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Thousands of jobs set to go at Tata steel

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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.”

 

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Police appeal following Llanelli assault allegation

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“Dyfed-Powys Police is investigating an allegation of assault which occurred on the afternoon of July 19th 2020 on Lon yr Ysgol, Llanelli.

It is alleged that a male, described as white, thin build, approx. 6 foot tall, and in his 20’s. forcibly dragged a female into and along the street.

The female is described as  white, long brown hair, thin build, approx. 5’5” tall, approx 30 years of age,

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to PC 1009 Aled Davies either online at: http://bit.ly/DPPReportOnline, by email at: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DPP/0005/20/07/2020/01/C.”

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Carmarthenshire students congratulated on A / AS level results

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CONGRATULATIONS to students across Carmarthenshire who are celebrating their A and AS level results.

Despite an extraordinary year and very challenging circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, students have been rewarded for all their hard work.

A total of 98.6% of A level students in Wales achieved A* – E grades and there was also a small increase in the number of students awarded A* with 10.8% of learners receiving this grade.

At AS level, 22.2% of all grades awarded were A in Wales this year; and 91.4% of candidates achieved A* – E grades.

The results are broadly similar to previous years according to the WJEC, despite no examinations being held.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams yesterday (August 12) announced that a student’s final A level grade cannot be lower than their AS grade. This means some students may have to wait for revised grades to be reissued by the WJEC.

The commitment and dedication shown by students in Carmarthenshire has been praised by Carmarthenshire County Council’s education chiefs.

They are also commending teaching staff who this year with the cancellation of the summer examinations, have had to produce assessment grades based on a range of evidence such as classwork, homework, mock exams and non-exam assessments.

Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education, said: “I would like to congratulate all our students on their AS and A level results; all their achievements and hard work has paid off and they are well prepared for their future goals and aspirations.

“It has been an exceptional year; however, it is important to remember that grades awarded this year are valued the same as in any other year and on behalf of the council, I would like to wish all our students every success for the future, whichever path they choose to follow.

“I also want to praise our schools for the high-quality support and guidance they give to our students which continues to impact positively on progress and standards. This year in particular, our teaching staff have had an even harder job, and we thank them for all their extraordinary effort.”

Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans, added: “Our students should feel very proud of their achievements. These results reflect their positive work ethic and dedication to their studies, and they can now progress with confidence to continued education, training or employment. I would like to sincerely congratulate them on all on their success.

“I would also like to thank our schools, our inspirational teachers and all our hard-working staff for all that they do to support and develop our students and prepare them for their future studies and careers. These results are testament to all their work and commitment.”

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Burry Port RNLI Malfunction On Recovery vehicle

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A busy and eventful weekend at Burry Port RNLI, with a major mechanical failure on one of our launch vehicles, we were tasked to six serious incidents on Saturday evening, a major equipment recovery on Sunday, with a few minor incidents occurring when recovery was complete.Starting Saturday, at 5.30 pm we were tasked for both boats to assist in a major search for a missing swimmer in Rhossili Bay area of the Gower. Both boats were launched and quickly on their way, when a major failure occurred on our County Tractor launch and recovery vehicle, left it in 6 foot of water, undriveable, with a fast incoming tide, with the recovery trailer still attached. Our driver had made a safe evacuation from the vehicle and was unhurt. Both boats arrived on scene at Rhossili and the swimmer was found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.


The decision was made to abandon the Tractor and trailer, anchor and bouy them for safety. At this point we received another tasking from Milford Haven UK Coastguard, for a missing person with 2 children, last seen in the water at Pembrey Country park Beach. A search was commenced, but the 3 casualties were again found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.


Whilst continuing to make safe our stricken vehicle, our Atlantic 85 lifeboat was re-tasked to search for 2 persons, cut off by the fast incoming tide at Worms Head on the Gower. The lifeboat arrived very quickly on scene, located the 2 casualties, and took them to the safety of the beach, handing them to the Rhossili Coastguard team.

At this point, a group of people were seen on the sandbank at Pembrey old Harbour, completely cut off by the tide, so our smaller D class ILB was sent to pick them up and ferry them to safety, and handed them to Burry Port UK CG team.Our Atlantic Lifeboat was moored in the harbour overnight, as we had no recovery vehicle, and our D class was recovered and stored for the night.

By 9.00am Sunday morning, a specialist recovery team and vehicle were en route to Burry Port, and a spare tractor was also despatched.Sunday was spent planning and preparing for the recovery, with low tide at 4.45 pm, both lifeboats were placed in positions to be used if called on, and at 3.00pm the recovery operation began, with the Tallus caterpillar tracked recovery vehicle, and the RNLI specialist team, and some assistance from our D class lifeboat crew, the stricken vehicle was recovered at 4.15pm, replaced by the replacement vehicle and both lifeboats were made available for service.

Minutes later the D class was assisting people trying to cross from a sandbank to the Lighthouse, and then to a vehicle bogged down in soft sand, before all boats, trailers and vehicles were back in the safety of the Lifeboat Station.Grateful thanks to the RNLI team, and the transport driver who replaced our stricken vehicle with a serviceable tractor. Great respect to all our team, who even in adverse conditions and problems, still managed to carry out all their taskings, and assist in the recovery of the vehicle. A great team effort.

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