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Rules relaxed for recycling



Recycle logoTHANKS to their high recycling rate, the construction and demolition sectors do not need compulsory site waste management plans to improve the way they manage waste, Natural Resources, Culture and Sport Minister John Griffiths has announced. The Welsh Government launched a consultation last year on site waste management plans. The consultation included a proposal for regulations to require developers, builders and contractors to consider how to prevent, minimise and recycle waste when planning a new construction or demolition project. The majority of consultation responses were supportive of proposals for site waste management plans for large works, but there were mixed views on the impact on smaller firms, enforcing the plans and fees. John Griffiths said: “Recent studies estimate that the 87% of construction and demolition waste is recycled, prepared for re-use or recovered for use elsewhere. Our target is for the industry to achieve 90% by 2019/20, so the sector is on track and I congratulate them for their efforts so far. “I am keen to support businesses, and the industry has already demonstrated that it can achieve high recycling rates. With this in mind, I intend to adopt site waste management plans as a voluntary code of practice in Wales, to be accompanied by best practice guidance. “The code and guidance will be developed with the industry, focusing on preventing waste, preparation for re-use as well as recycling for businesses, and to ensure it is practical, effective and meets the needs of the industry.” The Welsh Government will work with the industry to develop the guidance.

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Concerns over risk to public funds in TVR deal



TAXPAYERS could face a multi-million-pound bill after the Welsh Government spent more than £14m on a failed attempt to attract sports car manufacturer TVR to Wales.

Adrian Crompton, the auditor general for Wales, said the Welsh Government spent £4.75m buying the former Techboard factory in 2021 and £7.6m on refurbishment.

TVR received a £2m five-year loan and a £500,000 investment from the public purse, with the aim of creating 150 jobs and building 2,000 sports cars in Ebbw Vale by 2020.

But at the turn of 2024, the carmaker confirmed it no longer wants to lease the factory – or locate production in Wales – after announcing a new base in Hampshire.

Mr Crompton, who oversees the annual audit of some £24bn of public money, said selling the building for a market value of about £7.5m would net taxpayers a loss of £4.85m.

In a letter dated July 12, he told a Senedd committee that ministers have been trying to find an alternative tenant since November, with TVR paying a £322-a-month rent in that time.

Mr Crompton wrote that the 180,000 sq ft factory – which could generate an income of about £735,000 a year – has attracted some market interest but no formal offers.

Wales’ auditor general said Welsh Government officials’ advice was not to award a contract for the factory refurbishment in advance of a lease agreement with TVR

But he told the public accounts committee: “In August 2020, the minister wrote to TVR telling them the Welsh Government would progress refurbishment with or without them.”

Refurbishment of the factory, which was initially expected to cost £4.5m in 2017, was finally completed in July 2023 with the budget having ballooned to £7.6m.

Taxpayers could be on the hook for a botched investment in the company’s shares, the letter revealed, despite TVR being deemed a high-risk business at the time.

The Welsh Government bought 3.3% of the sports car manufacturer in 2016 but the public’s stake in the company has since more than halved to 1.6%.

TVR received a multi-million investment as part of a joint venture with Ensorcia, a lithium-mining business, which diluted the Welsh Government’s shareholding in 2021.

In May, ministers received external advice about the TVR stake – including a lower valuation than paid in 2016 – and secured an option to sell the shares back to the company.

Officials are now preparing ministerial advice for a decision on whether to sell the shares at a loss or retain the investment in the hope the price increases.

Mr Crompton said TVR breached loan requirements in September 2016 because it had not secured a promised £5.5m private-sector investment to start production.

He added that TVR negotiated extensions to the Welsh Government’s loan default requirement, which otherwise would have led to early repayment in full

In April 2022, TVR paid the Welsh Government £4.3m, covering the £2m loan and accrued interest, which released the company from a requirement to base itself in Wales.

Mr Crompton wrote: “The Welsh Government had to extend the loan repayment period but still achieved a return on investment when TVR eventually repaid it….

“Full repayment has now removed the conditions that were originally attached to the loan.”

In his briefing, the auditor general said he reviewed Welsh Government support for TVR after receiving correspondence that expressed concerns about the risk to public funds.

Mr Crompton pointed out that the public purse will have incurred further costs in terms of officials’ time over many years, external advice and professional fees.

Ministers’ attempts to woo TVR coincided with the failed £425m Circuit of Wales project.

The proposals for a motor racing circuit in Blaenau Gwent collapsed in 2017, with Ken Skates, then-economy minister, refusing to underwrite a £210m loan.

In 2020, Mr Skates wrote off nearly £15m related to loans for the Circuit of Wales after failing to claw back taxpayers’ money.

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Seafish 2024 fishing fleet survey heading to Wales



FISHING vessel owners and skippers encouraged to join the annual survey of the UK fishing fleet from Monday 15 July

Seafish researchers will again be heading to harbours and ports around the UK this summer.

From July 15, Seafish, the public body that supports the UK seafood industry, will be conducting its fishing fleet survey to learn about the financial performance of fishing businesses and the demographics of their crew.

In Wales, the survey is scheduled to be hosted by Seafish fleet researchers Badis Khiari, Zachary Wong and Emma Kearns.

The process also gives vessel owners and skippers the opportunity to share details on how their business has fared in the last 12 months.

Seafish is encouraging all vessel owners and skippers to participate in the survey, as their input is instrumental in ensuring the fishing industry in the UK is moving in the right direction. The interviews take no longer than 15 minutes to complete and all responses are treated as strictly confidential, with no figures from any individual vessel revealed elsewhere.

This year researchers will be handing out a free First Aid at Sea Guide for every skipper or vessel owner that participates.

Juan Carlos Paredes Esclapez, Economics Project Manager at Seafish said: “Our fleet survey is an essential tool for monitoring the performance of our fishing industry. By taking part in this survey, vessel owners and skippers can help create an understanding of the challenges they face as well as new opportunities.

We encourage as many fishing businesses and vessel owners as possible to get involved in this year’s survey. The data collected is crucial for guiding policymakers, industry stakeholders, and businesses, ensuring the sector is prepared to tackle future challenges effectively”.

Fishing businesses who take part in the fleet survey can request a free benchmark report which compares their vessel’s economic performance to similar vessels and can help identify areas for improvements. It can also be used as evidence in grant or loan applications.

During last year’s fleet survey, many fishing vessel owners responded to the survey. Seafish’s Economics of the UK Fishing Fleet report for 2023 will be published later in the year, but initial findings show:

  • On business performance over the previous 12 months, 24% rated it poor or below average. 41% rated it average and 35% rated it above average or excellent.
  • On the outlook for business over the next 3-5 years, 17% rated it bad or very bad, while 37% rated it good or very good. Most people (46%) were neutral or unsure about their future performance.
  • The most mentioned factors to recent performance were abundance of catch (36% of respondents), operating costs (30%), the price of catch (25%) and access to labour (20%). Abundance and price of catch were seen as positive influences by most respondents, while operating costs and access to labour were seen as negative.

Labour continues to be a pressing issue for the UK fleet and the 2023 survey included a specific question on access to skilled labour, including UK and foreign crew.

Nearly half of respondents reported that this issue did not apply to them as they were single-handed vessels but among the remaining 201 people interviewed, 71% rated their access to skilled labour as bad or very bad. A tenth of respondents reported being negatively affected by changes to the transit visa regulations.

In general, 2023 findings suggest a slight improvement in vessel owners’ and skippers’ moods about their business performance.

How to get involved:

The schedule of when researchers are visiting areas across the UK is available on the Seafish website at Vessel owners can look out for researchers in ports and harbours across the summer.

Those who want to pre-arrange an appointment to take part in the surveys can email [email protected] If you have questions about the survey or enquiries about how industry estimates could be used to support your business, please contact the fleet survey team on [email protected] or 07966 764150.

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The King celebrates tech giant Sony’s 50th year in Wales



SONY UK TEC welcomed The King to its state-of-the-art facility in Pencoed to mark 30 years at the site and its 50th anniversary in Wales.

His Majesty was welcomed by the site’s Managing Director, Rob Wilson, as well as key representatives from Sony including President and CEO of Sony Corporation, Kimio Maki; Senior Executive Vice President of Sony Group Corporation, Kazushi Ambe; President of Sony Europe B.V., Masashi Takiguchi and Aki Matsuzawa, CFO of Sony Europe B.V.

As the longest-standing Japanese manufacturer in Wales, the visit marked five decades of Sony in Wales, after The King, as the Prince of Wales, played an instrumental role in encouraging the global company to invest in Wales in the early 1970s, going on to officially open the company’s first site in Bridgend in 1974.

During his visit to the site, His Majesty was taken on a tour of the 20,000 m2 state-of-the art facility and shown how the site’s commitment to innovation, community and excellence in manufacturing and technology has developed in the 50 years it has been present in Wales.

He met some of the site’s 600-strong team and was shown its world-renowned manufacturing processes and third-party manufacturing businesses.,

His Majesty also completed the 30,000th High-Definition Camera unit produced by the site, celebrating yet another proud milestone for Sony and Welsh manufacturing.

The Sony journey in Wales began in 1974 in Bridgend. The site commenced manufacturing Colour Televisions, inspired by conversations between His Majesty and Co-Founder of Sony, Akio Morita (KBE) during a visit to Japan.

In 1993, Sony Pencoed was opened by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and it now produces professional Sony HD and 4K broadcast equipment for customers worldwide.

Repatriating Raspberry Pi manufacturing in 2012 invigorated the local economy and generated hundreds of job opportunities. To date, the facility has produced 50 million Raspberry Pi units and currently serves several other third-party clients with its contract manufacturing capabilities. 

Over the decades, Sony UK TEC has grown and adapted to the dynamic manufacturing and technology landscape, evolving into a hub for cutting-edge manufacturing. The site has won numerous prestigious awards, including several Queen’s Awards for Export and Environment, Britain’s Best Factory Award, two national Make UK awards for Developing Future Talent and Innovation, and most recently, the Green Dragon Environmental Standard Level 5 Award.

Through the Sony Wales Academy, launched onsite in 2014, the company integrates apprentices, graduates, and learners into its workforce while engaging thousands of pupils through its school visit programme. These initiatives have successfully integrated 55 Higher Apprentices and 36 Graduates and supported 56 Sony learners in their pursuit of higher education. Its school visit programme has captivated over 31,000 primary and secondary students to date.

Notably, all procured electricity is green and renewable. Additionally, its on-site environmental centre hosts nine colonies of honeybees, with volunteer staff trained in beekeeping by Bridgend Beekeepers. Honey produced by the hives is sold in the staff restaurant, with proceeds donated to local charities.

The King’s visit to Sony UK TEC to celebrate its significant 50 and 30-year milestones is just one of the company’s celebrations during its anniversary year. Other celebrations include its annual long service awards, recognising team players who have accumulated over 1,100 years of dedicated service, a team-building day for its 600 staff where they collaboratively created a commemorative 50/30 piece to display onsite, and a family day for employees paying homage to the site’s Welsh and Japanese heritage.

Managing Director of Sony UK TEC, Rob Wilson commented told Herald.Wales: “We are now in our 50th year of Sony in Wales. It is a true honour and a privilege to have The King on site to join in with our celebrations, having played such an instrumental role in our journey. We are also honoured to welcome esteemed members of the Sony global leadership team for this special event.

“I am incredibly proud of our achievements, which are a testament to the dedication and hard work of our exceptional team. Our journey has been one of innovation and collaboration, supported by the wider Sony family. Having been with the company since 1989, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the remarkable growth and transformation of our Pencoed facility. While we celebrate our milestones, we remain committed to reaching new heights and are deeply grateful for the unwavering support of our customers, partners, and suppliers.”

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