THE WELSH GOVERNMENT will lift the “stay at home” requirement in Wales from tomorrow, and replace it with “stay local”, as part of a careful, cautious and phased approach to relaxing coronavirus restrictions, First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce today (Friday, Mar 12).
From tomorrow (Saturday, Mar 13), four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise, including in gardens. In addition, outdoor sports facilities, including basketball courts, tennis courts and golf courses, can reopen, and indoor care home visits will restart, for single designated visitors.
From Monday, all primary pupils and those in qualifications years will return. Schools will have the flexibility to bring year 10 and 12 learners back and more learners will return to colleges.
There will also be flexibility for in-school check-ins for all other pupils. All learners will return after the Easter break.
Hairdressers and barbers will re-open for appointments from Monday.
From 22 March non-essential retail will start re-opening gradually as the restrictions are lifted on what can be sold in shops which are currently open. Garden centres will also be able to open. All shops, including all close contact services, will be able to open from 12 April – the same date as in England.
The First Minister will say: “We are taking a phased approach to unlocking each sector – starting with schools. We will make step-by-step changes each week to gradually restore freedoms. We will monitor each change we make, so we know what impact each change has had on Wales’ public health situation.”
The First Minister will also announce an additional £150m to support businesses affected by ongoing restrictions.
Carmarthenshire logistics firm diversifies after record 2020
LOCAL logistics company, Celtic Couriers, is looking to diversify after the most challenging yet successful year in its 31-year history.
The business, based in Burry Port, saw an incredible rise in demand for its parcel collection and delivery services as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and is now looking to introduce two new pallet options to satisfy the growing demand for residential deliveries.
The increased demand for parcels has spurred the management team at Celtic Couriers to now turn its attention to the other side of its operation, palletised freight distribution.
With many local companies seeing their e-commerce boom, business owners are searching for more cost-effective logistics options.
As a shareholder member of Fortec Distribution Network, Celtic Couriers offer economical quality palletised freight solutions, which was recently bolstered with the introduction of innovative new pallet sizes.
The Micro and Full Light pallet sizes provide customers with a palletised freight option for lighter goods and a viable alternative to oversized parcels.
Gareth Jenkins is Managing Director of Celtic Couriers and he explains why a positive year in 2020 has allowed him and the team to now focus on their pallet service offering.
He comments: “The last year has been unlike anything we have seen before. The pandemic forced businesses to completely change the way they operated and the public had to change the way they purchased items.
“Thankfully, we have a great team who adapted very quickly to a new way of working to ensure the record volumes were delivered. We all took great pride in delivering all the important PPE to our hospitals and care homes and now hopefully we can all see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
“With the new pallet sizes from Fortec, we feel now is the perfect time to support businesses in the area who are looking for new services they can rely on to get their products to their end users.”
Celtic Couriers has been a member of Fortec, which last year became part of The Pall-Ex Group of Companies, since 2003.
Barry Byers, Pall-Ex Group’s Managing Director for UK Business Units, which includes Fortec, describes why the new pallet sizes should benefit Celtic Couriers.
He comments: “We have a strong desire to grow the Fortec Distribution Network throughout the UK, and long-standing members such as Celtic Couriers are key to that ambition.
“I am really pleased that Gareth and the team have enjoyed so much success in recent months and I hope that the innovative service offering we have designed will now help them achieve similar success with palletised freight.
Support for businesses re-opening
Carmarthenshire County Council continues to support businesses allowed to re-open under the easing of further Covid-19 restrictions announced by Welsh Government today.
The council’s public protection officers are working closely with the tourism industry and business owners as they prepare to open back up after months of closure.
Officers will provide advice and guidance visits to premises in line with the latest Covid-19 regulations to ensure they are operating safely.
From tomorrow (Saturday, March 27) self-contained holiday accommodation can re-open for one household which includes hotels, self-catering outlets and caravanning that have their own facilities.
People are being reminded that when visiting premises, they are expected to maintain social distancing, wear a face mask in indoor public spaces (unless exempt) and regularly wash hands or hand sanitise.
On Monday the first steps were taken to relax restrictions on the sale of non-essential items for shops that have been open throughout lockdown including supermarkets. Garden centres also re-opened.
Please remember these Welsh Government rules are law and they are in place to help keep us all safe.
Principality performs well as it supports customers during pandemic
Principality has posted good annual results for 2020, as it focused all its efforts on supporting members, customers and colleagues during a challenging year.
The building society granted more than 15,000 homeowners a mortgage payment deferral, helping them to cope with the financial uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic and supported communities by keeping its branches open throughout the lockdown periods.
Wales’ largest building society saw its assets grow to more than £11bn for the first time in its history, as it saw retail mortgage lending increase by £182m this year (2019: £499m), taking total retail lending over £8bn for the first time, despite the UK housing market coming to a standstill for the best part of four months in the first half of the year.
Last year the business signposted an expected reduction in profits in 2020 due to continued investment in technology to transform its core mortgage and savings operations. In addition, it also increased provision levels by £9.1m (2019: release of £4.1m) to cover potential future losses arising from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Whilst no significant credit losses have been incurred to date, Principality recognises that some customers may experience financial difficulties over the next few years, and its conservative approach takes into account economic forecasts of factors including unemployment levels and property prices.
Principality has strong capital reserves but this prudent approach has had a significant impact on results for 2020, resulting in an underlying profit before tax of £24.1m (2019: £39.8m) and statutory profit before tax of £19.9m (2019: £39.6m).
For the third year running Principality has won the What Mortgage award for Best Building Society Customer Service. This is reflected in the Society’s Net Promoter Score which is well above the sector average at 79.8%, meaning almost eight out of 10 of members say they would recommend Principality to family or friends based on their level of satisfaction.
CEO Julie-Ann Haines said: “Despite facing significant disruption and uncertainty this year, we maintained our award-winning customer service and delivered essential service for our members when they needed us most.
“During the first half of the year we had to deal with a number of operational challenges, not least enabling around 800 colleagues from our head office to work effectively from home. The strength and resilience of our business has allowed us to keep everyone in employment and not to furlough anyone. We strive to create a friendly, open and inclusive culture, and our colleagues continue to make us stand out in the sector with their warmth, personal approach and empathy.
“As promised last year, we continued to invest previous profits back into the business to boost our technology so we could offer our members improvements to their customer service. Our enhanced online security has made members’ accounts more secure, and a new web chat function has been added to improve the customer experience. In response to customer feedback, we have also increased the range of products available to customers online. Our ambition is to move at pace in the next few years and we will continue to invest in the Society to improve our proposition and offer greater flexibility to our members. This will be complemented by fantastic service through our branches in Wales and along the borders with England.”
Principality’s Commercial team once again contributed in helping communities, with work completed on the second phase of affordable homes at The Mill development in Cardiff. The team have now completed £55m of the £75m affordable housing fund established in 2018 and this has seen take-up from housing associations across all corners of Wales. It will continue to focus its efforts to make housing more environmentally sustainable and support house-builders through funding of solar powered and zero carbon homes.
Now more than ever, Principality has continued to invest in financial education by partnering with Young Money for their Fiver Challenge which encourages the development of entrepreneurial and financial education skills for children, while raising money for local causes. More than 8,000 children signed up for this digital challenge through their schools.
On the outlook for 2021 Julie-Ann added: “We expect the economic environment to remain challenging in 2021 and beyond as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt. In these difficult circumstances, I want to assure members that Principality remains a safe home for their savings, and has the strength to resist the turbulence we are all facing. Our strategy and long term priorities remain unchanged and, while our immediate focus remains on helping members, colleagues and communities through these uncertain times, we are committed to developing and growing our business in a safe and sustainable way.”
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
- Total assets – £11.1bn (2019: £10.7bn)
- Underlying profit before tax – £24.1m (2019: £39.8m)
- Statutory profit before tax – £19.9m (2019: £39.6m)
- Net residential mortgage growth – £182.2m (2019: £499.3m)
- Residential mortgage balances – £8,175.7m (2019: £7,993.5m)
- Savings balances – £8.2bn (2019: £7.6bn)
- Saving balance – increase is £596.1m (2019: £598.7m)
- NPS – 79.8 (2019: 81.5)
- Capital (CET1 ratio) – 27.10% (2019: 26.20%)
- % of mortgages funded by savers – 88.9% (2019: 84.0%)
- Charity fundraising total – just over £152,000
- Employee engagement score – 86% (2019: 77%)
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