News in brief. Probe launched into takeover of Welsh graphene manufacturer
The UK Government has ordered a national security review of the potential takeover of a Welsh company that manufactures graphene.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has instructed the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to review the planned takeover of Perpetuus Group by Taurus International or any companies associated with Dr Zhongfu Zhou, a Chinese academic.
Perpetuus has sites in Swansea, Newport and Ammanford and manufactures the supermaterial” graphene and carbon nanotubes.
According to the government it produces at least one quarter of all the UK’s graphene plasma goods and/or services.
Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State has the power to intervene in mergers on public interest grounds relating to national security and following his intervention the Competition and Markets Authority has until midnight at the end of 7 February 2022 to complete and submit its report.
Perpetuus employs just 14 workers at its main graphene plant and the companies accounts up to March last year recorded a turnover of only £479,000.
According to Perpetuus’s website, Dr Zhou has doctorates from China’s University of Science & Technology Beijing and the University of Oxford. Zhou then became a researcher at Cardiff University and was a professor at Aberystwyth University until December 2020 and is also the managing director of the Inner Mongolia Industrial Research Institute for Composite Materials.
Graphene is the thinnest material known to man but is about 200 times stronger than steel. It is also a powerful conductor of electricity and has applications in a range of industries, including electronics, defence and medicine.
In July Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July asked officials to re-examine the purchase of Newport Wafer Fab, the U.K.’s largest silicon wafer producer, after a deal was agreed with the Chinese-owned semiconductor company Nexperia for around £63m.
Deaths due to Covid show small decline as new cases continue to rise
The number of Covid deaths recorded in Wales in the week ending 27 August showed a small decline compared to the previous week, according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
Overall, the number of deaths from all causes from 598 to 616, which was 43 more deaths than the five-year average and of these, 16 involved Covid-19, two fewer than the week ending 20 of August.
Over the seven days covered by the latest study, 2.6% of all deaths mentioned Covid on the death certificate.
According to the ONS, the number of deaths in Wales since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 was 53,821 and of these, 8,018 deaths (14.9%) mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate. This was 5,333 deaths above the five-year average.
Public Health Wales has reported three further deaths in today’s update, taking the total number of deaths recorded to 5,702.
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales 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.
PHW has also reported 2,504 new cases of the virus since yesterday’s report and 14,773 new infections over the week ending 2 September.
The weekly national case rate has risen from 452.8 per 100,000 people to 468 since yesterday’s report while the test positivity rate has remained steady at 18.9% per 100,000 tests.
Merthyr has the highest case rate in Wales at 752.6, up from 744.3 yesterday and Swansea has the highest positivity rate in Wales at 22.6%.
Red Wall gets green light for October World Cup qualifiers
Wales supporters will be allowed to travel to October’s World Cup qualifiers in the Czech Republic and Estonia after a ban on away fans attending matches in Europe was lifted by Fifa and Uefa.
The ban was introduced following a spike in Covid cases across the continent and has seen away fans banned from this month’s round of international matches.
Travel arrangements and the number of fans allowed to attend games will be subject to restrictions put in place by the host countries.
Both the Czech Republic and Estonia are on the UK government’s amber list, meaning that anyone arriving from the UK is exempt from self-isolation rules on entry if they have had two vaccinations.
Wales are currently in third place in Group E after Sunday’s last gasp victory over Belarus.
They host Estonia, who have yet to record a point or score a goal in the group, at the Cardiff City Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Rates relief extended for childcare providers until 2025
Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan has announced registered child care premises in Wales will benefit from 100% non-domestic rates relief until 31 March 2025.
An additional £9.7 million of support has been made available to extend the existing protection for a further three years.
The Small Business Rates Relief scheme was enhanced in April 2019 to provide 100% relief to all registered childcare premises in Wales for a three-year period. And was designed to help the sector deliver the Government’s child care offer of 30 hours of early education and childcare.
“We are committed to investing in Wales’ childcare sector. It is vital we recognise the essential service childcare settings provide to families, offering positive and caring environments for our children and helping parents to access employment, education or training,“ the deputy minister said.
“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on businesses across Wales and childcare settings have been severely impacted. The pandemic has created new and exacerbated existing challenges for childcare settings. The extension of the rates relief will help registered childcare premises continue the crucial work they do and help to ensure they remain viable businesses.”
Proposal to buy former MoD houses approved
Katy Jenkins, local democracy reporter
Senior councillors have backed a move to buy former Ministry of Defence (MoD) houses in Haverfordwest where nine families are facing eviction.
A proposal to buy 26 houses on Cormorant Close, on the Cashfields Estate, was discussed by Pembrokeshire’s cabinet on Monday (September 6).
The MoD gave 17 civilian families renting properties from it ‘notice to quit’ in late 2020 with the deadline for people having to leaved postponed to March 2022, according to a report to cabinet.
The proposal, which was unanimously supported by cabinet, will “prevent nine families given notice from becoming homeless” said housing cabinet member Cllr Michelle Bateman, and add to the Housing Revenue Account stock.
She added that the acquisitions are in addition to house building plans and not instead of, with the building programme continuing.
Cllr Paul Miller added his support, saying bringing properties back into use and safeguarding families was a “good thing” and “why wouldn’t we do this.”
The report adds that the MoD is the freehold owner of the estate – which was mainly used to house military service personnel, with more civilians renting over more recent years – with a 999 year lease to Annigton Property Limited granted in 1996, when a 200 year lease back to the MoD was also granted.
As of June this year MoD information shows there are nine properties occupied by non-military families, one occupied by a military family and 16 vacant houses pending sale.
The recommendation to cabinet is that the council buys the freehold for 26 houses from Annigton Property Limited – subject to negotiations – with the price likely to exceed £1million and those already living there allowed to continue renting.
Precise financial information is considered exempt and not included with the public reports on the cabinet agenda.