Visit to Merthyr College

On Friday 21 June we had a great visit to Merthyr College as part of our discussions about the local economy and jobs. Our thanks to Lisa Thomas and her team for a valuable insight into the ever-changing world of training, education and apprenticeships.

We were struck by the way in which training courses are increasingly shaped around the needs and demands of employers, and we spent some time discussing the college’s new package of flexible part-time courses for small and medium-sized enterprises, which they can take either on or off site, depending on the employer’s preference.

We discussed how more local businesses might be encouraged to take up training opportunities for their staff, and the ways in which employers might be supported to offer more apprenticeship opportunities.

Indeed, opportunities can now be largely custom built around an understanding of the needs of an individual business. We even heard an example of a course being held on employer premises at 6am before the start of a shift!

It was also good to hear that college staff are taking a keen interest in developing their own skills around learner support, including mental health, suicide awareness and safeguarding.

General economic position

The most recent update on unemployment rates has been released – you can read it here:

In addition, the wider UK economy showed some uplift in activity in the early part of the year, as companies invested in storage, stock and similar provisions due to the uncertainty around Brexit.

Extra £85 million of spending by the Welsh Government

On 18 June the Welsh Government announced an extra £85 million of spending to support Welsh businesses during these uncertain times. The money is for:

  • £50 million to invest in local government social housing programmes, supporting the delivery of up to 650 homes across Wales and stimulating the construction industry with one year’s employment for around 1,000 people;
  • £5 million to support the maintenance of our roads to ensure we continue to have a well-connected, reliable and resilient road network in all parts of Wales;
  • £10 million for the Economy Futures Fund to support the delivery of the Economic Action Plan and strengthen the Welsh economy in the long term; and
  • £20 million for local government – in addition to the £100 million package of capital funding over three years, announced as part of the Budget.

Cooperation has a long history – and a bright future

In mid-June, Dawn paid a visit with Welsh Assembly colleagues to the Wales Co-operative Centre in Caerphilly to talk about the power of co-operation, and the opportunities it provides to expand the local economy.

We have a number of mutual and co-operative businesses in this area, including Merthyr Valleys Homes. Read more about the Wales Co-operative Centre here.

Among the many ideas we are discussing is how taking a co-operative approach to new business development can benefit employees and local communities. You can also read more about establishing a social enterprise here.

The automotive sector

One of the biggest issues of recent months has been the position of the automotive and sector across the UK. The announcements by Ford and Honda, amongst others, point to a range of worries for people who work in the plants or in the supply chains to these companies.

Earlier this month during a statement on the closure of Ford in Bridgend in Parliament, Gerald called on the Government to ensure that the workers in Bridgend and across South Wales who are affected will be given all the support they need, during this difficult time.

Hoover Candy

It was a disappointment to us that Hoover recently confirmed their plans to move 40 jobs from its Pentrebach factory to Warrington. There remain 60 warehousing-related jobs in Merthyr Tydfil, and there are continuing discussions about the future redevelopment of parts of this very large site into the future.

We have worked with the Welsh Government to make sure any employees who are made redundant have advice and support about their options going forwards.

Gerald was also able to secure a parliamentary debate on Hoover’s pension fund deficit, in which he challenged the UK Government to do right by the thousands of former Hoover employees in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney who have lost 10% or more of their pensions since the scheme went into the Pension Protection Fund due to the fund becoming a deficit. We will keep you updated on progress.

The Valleys Taskforce

Dawn has become a member of the Valleys Taskforce, and attended a recent briefing by Transport for Wales in the Redhouse, Merthyr Tydfil. Some upgrading of the carriages and rolling stock has come onto the Rhymney rail line this month, as an interim measure to boost capacity before new stock is built. The preparation for upgrading large parts of the Central Valleys lines, including Merthyr Tydfil by 2023, continues.

Other work the Taskforce is prioritising includes the rehabilitation of empty homes in valleys communities, the valleys regional park and support for what is called the Foundational Economy.

New town centre businesses

Many of us like to see our town centres busy, so it has been good to see some new business offers in Merthyr Tydfil town centre. The Crown Inn has been nicely refurbished, the Hardies coffee and cocktail bar is an attractive location and Caribbean Cariad has diversified the food offer in town. Good luck to them, as well as the other businesses, which are helping to build Merthyr Tydfil’s town centre as a place to meet, drink and dine.

We also met the local police recently to talk about shared local priorities, including town centre safety. We thank them for their hard work and dedication.

If you want to us to pay a visit to your organisation or business, or you want to share your ideas around how we can improve our local economy and jobs, give our offices a call.

Funding Fair: Friday 12 July from 11am

We are pleased to be holding another Funding Information Event, at Merthyr Town football club on Friday 12 July from 11.00am. We know that many community groups are looking for funding opportunities, and it is always good to get the organisations that operate grant opportunities together to talk about scheme criteria and the best way to access funds.

The event is open to all local charities and community groups, so come along and see what opportunities are currently available.

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