David Davies News....
Business rate rise will crush the high street without further government help
High street retailers are facing a catastrophe unless the Welsh Government provides further help to protect small businesses affected by an imminent change to business rates, Monmouth’s MP has warned.
Following increasing concern from town centre traders and Monmouthshire County Council about the impact of the independent Valuation Office Agency’s first business rate revaluation in seven years, Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford announced £20m of additional support for those hit by huge hikes – with £10m specifically targeted at the high street.
Around 400 businesses in Monmouthshire could be eligible for up to £1,500 off their rates bill in 2017-18.
But David Davies MP said the funding, which has been brought forward for the whole of Wales, does not go far enough and still left many independent firms under threat of closure when the revaluation comes into force on 1 April.
He is demanding that Wales should offer the same financial assistance as England, where Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled a package of measures to ease the burden on hard-pressed businesses.
These include a monthly cap, meaning no business or pub in England losing small business rate relief will see their bill increase by more than £50.
“We are facing a catastrophe on local high streets if the Welsh Government fails to recognise the damage set to be inflicted on businesses across Monmouthshire,” said Mr Davies.
“I have been warning about this since the autumn and backing urgent calls by council leaders for a delay in implementing the new tariffs.
“Unless something drastic is done, we will definitely see cherished family-owned businesses shut down and there is a real fear it could trigger a rapid decline of our colourful town centres.”
The Budget on 8 March delivered an extra £200m to the Welsh Government over four years.
Mr Davies said he would be pressing Mark Drakeford to allocate a proportion of that money to ensure small businesses in Wales receive exactly the same level of support as businesses in England, which he described as “altogether much more generous”.
In an age when the digital revolution is transforming the way consumers shop, he also suggested it was time to tax businesses based on profit – not on a “bureaucrat’s view” of how much a property can be rented for.
“The system of business rates is unfair, outdated and deters investment,” added Mr Davies.
“Taxing businesses on the basis of rent values seems a somewhat archaic approach in a modern economy.”
Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week
Local MP David Davies has been meeting apprentices from David Wilson Homes in Monmouth to celebrate the 10th National Apprenticeship Week, which starts on Monday (6 March).
This year’s Apprenticeship Week campaign theme is Ladder of Opportunity, focusing on the progression routes of apprenticeships from traineeships through to higher and degree apprenticeships.
Mr Davies was given a tour of the King’s Wood Gate on Wonastow Road and met apprentices.
David Wilson Homes managing director Steve Williams, who accompanied Mr Davies, said: “We’re extremely proud of our apprenticeship scheme and the talented team members that have passed through it and stayed with the company over the years.
"There is often discussion over the lack of skills within the industry, but we feel we’re playing a small but vital part in addressing this gap and setting up our staff for years of success.
“We want to invite anybody with an interest in construction to consider applying for one of our apprenticeships and help us build our award-winning new homes."
Mr Davies added: "Apprenticeships provide invaluable opportunities for local people to get hands on experience, and play a really important part in improving our skills and trades base in South Wales.
"I am delighted David Wilson Homes is playing such an important role in developing our local workforce."
David Wilson Homes is part of Barratt Developments. The apprenticeship programme sees learners work on an assigned development in the region for part of their working week, as well as taking part in classroom-based learning at a local college.
Barratt’s programme has been recognised by industry bodies as the best of its kind in recent years, including the CITB Apprenticeship Awards, the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers, and National Apprenticeship Service’s BT Macro Employer of the Year Award.
National Apprenticeship Week was set up by the UK Government’s National Apprenticeship Service and is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
For more information about apprenticeships, undergraduate and graduate opportunities, please visit Barratt Developments’ recruitment website at www.barrattfuturetalent.co.uk.
Ribbon cutting for Monmouthshire's new boxing gym
Monmouth MP David Davies cut the ribbon for the official opening of Bertie's Boxing Gym in Sudbrook over the weekend.
A long-term dream for Severnside resident Martin Lewis, Monmouthshire's second boxing gym finally became a reality and has already gained significant support from the local community.
Mr Lewis and his team of volunteers spent several months renovating the function room of the Sudbrook Sports and Social Club, with an impressive boxing ring dominating the space.
The gym will act in association with St Joseph's Amateur Boxing Club in Newport, offering classes for all abilities in a safe and controlled environment.
Stepping into the ring for a quick demonstration, Mr Davies said: "I have done a bit of boxing for charity but I thought that a quick ‘cover up’ was called for with Martin.
"Luckily for me he was a perfect gentleman to spar with!
“Bertie’s Boxing Gym will be a great opportunity for members of the community to get together for some friendly competition and to improve their health and fitness.
"It’s especially pleasing that women and girls are also encouraged to join in what is perhaps seen as a male dominated sport.
“Martin’s enthusiasm is great and I wish him every success with his fantastic business”.
Working alongside local PC Damian Waite, Mr Lewis now plans to visit the area's anti-social behaviour hotspots and reach out to youngsters as part of Monmouthshire Youth Service's 'Positive Futures' initiative.
"We'll introduce ourselves, ask them about any problems they have and see if boxing interests them," he said.
"It's about getting kids off the streets and giving them something different to get involved in."
Training sessions are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for juniors aged eight to 17 years and for adults of all ages.
New technology gives superfast broadband boost to rural 'not-spots'
A Monmouth IT company has found an innovative solution to rural broadband ‘not-spots’ by using existing mobile phone masts.
BlueGlow IT Management Ltd is installing broadband systems into remote locations for commercial and domestic clients across Monmouthshire.
The technology works by taking 4G data from the same cellular towers mobile phones connect to and converting it to superfast broadband.
Customers then simply sign up to a monthly broadband deal with a mobile phone provider.
Ben Summers, managing director of BlueGlow, says he has had “huge success” in obtaining speeds of between 30Mbps and 84Mbps - without the need for specialist community equipment.
He started developing the system six months ago in response to the “clear need” for reliable and fast broadband in the county, specialising in demographically challenging areas where there is very poor BT coverage or no Wi-Fi signal.
“I’ve assembled a number of pre-existing components into a fast, proven and reliable system that works in all weather conditions,” said Mr Summers.
“The genius of this is that it’s using infrastructure already in place. 4G is not just for mobile phones. It was designed for high data use, therefore enabling this sort of technology.
“Broadband is not merely a commodity anymore. It has gone from being a lifestyle choice to a necessity, with poor connection hindering economic growth, rural and agri-businesses and domestic users.
“This rural broadband solution has been developed here in Monmouthshire for Monmouthshire by a company conceived, based and run locally.”
And with 5G now being talked about – a faster version of 4G – Mr Summers believes it could be the final death knell for fibre optic cabling.
“The technology we are riding on the back of is enjoying investment estimated to be around £1.5m a day,” he said.
“It is neither a fad nor a cheap fix. It is reliable technology with a future, especially as data is becoming more affordable.
“We do have the ability to help ourselves in Monmouthshire and we certainly don’t have to suffer anymore.”
One resident already benefitting from the new system is Toby Elliott, who lives in Maypole.
He was able to offset £800 of the installation cost by successfully applying for a grant under the Welsh Government’s Access Broadband Cymru scheme.
Regularly achieving download speeds of 35Mbps to 45Mbps, and uploading at between 10Mbps and 20Mbps, he pays £30.50 per month to mobile operator EE for 64G of data.
“This new system is going to be transformational,” said Mr Elliott.
“Before, using BT broadband and landline, I was lucky to get a download speed of 0.8Mbps – hopeless as we all know.
“We now have a Wi-Fi fast-speed broadband service throughout the house for all users and the maximum EE mobile broadband data plan is more than enough for us.
“There is no mobile signal in the house at the moment, so I hope BlueGlow will get Wi-Fi calling working. I can then use my mobile phone in the house for telephone calls, as well as for broadband.”
Mr Elliott’s intention is to do away with his BT landline altogether.
“I think there is quite a running cost saving when I am able to do all that!” he added.
Monmouth MP David Davies has been to view the broadband in action.
“Toby was forward-thinking enough to see the potential of this technology and is reaping the rewards,” he said.
“I was fully expecting to be greeted by some sort of obtrusive mast but instead there was a small, high-gain antenna attached to the side of the property.
“Obviously, it would be inappropriate for me to endorse any particular commercial organisation. However, the installation at Maypole clearly demonstrates there is an alternative and viable option worth exploring through a reputable and locally-owned company.
“For the many people in Monmouthshire who still cannot get broadband, this could be the solution they are looking for.”
Statement on £10m high street rates relief scheme
Commenting on details of the Welsh Government’s £10m targeted high street rates relief scheme for 2017-18, Monmouth MP David Davies said:
“Obviously, as I think people are aware, business rates in Wales are dealt with by the Welsh Government and not the UK Government. As an MP, I have no say over what happens in the National Assembly.
“I am, however, encouraging everyone to write to Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford and have put out letters urging him to delay implementing these rate increases.
“That said, I believe there’s a wider issue here over the whole principle of business rates in a digital age where more consumers are shopping online and putting the traditional British high street at risk. I will be contacting the Chancellor about this.
“I do note the UK Government is offering £3.6bn in transitional relief for businesses in England. The proportionate amount for Wales would be around five per cent or £180m.
“But so far, the Welsh Government has only announced £10m.
“We certainly need a much bigger amount of money to be set aside to help retailers facing enormous rises in towns and communities across Wales.”
Pedal power: David saddles up for the Tour de Gwent 2017
Monmouth MP David Davies has got on his bike and is training to compete in the Tour de Gwent 2017.
The super fit father-of-three is gearing up to take part in his first charity cycling event.
Organised in support of St David's Hospice Care, the 77-mile Tour de Gwent Sportif has grown in stature over the years and raised many thousands of pounds for the charity.
The event, which is sponsored by Newport-based Whitehead Building Services, will be staged on Sunday 9 April.
Mr Davies said: “I haven’t done any specific training so far but I do run, swim or weight train every day.
"I have completed numerous charity fun runs but never a charity bike ride and I am really looking forward to the new challenge.
“I cycle a lot in London and do a bit of mountain biking but don’t do much long distance road biking. I used to do a lot of surfing and boxing but I’m getting a bit old for that now!
“St David’s Hospice Care makes a real difference to patients and their families in this area during the most difficult times of their lives. I have nothing but praise for this fantastic charity."
The Tour de Gwent Sportive is split into five routes this year: The 77 mile Platinum, the 58 mile Gold, the 52 mile silver, the 37 mile bronze and the 20 mile Midi. Each of the circular routes, which wind around roads and lanes in Newport, Torfaen and mostly in Monmouthshire, starts and finishes at Caerleon Cricket Pavilion.
Franca Nigro of St David’s Hospice Care said: “We’re thrilled David Davies is taking on the Tour de Gwent challenge this year.
"We are hopeful many others will now follow David’s lead and saddle up in support of St David’s Hospice Care to help us continue the vital work we carry out throughout our community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, 365 days a year.”
The challenge is to complete your chosen course within three to 10 hours and arrive back at the finish village at Caerleon Cricket Pavilion in time to enjoy the BBQ, refreshments, live music, entertainment and stalls.
The minimum age for entrants is 16-years, although it is 14 for the midi event. Registration is now open. The entry fee is £50 which includes an exclusive event cycling ‘sport cut’ jersey, route maps, water and feeding stations and a finish BBQ.
To register and get more details of the route visit www.tourdegwent.org or call 01633 851051.
Brexit ruling: The Supreme Court judgement
Commenting on today’s ruling by the Supreme Court that Parliament must vote on whether the government can start Brexit, Monmouth MP David Davies said: “Many Brexit supporters, myself included, will be disappointed by this ruling.
“But so will those Remain campaigners who wanted to use the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies as a tool to stop Brexit from happening.
“Both sides will have to live with the judgement and I look forward to a vote in Parliament, which I suspect will happen imminently. Clearly, I will be backing Theresa May.”
Tiffin Cup 2017: Nominations sought for best South Asian restaurant
Partial to a pasanda? Or keen on a korma? Monmouth MP David Davies is urging foodies with a fondness for curries to put forward their favourite restaurant for a national competition.
He is seeking nominations for the local round of the prestigious Tiffin Cup contest to find the best South Asian restaurant in the UK.
The annual event, now in its 11th year, is organised by a cross-party group of curry-loving Members of Parliament known as the Tiffin Club.
Each MP is being asked to nominate a popular South Asian restaurant in their constituency. Ten entrants will then be shortlisted by region and invited to a special cook-in at Bellamy’s Restaurant in Westminster where the overall winner will be crowned. Mr Speaker will present the cup.
The competition aims to raise the profile of the quality and diversity of South Asian food in Britain while raising money for the charity World Vision.
Last year’s winner was Saffron in Northampton.
Mr Davies said: “There are some truly fantastic curry houses in the Monmouth constituency, many of which I have visited myself, and this is a chance for local residents to champion their favourite. The choice of our nominee is in your hands!
“It would be wonderful if we could bring the Tiffin Cup home.”
David signs Holocaust Book of Commitment
Monmouth MP David Davies has pledged his support to Holocaust Memorial Day by signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons.
With Friday (27 January) marking the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Mr Davies honoured the millions of victims who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust.
He also paid tribute to those who survived and have dedicated their lives to educating young people, ensuring the appalling events of the Holocaust and other genocides are neither forgotten nor repeated.
“As the Holocaust moves from living history to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and pay tribute to the survivors,” said Mr Davies.
“It has been a privilege to get to know one such survivor, Mady Gerrard. Originally from Keszthely in Hungary, Mady was imprisoned as a teenager at the infamous Bergen-Belsen camp and now lives near Chepstow.
“Listening to Mady’s story makes me realise how lucky those of us who were born after 1945 have been. However, the recent terror attack in Berlin and the continued growth of Isis in the Middle East should remind us that religious and racial hatred is still prevalent in the modern day despite the lessons of history.”
2017 is also the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, which snuffed out a nascent democratic movement in Russia and marked the beginning of various Communist governments throughout the world.
Mr Davies added: “Everyone is rightly aware of the cold-blooded murder of six million Jews, and many others, by the Nazis. But there is less awareness of the millions who were murdered in the name of advancing Communist revolutions, particularly in Russia and China.
“By some estimates, Mao Zedong alone (founder of the People’s Republic of China), was responsible for the death of 65 million people – around the entire population of the UK.
“The deaths continue: Marxist North Korea has one of the worst human rights records in the world and anyone speaking out can expect to be executed or put into a concentration camp.”
In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘How can life go on?’
Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Our mission is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance.
“We are very grateful to David Davies for signing the Book of Commitment, signalling a continued commitment to remembering the victims of the Holocaust as well as challenging anti-Semitism, prejudice and bigotry in all its forms.”
Severn crossings £3 toll plan
The UK Government officially announced plans today to cut tolls on the Severn crossings by up to 75 per cent.
Cars, vans and small buses will pay just £3 when both bridges revert to public ownership in early 2018.
A public consultation is now underway seeking views on the introduction of a two-way “free-flow” charging system, similar to the Dartford Crossing, aimed at reducing congestion and journey times.
This would see toll barriers removed and a charge of only £1.50 each way on the M48 Severn Bridge and M4 Second Severn Crossing for cars, vans and mini-buses, with larger vehicles paying £5.
Toll charges currently only apply to westbound traffic entering Wales from England.
Under the proposals:
- Cars will pay £3; the current price is £6.70
- Drivers of vans and small buses will also pay £3, down from £13.40 – a reduction of more than 75 per cent
- Lorries and coaches will pay £10 instead of £20 – a 50 per cent reduction
- Those who use the Severn TAG cashless system will receive further discounts
The money raised through these new tolls will cover ongoing operation and maintenance costs of the two bridges, as well as future improvements.
A joint letter has been sent to all Welsh MPs and AMs by Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns and UK Transport Minister John Hayes.
They write: “We want to be clear that there is no intention to use the tolls for any purpose other than to support their operation and maintenance and to repay the debt incurred by the UK taxpayer to fix latent defects on the crossings.
“We can also assure you that the Government will monitor toll prices closely with a view to further reductions if possible in the future.
“We understand the importance of the crossings for both the Welsh and English economies and that they have benefited both Welsh and English road users for over 50 years.
“We believe that the approach set out in our consultation provides a sustainable approach and is a good deal for both users and the taxpayer in the decades to come".
I am personally delighted by the news and agree with the Welsh Secretary’s comments that it shows Wales is “open for business”.
The Welsh Affairs Committee, which I chair, has been a longstanding champion of a reduction in toll charges. We scrutinised the future of the Severn crossings last year and previously published a report advocating lower tolls in 2010.
Of course, in an ideal world, I would like to see tolls scrapped altogether but I accept the ongoing maintenance costs of the bridges need to be covered. £3 is as good as it is going to get for the time being.
The main priority now is to ensure a proper handover plan is in place when the bridges are handed back to public ownership. Moving forward, the potential for installing an electronic pre-pay system using number plate recognition is a key issue as reducing the tolls is likely to increase traffic levels and could lead to even bigger queues on the toll plaza.
I would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the consultation and have their say.
You can read more about the proposals and respond to the consultation here. The deadline for submissions is 10 March 2017.