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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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Business

Nick Ramsay MS: Freeze welcome but doesn’t go far enough

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BUSINESS rates in Wales will not be subject to an inflationary increase in 2021-22 Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has confirmed today. Freezing the multiplier next year will help support around 54,000 ratepayers across Wales, who are not already receiving 100% rates relief. This takes the total amount of savings businesses have received on their rates bills to more than £90 million from 2018 to 2019. Earlier this year the Welsh Government also announced a rates relief package worth £580 million to provide businesses with the support they needed to survive the pandemic. Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “We recognise the pressures that businesses are facing and we are continuing to explore the support measures we can put in place to help businesses cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the end of the EU transition period. “The announcement I have made today provides businesses with the reassurance that they will not see an increase in their business rates liabilities next year.” The Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Finance – reacted to the announcement.Nick Ramsay MS said: “The continuing health emergency produced by the Covid pandemic remains grave, yet the economic emergency we’re going through is still bringing about a different, but equally devastating effect. “The announcement is, therefore, welcome but doesn’t go far enough. “Welsh Conservatives outlined earlier this year our vision of how to rebuild the economy, which will require the next Welsh Government to utilise tax powers in innovative ways. “We have pledged to create ‘Business Rate-Free Zones’, where all businesses would be free from paying business rates for up to three years, and to scrap business rates for all businesses with a rateable value of under £15,000 outside of these zones. “Sure, the business-rates freeze from the Finance Minister is a step in the right direction, but I – and undoubtedly many businesspeople – am left feeling no real sense of assurance from her announcement.”
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Improvements required at five takeaway premises in Ceredigion

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PROPRIETORS of five takeaways in Ceredigion have been warned that their businesses may face closure if they fail to take reasonable measures to provide or require the use of personal protective equipment and face coverings by persons working on their premises.

Premises Improvement Notices have been served on the persons responsible for these takeway premises in Ceredigion:

–          Cardigan Arms Fish & Chip Shop, Cardigan

–          Express Café, Aberystwyth

–          Domino’s, Aberystwyth

–          Hot Dumplings, Aberystwyth

–          and Star Fried Chicken and Pizza, Aberystwyth 

The improvement notices require the businesses to ‘provide or require the use of personal protective equipment and face coverings by persons working on the premises’ and warn that failure to comply with the notices can result in a premises closure notice being issued. The premises were issued with the notices following coordinated inspections by Dyfed-Powys Police and the Public Protection Team at Ceredigion County Council over the weekend.

Businesses should ensure that they are aware of the requirements under the Regulations for individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public areas, and also for regulated premises to take all reasonable measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as providing and requiring the use of face coverings. Whilst face shields do offer some protection for the user against transmission of coronavirus, they are not considered to be ‘face coverings’ as they merely shield rather than actually cover the mouth and nose.

The Public Protection Team will continue to carry out unannounced inspections of premises and the non-compliant businesses may be issued with premises improvement or closure notices.

Information for businesses is available on the Council’s website: Supporting Ceredigion’s Economy

Any business who is unsure of their responsibilities in relation to face coverings is urged to check the Welsh Government website.

Any business that requires further information or guidance can contact the Council’s Public Protection Team on 01545 570881 or email clic@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Closure notice issued to a takeaway premise in Aberystwyth

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A TAKEAWAY premise in Aberystwyth has been closed after it failed to comply with a premises improvement notice.

A closure notice has been served on G-One, North Parade, Aberystwyth by Ceredigion County Council’s Public Protection Officers due to non-compliance with the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 4) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

The business was required last month to “provide or require the use of personal protective equipment and face coverings by persons working on the premises”.  However, officers witnessed staff failing to wear face coverings on several occasions in breach of the requirements. 

Ceredigion County Council’s Public Protection Team will continue to take action against businesses who fail to comply with the coronavirus restrictions.  Whilst non-compliant businesses will usually receive advice and guidance, serious or persistent breaches will be dealt with by means of our closure powers, fixed penalty notices or prosecution.

The takeaway must close until December 21, 2020, and the full closure notice can be found on Ceredigion County Council’s website, under Improvement and Closure Notices: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-improvement-closure-and-direction-notices/

Information for businesses is available on the Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/business/covid-19-supporting-ceredigion-s-economy/

Any business who is unsure of their responsibilities is urged to check the Welsh Government’s website: https://gov.wales/taking-all-reasonable-measures-minimise-risk-exposure-coronavirus-workplaces-and-premises-open

Any business that requires further information or guidance can contact the council’s Licensing Team at 01545 570881 or clic@ceredigion.gov.uk

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