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Job cuts in Pembrokeshire after £90m Wilko bid fails



JOB cuts at Wilko’s head office and warehouses are expected to begin this week, including at the two Pembrokeshire stores, after a surprise £90m bid for the discount retailer fell through

It is understood that about a third of the 1,400 staff at the group’s headquarters and distribution centres are to be made redundant after talks with M2 Capital collapsed because a failure to provide proof of funding.

Talks on a rival bid from the HMV owner, Doug Putman, continue. It is understood that he does not want to hold on to Wilko’s back-office function, only the brand and its stores.

Almost 12,500 jobs are at risk after Wilko called in administrators this month as it ran short of cash.

M2 is a little-known Anglo-Canadian finance group that has set up funds to buy hotels and car parts makers but has yet to complete any deals. It is the only bidder that has pledged to take on Wilko’s support staff as well as its shops. However, it has not satisfied administrators that it has the necessary backing to do so.

The private equity firm has reportedly been in discussions about financing the deal with Michael Flacks, an entrepreneur who owns a diverse array of businesses including the US retailer Kelly-Moore Paints, the skin brushing brand Non Nonsense Beauty and the pump maker Aldrich. He once looked at buying the British brand Laura Ashley.

However, Flacks told the Sun he had only heard from M2 this week: “I replied saying I have no interest in Wilko and I don’t back anyone’s business,” he told the newspaper.

In a letter to the chair of M2, Robert Mantse, representatives for Wilko’s administrators at PricewaterhouseCoopers asked for “clarification as to the status of your interest” including “proof and source of funds, which is satisfactory to us” by 5pm on Wednesday.

A source close to the process has questioned the credibility of the M2 bid, which was put forward very late on the final day for offers on Friday and included a 20% stake in the business for employees.

Mantse responded: “Money talks and bullsh*t walks.”

M2 has said it has £150m lined up to support a buyout and turnaround at Wilko.

Putman’s offer does not include the retailer’s head office and warehouse, but would include more than 200 of its 400 shops, possibly protecting up to 10,000 jobs.

The Canadian tycoon’s family also owns Everest Toys, the largest toyand games distribution company in North America, and Toys R Us in Canada. He is expected to combine Wilko’s operations with HMV and his toy business if his bid is successful.

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Aldi gives colleagues in Wales a New Year pay rise



ALDI store and warehouse colleagues in Wales are to get a pay rise, which will see Aldi become the first supermarket in the UK to guarantee store and warehouse colleagues pay of at least £12 an hour.

The move makes Aldi the first supermarket to offer rates in line with the Real Living Wage that was set by the Living Wage Foundation in October this year.

Store Assistants’ pay will rise further to £12.95 nationally, and £13.85 within the M25, based on the length of service, as part of Aldi’s £67m investment into colleague pay.

Aldi is also the only supermarket to offer paid breaks, which for the average store colleague is worth over an additional £900 annually.

Giles Hurley, Chief Executive Officer of Aldi UK and Ireland told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Just as we promise to provide the best value to our customers, we are also committed to being the highest-paying supermarket within the sector – which is why we are investing more than ever into this pay rise.”

“We are incredibly proud of every single member of Team Aldi and this is a way of thanking them for all their hard work over the past year. We believe our colleagues are the best in the sector and they play a huge part in making Aldi what it is today.” 

The news comes in just as Aldi has been named the UK’s Cheapest Supermarket, according to consumer champion Which? (November 2023) as well as being named the UK’s Cheapest Supermarket for 2021 and 2022.

Aldi’s commitment to being the cheapest supermarket shows no sign of slowing, having made over £360m of price reductions across 800 items so far this year.

Aldi is the UK’s fourth-largest supermarket and has more than 1,000 stores, 11 regional distribution centres and 40,000 colleagues across Britain.

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Support 53,000 jobs in Wales with a Christmas pint



WELSH people raising a Christmas pint in pubs and at home should enjoy the taste of supporting 53,000 local jobs, which pay £665 million in wages and contribute £1.2 billion to the economy, data from the Welsh Beer and Pub Association (WBPA) shows.

The brewing and pubs industry is one of the UK’s biggest employers, supporting almost one million jobs across the regions.

Pubs have an equally vital social contribution. Across Wales, 82% of people say pubs are important in bringing people together, while 67% think pubs help combat loneliness and isolation.

The Long Live the Local campaign invites pubgoers who can afford it to buy an extra round to support the brewers, delivery drivers, farmers and thousands of people behind the pint.

Welsh people raising a Christmas pint should enjoy the taste of supporting 53,000 local jobs in breweries, bars and supply chains which pay £665 million in wages and contribute £1.2 billion to the economy, data from the Welsh Beer and Pub Association (WBPA) reveals.

The WBPA’s Long Live the Local campaign is shining a light on the nearly one million people behind the pint who make the festive season merry.

As Welsh pubgoers raise a local brew, they support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country: including farmers growing hops, brewers developing new recipes, scientists working on quality control and logistics teams managing deliveries.

‘The local’ is often the heart of community life and a major source of local employment and economic growth. Its social value is most apparent at Christmas, bringing people together and combatting loneliness during the festive season. Recent YouGov polling in Wales found:

  • 75% of people feel pubs have a positive effect in communities
  • 82% say pubs are important in bringing people together
  • 67% think pubs help combat loneliness and isolation in their local area

Pubs and brewers have faced major increases to their costs over the last few years while struggling to limit price rises. The Autumn Statement provided vital support with an extension to business rates relief and the freeze on beer duty, but the next budget must provide surer footing for brewers and pubs by:

Cutting tax on beer in the next Budget and pledging to bring beer duty down to the European average over the course of the next Parliament. The EU average duty on a pint of beer is currently 20p, whereas in the UK it is 54p for draught beer and 59p for packaged beer- nearly triple the European average and 12 times more than Germany.

Reforming business rates so pubs and brewers can invest in the future, with the 75% relief maintained and a cap to the planned increase in the 2024 business rates multiplier until this is implemented

Lowering VAT rate to 12.5% for pubs to help publicans and customers with cost of living increases

The Long Live the Local campaign invites the Welsh to buy an extra round this Christmas to support the people behind the pint and join the campaign to secure the future of their local.

Lloyd Manchip, brewery manager at Magor Brewery, says: “It’s very unusual to be in an industry where you make a product that is at the centre of every party and occasion. Beer brings people together… at football and rugby, weddings and funerals, every major social event.

“There are 550 people who work with me and we are so passionate about producing the perfect beer. We’re also looking to the future and investing in becoming more sustainable. Reducing our carbon footprint and reducing the usage of all those commodities to ultimately make the brewery more efficient, better for the planet and ultimately for the people who drink our beer.

“The beer industry is such a major part of Welsh culture. It’s so important that we keep and maintain that.”

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the Welsh Beer and Pub Association, told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “So many of life’s milestones are marked by sharing a beer, whether in commiseration or joy. Behind the glass, there are nearly a million people across the cities and regions who make this possible: including brewers, technicians, delivery drivers, farmers and the pub staff at the counter.

“The great British pint is woven into the fabric of our communities, economies and regional identities. Local pubs are some of our most beloved tourist attractions, while our breweries produce some of the finest beers in the world.

“But the industry needs our support to survive. Wales remains one of the most expensive places in the world to have a pint, with beer duty more than double the average across Europe. The next Parliament must make bringing beer duty in line with Europe a priority – taking at least 34 pence off the price of a pint – as well as reforming business rates so that brewers and pubs can continue investing in the future, providing quality jobs and training for people across the country.”

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LNG’s turbine scheme of national significance



A £14.3m scheme for up to three near 500-foot high wind turbines to provide green energy for Pembrokeshire’s Dragon LNG site will eventually decided by Welsh Government, county planners heard.

Milford Energy Limited (MEL), a sister company of Dragon LNG Limited, is seeking permission for an onshore wind farm and associated equipment, infrastructure and ancillary works at Dragon LNG Meadow, Milford Haven adjacent and to the south of the Waterston Dragon LNG terminal.

It is proposed that the minimum capacity of the development would be 10 megawatts, but could be as high as 12.6-13.5MW, depending on turbine model, with up to three turbines of up to 149.9 metres in height, again depending on the final model selected.

The Dragon liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal provides gas for use by millions of commercial and residential UK consumers, with the capacity to supply up to 10 per cent of the UK’s needs.
Dragon LNG owns the main part of the site where the wind turbines are proposed to be located and will lease the land to MEL.

A supporting statement says the proposal “forms an important part of the carbon reduction strategy for the terminal as the purpose of the proposed wind turbines (together with the existing co-located solar farm) is to provide a direct supply of renewable electricity, primarily to reduce the terminal’s carbon intensity as a key component in Dragon’s ambition to become a Net Zero terminal by 2029”.
The proposed turbines are expected to provide up to 39 per cent of Dragon LNG’s energy needs; any excess electricity generation can be exported to the grid.

A report for members of the county council’s planning committee, meeting on December 5, stated: “This application is one to be determined by Welsh Ministers and not the Local Planning Authority (LPA) due to the relevant threshold enshrined in The Developments of National Significance (Specified Criteria and Prescribed Secondary Consents) (Wales) Regulations 2016 (as amended) being exceeded; in this case the installed generating capacity being greater than 10 megawatts.”

Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee, meeting on December 5, were recommended to note the contents and conclusions of the adopted Local Impact Report (LIR) associated with the development rather than make a formal decision.

Chair of the committee, Cllr Jacob Williams said the format of application was the first of its type received by the committee, following changes to the council’s constitution.

Previously, such responses to applications of national significance would not come before the committee, members were told.

The application to note the LIR was moved by Cllr Brian Hall and supported by committee members.

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