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Tata crisis takes new twist

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THE UK GOVERNMENT is considering radical changes to the British Steel Pension Scheme in order to make TATA Steel’s UK holdings more attractive to potential buyers. The Govern ment has also raised the spectre of TATA continuing to own UK steel plants, including works at Trostre and Port Talbot.

However, the controversial changes, which are being considered by Business Secretary Sajid Javid, would be particular to Tata’s pension scheme and would not be more broadly applied.

Tata has claimed that the deficit in the pension scheme it inherited from British Steel is making it more difficult to offload its steel-making operations in the UK.

In response, Mr Javid has started a public consultation aimed at those who work in steel-making communities and those concerned in paying into the Pension Protection Levy that protects pensioners of bankrupt schemes.

THE BIDS

The deadline for potential buyers to make formal bids closed on Monday, but Tata has not revealed how many bids it received for its UK operations.

At First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday, Carwyn Jones observed that although the Excalibur bid had considerable technical expertise, it was yet to raise funding. He has suggested that two of the bidders, Liberty and Excalibur, pool their resources – financial, technical, and managerial – to present a combined bid, a solution known to be favoured by the UK Government.

THE PROPOSAL

The consultation document states that: ‘The exceptionality of the situation means that we need to think seriously about all possible options.

‘The legislative and parliamentary process is also such that, in order to have changes to regulations in place if that is what is required to enable a satisfactory resolution for steel production, the Government needs to start the consultation process in before the hope of any deal is confirmed’.

It continues to state: ‘The financial situation of the British Steel Pension Scheme is not responsible for the wider issues in the British steel industry.

“However, the scheme does itself give rise to issues that need to be resolved as a part of any long-term viable solution for Tata’s steelmaking operations in the UK and to provide clarity and security to the members of the British Steel Pension Scheme. The Scheme has therefore asked the Government to look into various options that would increase its chances of a sustainable future’.

‘NO DECISION HAS BEEN MADE’

Mr Javid stressed that: “No decision has been made. We are wary of setting a precedent. This is very much about this scheme and this scheme only, in very unique circumstances.”

One option under discussion is to base the scheme’s annual increase on the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation measure, which is usually below the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure currently used.

This is the path favoured by the British Steel Pensions Scheme as they say it would leave most of the pension holders either better off or no worse off, compared with entering the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), which is the likely alternative.

On Tuesday (May 24). hundreds of steelworkers from across the country demand the government firstly ensure the responsible sale of Tata Steel’s UK assets and secondly deliver a proper industrial strategy that supports the entire steel sector throughout the current crisis and into a profitable future.

UNIONS WELCOME CONSULTATION

The steel trade unions – Community, Unite and GMB – have been in dialogue with the UK Government and Tata Steel for a number of weeks to secure a sustainable future for the steel industry. A number of bidders have made it clear that the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) presents a major challenge to any sale.

A statement from the Community Trade Union said: ‘We fully understand the great importance of this pension scheme to both current and former steelworkers and steel communities across the UK.

‘There has been a lot of speculation that any sale of Tata’s assets would involve the BSPS going into the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). The trade unions believe that such a move would be an unmitigated disaster.

‘The PPF is a financial safety net but it would see every member of the scheme take an unnecessary cut in pension benefits. The financial health of the BSPS is such that going into the PPF can certainly be avoided.

‘We welcome the announcement of a government consultation on the future of the BSPS and the trade unions will of course make a full submission in due course. It is important that all stakeholders continue to explore all available options that avoid the need for the scheme to go into the PPF, which would be the worst deal for scheme members.

SAFEGUARDS NECESSARY

‘We need to ensure that there are cast iron safeguards in place so this unique situation does not result in employers dodging their pensions’ responsibilities’.

The Union statement continues: ‘It is important to remember that Tata Steel remains the employer and sponsor of the BSPS. They have significant legal, social and moral responsibilities with regards to the British steel industry and those men and women who have worked and continue to work within it’.

On BBC News, one pension expert, Tom McPhail from Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The potential deal on British Steel could rip a hole in one of the most fundamental principles of pension provision. It is wellestablished that pension benefits, once granted, cannot be taken away.”

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Llanelli: Stop notice issued for school planning application

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A CONTROVERSIAL planning application for a new 480-spaced school in Llanelli has been issued a stop notice by the Welsh Government.
Carmarthenshire County Council is proposing to build a new £9.1m school on Llanerch Fields in Llanelli and were looking to determine the planning application in the coming weeks. Welsh Government will now decide whether to call in the application or not.
The new school would accommodate 420 primary and 60 nursery pupils, set over two floors with larger classrooms with integrated IT facilities, a multi-purpose hall and specialist provision for pupils with additional learning needs.
Over recent years there has been much debate in the area on the choice of site for the new school with campaigners arguing that they support a new school, but object against Llanerch fields being built upon. Last year an attempt to get the land designated as a village green was turned down.
In 2017, Ysgol Dewi Sant as the first Welsh medium primary school to be provided by a local authority celebrated its 70th birthday.
Councillor Rob James, local member for Lliedi, stated “From day one I have raised concerns that the Council’s site choice and planning process opened the Council up to the possibility of the Welsh Government calling in the planning application. It is clear that these concerns were not misplaced and there is now a really chance that it will be. 

“As a local Councillor, a school governor and a parent, I am passionate about the need for a new school for the pupils of Ysgol Dewi Sant and it is important that local pupils get the benefits of a 21st century school.
“I will now be working with Council Officers to ensure that contingency plans are prepared in case the Welsh Government state that the planning application does not comply with national planning policy.
“I will also work with parents, pupils, residents and interested parties are able to engage with the Welsh Government during this process.”

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Third annual Burry Port Raft Race is eagerly awaited

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THE THIRD ANNUAL BURRY PORT RAFT RACE, organised by Burry Port couple, Craig and Isabel Goodman, will be held on Saturday (July 27).

The event which is held in Burry Port Harbour, raises much needed funds for both Burry Port RNLI and a children’s football academy and primary school the couple support in The Gambia.

The day launches at 12pm with stands, food stalls and children’s inflatable games and rides and these will be available until 5pm. You’ll also have a chance to meet the crews, who’ll be busy putting the final touches to their rafts.

Rafts launch at 3pm, followed by a presentation ceremony, including prizes for first raft over the line, first raft to sink and best dressed raft.

Craig said: ” A huge thank you goes to all our sponsors, including overall sponsor Dawsons, along with continued sponsorship from Celtic Couriers, Parker Plant Hire, Burns Pet Nutrition, Burry Port Co-Op, Llanelli Star, LBS Builders Merchants, Burry Port Marina, First Choice Flooring and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council.

For any further information about the event, please contact 07825 842981.

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Compensation offered after FSCS declares Llanelli firm in default

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CONSUMERS could get back money they have lost as a result of their dealings with a failed regulated firm in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. The firm is Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited formerly Assura Protect, Room 1, 7 Meadows Bridge, Parc Menter, Cross Hands, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA14 6RA.

The firm was declared in default in June 2019 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme that protects customers of authorised financial services firms that carry out certain regulated activities. A declaration of default means FSCS is satisfied a firm is unable to pay claims for compensation made against it. This paves the way for customers of that firm to make a claim for compensation with FSCS.

Alex Kuczynski, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at FSCS, said: “FSCS steps in to protect consumers around the UK when authorised financial services firms go bust. This vital service, which is free to consumers, protects deposits, insurance, investments, home finance and debt management. We want anyone who believes they may be owed money as a result of their dealings with this firm to get in touch, as we may be able to help you.”

Since it began in 2001, FSCS has helped more than 4.5m people, paying out more than £26bn in compensation.

If you wish to make a claim with FSCS against Hayden Williams Independent Financial Services Limited, you may be able to do so using FSCS’s online claims service at https://claims.fscs.org.uk Or you can contact its Customer Services Team on 0800 678 1100 or 020 7741 4100

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