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Oil 4 Wales acquires Milford Haven depot

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Oil 4 Wales acquires Milford Haven depotINDEPENDENT OIL distribution company Oil 4 Wales has expanded its presence in West Wales with the strategic acquisition of a fuel depot in Milford Haven.

The family-run business, set up by Colin Owens formerly of Owen Fuels, has acquired the depot from Silvey Oil for an undisclosed sum. The agreement sees Oil 4 Wales take on the company’s two oil tankers, two drivers and two additional members of staff.

Supplying domestic, marine, agricultural and commercial oil across Pembrokeshire, the new depot grows Oil 4 Wales’ offering in West Wales adding to its depots in Felinfach, Ceredigion and Nantycaws, Carmarthenshire.

Colin Owens, managing director of Oil 4 Wales, said: “After lengthy discussions with David Harris of Silvey Oil we reached a decision to purchase the Milford Haven depot as it was mutually beneficial for both businesses. Oil 4 Wales already has a strong presence in West Wales through our two depots and we wanted to build on this to the benefit of customers there, while Silvey Oil wanted to focus on growing its West Country depots in Bristol and Devon.

“The depot is ideally located next to Milford Haven’s oil refineries and bringing it under the Oil 4 Wales banner allows us to grow our buying power giving our customers in West Wales a much fairer price for their fuel. Over the next three years, we plan to increase the number of vehicles at the depot to six to ensure our customers in Pembrokeshire receive the best possible service from us.”

Continuing its focus on the West Wales market, Oil 4 Wales has additionally acquired Clynderwen based Tom Leavitt Heating and Plumbing. Having contracted out work to Tom and his four OFTEC qualified engineers for the past year, the acquisition will see all the company’s services, which include boiler installation, maintenance, warranty service calls and repairs, brought in-house at Oil 4 Wales.

Growing the West Wales team, former Welsh rugby international and Llanelli Scarlets’ back row Dafydd Jones has been appointed a full time sales executive for Oil 4 Wales.

Originally from Aberaeron, Dafydd Jones has been working as an ambassador for the company for the past year alongside Oil 4 Wales’ other ambassadors Scarlets’ hooker Ken Owens, Racing Metro flanker Dan Lydiate, Scarlets’ fly-half Rhys Priestland, Ospreys’ back row Ryan Jones and WRU kicking coach Neil Jenkins.

And completing the West Wales expansion, Scarlets’ centre Jonathan Davies, who starred in the victorious 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia, joins as senior brand manager. In his new role, the 25-year-old, who has 36 international caps for Wales, will represent the company at events and openings as it continues with its ambitious growth plans across Wales.

Colin continued: “We’re delighted to welcome Jonathan to the Oil 4 Wales brand ambassadors team as we fulfil our dream and business plan of becoming the oil brand for Wales.

“We are a very proud Welsh company so it is great for us to have members of the Welsh rugby team on board as they share the same passion for Wales as we do.

“We know Jonathan will be a popular addition to our squad of ambassadors and look forward to having him at many events in the future.”

Jonathan Davies said: “I feel privileged to have been asked to join Oil 4 Wales. As a family, we know Colin well as my Mum and Dad use the company for their oil supply needs, but I also know Colin through his sponsorship of the Scarlets. I’m delighted to be joining this family-run business which has the community at the heart of its operation and hope my involvement will help them grow even more customers in Wales.”

Oil 4 Wales is a family run company, which was founded by entrepreneur Colin Owens, in 2011. The company, which supplies a range of fuel services to homes, businesses, commercial premises, agricultural and retail customers, has been well supported by those keen to see the success of a truly independent Welsh oil brand and now supplies over 17,000 customers in Wales.

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Welsh Government confirms vacant land tax plan

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Housing a priority: Mark Drakeford takes action on land-banking

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​ will put forward the vacant land tax idea to test the Wales Act 2014 powers, Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford has announced.

The Cabinet Secretary will set out the next steps for proposing a new Welsh tax as part of the tax policy work plan for 2018.

Since announcing a shortlist of 4 new tax ideas alongside the draft Budget in October, the Welsh Government has been examining the case for each of these.

The 4 tax ideas were: a social care levy, a vacant land tax, a disposable plastics tax and a tourism tax.

Although the vacant land tax idea will be used to test the Wales Act powers, work will also continue on each of the other 3 tax ideas.

The decision to take forward the vacant land tax idea follows engagement with stakeholder organisations, the public and across government.

A vacant land tax has been chosen both because it could help to incentivise more timely development, and because it could help prevent dereliction and aid regeneration.

Professor Drakeford said: “Housing is a priority for the Welsh Government. A tax on vacant land could prevent the practice of land banking and land not being developed within the expected timescales.

“The Republic of Ireland vacant sites levy provides a useful starting point for how a vacant land tax could work in Wales.

“The existing model in the Republic of Ireland and the relatively narrow focus of the tax make this the most suitable of the 4 shortlisted ideas to test the Wales Act.”

The Irish measure, announced in their government’s 2018 Budget, will mean that any owner of a vacant site on the register who does not develop their land in 2018 will pay the 3% levy in 2019 and then become liable to the increased rate of 7% from 1 January 2019.

If land owners continue to hoard land in 2019, they will pay 7% in 2020.

When the Welsh Government announced it was considering such a measure in October 2017, before the UK Government said it was considering a similar plan, the House Builders’ Federation raised the spectre of developers decamping en masse to England with their large projects. That threat, such as it was, has receded but the Federation of Master Builders is still concerned.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Ifan Glyn of FMB Cymru said: “If there’s a tax that’s introduced that can focus solely on land banking for financial reasons to maximise profits, we would absolutely agree with that.

“Our issue is we don’t see how this tax can differentiate between land that’s been banked for financial reasons and land that isn’t being developed or stalling for reasons outside the developer’s control.”

A further wrinkle in the system was identified by Dr John McCartney, Director of Research at Savills Ireland.

Speaking about what were then only proposals by the Irish Government to impose the vacant site levy, he said that increasing the vacant site levy to 7% could amplify “boom-and-bust cycles” in the construction sector.

Dr McCartney said that land is a raw material for developers and it is natural for them to carry a stock of development land.

“No developer will now carry a land-bank in a slow market. This means when a recovery follows developers will spend the early years on site assembly rather than the house building they could and should be doing,” he explained.

Responding to the announcement, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance spokesperson, Nick Ramsay AM said: “From the outset, Welsh Conservatives have opposed the ludicrous proposal for a tourism tax in Wales, one which would cause serious harm to businesses across the country.

“While we are pleased the Welsh Government has listened to us and decided against taking this idea forward, once the mechanism has been tested, we would not expect the Labour Government to return to the table with this proposal, one which has been widely criticised by the industry.

“Our vigorous campaign will continue until Labour’s Finance Secretary consigns this ludicrous proposal to where it belongs: the bin.”
Commenting on the decision to bring forward a potential vacant land tax, Mr Ramsay added: “On the surface, we welcome the fact that, as in England, the Welsh Government is exploring the viability of a vacant land tax but we await the full details of this proposal from the Finance Secretary.

“However, an important distinction must be made between land held for legitimate technical reasons such as detailed planning or a lack of skills and materials, and land which is held for purely commercial speculation.

“Speculation distorts the main purpose of releasing land for much needed development and it will be vitally important to fully consult with the sector to ensure the right balance is struck.”

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New row over Circuit of Wales

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Circuit of Wales: Welsh Government 'did not tell' company of moved goalposts

THE WELSH Government has been accused of leading Circuit of Wales promoters ‘up the garden path’ by UKIP Leader Neil Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton’s words followed the revelation that the Welsh Government were not prepared to offer the level of guarantee which it had told the Heads of the Valley Development Corporation it would consider.

In evidence before the Welsh Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on Monday, the Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Government told surprised AMs that the amount of the guarantee the Welsh Government was actually prepared to consider offering was under one half of that it had told the company it would consider.

In addition, under stiff questioning from Adam Price AM and Neil Hamilton, it emerged that the Welsh Government had ignored advice from the UK Treasury to seek advice from the UK Government infrastructure advisory service and had also failed to tell the company of its bottom line position.

The cross examination of two of the Welsh Government’s most senior civil servants also uncovered that the Welsh Treasury, despite ample notice of the evidence session, were unable to answer the most basic of questions – such as whether officials advising the Welsh Government were aware that the Welsh Government’s guarantees only came into play on completion of the project and whether or not officials handling the project for the Welsh Government had told the Heads of the Valleys Corporation about its changed position on the guarantee.

And the matter was made no clearer by questions directed to the Welsh Government’s Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates on Wednesday (Feb 7). Despite two days having elapsed since senior officials had fobbed off Adam Price and Neil Hamilton with a promise to provide the answers to questions they had failed to address, Mr Skates found himself in the identical position – kicking the can further down the road in the direction of civil servants in Mark Drakeford’s Finance Department.

In addition, despite holding out hope last year that a re-tooled project could receive support in the future, Mr Skates rather firmly closed the door on any prospect of the Welsh Government becoming involved in any racing circuit development.

The lack of preparation in response to questions for which both civil servants and Mr Skates should have been prepared is, perhaps, startling. It would certainly be unfair to suggest that neither civil servants nor Mr Skates wanted to give a straight answer to a straight question because they did not fancy the row that might follow.

Following Mr Skates’ performance, Mr Hamilton said: “Now we know the Labour Government never intended to give the kiss of life to this visionary scheme and transform the poorest part of Wales. They deceived the Circuit’s promoters into spending millions on a finance package that never had a chance of success.

“They deceived the voters of Blaenau Gwent and the northern valleys in last year’s General Election by delaying until after polling day the announcement of their decision to pull the plug.”

Mr Hamilton continued: “Welsh Government constantly moved the goalposts on their proposed guarantee. First, they told the Circuit they wouldn’t guarantee more than 80% of total project costs. That was reduced to 50% but, in truth, they were never prepared to guarantee more than 25%. Their deception is a major scandal. £9.3 million of Welsh taxpayers’ money was wasted because of the Government’s bad faith in negotiations. Worse still, was encouraging false hopes of economic revival in the heads of the valleys only to dash them after the General Election votes were counted.

“Labour politicians should hang their heads in shame and voters should take revenge on these cynics at the next election. UKIP will continue to fight to get the Circuit back on the road. We will fight for the true interests of working people against a Labour Party which has lost touch completely with its roots.”

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Regional Tourism Awards winners annnounced

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Blazing a trail: Folly Farm, Pembrokeshire

THE NAMES of the Regional Winners for the National Tourism Awards for Wales have been revealed.

Having received more than 400 nominations for the 2018 National Tourism Awards for Wales, 44 businesses have been selected as regional winners which will now make up the finalists list for the National Tourism Awards (external link).

Tourism Minister Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “I’m delighted that we can announce our regional winners today – who are all to be congratulated for making it to the final. We have seen an exceptionally high standard of entries this year – who all showcase the best of Wales’ tourism businesses and I look forward to celebrating the industry’s achievements at the National Tourism Awards at the Celtic Manor Resort next month.”

Celtic Manor Resort Chief Executive Ian Edwards said: “We are delighted to be hosting the 2018 National Tourism Awards for Wales and look forward to a fantastic evening celebrating the best of Welsh tourism. We congratulate all the regional winners and finalists and wish them the best of luck for the national awards ceremony which takes place here at Celtic Manor. We were very pleased to win the Gold Award for Best Business Tourism at the last National Tourism Awards for Wales and we know there will be many more worthy winners rewarded this year.”

BEST HOTEL

North – Dunoon Hotel
Mid – Llangoed Hall Hotel
S. East – Hilton Cardiff
S. West – St Brides Spa Hotel

BEST B&B

North – Manorhaus Llangollen
Mid – Caemorgan Mansion
S. East – The Greyhound Inn & Hotel
S. West – Roch Castle

BEST SELF CATERING

North – Gors-lŵyd Cottage
Mid – Plas Dinam Country House
S. East – Monmouthshire Cottages LLP
S. West – Basel Cottage Holidays

BEST CARAVAN, CAMPING, GLAMPING

North – Llanfair Hall
Mid – Cosy Under Canvas
S. East – Parkdean Resorts Trecco Bay
S. West – Celtic Holiday Parks

BEST ATTRACTION

North – Zip World
Mid – King Arthur’s Labyrinth
S. East – Cardiff International White Water
S. West – Folly Farm

BEST ACTIVITY

North – Always Aim High Events
Mid – want to canoe?
S. East – Loving Welsh Food
S. West – Pembrokeshire Falconry

BEST EVENT

North – Underneath the Arches
Mid – Green Man Festival
S. East – Visit Cardiff (UCLF’17)
S. West – Long Course Weekend

BEST PLACE TO EAT

North – Manorhaus Ruthin
Mid – Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms
S. East – The Whitebrook Restaurant with Rooms
S. West – Beach House

BEST DESTINATION

North – Zip World
Mid – Brecon Beacons Tourism and Brecon Beacons National Park
S. East – Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism
S. West – Fishguard Bay Welcome (FBW)

YOUNG TOURISM PERSON OF THE YEAR

North – Tommy Davies – Coed-Y-Glyn Log Cabins
Mid – Kathryn Colling – Cambria Tours Ltd / Hafan Epic Retreats Cyf
S. East – Rhiannon Art Ltd
S. West – Sarah Jones – National Trust

TOURISM BUSINESS INNOVATION AWARD

North – St George’s Hotel
Mid – Dragon UAV
S. East – The Blaenafon Cheddar Company Ltd
S. West – The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales

The announcement of national winners will be at the Awards Ceremony on 8 March 2018.

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