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Alcohol ban and closure by 6pm for pubs, restaurants and café’s in Wales

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A set of new coronavirus restrictions for the hospitality and leisure sectors in Wales has been announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford.

From Friday, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services.

Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions such as cinemas, museums and gallery’s must also close.

Indoor entertainment venues like cinemas will close (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

First Minister Mark Drakeford, said: “Unfortunately, the virus is moving incredibly quickly across Wales and is eroding the gains we made during the firebreak period. We now need to take further steps together as a nation to protect people’s health and slow the spread of coronavirus.

“This virus – and this pandemic – continues to be full of unpleasant surprises. It thrives on our normal human behaviour and all those places and opportunities where we come together.

“It underlines why we need to take further, targeted action now. We will focus these changes on places where we meet and where coronavirus thrives, drawing on recent evidence from the UK SAGE group of experts about what interventions have had the biggest impact on the virus.”

Entertainment hotspot, Wind Street in Swansea (Image: Swansea Council)

The move has been criticised by Conservative, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Davies said: “Today’s news will be devastating for many businesses across Wales, especially in the entertainment and hospitality industries.

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“They have already been hit for six by the pandemic and thousands of jobs are at risk.

“The Welsh Labour-led Government must clarify its measures urgently to prevent further unnecessary anxiety and worry for those firms hanging by a thread and struggling to keep afloat.

“As we have always said, the Welsh Conservatives want to see targeted interventions rather than blanket restrictions across the whole of Wales.”

Welsh Government is offering financial support for affected businesses (Image: Anthony on Pexels.com)

The Welsh Government is making a further £340m available through the Economic Resilience Fund to support businesses affected by the new changes to the regulations. It will include a specific fund to support hospitality and tourism businesses.

The new Welsh Government support is split into two funds: a £160m Restrictions Business Fund and a £180m sector-specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme.

The Restrictions Business Fund will enable eligible businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors which pay non-domestic rates (NDR) to access grants of up to £5,000.

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It is estimated around 60,000 businesses, with a rateable value of under £150,000 will receive this support.  

Businesses not on the NDR system, will be able to continue to apply to local authorities for the Lockdown Discretionary Grant of up to £2,000.

In addition, hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses will be able to access a sector specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme.

Small and medium sized businesses meeting the criteria could receive up to £100k. Larger Welsh-based businesses could receive up to a maximum of £150k.

This part of the package is expected to support up to 8,000 businesses in these sectors and a further 2,000 in the related supply chains.

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Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “These are incredibly difficult days for businesses and these decisions have not been taken lightly.

“We expect today’s £340m announcement to support tens of thousands of businesses and help protect many more jobs and livelihoods. It must also be remembered that UK Government support is also available to businesses.

“We will continue to do everything we can to support our firms and our people through these challenging times.”

(Lead image: Little Visuals on Pexels.com)


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Council backing for Small Business Saturday

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Swansea Council is backing Small Business Saturday by continuing to encourage people to shop local.

Being held on Saturday December 4, Small Business Saturday is a UK-wide grassroots campaign that encourages people to support small businesses within their communities.

The Swansea Council plea follows on from the authority providing over £150m of support to local businesses throughout the pandemic.

Grants of up to £1,000 are being made available to support start-up businesses, with grants of up to £10,000 being provided to help businesses throughout the city upgrade the look of their properties.

Free bus travel schemes are helping support local shopping, along with the provision of free outside public space use for businesses to expand. The council is also helping businesses by working with the Welsh Government to provide grants through the Transforming Towns scheme.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “Our local, small businesses have been there for us throughout the pandemic, and the council is there for them too.

“So as well as all we’re doing as a council to help our small businesses as part of our economic recovery fund – which has now been increased from £20m to £25m – we’d also continue to encourage people throughout Swansea to support their local traders both on Small Business Saturday and beyond.

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“This is important because it boosts our local economy while helping sustain and create jobs for local people.”

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities right across Swansea, so they rightly deserve our backing.

“From innovative new businesses to those which have been in our communities for generations, many people enjoy the retail and social opportunities they provide both in the city centre and throughout all others parts of Swansea. This is an especially important time of year for our businesses too as we head towards Christmas, so I’d encourage as much support as possible.”

The council has also launched a Shop Local Swansea campaign to encourage people to shop more locally by supporting smaller, independent businesses in their communities. The campaign includes a Shop Local webpage with listings of businesses in communities including Clydach, Gorseinon, Gowerton, Killay, Morriston, Mumbles, Pontarddulais, Sketty and Uplands.

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New Swansea processing facility will ‘recycle the unrecyclable’

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Resource recovery expert Fiberight has set up a new facility and Centre of Excellence in Swansea that will use innovative resource recovery techniques to increase the capture of materials from waste for the production of market-ready recycled materials.

Based at the Westfield industrial estate in Waunarlwydd, the plant will recover and recycle valuable resources from household waste using Fiberight’s core water-based process, HYDRACYCLE™.

This economically sustainable process captures more than 70% of recyclable materials in the household waste stream, including packaging such as bottles, bags, wrappers, tubs and trays, plus food waste, paper/card, metals and aggregates (glass and grit). Recovered materials will be recycled and used in higher value products for the circular economy.

The plant’s current capacity is 12,000 tonnes a year to enable Fiberight to conduct R&D and validation work. The initial input feedstock comprises plastic-rich materials rejected from waste sorting facilities (MRFs) across England and Wales. This reject stream contains significant amounts of recyclable materials that can be recovered and recycled along circular economy principles – capturing these lost resources.

Nick Thompson, co-founder and Managing Director of Fiberight Ltd explains that Wales was chosen as it is the ‘leading UK nation in terms of recycling rates and resource recovery’.

He says: “Having developed the concept for a ‘resource refinery’ or ‘manufacturing facility that uses waste as a feedstock’ more than ten years ago, we have developed a unique process that is now tried and tested.”

Nick emphasises how their concept brings processing infrastructure to the UK, rather than relying on exporting to other countries to ‘finish the job’, adding: “This creates a massive opportunity in the UK to take the hundreds of millions of pounds of value lost by burning, burying or exporting waste and turn it into high value resources, which can be fed back into our manufacturing industry. As both national government and local authorities seek better processes and strategies to deal with waste, we are here to demonstrate we can deliver it.”

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In early 2022, the capacity will increase to 40,000 tonnes a year as a pre-commercial facility and employ local people. Long term, the aim is to create a 120,000-tonne commercial plant by 2026 with 40 jobs.

Processing waste via HYDRACYCLE™ significantly reduces carbon emissions by minimising the volume of waste requiring end of life disposal. The process saves 780kg CO2 emissions per tonne of waste input by recovering and recycling waste that would typically be buried or burnt.

A typical HYDRACYCLE™ plant will deliver the equivalent carbon saving of removing more than 20,000 petrol cars from the road each year when compared to business-as-usual landfill and/or incineration.

To facilitate the plant’s development, existing equipment and items from Fiberight’s US demonstration facility has been repurposed for the Swansea site. Fiberight has also been supported by various R&D-funded projects, including Innovate UK and the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU).

In addition to creating skilled jobs, Fiberight’s plant will see the output from the paper and card found in waste being used as animal bedding, biomass fuel, or converted into high end sugars for chemicals production processes; and the plastics will be separated and transformed into a range of materials and fuels. Any true residual waste would be used for energy generation.

Looking ahead, Fiberight aims to establish the facility as a Centre of Excellence that will demonstrate the core HYDRACYCLE™ process – plus several bolt-on technologies all in one location – recovering and recycling a variety of waste materials into high value products.

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The concept is to showcase what can be achieved by taking this new, innovative circular approach and how much value can be realised from mixed waste streams. Alongside commercial operations, R&D work will continue, including testing different feedstocks as well as responding to new opportunities.

Nick adds: “Our next generation recycling technology captures around 70%-plus of whatever waste a council isn’t recycling and transforms it into valuable recycled materials and products. We are excited to be part of an active sector in Wales which is open to new innovation and approaches.”

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New home on Port Talbot enterprise zone for MMEngineering

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Defence engineering specialists MMEngineering are enjoying record growth as they prepare to relocate to their second home on the Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone.

Established in 2016 by James Morton and brothers Chris and Martin McDermid, the company has grown by 30% over the last year reaching a turnover of £2.6miliion. This is expected to exceed £3.5 million in 2020/21 with increased customer demand prompting the need for additional space.

An initial loan of £175,000 from the Development Bank of Wales enabled MMEngineering to set-up in a 6,000 square foot unit on Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone. The company has now signed a new ten year lease for 20,000 square feet. The cost of the move and fit-out is being funded by a £250,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales. The interest rate of both loans has been reduced by 2% as the business is based in an enterprise zone.

Employing 19 people, MMEngineering designs, manufactures and installs high quality blast and flood defence solutions across the UK and internationally with exports to Thailand, Singapore and South East Asia.

Chris McDermid, Director of MMEngineering said: “The last two-years have been a roller-coaster of a journey as we simply did not know how Covid-19 would impact our performance. Our confidence certainly took a knock last year but with the on-going support of the Development Bank of Wales, we’ve been able to refocus and we’re now busier than ever but lack of space has been limiting our efficiency and ability to grow quicker.

“Staying on the same enterprise zone enables us to benefit from more space with a smooth transition. We also maintain the discounted interest rates which is helpful in terms of reducing the cost of borrowing and lowering monthly payments therefore minimising the impact on cashflow. Of course, we have an existing relationship with the Development Bank but the whole process really has been very quick and straight-forward which is exactly what we needed to be in a position to secure the new unit.”

Donna Williams, Development Bank of Wales & Chris McDermid, Director MMEngineering

Donna Williams and Stewart Williams from the Development Bank of Wales support MMEngineering. They said: “MMEngineering has exceeded all expectations over the last few years with a real surge in growth but the business has been physically limited by space.

“With our support, the team can now increase production capacity and deliver on demand; improving efficiency and preparing for the next phase of growth without needing to relocate away from the area. In fact, Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone is an ideal location given the support available for businesses like MMEngineering as we work with Welsh Government to offer reduced interest rates on our loans by up to 2%.” 

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There are eight enterprise zones in Wales. With access to a deep water harbour and excellent rail and road links, Port Talbot Waterfront Enterprise Zone benefits from access to enterprise class connectivity,  a range of affordable accommodation and support from Welsh Government and the local authority. With a strong manufacturing heritage, there is a loyal and skilled labour pool living within a 30-minute commute.

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