THE CLOSURE on Friday (Jul 15) of PHS Group’s contact centre in New Road, Ammanford, brings to an end 12 years of employment in the grant-aided building.
Originally built with space for 300 people, in the run-down to closure only 12 PHS staff, and 10 working for PHS spin-off Waterlogic, were employed at the site.
Caerphilly-based PHS Group, which provides workplace services such as washroom equipment, waste bins, mats, plants, water coolers, workwear, crates and caretaking supplies, took over the centre in April 2004.
The attractive 14,000 sq ft building, in a landscaped setting, was constructed for tenants PHS by Carmarthenshire County Council and the since-axed Welsh Development Agency, thanks to grant aid from the Welsh Government in the form of Regional Selective Assistance. The County Council retains ownership of the building.
Councillor Meryl Gravell, Leader of the County Council at the time, was reported as saying: “Carmarthenshire County Council is delighted that PHS has chosen Ammanford to expand its customer contact centre operations. PHS will create long-term, sustainable employment for Ammanford.”
PHS Group, owned between 2005 and 2015 by private equity group Charterhouse Capital Partners, laboured under an excessive load of debt and breached banking covenants. In October 2014, Charterhouse Capital Partners sold PHS to a new entity called PHS Bidco Ltd, which in turn is owned by PHS Group Investments Ltd. The most recent published accounts for PHS Group, covering the year to March 31, 2015, report ‘substantially’ reduced debt totalling £678.5 million, of which
£373.5 million is due for repayment in April 2020 and £305 million in October 2022.
The directors of PHS Group Investments Ltd opted to depart from the Companies Act 2006 and not to amortise (write down) ‘goodwill’ – intangibles such as brand reputation — because they believe the goodwill value has an infinite life. The accounts for 2014-15 say:
“If the goodwill were amortised over a 20-year period, the loss before tax for the period ending on March 31, 2015, would be increased by £14,132,000 with a corresponding reduction in reserves and intangible assets. The cumulative amount that would have to be written off against reserves is £14,132,000.”
The PHS businesses reported a turnover of £385.2m in 2014-15, 2% less than the previous year. In line with the parent company directors’ decision to reduce, on paper, the loss for the year, PHS Group revealed a pre-tax loss of £41.1m, far smaller than the £683m loss in 2013-14, and further reduced to £37.4m thanks to a £3.7m tax credit.
Despite the relative improvement in performance, PHS still faces a steep uphill climb to achieve sustained long-term profitability. The Ammanford closure may be part of the effort, but it is disappointing news for the employees.
Georgina Jones, Communications Manager for PHS Group, did not reveal the amount of grant aid received, but told the Herald: “We received regional assistance at the time and we have employed up to 150 people at the site for the last 12 years,
so this money was well spent. We are also keeping many jobs in South Wales for the future.”
The Waterlogic staff are moving to premises at Cross Hands, said Georgina. She added: “We offered redeployment to Caerphilly for all PHS employees in Ammanford. However, not all have chosen to relocate. This means that we will be recruiting for these posts at our Caerphilly head office. We are helping those who have chosen not to relocate to find alternative employment.”
Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award
ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.
The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.
The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.
Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.
“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”
Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.
With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.
As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.
“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.
“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”
Council’s plan to expand bilingual education will be a gradual journey over 10 years
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s vision to increase bilingual education in Carmarthenshire will be a gradual journey over 10 years.
The Cabinet met yesterday (Monday, July 4) to discuss the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and emphasised that it was important to give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills.
However, members stressed that families will still have a choice on the language in which their children will be taught over the next decade and after 2032.
The plan sets out how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by the Welsh Government.
All councils across Wales have to submit 10-year Welsh language education plans to the Welsh Government in order to meet its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.
The outcomes include more nursery and reception children being taught through the medium of Welsh; more young people studying for qualifications in Welsh as a subject, and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increasing provision for learners with Additional Learning Needs; and increasing the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh – with continuing support to develop staff through a comprehensive and flexible training programme.
The Cabinet said it was important for the council to provide more opportunities to be bilingual and referred to the various benefits it brings – from educational attainment to employability and health.
Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, Cllr Glynog Davies said the aim was to meet and exceed the target set by Welsh Government on the percentage of Carmarthenshire pupils receiving their education through the medium of Welsh by 3032 (10-14%).
It included changing the language provision at 10 schools over the next 10 years creating an opportunity for a further 300 learners to be educated in Welsh.
He said: “We want to build on the progress made in early years education provision, and my ambition is clear – equal opportunities across the county.
“It is worth noting that we have the largest percentage 57.5 percent of nursery age children taught through the medium of Welsh. Immersion education is key to the strategy, and it is important that we continue to see an increase in the percentage of children transferring from the Meithrin groups to Welsh-medium education in the Foundation Phase.
“These early years are so important, the children are like sponges, absorbing information and absorbing a new language.
“We must then continue to see an increase in numbers in our reception classes, we say this even though we are the authority with the largest percentage (62.5 percent) of children receiving their education through the medium of Welsh.
“Children must continue to improve their Welsh when going from one school phase to another, and we need to make sure all children have the opportunity to pursue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh.
“At the same time, we need to give children and young people the confidence to use Welsh, in school and in the community. That’s what we want to see isn’t it, more and more using Welsh, hearing Welsh on the street. We need to develop and build on skills and confidence.”
Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy, Cllr Ann Davies said: “I am extremely pleased to see this document and have a pleasure in supporting it. Working with young children, that is children under three-years-old, I can say that children pick up language very quickly, they absorb it, and the process is very different to learning a language. As they get older the process in the brain is completely different. I am pleased to see that there is an emphasis on early years, that is when we need to start.”
Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “It is very important to state that there are many advantages to learning a language, obviously for careers, especially in health and social care where patients and clients must have a choice of language, it’s important particularly for older people, and young children, and people with dementia.
“The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has stated he is keen for all his staff to speak a certain level of Welsh, so we have a duty here to support that.
“The advantages of being bilingual are multiple, socially and in the world of work, and this strategy is very much welcomed.”
The WESP has come back to the cabinet for discussion following feedback from the Welsh Government, mainly to include some additional data and detail. It will now be submitted to the Welsh Government for final approval. A public consultation was held last year.
Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest
POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.
Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.
The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.
It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.
Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.
Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.
Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.
Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.
Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.
“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.
“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”
The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.
The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.
The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.
Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.
An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”
Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.
“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.
“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”
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