TOGETHER we can work to lead a stronger, more confident economy – this is the message from Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, following constructive talks with key Welsh companies this week.
Addressing business leaders at two Anchor Company Forum meetings in Wrexham and Cardiff, Ken Skates discussed impact and opportunities arising from the EU referendum result, listened to concerns and proposed next steps.
He said: “Both meetings were incredibly productive with constructive and positive talks around the EU Referendum outcome, the opportunities it presents for businesses in Wales and how the Welsh Government, business and academia can support them.
It was also encouraging to see so much energy around the room and a real sense of rising to the occasion.
“These discussions also provided me with a great opportunity to meet with half of Wales’ Anchor companies. What I am hearing loud and clear is that whilst there are acknowledged challenges, there are also huge opportunities for a Team Wales approach, enabling us to capitalise on some of the future prospects that a Britain out of the EU brings.
“My focus is on gathering people, organisations and social partners together to work collectively for the benefit of the whole of Wales. We may be a small country, but that enables us to act very nimbly and together I firmly believe we can have a stronger and more secure economy, one with highly skilled jobs that benefit every community in Wales and I was very pleased to hear the commitment from our Anchor companies to support this objective over the coming weeks and months.”
Highlighting how the Welsh Government has already taken steps to help reassure companies that Wales is very much open for business, the Economy Secretary explained: “Immediately following the EU referendum result, the First Minister asked me to put together a Business Confidence Plan. I have done that and I have shared details of that with Anchor companies this week.
“Part of that plan encompasses a Growth and Prosperity Fund. We recognise that there is uncertainty and we recognise that there is a role for Government to show leadership and determination and that is exactly what we are doing. I am committed to supporting the Welsh economy with specific actions, such as the growth fund, as well as confident investment in key infrastructure and skills.
“In terms of supporting Small and Medium Businesses and start-ups, I am a huge fan of providing the right support and environments for entrepreneurs to succeed. In Wales, we already have Business Wales and a number and variety of creative hub spaces and what I want to do is make sure there are more of them. That young entrepreneurs and innovators and creators have an area where they can come and work together in a shared space to develop their business ideas and grow their enterprises together.”
Lending support to the Cabinet Secretary’s vision of a strong Team Wales approach, BT Cymru Wales Regional Director, Alwen Williams, said: “This was a welcome opportunity for both business and the Welsh Government to come together and discuss the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.
“The Anchor Company Forum demonstrates how collaborative Wales can be and it’s already been shown this summer that as a country we’re together stronger. It’s now time for business and government to follow suit in order to make Wales an attractive proposition for investors. ”
Dr Mark Picton, Commercial Operations Manager at RWE (Aberthaw Power Station), added: “In these times of uncertainty for business post Brexit, it was reassuring to hear the Cabinet Secretary reinforce that Wales is very much ‘open for business’.
“It was also very encouraging that the Cabinet Secretary was keen to understand the challenges of our individual businesses. I feel confident I can meet these challenges with Welsh Government support.”
Local coronavirus restrictions imposed to control outbreaks in South Wales
Coronavirus laws are being tightened in four more Welsh authorities – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – following a sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething today announced.
The new measures will come into force at 6pm on Tuesday 22 September 2020, to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus in the four local authority areas.
The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport:
People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households;
All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm;
Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public areas – as is the case across Wales.
From 6pm on Tuesday 22 September, the requirement for all licensed premises to close at 11pm will also be extended to Caerphilly borough.
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:
“Following the decision to place additional coronavirus restrictions in place in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have seen a worrying and rapid rise in cases in four other south Wales council areas – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.
“In many cases, this is linked to people socialising indoors without social distancing. We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health.
“It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of South Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities.
“We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.”
The restrictions are being introduced following a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in coronavirus, which have been linked to people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and returning from summer holidays overseas.
The Welsh Government will call an urgent meeting of all local authority, health board and police forces from Bridgend to the English border tomorrow to discuss the wider situation in South Wales and whether further measures are needed across the region to protect people’s health.
The new local restrictions measures will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police.
Keep Wales safe by:
Always keeping your distance
Washing your hands regularly
Working from home wherever you can
Following any local restrictions
Following the rules about meeting people
Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.
Julie James AM attends the launch in Swansea of new research on benefits of Community Led Housing
JULIE JAMES AM, Minister for Housing and Local Government, attended the launch at Down to Earth in Swansea of new research from the Wales Co-operative Centre, with support from the Nationwide Foundation, which found that residents who live in community led housing (CCLH) experience improved mental wellbeing and happiness, as well as improved skills development.
Over 50 residents from 22 community led housing schemes across Wales and England were interviewed. The top benefits that residents highlighted were:
Residents felt less isolated, being surrounded by a supportive network
• Improved mental wellbeing and happiness
• A better quality of life with the potential for skills development and increased levels of confidence, as well as a better financial situation
• Wider benefits to the community including a reduction in antisocial behaviour and greater community collaboration
• Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, said of the research: “We were really pleased with the research findings and the range of softer benefits that residents have seen. As well as the expected financial benefits, there is a much wider impact on mental wellbeing and skills development which is great to see.”
Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James AM, said: “I have been overwhelmed in hearing the benefits residents gain from living in community-led housing. The difference tenants feel in terms of improved skills, increased confidence and improved mental wellbeing to name but a few – demonstrates why community-led housing can, and should be part of the solution to the housing crisis we face here in Wales. Building more affordable housing and providing people with safe, warm and secure homes is a key priority for this Welsh Government. I’m looking forward to watching community-led housing grow and flourish – and contribute towards our commitment to building 20,000 affordable homes during this Assembly term.”
Lib Dems slam ‘botched’ scheme
THE WELSH Liberal Democrats have slammed the Conservative Government for their “hapless treatment” of EU citizens after the Home Office released guidance on the new EU Settlement Scheme.
The Home Office has confirmed that for the duration of the trial period, until 30 March, EU citizens applying to stay in the UK must either use an Android phone or travel to one of 13 ‘document scanning’ centres instead.
For Holyhead, the closest ‘document scanning’ centre is Trafford.
According to an analysis by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, EU citizens travelling from Holyhead would face costs of £55 on the train for at least a six and a half hour round trip. The drive would be a 224-mile round trip costing around £56 in fuel.
The only document scanning centre in Wales is in Caerphilly. Travelling from Pembroke to Caerphilly and returning the same day by rail would cost £32.10 (the cheapest available fare at the time of enquiry), the cheapest off-peak fare from Aberystwyth would be £77.10 return. By car at an average of 40mpg, the cost of travel would be at least £27 to and from Pembroke, while from Aberystwyth the cost would be at least £25. Both car journeys represent round trips of over 180 miles.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “Too many people in Wales are deeply anxious about their right to stay. Many of them fill vital roles in the health service, our schools and the tourism sector. They want to register as soon as possible, but Theresa May’s hapless treatment of EU citizens could result in a new Windrush scandal.
“For anyone who doesn’t have an android phone, this botched scheme means they will have to travel. For people in Holyhead, that means facing a 224-mile round trip and paying over £50 for the privilege. This postcode lottery is simply unacceptable.”
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey MP said: “Following significant pressure, the Prime Minister said there will be no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. How long did that commitment last?
“It is Conservative Ministers who have made a mess of Brexit. They should either pay the cost for EU citizens or change the application system and ensure EU citizens are made to feel welcome in the UK.
“Ultimately, the best way to avoid all of this mess is by giving the people the option to remain in the EU with a final say on Brexit.”
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