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Crabb urges UK Ministers to ‘recognise the strength of the Celtic Freeport bid’

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DURING Wales Office Questions last week (Jan 18), Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb, urged Wales Office Ministers to look at the strength of the Celtic Freeport bid – submitted to the UK Government by a public and private consortium across south west Wales.

The Celtic Freeport proposal brings together the skills, experience, and vision of Association British Ports (ABP), Neath Port Talbot Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and the Port of Milford Haven to secure investment in new industries.

Highlighting past failures of industrial policy which has left a trail of failed enterprises and parks in its wake, Crabb used the opportunity to urge Ministers to ‘recognise the strength of the Celtic Freeport bid’ and to back projects that work with the ‘grain of the private sector’ for maximum impact and success.

The Celtic Freeport bid, if successful, will accelerate new green industries such as Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) in the Celtic Sea and hydrogen production – triggering investment in the region of £5.5 billion and creating over 16,000 high-quality green jobs.

Momentum for the bid continues to build with over 100 supporters from cross-party, public sector and industry support, from Tata Steel and RWE to Manufacturing Wales and South Wales Industrial Cluster having already come forward to back the bid.

In addition to raising the freeport bid in the House, the Conservative Preseli Pembrokeshire MP and Labour Aberavon MP, Stephen Kinnock, co-hosted a drop-in briefing session for MPs and Peers (Wednesday 18th January) to hear direct about the Celtic Freeport bid from the consortium representatives on the day. The successful event drew attention to the economic story that the Freeport could help deliver for Wales and picked up more cross-party backers from independents, Plaid Cymru, Conservative and Labour members at the meeting.

Speaking to the BBC, who also attended the event, Stephen Crabb MP said, “I’ve enjoyed introducing fellow MPs and peers to the Freeport bid consortium representatives to talk through the scale of the opportunity, how the benefits can be secured for our area and why the case for Floating Offshore Wind is so compelling.

“This opportunity crosses all political divisions and that is what makes the Celtic Freeport bid so powerful. We want to secure as many benefits as possible for south west Wales by unlocking investment, jobs and skills to create a lasting economic legacy which will benefit future generations. And the MPs backing the bid so far recognise that this bid is the launch-pad to achieving this new era of manufacturing and green jobs.”

Tom Sawyer, Chief Executive of the Port of Milford Haven, who attended the event organised by Stephen Crabb in Parliament, said: “With cross-party support from across Wales, the briefing session for MPs and peers builds on the fantastic backing we’ve received from the Senedd, local councils and social partners. Our bid will accelerate the nation’s path to a greener future firmly rooted in two expanded deep-water energy ports at Port Talbot and Milford Haven. The new supply chains we are developing will bring the economic benefits of long-term, well paid, highly skilled jobs to the four corners of Wales and into the UK. Whether it’s creating a new green industry in floating offshore wind or forging a hydrogen economy, Celtic Freeport will be great for Wales.”

ABP’s Chief Executive, Henrik Pedersen, commented, “I am delighted to see the strong cross-party support for the transformational Celtic Freeport bid. The Celtic Freeport will unlock new economic growth, fast-track future green skills for new green industries and advance manufacturing across the whole of Wales. It will also position the ports of Milford Haven and Port Talbot at the heart of emerging green technologies such as floating offshore wind, while supporting industrial decarbonisation and the UK’s transition to net zero. The Celtic Freeport will be great news for Wales and the UK. I urge everyone to back the bid.“

With the UK and Welsh Governments expecting to determine the success of the bid in March, alongside 2 other freeport bids which have been submitted from other regions in Wales, there is still time to show support at www.celticfreeport.com

Cover image: Stephen Crabb MP, Tom Saywer CEO of Port of Milford Haven, Simon Hart MP and Stephen Kinnock MP at the MP and Peer drop-in session held last week.

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Milford Haven: Police investigating sexual assault

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POLICE are investigating an incident of sexual assault which occurred in Hakin, Milford Haven.

Milford Haven Police say that the alleged incident took place in Croft Avenue on February 7, 2023 at around 19:50hrs.

If anyone is able to give any information regarding this incident please ring 101 quoting reference DPP/0956/07/02/2023/02/C.

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Pembrokeshire County Council faces less bleak finances than previously expected

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL faces a less bleak financial position than had previously been expected, to the tune of nearly £10m, members of a schools committee have heard.

At the February 6 meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack, presented outline draft 2023-’24 budget proposals to members.

He told members an updated draft budget was to be reported to the February meeting of the council’s Cabinet after a previously feared funding gap of £28m was now smaller, at £18.6m, due to a higher settlement from Welsh Government.

An expected 3.5 per cent settlement ended up being 7.9 per cent, which meant some expected cuts were now unlikely to happen, he told committee members.

“A large number of the most severe cuts are now very, very unlikely; we’re now looking at a deficit of £18.6m, it’s not as severe as it was.

“The officer team is looking at how that funding gap could be closed with budget savings and with different levels of council tax.”

Members heard the budget is expected to be addressed through an increase in council tax – potentially in the area of 7.5 per cent – along with significant cost reductions.

Director of Resources John Haswell said: “It was a better settlement, but still an £18.6m gap; this isn’t a one-year issue, this is an issue over the medium-term plan, over £50m over the four-year period.”

He said that Pembrokeshire, having the lowest council tax rates in Wales, meant that each potential percentage increase returned less than other local authorities.

Members heard papers listing the latest budget proposals for Cabinet discussion are expected to be released soon, in advance of the February 13 meeting.

Members agreed to defer making any recommendations to Cabinet, pending the release of the revised papers.

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Welsh Freeport competition heats up with Senedd vote

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ON WEDNESDAY, the Senedd will hold a debate regarding freeports as the competition for UK and Welsh Government funding nears its conclusion.

Currently, three bids are in from across Wales for a chance to benefit from £26 million of direct UK Government funding, as well as reduced taxes for businesses in the freeport area. A Welsh freeport could see up to 16,000 jobs created and further investment or the local area into the billions.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS said:

“Benefits of a freeport cannot be understated, bringing much needed jobs and investment into some of the most deprived areas of Wales.

“The UK Government put the challenge to Wales to submit exceptional bids, and Wales has delivered.

“All three bids would help to transform their local communities in different ways. It’s essential that the UK and Welsh Governments work together to deliver that second freeport for Wales, maximising the opportunities that these bids have to offer.”

The three Welsh Freeport bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport (covering Pembrokeshire to Neath) which has estimated that it would create over 16,000 new jobs and up to £5.5 billion in new investment.
  • The Anglesey Freeport would support up to a £1 billion contribution to UK GDP by 2030, while also creating up to 13,000 new, high salary jobs in Ynys Môn.
  • The Newport Freeport (including Cardiff Airport) is aiming to increase non-passenger revenues to 50%, ending their reliance of passenger generated income.

The UK Government stated that “if a truly exceptional proposal were presented at the bidding stage” than a second freeport would be funded.

The Welsh Conservative debate reads:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Recognises the opportunities for freeports to energise the Welsh economy, create high quality jobs, promote regeneration and investment.

2. Notes that three bids from Wales have been submitted for consideration by the UK and Welsh Governments.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to deliver two freeports in Wales, recognising the truly exceptional proposals submitted and the transformational benefits they can deliver for the Welsh economy.

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