News in brief: Plaid calls for government action to preserve steel jobs
Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to take action to save to save the jobs of up to 200 steelworkers in Wales.
There are fears that Liberty Steel, the UK’s third largest steel company, could collapse after the UK Government rejected a plea from the company for a £170 million emergency loan last week.
The business has been struggling to survive since the collapse of its main financier Greensill Capital, which fell into administration earlier this month, forcing Liberty to pause production at some of its UK plants to conserve money.
“Amid the discussions of the future and fortunes of Liberty Steel are the employees, caught in the middle, and who are desperately seeking reassurance that their governments are doing everything in their power to secure their jobs,” Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales East, said.
“For the near 200 workers in Wales, it’s imperative that the Welsh Government acts quickly and ensures that no stone is left unturned in the effort to save jobs in this key industrial sector.”
“The only secure and sustainable future for Welsh steel plants in the long run is to return the ownership of the Welsh steel industry to Welsh hands – and ensuring that our workers and their communities have a seat at the table.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng described Liberty Steel as a “really important national asset”.
“We are custodians of taxpayers’ money, and there were concerns over the very opaque structure of the GFG Group and we feel that if we gave the money, there is no guarantee that that money would stay in the UK and protect British jobs. It’s a multinational enterprise,” he added.
“All options are on the table. We think the steel industry has a future in the UK.”
Liberty steel currently employs 3,000 people at 11 sites in the UK, including close to 200 at its Newport plant.
The jobs of another 2,000 people in engineering businesses within the group are also under threat.
Many of Liberty Steel’s assets were part of Tata Steel’s UK business until they were purchased for £100m in 2017.
One new Covid death reported in Wales
One further person has died due to Covid-19 and there have been 60 new cases confirmed in the last 24 hours, according to the latest figures from Public Health Wales.
The newly reported death was in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area.
The total number of deaths recorded by PHW since the start of the pandemic is 5,507.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, published yesterday, recorded 7,764 deaths that mentioned Covid-19 since last March.
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales only include the deaths of a hospital patients or care home resident where Covid-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and the clinician suspects this was a causative factor in the death.
Deaths counted by the ONS are when Covid-19 is mentioned by doctors on the death certificate and which occur in all settings – including hospitals, care homes, hospices and people’s homes.
The weekly case rate across Wales has fallen from 37.6 to 36.8 per 100,000 people since yesterday’s update and the positive test proportion has dropped to 2.6% per 100,000 tests from to 2.7%, the lowest weekly figure recorded since the week ending 13 September.
The highest weekly case rate in Wales is in Merthyr Tydfil at 121, down from 132. 6 yesterday
Anglesey has the second highest proportion of new cases at 108.5, a fall from 112.8 yesterday.
A total of 437,937 people have now received both doses of vaccine and 1,427,183 have had one jab since the rollout of the mass vaccination programme started in December.
Lib Dems makes rates freeze pledge
Welsh Liberal Democrats say long-term funding is required to help the beleaguered hospitality sector in in Wales and have pledged to freeze business rates for the next five years to help companies survive the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Outdoor hospitality could reopen in Wales from 22 April and the Welsh Government has also confirmed support for the hospitality industry has been extended until after the Senedd election in May.
“Welsh Liberal Democrats have long called for long term funding for the hospitality industry to be guaranteed until they can reopen,” the Lib Dem Small Business Spokesperson and Vale of Glamorgan Candidate Sally Stephenson said.
“This is a small step in the right direction, however what the owners of bars, pubs and restaurants need is certainty and help in the medium to long term as they recover from the effects covid. Welsh Liberal Democrats will freeze business rates over the next five years providing a much needed lifeline to many businesses.”
Safety campaigners aim to get street lights switched back on in Powys
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
In a bid to make the streets safer, a campaign has been started to switch back on darkened street lights in Powys.
The decision to switch off some street lights in the county was taken by councillors over a decade ago as part of a cost cutting exercise.
But recent events, highlighted by the death of Sarah Everard in London earlier this month, have convinced two county councillors to start a campaign.
Action for Powys members, Cllrs Joy Jones (Newtown East) and Les Skilton (Newtown South) have set up a petition: “Shine a light on safety .. Turn our street lights back on.”
Both councillors had received “serious concerns from many residents,” on the issue.
Cllr Jones, who is also Powys County Council’s anti-poverty champion, said: “It has become a focus of concern over that last few weeks with the sad news around Sarah Everard.
“For many years residents in Powys have seen reduction in street lighting.
“This has lead to many feeling unsafe and concerned for their welfare.
“On many estates and streets in Newtown and throughout Powys, there are dark areas which have left residents feeling afraid or wary to walk alone.
“We are all aware that being attacked can affect people for the rest of their lives.”
Cllr Jones added it was not just the fear of attack, but people can’t see the pavement, kerbs or steps clearly in the dark.
Cllr Skilton, said: “We are aware there will be extra cost but that should not come before the safety of residents.
“More lit areas will lead to fewer places for other unsocial actives to take place such as drug taking or dealing, alcohol misuse.”
In the past switching off street lights in the county has raised health and safety concerns, as well as fears that the crime rate would rise.
A proposal in the 2019/20 budget to save £150,000 by asking town and community councils to pay for street lighting was eventually dropped.
This was due to fears it could increase the problem of “County Lines” drug dealers using the cover of darkness in the county.
PCC first took their initial decision to switch off some street lights back in 2008.
You can find the petition here.