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Construction output falls as productivity shrinks

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THE GOVERNMENT and Parliament must break the Brexit deadlock and find a way forward warns the Federation of Master Builder (FMB), in response to the latest Construction PMI data, which shows another drop in construction output.

The March 2019 PMI data revealed an Index score of 49.7, up slightly from 49.5 in February, against the no change threshold of 50.0. This points to a sustained decline in construction output, representing the first back-to-back fall in construction output since 2016. While the residential building sector enjoyed an upturn, commercial construction was the worst performing area.

Commenting on the results, published this morning, Sarah McMonagle, Director of Communications at the FMB, said: “The construction industry is being seriously affected by Brexit uncertainty as evidenced by two very worrying sets of results for construction output in the first quarter of 2019.

“Businesses have been waiting for politicians to come to some resolution for far too long now, and it’s time that this deadlock was broken. It’s not surprising employers are finding it hard to plan for the future, when we don’t even know when, or indeed if, we’re leaving the EU. Today’s results are a reminder of just how vulnerable the construction industry is to political turmoil as confidence among consumers and contractors continues to wobble.”

Ms McMonagle concluded: “Brexit uncertainty and the construction skills shortage have created a perfect storm in our industry.

“Around 9 per cent of construction workers in the UK are from EU countries, but we know from speaking to small construction employers that many of these skilled workers are starting to return, whether that’s because of strengthening economies elsewhere, or that they simply don’t feel welcome anymore. This is compounding an already severe construction skills shortage, and I’m worried that the Government’s post-Brexit immigration system will make it even worse. For example, the system will not allow Level 2 tradespeople to live and work in the UK for more than 12 months at a time. At the same time, the Government’s figures last week show that the number of Level 2 apprenticeship starts among our domestic workforce is dropping.

“It’s quite simply not possible to build the homes and infrastructure we need without bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers. The Government and industry must work together to attract more people into the industry, by offering them high quality training with clear career pathways for progression but in the meantime we need sustained access to tradespeople of all skill levels for the industry to continue being open for business.”

Elsewhere in the economy, the Federation of Small Businesses has expressed concern at the UK’s productivity growth in Q4 of 2018 decreasing for the second consecutive quarter.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said: “Today’s data highlights yet again the impact of the political and economic uncertainty to the economy.

“Small business confidence has fallen through the floor as firms face a trying time amid a fragile economy.

“While there were some positives in the data such as a 0.4% productivity increase in services, there was a significant 1.1% decrease for manufacturing.

“Small firms are not only contending with unprecedented uncertainty, they are also dealing with a raft of new cost increases and reporting requirements.

“Rising labour costs have continued with the introduction of Making Tax Digital, fresh hikes to business rates and a further increase in auto-enrolment pension contributions.

“In order to improve productivity, key areas that must be addressed include management and leadership, broadband connectivity and the scourge of late payments.

“All this amid the ongoing uncertainty over the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU which shows no sign of reaching a resolution.

“Productivity will only continue to decline unless the Government can do more to step up and back British businesses.”

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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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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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Local charity celebrates the completion of 30 years of service by returning to its roots

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Foothold Cymru staff celebrate 30 years of service.

THE CENTRE for Building Social Action has been supporting communities in West Wales with life’s essentials for over 30 years. To mark this milestone they have decided to return to the name that they started out with: Foothold Cymru.

Many long term supporters of this Carmarthenshire based charity will know that it launched in 1991 and delivered services under the name of Foothold for nearly 20 years. Now as the charity approaches the end of its 30th year it has decided to return to its roots and become Foothold Cymru.

Chief Executive of Foothold Cymru, Mike Theodoulou says: ‘We feel that the name Foothold Cymru perfectly captures the work of our charity, which gives individuals and communities a “secure foothold” from where they can move forward and thrive, not just survive. 

We also know that the name ‘Foothold’ still resonates with many of our long-term supporters and service users, so for us it seemed only natural that we mark the completion of our 30 th year of service by returning to our roots.’

Volunteers at a Foothold Cymru Food Store in Burry Port, Carmarthenshire

Over the last 30 years the charity has supported over a quarter of a million people and secured over £30million for local projects. More recently it reached the milestone of supporting over 500 families to put fresh, healthy food on their tables in the face of increasing energy and food prices. And, at this time of huge social, environmental, and economic upheaval its work has never been more needed.

Its support services are focused around life’s essentials: food, education and work. It provides practical solutions to those struggling to make ends meet with food and clothing, it supports people back to work and it offers alternative opportunities for people to learn. At the heart of its work is a focus on developing services with the communities and individuals most affected by these issues; co-designing and delivering activities for lasting change.

The charity will be marking the completion of its 30th year and the return to the name ‘Foothold Cymru’ with their first ever fundraising campaign, entitled ‘30 Pounds for 30 Years.’

The charity is asking businesses and individuals to donate £30 to support its vital services. That’s £1 for every year it’s been delivering services across Carmarthenshire. By giving £30, supporters will be helping the charity and its work to help families and communities with life’s essentials, things a lot of us take for granted.

Fundraising Manager, Emily Wells says ‘There’s a huge need for the services we’re providing here in West Wales and demand is only going to grow in 2022. We want to be there for everyone who needs our help, and with the generous backing of local businesses and individuals we can do just that’

If you would like to support Foothold Cymru and celebrate their completion of 30 years of service, please visit www.footholdcymru.org.uk and click on the ‘30 Pounds for 30 Years’ banner, or the ‘Donate’ button.

If you, or someone you know, would like support from Foothold Cymru please visit www.footholdcymru.org.uk to find out about all the services they offer and how to access them.

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