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Welsh Government confirms vacant land tax plan

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Housing a priority: Mark Drakeford takes action on land-banking

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​ will put forward the vacant land tax idea to test the Wales Act 2014 powers, Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford has announced.

The Cabinet Secretary will set out the next steps for proposing a new Welsh tax as part of the tax policy work plan for 2018.

Since announcing a shortlist of 4 new tax ideas alongside the draft Budget in October, the Welsh Government has been examining the case for each of these.

The 4 tax ideas were: a social care levy, a vacant land tax, a disposable plastics tax and a tourism tax.

Although the vacant land tax idea will be used to test the Wales Act powers, work will also continue on each of the other 3 tax ideas.

The decision to take forward the vacant land tax idea follows engagement with stakeholder organisations, the public and across government.

A vacant land tax has been chosen both because it could help to incentivise more timely development, and because it could help prevent dereliction and aid regeneration.

Professor Drakeford said: “Housing is a priority for the Welsh Government. A tax on vacant land could prevent the practice of land banking and land not being developed within the expected timescales.

“The Republic of Ireland vacant sites levy provides a useful starting point for how a vacant land tax could work in Wales.

“The existing model in the Republic of Ireland and the relatively narrow focus of the tax make this the most suitable of the 4 shortlisted ideas to test the Wales Act.”

The Irish measure, announced in their government’s 2018 Budget, will mean that any owner of a vacant site on the register who does not develop their land in 2018 will pay the 3% levy in 2019 and then become liable to the increased rate of 7% from 1 January 2019.

If land owners continue to hoard land in 2019, they will pay 7% in 2020.

When the Welsh Government announced it was considering such a measure in October 2017, before the UK Government said it was considering a similar plan, the House Builders’ Federation raised the spectre of developers decamping en masse to England with their large projects. That threat, such as it was, has receded but the Federation of Master Builders is still concerned.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Ifan Glyn of FMB Cymru said: “If there’s a tax that’s introduced that can focus solely on land banking for financial reasons to maximise profits, we would absolutely agree with that.

“Our issue is we don’t see how this tax can differentiate between land that’s been banked for financial reasons and land that isn’t being developed or stalling for reasons outside the developer’s control.”

A further wrinkle in the system was identified by Dr John McCartney, Director of Research at Savills Ireland.

Speaking about what were then only proposals by the Irish Government to impose the vacant site levy, he said that increasing the vacant site levy to 7% could amplify “boom-and-bust cycles” in the construction sector.

Dr McCartney said that land is a raw material for developers and it is natural for them to carry a stock of development land.

“No developer will now carry a land-bank in a slow market. This means when a recovery follows developers will spend the early years on site assembly rather than the house building they could and should be doing,” he explained.

Responding to the announcement, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance spokesperson, Nick Ramsay AM said: “From the outset, Welsh Conservatives have opposed the ludicrous proposal for a tourism tax in Wales, one which would cause serious harm to businesses across the country.

“While we are pleased the Welsh Government has listened to us and decided against taking this idea forward, once the mechanism has been tested, we would not expect the Labour Government to return to the table with this proposal, one which has been widely criticised by the industry.

“Our vigorous campaign will continue until Labour’s Finance Secretary consigns this ludicrous proposal to where it belongs: the bin.”

Commenting on the decision to bring forward a potential vacant land tax, Mr Ramsay added: “On the surface, we welcome the fact that, as in England, the Welsh Government is exploring the viability of a vacant land tax but we await the full details of this proposal from the Finance Secretary.

“However, an important distinction must be made between land held for legitimate technical reasons such as detailed planning or a lack of skills and materials, and land which is held for purely commercial speculation.

“Speculation distorts the main purpose of releasing land for much needed development and it will be vitally important to fully consult with the sector to ensure the right balance is struck.”

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Business

Admiral is hiring for remote roles in west Wales

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JOIN Admiral, and work from home – no experience necessary!

Wales’ only FTSE 100 company is hiring across Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire right now for remote roles.

Admiral, which is ranked the 5th best workplace in the UK and the 2nd best workplace for women, is looking for residents in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire to join them as they recruit for remote roles, with full training and equipment provided!

Remote Customer Service Advisor – (Customer Loyalty department) 

The Customer Loyalty department are responsible for looking after their valued customers, whether that’s dealing with queries, finding solutions, changing policy details, or the all-important job of negotiating with those who aren’t satisfied with their renewal quote.

This means they’re looking for those who are resilient and customer focused. You need to be skilled in building relationships, delivering superb customer service and have a willingness to upsell additional products or services. You’ll have the opportunity to make a positive difference in their customers’ lives through the service you provide them, so it’s vital that you value helping others!

You’ll work in a busy environment, likely to take upwards of 50 calls per day, so you’ll need to make lightning-fast decisions to help their valued customers.

Remote Sales Consultant – (New Business department) 

In the New Business department, the culture is the heart of the department. They’re a supportive, fun and innovative team who always strive for the best and celebrate the success of their colleagues. Their standards are high but they’ll ensure everyone is fully supported to enable them to succeed!

A day in the life of a Remote Sales Consultant is centred around customers. You’ll take incoming calls from their customers (no cold-calling) and guide them through the process of setting up insurance and secure them the best deal, all while adding value and providing outstanding service.

This means they’re looking for motivated, confident and resilient people to join the New Business family. You’ll be bringing in brand new customers, so you need to take pride in your work and be able to make a great first impression!

Benefits of working for Admiral 

  • A starting salary of £19,100 plus up to an additional £13,000 in incentives.
  • Full training provided with no experience necessary
  • All equipment provided
  • Fully remote roles – no travel costs or time!
  • Free shares worth £3,600 every year (After 1 year’s service)
  • Full time position with long-term career prospects

Why choose to join Admiral as an employer 

Admiral is an award-winning employer! In 2021, they were named the 5th best workplace in the UK, and 2nd best for women by Great Place to Work, the 5th Best Big Company To Work For in the UK in the Best Companies To Work For list and the 17th Best Multinational Workplace in Europe by Great Place to Work.

They take career progression seriously and really encourage colleagues to take their careers to the next level, providing support along the way.

Admiral is also well known for its share scheme, offering free shares worth £3,600 every year, once you’ve been with them for one year. 

This means receiving dividends twice a year plus the ability to sell your shares after three years, or after five years tax free! It’s a great way to have a real sense of ownership in your role and help drive the business forward. 

If you’re looking for an opportunity to join an award winning, FTSE 100 company then you can apply by following the link www.admiraljobs.co.uk/west.

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Business

Applications open for emergency financial support from Economic Resilience Fund

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Eligible businesses can apply for grants of between £2,500 to £25,000

BUSINESSES in Wales impacted by the rapid spread of the Omicron virus can now apply for emergency financial support from the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund (ERF).

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething previously said £120 million would be available for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism business and their supply chains affected by the move to alert level 2 announced by the First Minister on Wednesday 22 December.

Eligible businesses can apply for grants of between £2,500 to £25,000, with grants dependent on their size and number of employees.

The application window will be open for two weeks, with payments starting to reach businesses within days.

Vaughan Gething

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

“Following positive engagement with businesses, trades unions and other partners, we recently changed the eligibility criteria for the ERF support. The ERF grant is a Wales-only top up payment that currently supports eligible businesses who have seen a 60% drop in their income between December and February compared with the same period two years ago. The new criteria means that businesses in these sectors who have seen a 50% reduction in their turnover will now also be able to access the ERF.

“This means more businesses will receive more support from the Welsh Government.”

Non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses in Wales can also receive support from the Non Domestic Rates (NDR) linked grant which is being administered by local authorities. Businesses will be entitled to a payment of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000 depending on their rateable value.

Local authorities are also administrating a discretionary fund for sole traders, freelancers and taxi drivers and businesses that employ people but do not pay business rates. Last week this was doubled to £1,000.

The Welsh Government has provided in excess of £2.5bn funding to Welsh businesses since the start of the pandemic. Focused particularly on backing small businesses and Welsh communities, it’s targeted approach has helped protect in excess of 160,000 Welsh jobs which might otherwise have been lost.

Apply for Economic Resilience Fund support here:

COVID-19 Support for Business | Business Wales (gov.wales)

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Business

Businesses will soon be able to access funding from the Welsh Government

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BUSINESSES in Pembrokeshire which have been impacted by the move to Alert Level 2 Covid-19 measures in Wales will soon be able to register or apply for Welsh Government funding.

The First Minister announced a £120m package of support for nightclubs, events, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and their supply chains, impacted by the move to Alert Level 2.

An eligibility checker for businesses has now gone live.

Businesses are urged to check their eligibility at: https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/businesssupport?_ga=2.234856926.1944247233.1641292011-360841121.1641292011

The above link also features further information and a series of FAQs about the latest round of support.

The funding will take the form of three elements.

Non Domestic Rates (NDR) linked funding of up to £6,000.

Retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism business who pay Non Domestic Rates will be entitled to a payment of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000 depending on their rateable value.

Businesses will need to re-register their details with Pembrokeshire County Council through an online process in order to receive their payments.

The Council will also deliver a discretionary fund to support sole traders, freelancers and businesses who don’t pay rates, with funding of £500 – £2000.

The Local Authority discretionary fund will be via a short application process with sole traders, freelancers and taxi drivers able to apply for £500 and businesses that employ people but do not pay business rates will be able to apply for £2,000.

Pembrokeshire County Council plans to open the schemes on Monday 10th January for the NDR related fund and Monday 17th January for the Discretionary fund.

See notes below for further information on the way the NDR linked grant and discretionary fund will be allocated.

The third element of the funding is a reopening of the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund (ERF).

On top of NDR based funding, this will see funds of up to £25,000 made available for severely impacted hospitality and leisure businesses – and their supply chains.

As with previous ERF rounds, this will support businesses who have seen a reduction in their turnover of more than 60%.

Details of the application and registration process will be published on the Authority’s Business Advice and Support pages: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

The funding package is designed to support businesses impacted by the spread of Omicron through the period 13 December 2021 to 14 February 2022.

Please note that as a result of the new emergency support packages, the Welsh Government is withdrawing its £35m Business Support Fund, announced in November, in order to process emergency payments as soon as possible.

Any expressions of interest received will be notified of this directly.

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