TATA STEEL is set to announce that their entire UK operation will be put up for sale, putting thousands of jobs in south and west Wales at risk.
Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock, who travelled to Mumbai to lobby the Tata Board ahead of a meeting to decide the plant’s fate on Tuesday (Mar 29), has indicated that the survival plan put forward by Unions was rejected.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Kinnock suggested that the company’s European Board would now be instructed to ‘look at all options’ for the future of the plant, including looking for a buyer.
Responding to as yet unconfirmed reports that Tata Steel plans to divest of its remaining UK assets, Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the steelworkers’ trade union Community, said:
“We travelled to Mumbai to secure a future for steelmaking in south Wales and we are disappointed that the future remains uncertain, not just for Welsh steelworkers but for thousands more workers in Tata’s businesses elsewhere in the UK. However, our worst fear that Tata would announce plant closures today has not been realised. This is testament to the skills, experience and passion of UK steelworkers. They are a world class asset and now it seems other investors will have the opportunity to continue generations of world class steel production.
“We will of course wait to see the detail of Tata’s divestment plans but, as we said before, it is vitally important that Tata is a responsible seller of its businesses and provides sufficient time to find new ownership. There is also a crucial role for both the Welsh and UK governments to do all they can to ensure a future for Tata’s remaining UK steel businesses and to provide every assistance to secure a buyer that will continue steel making. We don’t want just want more warm words, we want a detailed plan of action to find buyers and build confidence in potential investors in UK steel.
“We set out to save our steel in South Wales. We told Tata in no uncertain terms that there must not be an end to UK steel making. Our campaign has now broadened to saving Tata’s remaining UK assets and securing a future for UK steel making and Community as the steelworkers’ union will not give up on that future.”
Unions had previously supported a survival plan for the Port Talbot works, which aimed to turn around a £300m annual loss within two years. This would have led to a further plan, which called for £1bn of extra investment necessary to make the plant viable in the long-term.
Tata employs around 5,000 people directly in the Port Talbot area, and thousands more jobs are indirectly dependant on steel operations continuing. The Trostre operation, which employs almost 700 people, and the plant at Llanwern, could also be affected, although it is thought that these would be more viable in the current economic climate. It is not thought that any companies have expressed any interest at this early stage, although Liberty, which is in the process of taking over a steel operation in Lanarkshire, has previously indicated that it could increase its holdings in the industry.
However, as Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price pointed out this weekend, Tata may be unwilling to sell to a rival, because this would lead to unwanted competition for their Dutch operation.
Writing for the Sunday Times ahead of the meeting on Tuesday, Mr Price suggested that temporary nationalisation could be a solution:
“Temporary nationalisation – compulsory purchase to allow the site to be re-sold to a private buyer, sometimes known as ‘conservatorship’ – would certainly be permissible under EU law which only prevents anti-competitive State Aid. This would be a case of Government trying to preserve competition, rather than the desire to shrink steel capacity into an ever narrower base that is driving commercial decisions currently in the European steel industry – the so-called ‘last man standing’ strategy.”
Mr Price also took the opportunity to criticise the Westminster Government over delays to the Wales Bill, which could have put the powers for temporary nationalisation in the hands of the Welsh Government:
“Intriguingly, under the Draft Wales Bill recently withdrawn by the Wales Office, the Welsh Government would have had the legal power for a pro-tem compulsory nationalisation itself – as confirmed recently by the House of Commons Library. But that is now at least a year away from the Statute Book. Under the current legal framework it would need UK Government support. However that support would probably be enough to create the moral persuasion necessary for Tata to agree a reasonable timescale for a prospective buyer to be found.”
Following the claims that Tata would sell its UK operation, Mr Price told The Herald that ‘it remains to be clear what exactly Tata Steel Europe will decide in relation to Port Talbot’.
“If there was the prospect of closing without a sale then a temporary nationalisation would be necessary,” he added. “Similarly if Tata proposed an unrealistic timetable to find a buyer. I think that a public private joint venture of some kind will be necessary to fund the investment needed to create a sustainable steel industry. This could be a mix of equity and loans, but will need to be substantial to attract a private sector investor. UK government support is essential though the Welsh Government role is also important for Welsh plants.”
The Welsh and UK Governments issued a joint statement on Tuesday night (Mar 29): “This is a difficult time for workers in Port Talbot and across the UK. During the review process, we remain committed to working with Tata and the unions on a long term sustainable future for British steel making.
“Both the Welsh and UK governments are working tirelessly to look at all viable options to keep a strong British steel industry at the heart of our manufacturing base.”
First Minister Carwyn Jones also added a personal message: “I want the Welsh steelworkers and their families to know that no stone will be left unturned in our bid to support you through what comes,” he said.
“Whilst we have serious disagreements with the UK government on many issues at the moment, we will work with them, and anyone else, who can help to secure a sustainable steel industry in Wales.
“Wales has faced up to tough times before, and we will always stand in solidarity with our brilliant, skilled workforce and with our communities.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Nia Griffith said that she was ‘extremely worried’ by the news:
“I am very, very worried indeed. Tata are very serious business people. They have a great deal of good will towards the UK, and if they are saying that they cannot see a future then it is not easy to see who will actually want to buy the plants,” she added.
“They have invested a huge amount and it is clear that the Chancellor has dealt a hammer blow to the industry back in 2010 with the Carbon Tax set at far too high a rate. The steel industry has pleaded over the last few years to try and get the mitigation that they need. Unfortunately the Chancellor has absolutely dragged his feet on this. It really does look now that it is all too little too late. It is going to be very hard to find a purchaser, and that’s what really worries me.
“The UK Government needs to put in a lot more help, both in terms of the compensation package for energy-intensive industries, and to be a lot more robust in keeping at bay the Chinese imports that are being dumped here; very cheap, under cost-price products. It’s a really toxic mix. Unless the Government pulls its finger out in terms of creating that level playing field then it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to take on the industry even if they have, as they do in Port Talbot, have the latest state of the art equipment.”
Meanwhile, senior Assembly Members led calls for the Assembly to be recalled. Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies said: “It’s quite clear that the Assembly must now be recalled prior to dissolution, and I note that William Graham, in his capacity as Chair, has also called for an emergency session of the Business & Enterprise Committee.
“Back in February I wrote to the other party leaders to assess support for a cross-party delegation to meet the commissioner in Brussels to discuss the issue of Chinese steel dumping, and it’s vital that we speak with one voice in the fight to secure a viable future for Welsh steel.
“Above all, the workers and sub-contractors at Tata want to see every possible avenue investigated, both to ensure a successful sale and to secure a sustainable future for the industry in Wales. This issue goes above party politics and all parties will have to work together to achieve this.
“Action being taken by the UK Government to address energy prices is welcome, and I would also urge the Welsh Labour Government to bring forward their plans to reform business rates and give consideration to amending procurement rules to ensure that Wales is a competitive environment for steel.”
Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood also called for the National Assembly to be recalled.
Ms Wood called on all parties in Wales to set their political differences aside and to work together in order to secure the future of the plant and, crucially, the thousands of jobs which depend on it.
She added that while the news of a sale is better than closure, urgent action was needed to end the continued risks and uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Port Talbot plant.
Ms Wood said: “If it proves to be true that Tata intends to sell the Port Talbot steelworks, politicians from all parties and from within the Welsh and UK governments must work together to secure the future of the plant.
“The priority now must be to seek out a reliable potential buyer to ensure that the highly-skilled workforce at Port Talbot can continue to produce world-class steel.
“The National Assembly is currently in recess but must be recalled in order for all parties in Wales to coordinate a political response focused on safeguarding the future of this vital industry.
“Losing this plant would be a devastating blow to the whole steel industry and to the Welsh economy. We are still living with the effects of losing the coal industry in the eighties.
“Continued risk and uncertainty is unacceptable. Any further action must be decisive and proactive, and we must continue to fight tooth and nail to protect Tata workers and their jobs. They deserve nothing less.”
Liberal Democrat Peter Black, Assembly Member for South Wales West, has e-mailed the First Minister calling on him to request the Presiding Officer reconvenes the Assembly on a matter of urgent public importance.
The Assembly’s Standing Order 12.3 states: “If no plenary meeting is timetabled for a particular date or time, the Presiding Officer may, at the request of the First Minister, summon the Assembly to consider a matter of urgent public importance.”
Mr Black said: “If true, these reports are truly devastating and our thoughts go out to Tata employees and their families.
“This is clearly a matter of urgent public importance and therefore it is inconceivable that the Assembly doesn’t reconvene.
“Ministers in both governments need to act fast. Simply holding up their hands and saying they are out of ideas is simply not good enough.
“For years the Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for business rates to be reduced to support the steel industry, yet the Labour Government has sat on its hands offering nothing. Likewise, inaction from the Tory Government has been utterly unforgivable. Too much time has already been wasted and we need to see positive action now from both governments as well as further action to attract new investment to Port Talbot such as the creation of an urban development company.”
Plaid Cymru’s Llanelli candidate Helen Mary Jones said: “This is an uncertain time for steel workers in Llanelli and for the steel community across the UK, and my deepest sympathies go to the families affected by Tata’s announcement tonight.
“What we need now is decisive action from the Welsh Government. The First Minister should recall the National Assembly in order to coordinate a political response to this situation, and the Welsh Government should negotiate sufficient time to find an alternative investor for its sites in Wales. “And all options should be on the table for the Welsh Government in order to save our steel industry – that could include entering into a joint venture with the company. Wales has a long and proud history of steel production, and the steel industry could have a bright future in Wales, if it is given the right support.”
Councillors campaign to ditch single-use plastics
TWO Llanelli councillors have put aside party politics to press the Town Council to ditch single-use plastics, which includes products like plastic bottles, coffee cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws and plastic stirrers.
Cllr Siôn Davies, a Conservative, and Cllr Sara Griffiths, an Independent, have submitted a joint motion to Llanelli Town Council to do away with single-use plastic products, encourage plastic free initiatives and ensure recycling routes are available to capture plastic waste.
Cllr Sara Griffiths, who represents the Lliedi ward, said:
“Single-use plastics are only used once before they’re thrown away.
“They’re not biodegradable and if they end up in a landfill, they can release toxic chemicals which can make their way into our food and water supply.
“It’s obvious we need to use less plastic and move towards more sustainable alternatives.
“It would be fantastic if Llanelli Town Council could lead the way and remove single-use plastics from our premises and encourage plastic free initiatives.”
The motion, which has been put forward to the July meeting of Llanelli Town Council, will need to be passed by a majority of the council’s 22 members.
If passed, Llanelli Town Council will also boycott plastic ‘food-on-the-go’ packaging, plastic bags, plastic drinking cups and condiment sachets.
Cllr Siôn Davies, who represents the Elli ward, said:
“Llanelli Town Council has a golden opportunity to lead by example.
“We have the chance to inspire others – local businesses and community organisations – to take similar action.
“Cutting out single-use plastics could go a long way to encourage local groups and organisations to ditch single-use plastics themselves.
“What we want, and what I think most of the general public want, is for us to work together cross-party to take action and solve the problems facing Llanelli.”
Logic festival is back with a bigger and better line up
FANS of dance music in South Wales are in for a real treat this year as Logic Festival is returnins to Swansea on Saturday September 7.
The festival is now in its fourth year, and this time its bigger and better with bigger name DJs, more arenas and three licenced bars to keep you refreshed and ready to party. New for 2019 there are also six arenas of which one is a chill out area and the bigger name DJ’s make this the best event that Wales has to offer, without a doubt.
For those of you that know the Logic Festival history it will come as no surprise that the owners have gone all out for 2019 to bring a diverse line up of world class DJs playing alongside the best that Wales has to offer in DJ talent, with some returning names that had such a great time in 2018 that they just had to come again and witness the legendary Logic Festival atmosphere for themselves, first hand.
Returning this year are headliners in the both the Trance and Hard Dance arena’s, Judge Jules and Darren Styles. Making first appearances in the Trance Arena are Dance Anthems legend Dave Pearce, German superstar Scot Project and all the way from Israel is BLiSS the DJ/ guitarist who jams along to his own tracks! Not to be outdone the Hard Dance arena features sets from UK hard dance legend Andy Whitby and flying in from Germany is the infamous Uberdruck. He will be playing alongside two Italian Hardstyle titans Technoboy and Francesco Zeta who again have flown in specially for Logic Festival 4.
And completely new for 2019 is the Clubland Classix arena where revellers can hear some of the biggest and best dance anthems ever made being played by the likes of: Ian Van Dahl who will be performing a live PA, and DJ sets from N – Trance, 4 Strings, Flip and Fill, Breeze and Scott Brown. This is a welsh festival exclusive so don’t miss out on the only chance you will get in 2019 to see so many heroes of Clubland all under one roof.
With a bigger line up, comes a higher capacity and more amenities for the public like two extra bars that have been custom built to stop the bottleneck effect that the extra numbers will bring with the event, more toilets on site so that queuing can be avoided and for the first time ever, a proper chill out arena has been added playing laid back vibes all day which has been inspired by the Balearic sound of ibiza, the party capital of Europe.
When asked to comment on all of the new improvements, the festival organiser and Logic brand owner Jason Pufal said: “No expense has been spared this year to make Logic Festival 4 the best event it could possibly be, as a thank you to all of the loyal customers who come every year and make the event so special.”
“In preparation for the bigger crowd that we are expecting this year, due to the fact that we have in effect supersized Logic Festival 4, everything about the event will be improved for 2019 and we are greatly looking forward to opening the gates for 12 hours of solid dance music based entertainment.”
So if you want to witness the best in dance music in six fully covered arenas in 2019, there is only one destination to head for and that is: Logic Festival 4, Ynysforgan Farm, Morriston, Swansea on Saturday September 7th, with the gates opening at 11am. We hope to see you there amongst a crowd of thousands!
Innovative Llanelli school’s quality recognised by major award
CLOSE to a year after its official opening, a state-of-the-art Llanelli school has been recognised for excellence.
Ysgol Pen Rhos, a £10.2 million primary school in the Seaside area of the town, was highly commended in the school project of the year category at the prestigious Education Buildings Wales Awards.
Officially opened in June 2018, the school features facilities including a flying start nursery, solar panels and classroom terraces for outdoor lessons.
A 3G pitch has also been made available for school and community use, as well as hard and soft landscaping areas. Features including brickwork and pitched roofs have been incorporated to reflect the industrial heritage of a neighbouring terrace of houses, alongside the use of more contemporary features like metal and wooden cladding. The project also delivered community benefits including training and local employment.
Ysgol Pen Rhos was funded by Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme and the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools initiative.
The school was initially developed and then delivered and project managed by Carmarthenshire County Council’s in-house Property Design Team, working with HLM Architects. Ysggol Pen Rhos was constructed by T Richard Jones (Betws) Ltd.
Created from the merger of the former Copperworks Infant Nursery School and Lakefield Primary School, Ysgol Pen Rhos caters for 420 pupils and 60 nursery children.
Cllr David Jenkins, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “Receiving an award for the quality of the school’s design and build is worthy recognition for an outstanding team effort that involved the council and its partners, as well as staff and pupils.
“The inclusion of environmentally friendly features also means the school will be sustainable for many years to come, with the availability of outdoor learning and landscaped areas sure to inspire pupils now and in future.
“This work has led to a facility that provides a world class learning environment, while celebrating Llanelli’s rich industrial heritage.
“Ysgol Pen Rhos is among many completed or planned projects in Carmarthenshire that show how seriously we take our commitment to providing the county’s children and communities with top quality facilities that meet the needs of the 21st century.”
Joe Cudd, Head Teacher of Ysgol Pen Rhos, said: “This award recognises the hard work of an exceptional team of people. Ysgol Pen Rhos is a wonderful place to learn.
“Our school is at the heart of the Seaside community and a place where we can realise our children’s dreams. We hold 480 futures at Ysgol Pen Rhos in a building that inspires, nurtures and is filled with the voices of the future.”
Ysgol Pen Rhos is located on the regenerated site of the former Copperworks Sport & Social Club and the Draka wire factory.
Other schools in the Llanelli area which are expected to be on the move in future include Ysgol Heol Goffa, which is relocating to a new facility at an adjoining site to Ysgol Pen Rhos.
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