministers are committed to working with partners to support a sustainable and prospering retail sector that remains at the heart of Welsh communities, which offers people fair work and real career opportunities.

The changing face of our town centres is vital to retail and in turn our town centres need a successful and resilient retail sector.

The Vision outlines the major challenges facing the sector, and defines the key areas where action is needed.

These include:

  • Improving career opportunities within retail, with a commitment to progressively improving pay, terms and conditions beyond statutory minimums, ideally through collective bargaining.
  • Greater job security, particularly in ensuring workers being offered guaranteed hours and sufficient notice of changes in shift patterns.
  • Retail becoming an exemplar of workforce equality, diversity and inclusion – with proactive steps taken to address under-representation, occupational segregation and pay gaps.
  • Ensuring fair working conditions and a safe working environment, with retail workers having an effective voice in decisions that affect them and their working conditions.
  • Ensuring Wales’ town centres and high streets are thriving, through interventions such as investment, including ‘Transforming Towns’ regeneration investment, support for non-domestic rates and, through the Welsh Government’s Town Centre First approach, making these settings the preferred location for workplaces and services.
  • Addressing skills shortages. Building on the Welsh Government’s Plan for Employability and Skills and in partnership with the sector and trades unions, Ministers are committed to helping to provide the sector with a future-proofed workforce. The plan sets out actions to both upskill existing workers and attract new entrants to the sector.
  • Helping retailers to seize the opportunities of decarbonisation and digitalisation by, for example, reducing their reliance on fossil fuels, minimising the carbon footprint of their supply chains and investing in and maximising the potential use of digital technology.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething and Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, are jointly launching the Vision today during a visit to independent bookshop, Storyville and Boots the Chemist in Pontypridd town centre.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Retail in Wales is hugely important to our economy, our communities, and our well-being as a nation. Retail is all around us in every part of Wales – in every village, town and city. We very much value the jobs, goods, community services and benefits it provides.

“Our appreciation of the retail sector, as a cornerstone of the foundational economy, has only grown through the Covid pandemic – but we know a successful and resilient retail sector does not happen by accident. That’s why it is important we nurture the environment in which it can grow and adapt, especially in response to shift to a more circular economy.

“The shared vision we are launching today commits the Welsh Government and the retail sector to an ongoing dialogue and close working to rise to the challenges ahead. We know there are no quick fixes, easy solutions, or infinite budgets. What we do have, however, is a willingness to work in social partnership, with the Welsh Government, employers, business representative bodies and trade unions working together to understand where we are now, where we want to get to, and how we can get there.

“The Welsh Government is determined to improve the quality of life and the conditions that will make Wales an attractive place for individuals and businesses to plan their futures. I firmly believe the retail sector has a vibrant future, and will continue to be a key player within the Welsh economy.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn said: “The retail sector is heavily dependent on its workforce. A better deal for retail workers – better pay, better terms and conditions, better training and better career prospects will help the retail sector overcome workforce recruitment and retention challenges, particularly at a time of high employment. This will help project retail as a long-term career of choice and equip the workforce to deliver even better levels of customer service.

“We must ensure retail workers have a genuine voice, predominantly through their trade unions, in helping to shape their working conditions and the future of work in the sector. Embedding the spirit of social partnership – where businesses and trade unions work together – must be a cornerstone of the retail sector of tomorrow.”

Sara Jones, Head of the Wales Retail Consortium said: “The Retail Vision provides welcome recognition of the retail industry, and our workforce, by the Welsh Government. The covid pandemic shone a spotlight on just how important a role our retailers play, as drivers of the economy and as community champions at the heart of our towns. The industry continues to face structural challenges that have only been accelerated over the last two years, however we know that there are opportunities to flourish and to create sustainable high streets and ensure retail remains a career of choice for many.

“The sector has a strong tradition of innovating and being at the forefront of new ideas, to the benefit of Welsh customers, and we look forward to building on these foundations in a truly collaborative approach with policymakers and leaders at all levels. Whether it be through the industry’s Climate Action Roadmap, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, or our significant charitable giving, retailers are continuously looking at ways to promote equality and opportunity for our workforce, suppliers and our communities, and be an effective contributor to society. We look forward to the next stage of the Retail Vision and the WRC being a key partner in delivering on these aspirations.”

Nick Ireland, Usdaw Regional Secretary said: “We have been working with the Welsh Government and our social partners for some time on how we can together tackle long established issues in the retail industry and we are delighted with the Vision that they have announced today. The industry as a whole was struggling before Covid-19 with record numbers of shop closures and job losses, so the ongoing commitment to support high streets and regenerate town centres is crucial.

“We not only need to secure jobs through helping the retail industry to prosper, but they must be good jobs with decent pay, that promote equality and bring an end to insecure contracts, which we have consistently called for in our ‘New Deal for Workers’ campaign. That is best achieved through collective bargaining with trade unions, which is an important part of this Vision for retail in Wales.

“Usdaw stands ready to build on the work we have done with the Welsh Government, business representative groups and by engaging with retail employers and seeking to deliver a highly motivated, well-trained and respected workforce. For too long retail work has been undervalued, this Vision gives us the opportunity to change that and give Welsh retail staff the dignity they deserve.”

The Strategic Vision will be followed by a delivery-focussed Action Plan in the coming months.

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Business

Plans for new Pembrokeshire ‘staycation’ dog daycare kennel

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A RESUBMITTED scheme for a twice-refused south Pembrokeshire dog boarding and day care centre, later dismissed on appeal, has been lodged with county planners.

Michelle Surname Bramwell, of Little Langdon, near Kilgetty, has resubmitted re-sited plans for a commercial dog boarding and day care centre with upgrade to access, parking and ecological enhancements at Little Langdon following the previously-refused application and appeal.

Kilgetty-Begelly Community Council support the application but asked for conditions relating to the access and increase in traffic at times be considered.

A supporting statement by agent Hayston Developments & Planning Ltd said: “Two previous applications to establish such a facility have recently been refused by the council with the latter application having also been dismissed at appeal in October 2023.

“In dismissing the appeal, although the Inspector concluded that such a business in this location could be acceptable in principle, the Inspector expressed concerns over the scale, siting and visual impact of the proposed development and how possible outdoor noise disturbance from associated activities could be satisfactorily controlled, such as through mitigation measures.

“This further application seeks to fully address the concerns expressed by both the council and the appeal Inspector. Therefore, significant revisions have been made to the layout and design details of the proposed development.”

Key changes include re-siting the development away from the lane, changes to the appearance, a reduction in size, and planting and landscaping, said Hayston.

It added: “One of the key benefits of such a proposal, as fully acknowledged by the appeal Inspector, was that with the proximity of several local visitor attractions it would provide a useful service to their customers, amongst other clients.

“As part of the appeal application, it was contended that with staycation on the rise and the increase in pet ownership, boarding kennels and day care services are in demand.

“The proposal would allow tourists to visit, knowing their dogs can board within a reasonable distance of their holiday accommodation. It would allow tourists to visit nearby attractions which quite often have no-pets policies, such as Oakwood, Manor Wildlife Park, the Dinosaur Park, Heatherton and Folly Farm.

“Further, there is a B & B facility at Langdon Farm Guest House located a short distance to the south of the application property which has a no pet policy.

“In our view, the establishment of this boarding kennels and day care facility would only benefit the economy of the local area.”

Hayston said that support for the application had been received from local holiday businesses including Celtic Holiday Parks, Reynalton; Hill Park Caravans, Pentlepoir; Stone Pitt Holiday Park, Begelly; and Langdon Guest house nearby.

The application will be considered by county planners at a later date.

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Business

Milford Waterfront major events partnership with Round Table

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FOLLOWING on from its successful partnership in 2023, Milford Waterfront is supporting Milford Haven Round Table as its Major Events Partner this year.

The partnership means that the group of local volunteers will be supported in their calendar of events throughout the year, which will enable them to raise funds for local good causes, as well as creating fantastic events for visitors and the local community to enjoy.

Upcoming events this year include:

  • The Big Beer Festival – Saturday 25th May
  • Milford Haven Carnival – Saturday 6th July
  • Fireworks Extravaganza Event – Tuesday 5th November

Speaking about the partnership, Natalie Hunt, Destination Manager at Milford Waterfront said: “We are very pleased to be continuing our strong partnership with the Milford Haven Round Table.

“The events they arrange for Milford Haven are always showstoppers that bring so much fun to the area. We are sure everyone will join us in our excitement to bring them back this year!”

Rob Allen, Chair of the Milford Haven Round Table added: “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Milford Waterfront for their unwavering support of Milford Haven Round Table. Their commitment to community involvement enriches our events and fosters stronger connections within Milford Haven.

“We eagerly anticipate collaborating with them on future endeavors to further enhance our community together.”

Former volunteers and family members of those involved in past years are especially welcomed. We look forward to seeing you.

See the website www.pdht.org also Facebook and X for further details.

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Business

Civil Aviation Authority highlights importance of aerospace industry in Wales

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CUTTING-EDGE technology, aircraft maintenance advancements, and pioneering aircraft recycling initiatives were seen by the UK Civil Aviation Authority as part of its engagement in Wales this week.

The visit by the regulator’s Chair Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief Executive Rob Bishton, and the UK Civil Aviation Authority Board highlights the pivotal role Wales plays in shaping the future of air transport safety and sustainable operations.

GE Aerospace, British Airways Maintenance, Wales Air Ambulance, and ecube were all visited as part of the two-day engagement.

The visit coincided with a Civil Aviation Authority Board meeting held in Cardiff on Wednesday, and forms part of the regulator’s commitment to strengthening ties with its stakeholders across the UK’s aviation and aerospace industry.

Sir Stephen Hillier, Chair of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:

“The UK’s aerospace industry is always evolving, and the industry in Wales plays an integral role in this evolution. As the regulator, it is vital that we keep pace with the rapidly changing technologies and needs of consumers in order to support our mission of protecting people and enabling aerospace.

“Our outreach work in Wales and across the UK is more important than ever, and we continue to engage with all stakeholders across the country to make aviation safer, greener, and better for passengers and the public, both home and abroad.”

Sir Stephen, Rob Bishton, and Board members toured the engine test facility at the GE Aerospace site, which has been maintaining and overhauling Boeing and Airbus aircraft engines for more than 80 years.

The Civil Aviation Authority delegation also saw how the British Airways outfitter British Airways Maintenance engineering team are overhauling and upgrading their airline’s 777 and 787 aircraft.

In addition, the Board saw the largest air ambulance operation in the UK, Wales Air Ambulance, and ecube, a global aircraft storage, disassembly, and recycling and upcycling company, visited as part of the Civil Aviation Authority’s commitment to a greener future in aviation.

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