Rebecca Evans AM for Gower, has welcomed the passing of transitional rate relief scheme regulations in the Assembly. These regulations allow the Welsh Government to introduce a new programme to assist businesses that face an increase in business rates as a result of a recent revaluation carried out by the independent Valuation Office Agency.
For those small businesses adversely affected by the revaluation the Welsh Government is introducing a £10m transitional relief scheme from April 1, 2017. This transitional relief will enable all those eligible ratepayers to phase in their increase in liability over a three-year period. Relief will be provided automatically to the bills of all eligible ratepayers to ensure that there is not an added administrative burden on businesses.
The transitional relief scheme being implemented by the Tory UK Government in England will be funded by ratepayers who see reductions in their rateable values following the revaluation. In effect this means that the scheme in England simply takes money from one business to give to another.
With the introduction of this new relief scheme next year, the Welsh Government will provide almost £200 million in total of financial assistance to businesses in Wales through mandatory and discretionary reliefs.
Rebecca Evans AM said:
“This scheme demonstrates that the Welsh Government understands the needs of businesses in Wales.
"While we don't have power over the revaluation, we have nonetheless taken strong steps to support affected businesses. Our scheme will mean that more than three-quarters of rate paying businesses here will receive some form of support.
“Our approach is much fairer than that being taken forward in England, which just takes money from one business to give to another."
I will be holding an advice surgery in West Cross on Friday December 16th, between 10am - 11am at West Cross Community Centre to enable anyone to meet with me and raise concerns or issues.
If you would like to book an appointment, please get in touch by either ringing 01792 899 081 or emailing Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org
Update on Tata Steel by the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy & Infrastructure, Ken Skates:
Yesterday, I informed Members that we had agreed with Tata Steel a £4m investment in skills across all Tata plants in Wales. We also welcomed the news that Tata Steel had reached agreement with the Trades Unions.
Today, I can announce the next tranche in a series of major investments as part of an ongoing programme of support to secure the long term future of the Tata Steel works in Wales. This includes £8m towards an £18m investment in the power plant which will reduce energy costs and cut carbon emissions at Port Talbot, together with plans for a new research and development base in Swansea. This support will be contingent on legally binding conditions, protecting both jobs and investment in Welsh plants, regardless of future ownership.
Whilst yesterday’s agreement reached by Tata Steel and the Trades Unions was a significant step forwards to securing long term viability of Tata’s operations in Wales, this package will support the turnaround of Tata’s operations to a more sustainable footing.
Innovation and working to high environmental standards are critical to ensuring the steel industry in Wales is globally competitive and has a long term future here. Tata has therefore agreed to make South Wales one of its two main R&D sites in the UK. It will also explore the development of new products at Port Talbot. This further bolsters Wales’ position as being at the beating heart of the UK steel industry.
Our work to find a sustainable future for steel, which sees the retention of production and jobs in Wales, has taken up a substantial amount of our time since Tata Steel decided to sell its UK operations. We have been working tirelessly with the company at all levels to define what packages of support can help facilitate the delivery of this transformation plan, as well as the wider investments.
We remain committed to doing everything we can to secure the future of the Tata plants in Wales working closely with the Trades Unions and Tata Steel. Whilst a very difficult economic trading position remains and actions need to be addressed at a UK level, especially on energy prices, I am pleased that this week has seen much positive news for the Tata Steel workforce.
Welsh Government Update on Tata Steel Skills Support Package by the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy & Infrastructure, Ken Skates:
I welcome the agreement reached today between Tata and the Unions. The past year has been difficult for Tata workers and their families and this announcement represents a significant milestone.
I have committed to keep Members up to date with progress in developing support for Tata Steel in Wales. The Welsh Government has been working closely with Tata over over recent months, and I am pleased to announce that a significant skills support package has been agreed for the company.
This is not only good news for the Tata plants in Wales but also the individual workers who have worked so tirelessly over the past year to sustain steel production in Wales. It also demonstrates our firm commitment to do all that we can to secure the future of the Tata plants and our belief that steel making has a sustainable future in Wales.
To develop its business and become a market leader in key markets, Tata needs to continuously invest in its people and train them to be competent in their roles and up-skill remaining staff following recent redundancies. It also needs to further develop and enhance its customer and supply chain relationships to secure the long term viability of the business.
The company is investing in comprehensive training to develop staff and managers across all sites in Wales. This has led to the development of several distinct training projects designed to progress these objectives and cover a range of training packages. This will improve succession planning and knowledge management with a focus on transferring knowledge and skills of the mature workforce to a younger generation.
The Welsh Government has made an offer of £4,075,428 towards the financial costs of implementing these projects, matching the investment being made by the company. This investment demonstrates the firm belief that we have in the future of the Tata plants in Wales and the retention of long-term skills across Wales.
We have also made significant progress towards defining a wider package of support for Tata. This wider package will be subject to agreeing the detail of legally binding conditions that will be attached to the package and offer protection to the workforce and the wider community.
Swansea's local Assembly Members Rebecca Evans AM, Julie James AM and Mike Hedges AM have again jointly written to Paul Maynard MP - the Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport - pressing for action on the electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea.
In 2010, the then Labour Government approved the £1 billion scheme as far as Swansea. However, the coalition Government subsequently put it hold, but then approved it in March 2011 - but only as far as Cardiff. Electrification as far as Swansea was approved in July 2012.
The chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, has recently warned that electrification to Swansea is not a “done deal” and that any decision on electrification to Swansea - which is now due to reach Cardiff by late 2018 - will be for Network Rail's next five year spending period and it will be up against other rail improvement projects across the UK.
Rebecca Evans, Assembly Member for Gower said: ‘The current situation is extremely disappointing. We are the only country in Europe, apart from Albania, without any electric railways. Passengers and businesses desperately need the UK Government to deliver what it promised, and help build the modern railway we need.’
Hybrid electric-diesel trains have already been ordered for the Great Western Mainline. This will see trains switch from electric to diesel mode at Cardiff for the journey to Swansea and vice versa. The Assembly Members are concerned that this could make the business case for electrification even harder. In isolation, electrification from Cardiff to Swansea - as opposed from Paddington to Swansea - will struggle to hit the Department for Transport's return on investment criteria.
Mike Hedges, Assembly Member for Swansea East said: ‘If you were to travel by train to Swansea you would see that the infrastructure is ready, the buildings are up and the pylons are in. All that is needed is the overhead line carrying the current. The electric depot at Swansea was completed back in October 2015. We need this investment to provide more services, faster and more reliable services, to reduce the problems of overcrowding on the trains and stimulate economic growth.’
Great Western Railway have already removed several services in South Wales including the 17.15 service from Cardiff to Swansea which was well used by commuters and has since resulted in overcrowding in peak hour services from Cardiff westwards. A Saturday morning service from Swansea to Paddington which provided excellent connections for passengers from West Wales and a return Saturday evening service have also been removed, again without consultation. During the period of the Severn Tunnel closure in September/October 2016, GWR removed 75% of their weekday services in South Wales.
Julie James, Assembly Member for Swansea West said: ‘The modernisation of the route has potential to deliver significant benefits for passengers. However, the Department of Transport’s failure to plan and manage all the projects which now make up the Great Western route modernisation industry programme in a sufficiently joined up way has led to additional costs for the taxpayer.’
Rebecca Evans, Assembly Member for Gower, has welcomed investment which puts health on the high street and will ease pressure on GPs and hospitals.
The AM visited Lloyds Pharmacy in Pontarddulais ahead of the roll-out of the new Choose Pharmacy scheme which will see investment in integrating community pharmacies with GPs and hospitals.
The support for pharmacies by the Welsh Labour Government is in sharp contrast to the UK Conservative Government's cut to the funding available to community pharmacies in England which came into effect at the beginning of this month. The cuts there amount to a reduction of four pent to the sector in England in 2016-17 and over seven per cent in 2017-18.
In Wales, Choose Pharmacy will provide pharmacists with access to people’s individual health records. This will allow discharge information to be transferred from hospitals to a patient’s nominated community pharmacy. The service will see pharmacists take responsibility for managing a range of minor ailments. People will be able to see their pharmacist for free treatment instead of making an appointment to see their GP.
The scheme will help to free up GP time to deal with people with more complex needs. Currently almost a fifth of GPs’ workload and eight per cent of emergency department consultations are estimated to relate to minor ailments, such as coughs, colds, ear ache, hay fever and conjunctivitis.
Rebecca Evans said: “Choose Pharmacy shows the Welsh Government’s commitment to a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. It makes accessing the appropriate care easier and closer to home for patients, and frees up more time for GPs and hospitals to deal with health issues that only they can deal with."
Community Pharmacy Wales’s Chief Executive Russell Goodway said: “I am pleased to see Rebecca Evans AM championing the role of community pharmacies in her Gower constituency. By thinking creatively together pharmacists and politicians can make a real difference to how people access health care conveniently and close to home over the next few years.”
Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Gower, has supported the Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection by joining staff collecting food donations for the Trussell Trust and FareShare at the Pontarddulais store.
Buying an extra product or two doesn't add too much to the bill, but can make a huge difference to struggling families in the area. Shoppers at the store in Bont were handed a list of long life food items needed by local food banks.
Rebecca Evans AM said: "Times are tight for many people at the moment, but despite this the generosity of shoppers here has been amazing.
"There should be no need for anyone to have to rely on food banks, but in these difficult times I am very glad that they are there."
Donations can be made year round. Pontarddulais is one of many 600 stores with a permanent collection point.