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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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How Wales created 19 new field hospitals in less than 8 weeks…

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Across Wales the Welsh Government is supporting the NHS to create new field hospitals and rapidly increase bed capacity.
Health boards have repurposed existing buildings, including the Principality Stadium, a holiday park and even a television studio to provide an additional 6,000 beds.Field hospitals are designed to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic by providing extra bed capacity but they will also help normal hospital services be restarted and support social care services.Last month, the first patients were admitted to Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig at the Principality Stadium, in Cardiff.

Four to six weeks

Here is how Wales almost doubled its bed capacity in less than eight weeks…The time it has taken to nearly double hospital bed capacity in Wales, creating field hospitals across the nation.

19 field hospitals in Wales
This includes the repurposing of Bluestone Holiday Park and Parc y Scarlets in west Wales and Venue Cymru in north Wales.

1,500 beds at the Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig
Making it one of the largest field hospitals in the UK.

Five days
The length of time it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig, which overlapped with the build phase.

3,000
The number of planning hours, involving more than 20 different disciplines, it took to plan Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig.

£166m
Welsh Government funding for the set up, construction and equipment for field hospitals in Wales.

138,000
The number of pieces of equipment have been provided to help support field hospitals, including beds, imaging equipment, syringe drivers and medicines.

Three North Wales field hospitals have the name Enfys
Meaning rainbow – the symbol of hope and thank you to the NHS during the pandemic.
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7-year-old Mattie from Pembrey takes on home Pen y Fan-tastic challenge for Action for Children

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Plucky Mattie Denman will climb the equivalent of Pen y Fan in the drive at her family home in Pembrey on Friday 22nd May to raise funds for Action for Children.

Mattie (7), has always wanted to climb the highest mountain in South Wales and is unable to currently because of the coronavirus pandemic.  As the family exercise at home every day, she decided she wanted to do the 6-mile equivalent journey there while she waits for the chance to do it for real.  Mattie chose Action for Children as her mother, Sian, works for the charity in Carmarthenshire.

Mattie said: ‘My Mammy works for Action for Children and I want to help as well because lots of families need help.  My older brother and sister help Action for Children, so I asked Mammy if I could do something. We exercise everyday walking up and down the drive and I have always wanted to climb Pen y Fan, but we have never done it.

‘Mammy said I could pretend I am walking it and people will give money to the charity. I said brilliant, that is what I am going to do and I am super excited to do it. I will use mammy’s step counter and I hope I can help children that need support especially because it is so hard for some families because of coronavirus.’

Proud mum and family support practitioner for Action for Children, Sian, added: ‘Mattie has a lovely heart and really wanted to do something and I’m very proud she chose Pen y Fan as her home challenge.  Action for Children has been going the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic continuing to support vulnerable families through phone and video sessions as well as food and help with the basics from our Emergency Appeal Fund. 

‘It is a tremendously challenging time for our families and every bit of money will directly help those in our communities who need it most.  I hope as many people as possible will donate to Mattie’s brilliant fundraising effort, it’ll make it even more special when we finally get to climb Pen y Fan for real.’

If you want to support Mattie’s Pen y Fan challenge please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mattiesclimb

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Housebuilder launches Coronavirus move in package

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A South Wales housebuilder has launched new incentives which mean homes are ‘ready to move into’ during the Covid-19 crisis – without the need for tradespeople or delivery people.

People in Wales are allowed to move into new build houses during the lockdown – and many people have successfully done so.

However, the limitations of social distancing can add extra stress when it comes to having things like dishwashers, washing machines and turf installed in the new property.

That’s why Persimmon Homes West Wales has launched a new incentive package which gives purchasers the chance to buy a house with white goods and flooring already in place.

Sharon Bouhali, sales director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “Our sales advisors have done a terrific job in talking with customers and guiding them through the buying process remotely, without the need of face-to-face meetings.

“It’s been a huge challenge, but we’ve risen to it – and Persimmon has sold more than 120 properties in South Wales during the lockdown period. We have customers moving into their new homes every week.

“But, understandably, some people are cautious about having too many tradespeople and contractors enter their home, even if they are doing their utmost to abide by social distancing rules.

“That’s why we have launched these new packages which mean people can turn the key, unpack and get on with enjoying their new home.”

The package includes carpets and vinyl throughout, turf in the back garden, sliding wardrobes, integrated fridge freezer, integrated washer/dryer, integrated dishwasher and £500 discount towards removal fees.

The deal is on offer at Glas Y Felin in Bridgend, Parc Yr Onnen in Carmarthen, The Bridles in Llanelli, Peterson Park in Pontyclun, Parc Brynderi in Llanelli and Allt Y Celyn in Rhos.

Persimmon’s marketing suites in Wales remain closed for the time being. Visit www.persimmonhomes.com or call 01792 229800 for details of homes available.

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