Planning permission for Wylfa Newydd nuclear power project deferred, a slew of job losses, and taxpayers on the hook for more cash at Cardiff Airport

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Unemployment in Wales increased by 5,000 to 64,000 between June and August, the increase of 0.4% took the overall rate to 4.2%.

The South West of England continued to record the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The highest rate was 5.8% which was recorded in the North East of England.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 74.1% in Wales. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

Welsh average property prices increased by 2.3% to £168,318, which took annual growth to 4.5% which was the highest in the UK. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

Analysis by the BBC has found workers living in coastal communities in Great Britain earn on average £1,600 less per year than those living inland. Since 2010 wages fell by c20% in real terms in Delyn the fifth biggest faller in the UK.

In seaside towns median wages were £22,104 compared with £23,785 in non-coastal areas.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked Wales eighth out of the 12 UK ‘regions’ in terms of improved happiness since the last survey. Overall though, the Northern Irish were still the happiest in the UK with Londoners still the most miserable.

Development

UK Business Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, has deferred the decision on whether to give the stalled Wylfa Newydd nuclear power project planning permission, citing the need for more information on environmental and other impacts.

At £15bn it is the biggest energy project ever proposed in Wales. Developers Horizon Nuclear Power said the decision would heavily influence how the project progressed.

Is the Government losing interest in the project? Given EDF Energy said the construction cost for Hinkley Point C in Somerset had climbed by between £1.9bn/£2.9bn to a total cost of £21.5bn /£22.5bn last month, and the success of the Government’s recent offshore wind auction, it is possible.

Another wrinkle is the Government’s growing fondness for a new consumer pays first funding model, known as RAB (Regulated Asset Base), which has already been used to finance some large infrastructure projects, including the £4.2bn Thames Tideway ‘super-sewer’. This might also explain the delay.

In terms of economic development, c9,000 workers were expected to be involved in building the two nuclear reactors in Anglesey. Private sector funders, Japanese energy firm Hitachi, have already put plans on hold after failing to reach a deal with the UK government over the price it would be paid for power from the site.

In Chirk, wood panel manufacturer, Kronospan, will now go ahead with the firm’s £200m three year expansion project at its site where more than 600 are employed.

Wrexham councillors put Kronospan’s plans on hold in March amid concerns about the impact on road safety but the firm launched and won an appeal to the Welsh Government.  About 100 new jobs will be created. It can sometimes be frustrating for promoters of local economic growth when expansion plans can be hindered by councillors.

The Welsh Whisky Company, which currently operates the Penderyn Distillery near Aberdare, is proposing to open a second £5m distillery and visitor centre in Llandudno by 2021. The Welsh government has offered £1.4m of public money towards the project.

The firm is also redeveloping a disused building at the Hafod Morfa Copperworks site in Swansea, with an opening date of 2022.

Jobs

Eighty-two workers were made redundant in June when cheese maker GRH Foods in Minffordd, Gwynedd, went into administration.

The company has now been acquired by continental cheese supplier Futura Foods which plans to restart operations in the coming months. The firm was not able to comment on how many staff it would hire.

Hi-Lex Cable Systems, which makes door and window parts and cables for cars at its plant in Port Talbot, has announced it will close in 2021.

The Japanese firm, which supplies Honda, Audi and BMW among others, said it did not anticipate any redundancies in the next 12 months but about 125 jobs will eventually go. Any work left at the plant in 2021 will be transferred to a Hi-Lex plant in Hungary.

Tomlinsons Dairies in Wrexham has gone into administration with the loss of 331 jobs. Administrators cited increased energy costs and a fall in the price of cream as reasons why the firm has become unviable.

A further 120 jobs are to be lost at claims management call centre We Fight Any Claim in Cwmbran, Torfaen, bringing the total jobs lost over the last two months to 250. The firm said 150 of its 400 staff would remain at the company after demand for its services fell following the passing of the PPI deadline.

Furniture company Triumph Furniture of Merthyr Tydfil, has gone into administration with 252 job losses after an unprecedented fall in sales. The company previously entered administration in 2011 before a management buyout.

Peter’s Pies based in Bedwas, Caerphilly, said it had spoken to some of the 252 Triumph staff after the firm announced the creation of 110 new jobs. The company is moving to a two-shift operation after securing a number of new deals.

Transport

A Welsh Government spokesman has said state owned Cardiff Airport adds £240m GVA to the Welsh economy and sustains around 2,400 aviation related jobs.

This was after a new tax payer loan was announced bringing the total amount of cash the airport can borrow from the Welsh Government to £59.4m. Most of the original loan of £38.2 has already been drawn down according to officials, which suggests the new £21.2m blurs the line between investment and working capital. 

Its latest accounts show the airport made a pre-tax loss of £6.6m in 2017/18. Welsh ministers paid another £52m in 2013 to buy the airport.

At c£80m of public money already deployed to keep the airport operating, and with a further £21m now at risk, the economic case looks increasingly thin.

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