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Budget 2021: Survival of hospitality sector must be a priority

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BEN LAKE MP urges Chancellor to extend support for hospitality to 2022.

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, has today (18 February 2021) urged the Chancellor to prioritise the survival of the hospitality sector in the 2021 Budget, by extending the furlough scheme and maintaining the lowered rate of VAT for the sector. A failure to do so would “not only deal a blow to the sector but also to the wider Ceredigion economy”, according to the Plaid Cymru MP.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020.

Of each UK country and English region, Wales has the highest proportion of total jobs in the hospitality sector (8.5%) relative to total employment, employing over 123,000 people. In Ceredigion, hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars, and the events catering industry employ approximately 4,500 people, equating to more than 16% of all employees, and that is without accounting for the many supply chain jobs that depend on the sector.

To help the hospitality industry over coming months, the Ceredigion MP called on the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme “for as long as Welsh Government restrictions require it”, reiterating his party’s view that financial support should be provided in accordance with devolved regulations rather than decided unilaterally by the Westminster government.

He also called on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022. Plaid Cymru had welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement in July 2020 to set a lowered rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism – a longstanding Plaid Cymru policy – and are now urging the Chancellor to continue this policy.

At a crucial stage of the pandemic, Mr Lake said that “we cannot afford to throw away successes by prematurely ending much-needed financial lifelines to small businesses across Ceredigion.”

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP said: “Hundreds of jobs in pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants across Ceredigion are at risk this Spring, when several support programmes are due to come to an end. 4,500 people in Ceredigion are employed in the hospitality sector – that’s around 16% of total employment. A failure to support hospitality on 3 March will not only deal a blow to the sector but also to the wider Ceredigion economy.

“We in Plaid Cymru are therefore calling for an extension of the furlough scheme for as long as Welsh Government restrictions require it. We are also calling on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022. Firms must be given the chance to get back on their feet, and should therefore benefit from at least one summer earnings season and return to profitability.

“The economic impact is likely to be felt for years to come, with businesses facing mounting debt and taxes. I therefore urge the Chancellor to set out a sustainable repayment programme for hospitality businesses, to allow staggered payments over a period of time, rather than as lump payments.

“The pandemic has been a nightmare for most businesses – but the end is in sight. We cannot afford to throw away successes by prematurely ending much-needed financial lifelines to small businesses across Ceredigion.”

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Stand up for slowing down speed campaign launched

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INAPPROPRIATE speed contributes to around 11% of all injury collisions reported to the police, with 15% of collisions resulting in a serious injury and 24% of collisions resulting in fatalities.

Starting on the 26th July, the National Police Chief Council (NPCC) Speed Campaign will kick off across the UK, with GoSafe and the four Welsh Police Forces participating in both engaging with the public about the risks of speeding and enforcing the speed limits on the roads of Wales.

In 2019, 60,073 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued in Wales to drivers/riders for speeding.

Speeding is a major contributing factor to collisions on the roads of Wales. This includes both ‘excessive speed’, where the speed limit is exceeded, as well as driving or riding within the speed limit when this is too fast for the conditions at the time; for example, in poor weather, poor visibility or high pedestrian activity.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, we saw less traffic but higher speeds.  Now our restrictions are lifting, traffic volumes are up and as we are holidaying in the UK more, we are seeing more people speeding on the roads in Wales.  We want to change this, but can only do that with your help.

 Over the next few weeks you will see an increased presence on the road network of Wales as we aim to keep all road users safe and reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.

 We know that the majority of road users comply with the speed limit; but the minority of those who do not increases the risk to the safety of all road users and need to be educated on the risks to their own safety as well as to the safety of those around them. Throughout this campaign, GoSafe and our partners in the Police and Local Authorities will encourage and educate more people to reduce their speed to save lives.

Teresa Ciano, GoSafe Partnership Manager said: “GoSafe enforce at sites across Wales in order to encourage motorists to comply with the speed limits and in turn make our roads and communities safer for everyone. If we all play our part and stand up for slowing down we can make a difference, and we can save lives on the roads of Wales.”

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change said: “I am very pleased to support this campaign. Driving at high speeds costs lives and a greater police presence on our roads will mean motorists will be more likely to drive within the speed limits, protecting lives and avoiding a speeding fine.”

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Cardigan man accused of murder in court

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John Williams Bell was found murdered in Cardigan

A CARDIGAN man who is accused of stabbing a man to death has appeared in court today (Jul 28).

Ashley Keegan, 22, of Golwyg y Castell, Cardigan, appeared before court via video link where he spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

Swansea crown court heard how Keegan is accused of stabbing 37-year-old John Williams Bell seven times in the back.

Mr Bell’s body was discovered in the early hours of Wednesday Morning, July 21, on the road to Cardigan Bridge.

The court set a provisional trial date for January 3, 2022.

Keegan will remain remanded into custody until the trial.

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Suspected drink driver tracked for two miles by police dog

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A SUSPECTED drink driver was arrested after a police dog tracked him for two miles along a cycle path.

Dyfed-Powys Police dog Storm and his handler PC Mike Barnsley located the driver following a collision between Bont and Tregaron on Sunday, July 25.

Officers had attended the scene of the collision, discovering that a car had hit a tree and overturned – however, the driver was not present.

PC Barnsley said: “There were concerns that the driver could have been injured due to the significant damage to the car, so a search was immediately launched to find them.

“With PD Storm, I focussed on the cycle path running alongside the road, where Storm picked up a track and followed it for around two miles.

“Local response units accessed the cycle path ahead of us, while another unit searched from the main road along an unclassified road in the same direction.”

PC Barnsley and Storm reported a sighting of a man on the cycle path, and he was stopped and arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

Sergeant David Hawksworth said: “This was an excellent demonstration of teamwork and coordination by officers, whose good local knowledge resulted in the suspect being swiftly found and arrested.”

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