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Long-term strategy needed to increase diversity in local government

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TECHNOLOGY can be better used to increase diversity in local government, but the real challenge is changing people’s perception of elected members, according to the National Assembly’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

It found little progress had been made in encouraging more women to stand, or more people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual (LGBTQ) or people with disabilities.

The Committee believes better use of technology such as Skype could be one way of giving people more flexibility to contribute to council meetings alongside working or other responsibilities. It’s recommending three authorities trial the technology from rural, valley and urban areas.

Relaxing restrictions around attending council meetings and voting in person could reduce the pressures on councillors and help to attract more people to the role.

Longer term, a public awareness campaign should be undertaken to improve people’s understanding of the role of councillors and political education should be taught in schools so young people are properly equipped to vote when they are old enough to vote.

The Committee commended the approach taken at Swansea City Council where a cabinet position is shared between two members and believes consideration should be given to allowing non-executive members to do the same, meaning more than one candidate would be elected to share one seat in a ward.

Elected members should also be offered more support and training in managing a better work-life balance. The Committee was concerned to learn a care allowance designed to allow councillors to claim for childcare or other care costs was not widely taken up due to public perceptions around expenses and allowances and the fear of a backlash.

The Committee believes that action is needed to elect more women as councillors and, as this change is not happening naturally, recommended that the current provision that allows all-women shortlists be extended until 2050.

Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Community Committee, John Griffiths AM, said:
“Local government in Wales delivers a range of important services to our communities including education and social services. The more representative of the people they serve the better equipped our councillors are to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

“Unfortunately, women, black and minority ethnic communities, individuals with disabilities, LGBT people, the young and those with lower incomes are markedly under represented meaning their particular experience, views and concerns have too weak a voice.

“Later this year we expect the Local Government Bill to be introduced to the Assembly, providing an opportunity to address these issues.

“This committee inquiry will help inform that legislation and aid our scrutiny. We have sought to understand the importance of diversity, barriers that hold it back and examples of how they may be overcome.”

The Committee makes 22 recommendations in its report, including:

That the Welsh Government, in its forthcoming local government Bill, includes provisions to relax the restrictions on members’ remote attendance and voting at formal council meetings set out in the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 to enable local authorities to trial the use of video communication methods.

That the Welsh Government works with the Welsh Local Government Association to identify three local authority areas to participate in trialling the use of video communication methods to facilitate participation by remote attendance at council meetings.

The Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association start work on a positive campaign to increase diversity among candidates standing for local government elections by summer 2019.The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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