THE WELSH Government has been accused of leading Circuit of Wales promoters ‘up the garden path’ by UKIP Leader Neil Hamilton.
Mr Hamilton’s words followed the revelation that the Welsh Government were not prepared to offer the level of guarantee which it had told the Heads of the Valley Development Corporation it would consider.
In evidence before the Welsh Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on Monday, the Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Government told surprised AMs that the amount of the guarantee the Welsh Government was actually prepared to consider offering was under one half of that it had told the company it would consider.
In addition, under stiff questioning from Adam Price AM and Neil Hamilton, it emerged that the Welsh Government had ignored advice from the UK Treasury to seek advice from the UK Government infrastructure advisory service and had also failed to tell the company of its bottom line position.
The cross examination of two of the Welsh Government’s most senior civil servants also uncovered that the Welsh Treasury, despite ample notice of the evidence session, were unable to answer the most basic of questions – such as whether officials advising the Welsh Government were aware that the Welsh Government’s guarantees only came into play on completion of the project and whether or not officials handling the project for the Welsh Government had told the Heads of the Valleys Corporation about its changed position on the guarantee.
And the matter was made no clearer by questions directed to the Welsh Government’s Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates on Wednesday (Feb 7). Despite two days having elapsed since senior officials had fobbed off Adam Price and Neil Hamilton with a promise to provide the answers to questions they had failed to address, Mr Skates found himself in the identical position – kicking the can further down the road in the direction of civil servants in Mark Drakeford’s Finance Department.
In addition, despite holding out hope last year that a re-tooled project could receive support in the future, Mr Skates rather firmly closed the door on any prospect of the Welsh Government becoming involved in any racing circuit development.
The lack of preparation in response to questions for which both civil servants and Mr Skates should have been prepared is, perhaps, startling. It would certainly be unfair to suggest that neither civil servants nor Mr Skates wanted to give a straight answer to a straight question because they did not fancy the row that might follow.
Following Mr Skates’ performance, Mr Hamilton said: “Now we know the Labour Government never intended to give the kiss of life to this visionary scheme and transform the poorest part of Wales. They deceived the Circuit’s promoters into spending millions on a finance package that never had a chance of success.
“They deceived the voters of Blaenau Gwent and the northern valleys in last year’s General Election by delaying until after polling day the announcement of their decision to pull the plug.”
Mr Hamilton continued: “Welsh Government constantly moved the goalposts on their proposed guarantee. First, they told the Circuit they wouldn’t guarantee more than 80% of total project costs. That was reduced to 50% but, in truth, they were never prepared to guarantee more than 25%. Their deception is a major scandal. £9.3 million of Welsh taxpayers’ money was wasted because of the Government’s bad faith in negotiations. Worse still, was encouraging false hopes of economic revival in the heads of the valleys only to dash them after the General Election votes were counted.
“Labour politicians should hang their heads in shame and voters should take revenge on these cynics at the next election. UKIP will continue to fight to get the Circuit back on the road. We will fight for the true interests of working people against a Labour Party which has lost touch completely with its roots.”
Carmarthen Partner celebrates 30 year anniversary with Ashmole & Co
SHARON GEORGE, one of Ashmole & Co’s Partners in Carmarthen, is celebrating a significant work anniversary this month having been employed by the firm for 30 years.
A lot of changes have taken place during Sharon’s time with Ashmole & Co. When she started as a Trainee Accountant in 1992 there were just five offices in Haverfordwest, Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn, Swansea and Ammanford compared to the current 13. Accountancy has also drastically changed from being an almost completely paper system to these days being massively computerised.
Sharon, who is from Pendine, said, “I started working as a trainee for Ashmole & Co in 1992, straight out of school. I then worked at the same time as studying for my HNC. I remember being told at the time I started that 80 had applied for the trainee position so I felt very lucky to get the job. A lot has changed over 30 years. It was a very manual job at the start. We had to hand deliver tax returns in big carrier bags to the tax office in Carmarthen! Nowadays the technology has improved the role of an accountant considerably.”
Sharon has been a Partner with Ashmole & Co since 2011 and as well as managing a team in Carmarthen she also manages the Pontardulais and St Clears offices. She lives with her husband and two sons in Pendine. In her spare time Sharon loves walking along the beach or practising her baking and is an avid Strictly Come Dancing fan.
Ashmole & Co, Chartered, Certified Accountants, has been established for 125 years this year. It is one of the largest accountancy and auditing practices in Wales, operating from thirteen offices throughout south and west Wales including Swansea, Haverfordwest and Llandeilo.
Welsh Government partnership brings new office development to Cross Hands
THE WELSH GOVERNMENT, in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council, is supporting the construction of new high-quality office space in Cross Hands, which will help create new jobs in the local area, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething announced today.
Carmarthenshire County Council has provided a £492,000 Property Development Grant to Sterling Developments, a local company, to support the delivery of the commercial offices at the Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site.
The Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site has been delivered via a joint venture between the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council, comprising a large programme of infrastructure works. A total of 17 commercial development plots have been created for sale, with a number of plot sales already completed. Delivered in two phases, the second phase has been supported by £2.4m European Regional Development Fund investment through the Welsh Government.
As well as boosting the local economy, the office development will also contribute to the Welsh Government’s aspiration of providing more ready-made commercial space for businesses – which will help create new jobs in communities across the country.
Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Businesses of all sizes across Wales need modern sites and premises that will enable them to expand and grow. This is a key part of our Economic Action Plan, which sets out our vision for inclusive growth built on strong foundations, supercharged industries of the future and productive regions.
“Today’s announcement will help us do just that, providing a boost to the regional economy in south west Wales as we all continue to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“This project is a prime example of a constructive partnership that’s delivering for the benefit of local people. I wish Sterling Developments well with their new Cross Hands scheme.”
Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism, said: “Carmarthenshire County Council is committed to providing businesses with the best facilities, at the best locations, to thrive. That is why we have been working with the Welsh Government, through the Cross Hands Joint Venture, to secure £2.4million of EU funding to match our own £2.5 million contribution and develop the second phase of Cross Hands East, a 19-hectare employment site that provides serviced plots within a thriving business environment.
“This development has already seen new businesses establish themselves here and begin to flourish with the potential for the site to create hundreds of quality jobs. This second phase of developing Cross Hands East will deliver more sustainable economic growth that will have a positive impact on people, businesses and communities in the area and wider region.
“The Property Development Grant awarded to Sterling Developments by Carmarthenshire County Council stimulates private sector investment at the employment site and will deliver high-quality commercial space to the market.”
Simon Thomas, Director of Sterling Developments, added: “We have designed a building that is architecturally appealing and will deliver high-quality office space in Cross Hands. The new building will provide businesses with modern facilities that they require to grow and prosper. The support from Carmarthenshire County Council and the Welsh Government has been key to the progression of this scheme. Sterling Developments are delighted to be playing a role in the development of this excellent employment site in Cross Hands.”
Carmarthen grassroots music venue CWRW wins £10,000 PRS for Music Back to Live Music Venue Prize
PRS for Music, the UK-headquartered organisation that represents the rights of over 160,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers around the world, announces beloved Carmarthen grassroots music bar CWRW (pronounced koo-roo) as the winner of its Back to Live Music Venue Prize of £10 000 for the Welsh region.
The recovery-focussed nationwide competition was launched by PRS for Music to give independent live music venues across the UK the chance to win one of six regional prizes of up to £10,000 and inject much-needed financial support into venues who are dedicated to improving live music experiences in their local communities.
Community advocate and music fan himself, CWRW owner Michael Hilton, plans on using the £10 000 PRS for Music prize money to upgrade the venue’s lighting, add recording capabilities and create a more inclusive space so audience-goers with disabilities can participate and access live music events.
“Winning PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize is incredible” explains Michael Hilton, “incentives like these are fundamentally important for grassroots venues like ours to continue to provide creative spaces for the community and emerging talent to develop their skills. The funds will be used to develop the audience experience, inclusion and continuing to support the next generation of artists”.
Phillip Deacon, co-owner of The County Music Bar, said: “We are hugely thankful to PRS for Music for this initiative and of course for the recognition in winning this award. We as a venue had barely survived the pandemic and know of many that didn’t. However, we did. This is a testament to the support from bands and fans alike who rallied around as soon as we could provide entertainment again. We now, however, face the perfect storm. Recovery from the pandemic, facing a cost-of-living crisis and a frankly ludicrous energy bill hike of nearly 550%. This money will provide a significant breathing space to repair and replace equipment and better facilities for all while we focus on our further survival in these difficult times. We want to continue to be a local music hub for all and provide access to up and coming as well as more established bands.”
The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the live music sector has been well-documented; between 2019 and 2021, PRS for Music saw an 84% decline in the number of live performance setlists reported to the organisation, falling from 124,000 in 2019, to 19,300 in 2021.
Tony Barton, Head of Writer Relations, PRS for Music, said: “Independent live music venues are pivotal within local communities, providing spaces that inspire the next generation of songwriters and performers. Congratulations to The County Music Bar for keeping live music at the forefront through a very difficult time.”
Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, said: “Venues like The County Music Bar in Chesterfield are so vitally important to the health and growth of music in the UK. We’re proud to find ways to support local scenes with projects like the Back to Live Music Venue Prize and thrilled that Phillip and Lauren Deacon are working to keep the music going.”
PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize competition launched in March 2022 as the organisation’s direct response to the devastating effects of the global pandemic on live music venues in the UK. Open to independent live music venues who are not part of a national brand whose offering included music prior to pandemic closures, winning venues were determined by a judging panel made up of leading representatives from across the music, arts, and hospitality sectors. Complete prize terms and conditions can be found here. Four more UK regional Back to Live Music Venue Prize winners will be announced over the coming months.
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