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Business rates relief scheme extended

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A further £23m in business rates relief: Announced by Rebecca Evans AS

WELSH GOVERNMENT Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans AS, has extended a business rates relief scheme.
In a written statement to the Senedd last week, the Minister announced a further twelve months’ support for all retailers in Wales with a rateable value of up to £50,000.
As a result, the Welsh Government will now provide over £1/4bn in rates reliefs for businesses.
The additional money will be fully funded by the Welsh Government and will provide support of up to £2,500 towards the rates bills for retail properties with a rateable value of up to £50,000.
It will reduce rates bills to zero for retail properties with a rateable value up to £9,100 and reduce bills by £2,500 for properties with a higher rateable value.
As well as supporting retailers on the high street, the scheme will continue to support retailers in other locations. Ratepayers benefitting from the relief include those with occupied retail premises such as shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and wine bars.
A further £2.4m will be allocated to local authorities to provide additional discretionary rates relief for local businesses and other ratepayers to respond to specific local issues. This funding will be provided through the local government settlement, taking the total being provided to local authorities for discretionary relief to £4.8m for 2020-21.
The scheme will continue to be administered by local authorities on an application basis and operates in addition to other support provided by the Welsh Government. This means that while local authorities will collect the business rates, at a cost to the local Council Taxpayer, they have little or no say in how the money collected from business rates feeds back into or supports the communities from which it is collected.
While the Welsh Government continues to tinker at the edges of business rates, as The Herald reported before Christmas there is a widespread call for the whole system to be overhauled.
In November, the Treasury Select Committee published its report on business rates.
It acknowledged the burden the current regime poses for businesses of all sectors and sizes and that it is no longer fit for purpose. It also agreed that business rates deter investment.
One solution, a commercial landowner levy based on the land value of commercial sites rather than their capital value, would shift the burden from tenants to landlords. Such a radical reform seems highly unlikely as long as the Treasury has its hooks into the billions raised by business rates. In practice, unless regulation was strict, it would enhance the desirability of obtaining tax benefits by leaving commercial sites vacant.
At the last election, every political party agreed that business rates needed reform.
Labour’s Mid and West Regional AMs Eluned Morgan and Joyce Watson welcomed the announcement.
They said as well as supporting retailers on the high street, the scheme will continue to support retailers in other locations including restaurants, cafes and public houses.
Eluned Morgan AM said: “Across Wales, 15,000 small and medium businesses will be supported in the new financial year”
Joyce Watson AM said: “I welcome this latest announcement to support local businesses. It will reduce rates bills to zero for retail properties with a rateable value up to £9,100 and support of up to £2,500 towards the rates bill for retail properties with a rateable value up to £50,000.”
Dave Matthews, who runs the Oasis bookshop in Whitland welcomed the continued support being offered saying: “We are very happy about this continuation. Oasis is much more than a shop in Whitland, it’s a drop-in centre for the community too. What makes what we do sustainable is the fact that our business is supported by this continued rate relief.”

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Business

New hotel is to open in former warehouse in Cardigan

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FFOREST, the outdoor lifestyle pioneer and staycation retreat favourite, has said that it will open its first hotel across two Grade II listed former warehouses this August. Alive with historical treasures, the hotel is themed around Cardigan’s maritime past and the local legend of the brig, Albion, which sailed 180 passengers from Cardigan to Canada in 1819. The hotel will provide a permanent legacy of that voyage and the spirit and endeavor of those aboard.

Located in West Wales, in the increasingly popular town of choice for creatives and laid-back living – Cardigan – The Albion sits directly on the River Teifi waterfront. In this first phase of opening, there will be 12 double bedrooms (en-suites, no family rooms) in the ‘Bridge’ warehouse with 11 further rooms and family suites available in the second Granary warehouse building next spring 2023. The 12 rooms have been designed around the existing historic features of the building, all restored to full heritage standards with views over the river from all rooms. Each room will honour those original emigrants and take its name from a log of the original settlers in New Brunswick.

Interiors are designed around the theme of ships cabins, but much more luxurious than the conditions that the Albion voyagers would have experienced two centuries ago. The cabins are lined entirely in wood panelling and this, together with most furnishings, has been repurposed and fashioned from reclaimed timber in fforest’s own workshops.

All rooms are designed individually and feature Welsh wool blankets, cushions and bedhead covers made from 100% pure new wool, woven just upstream from the Albion at an old mill, ‘Melin Teifi’. The mill used to be powered by the same waters that run into the river Teifi, and past the Albion before heading out to the sea. The textile motifs are based on traditional designs, but bespoke to fforest, designs perfected over 15 years with local craft legends. The bedding is certified British wool Duvets sourced from Devon – Devon Duvets – the first bedding company in the UK to achieve accreditation from British Wool. The wool blankets, textiles, socks, knitwear and enamel tableware in rooms are all also available to purchase.

Albion’s reception welcomes guests with a lounge area featuring relaxed seating and ‘The Galley’ cocktail bar, which will be open to the public and will have an extensive slate flagged riverside courtyard. The first floor has a guests only lounge/workroom which will also serve breakfasts prior to the restaurant opening later in the year. Yr Odyn restaurant (The Kiln in English), named after the remnants of the Lime Kilns forming part of the wharf complex, will open in the autumn of 2022 and will serve the best of local and seasonal cuisine, including meat from animals reared at fforest farm, with an emphasis on cooking over fire and influences from Scandinavia and Japan. Announcement on head chef to follow.

Other features to come will include an outdoor sauna and onsen (Japanese inspired bathing facility which fforest farm is known for) in a private elevated woodland glade housed discreetly behind the hotel. This is planned to open in December 2022. The amenities partner for the hotel is cult luxury skincare brand Aesop, featuring their recycled bottles and range of products for hair and body care plus fragrances to scent the communal spaces. Uniforms for the staff have been designed in collaboration with Neem, a climate conscious brand producing workwear shirts made from recycled shirts. Guests can walk directly into town over the bridge or along the river straight into the wildlife reserve and even up to fforest farm.

The design of The Albion has been meticulously planned to retain as much of the original buildings as possible, leaving parts raw to tell their own story. A highlight is the historic graffiti etched into the original limewash walls of the third floor – pencil sketches depicting tall ships, signatures, calculations for rope and sail cloth – dating back to the second half of the 19th Century.

The interior design of each room has the essence of a captain’s cabin: reclaimed wood lines the walls, whilst 150 year old beams make up the flooring. The furniture has been custom-made using Welsh-grown cedar and beeswaxed cement boards, complete with luxurious king size beds and hand-picked reclaimed fixtures.

James Lynch, founder of fforest and chief designer for The Albion said: “This has been a real pasison project of mine over the pandemic. With funding from the Development Bank of Wales, the ambition was to restore the existing building; to emphasise its heritage qualities, its original and unique features, then design and craft spaces within the open floors that would embrace and complement those qualities. To fold rooms into the shell created, that deliver on comfort and beauty as standard, but make every stay a special experience of its own. Contemporary services, comfort and style with the particular qualities of these heritage buildings: historic, high quality, unique; the essence of place, and of history, embedded in the fabric. We have a mantra at fforest for the accommodation and experience we provide: ‘Warmth, Craft and Comfort’. To the Albion we can add ‘Heritage’.”

Steffan Walker, General Manager of The Albion, added: “As a local to Cardiganshire, I am thrilled to be opening a world-class venue on my doorstep and to encourage more visitors to beautiful West Wales. I look forward to welcoming our guests from near and afar this summer.”

Richard Easton of the Development Bank of Wales said: “Working with our colleagues in Welsh Government, we are working hard to fund projects that help to boost our vital tourism and hospitality sectors in Wales. Our continued support for James and the wider team at fforest is a reflection of our belief in their business and the opportunities that they are bringing to Cardigan. Their creativity combined with business acumen means that they have made a long-lasting impact in the local community, creating much needed jobs and putting Cardigan firmly on the map.”

fforest is a family-run business, conceived by husband and wife who had a lifetime of creativity in Shoreditch before making the move to West Wales in 2003 – James Lynch and Sian Tucker. They run the three fforest locations across Cardigan – fforest Farm (200-acres with 8 accommodation options), fforest Coast and, in town, apartments and culinary venues such as Pizzatipi. Started in 2004, with help from their four sons, guests of fforest have always been encouraged to be a part of the family and visit any and all of the spaces. The Albion is the next iteration of this and will offer a more refined experience to guests whilst maintaining the down-to-earth and simplistic luxury that fforest embodies.

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Community groups receive a share of cash from Ogi’s community fund ‘Cefnogi’

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COMMUNITY groups across Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan have each received a cash injection, thanks to Ogi’s new ‘Cefnogi’ local support fund.

Wales’s homegrown internet company, Ogi has given over £4,000 so far to community groups in Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan, to date, with everything from community gardens to coffee mornings being supported by the broadband provider’s micro-fund.

Building on the company’s sponsorship of local grassroots activities at Haverfordwest AFC, Llantwit Major RFC and Portskewett and Sudbrook FC, the ‘Cefnogi’ micro-fund offers small, local groups a cash injection to support activities that directly benefit their communities.

Speaking about the fund, Head of Brand and Engagement, Sarah Vining, said: “Investing in our communities is an important part of our plan to bring full fibre connectivity to towns and villages across south Wales.

“This initiative, bringing small, but no less vital, cash injections to thriving local community groups is our way of giving back to those that are providing much needed support locally.”

The fund, set up by the regional Community Liaison team, offers grants of around £250 to local grassroots groups in the broadband providers roll our areas.

Community Liaison Officer, Martin Jones, one of the team who originally came up with the idea for the fund, said: “I’m thrilled to see so many groups being supported by the ‘Cefnogi’ fund.

“Community really is at the heart of all we do here at Ogi, and giving back through our micro-fund is making a real difference to the local groups we support.”

Ogi’s support extends to volunteering opportunities too, with teams across the businesses having supported the clearing of residents gardens, hosting coffee mornings and redeveloping community spaces.

For more information on the ‘Cefnogi’ micro-fund visit www.ogi.wales/support

The latest round of the fund is accepting applications until the end of October 2022.

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Exam Success for Ashmole & Co Accountants

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Gwenllian Phillips

ASHMOLE & Co are delighted to announce that Gwenllian Phillips, in the Cardigan office, has completed her studies and passed all her exams to become a qualified member of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

Gwenllian, who is from Cardigan, joined the Ashmole & Co team as a Trainee Accountant in August 2020, after graduating from Aberystwyth University with a First in Accounting and Finance.

Karl Wilcox, Partner in Ashmole & Co’s Cardigan office said, “We are all so proud of Gwenllian and her fantastic achievements. She has become an integral part of our team in the Cardigan office. 

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch her going from strength to strength. It is important as a profession that we help to train the next generation of accountants. Qualified staff members are the lifeblood for the future success of our firm.”

Gwenllian’s day to day responsibilities include completing VAT returns, assisting in audit work and preparing end of year accounts for local sole traders, partnerships and limited companies.

Gwenllian said, “I am grateful to Ashmole and Co for being so supportive since I started and helping me gain my qualifications. I am enjoying working with local businesses and knowing that I am helping them with their needs. There has been a lot to learn and remember with every set of accounts being different but that means that every day is different which makes the role really interesting.”        

Gwenllian lives in Cardigan and in her spare time enjoys going to yoga classes, reading and walking in the countryside around Ceredigion.

If you would like to contact Ashmole & Co’s Cardigan office in Manchester House on Grosvenor Hill, please telephone: 01239 612162 or email: cardigan@ashmole.co.uk

Ashmole & Co are one of the largest chartered certified accountants in Wales. The rapidly expanding and modern firm often has job opportunities for enthusiastic individuals both qualified and non-qualified within the organisation. 

If you feel you have the qualities to be part of the team at Ashmole & Co, please email, with your CV attached, to AshmoleHR@ashmole.co.uk. 

Alternatively, apply for a specific vacancy listed on the website: www.ashmole.co.uk

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