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VAT cut critical for survival by three-quarters of small hospitality firms

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IN A STARK warning to the Treasury, a sweeping survey conducted by the National Caterers Association (NCASS) has unveiled that a staggering 75% of independent hospitality businesses view a reduction in VAT as essential for their survival amidst the severe inflationary pressures besieging the sector.

In Pembrokeshire we have already seen the closure of some well known local businesses including The Welsh Bakery, Madison’s Restaurant and many more.

The survey, which gathered insights from both members and the broader independent hospitality community, paints a grim picture of the challenges faced by small cafés, restaurants, bars, hotels, and street food vendors. With a clarion call for immediate action, the results underscore the urgent need for measures to protect the livelihoods of thousands operating within this critical industry.

Discontent is rife among the respondents, with 78% expressing dissatisfaction with the level of support provided by the government. A further 80% reported that the Autumn Budget’s measures failed to offer any relief, highlighting a disconnect between policy and the practical needs of these businesses.

Alarmingly, 37% of those surveyed indicated that their operations might not be sustainable over the next year, citing a dramatic 30% decrease in gross profit. The survey also revealed unanimous concern over rising costs, including staff wages, energy bills, and rent, forcing businesses to adopt drastic measures such as reducing staff hours, increasing prices, and accruing debt to stay afloat.

One member’s testimony encapsulates the despair within the sector, questioning the viability of continuing their business under the current conditions, especially in light of what they perceive as governmental negligence.

The crisis not only threatens the existing fabric of the UK’s independent hospitality scene but also stifles the growth of emerging businesses, many of which have been instrumental in revitalizing high streets across the nation. Despite the government’s promotion of hospitality-led regeneration initiatives, the current economic environment jeopardizes the emergence of future success stories akin to established brands like Meat Liquor, Pizza Pilgrims, and Bao.

The situation is dire, with an estimated 10 businesses closing daily within the hospitality sector. The NCASS reports a doubling in the closure rate among its members in 2023, with new startups hitting a standstill.

Amid calls for intervention, the plight of these small and micro businesses underscores a broader issue: the need for a conducive operating environment that nurtures community, supports families, and fosters economic growth. The increase in VAT and corporation tax, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, has left many businesses operating on razor-thin margins, if any.

Highlighting the perverse incentive created by the current VAT threshold, which has not been reviewed since 2016, the NCASS argues for a recalibration to account for inflation and ease the burden on businesses teetering on the brink of viability.

The plea for a fairer VAT rate is a testament to the sector’s resilience and innovation, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the treasury benefiting from increased tax receipts due to inflationary pressures, there’s a compelling case for leveraging this fiscal space to support the independent hospitality sector, thereby safeguarding high streets and the very essence of local communities.

As the industry stands at a crossroads, the consensus is clear: a reduction in VAT could be the lifeline needed for these businesses to weather the storm and contribute to the UK’s economic and social fabric. The government’s response, or lack thereof, could very well determine the fate of countless independent hospitality ventures teetering on the edge of survival.

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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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