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Politics

LibDem’s New Year Message

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T’S TIME once again for politicians of all parties to reflect upon the old year and look ahead to the new, wondering what 2020 will bring to us, our families and communities and those whom we seek to represent.
VIGILANT TO BREXIT’S IMPACTS
2019 certainly brought its share of difficulties, challenges and unpredictable events, as well as a rollercoaster of highs and lows, not least for the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Our world remains both unstable and divided at home and abroad. Whatever awaits us as the Brexit process moves forward on 31st January, it is imperative that we remain vigilant in the face of its impacts, most notably on the elderly, the vulnerable and those whose health & wellbeing depend upon the continued dedication of EU Nationals in our workforce.
SUPPORTING SHARED OBJECTIVES
The Brexit ‘stand off’ of recent years has proved so divisive, and it is to be hoped that the clarity of the recent General Election result, while it has left many of us bereft, may serve the cause of greater stability in our relations with European friends and neighbours. Pembrokeshire hill farmers understand as clearly as Hywel Dda Health Board managers that the lower the hurdles erected in trade and labour flows, the more it will support our shared objectives, as well as being of real economic benefit.
INTERNATIONALISM
The terms ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ were consigned to history when the Prime Minister addressed Parliament before the Christmas Recess but, as former Prime Minister Tony Blair has often stated, the case for Britain’s place in Europe has to be made afresh in every generation. Whilst the Referendum and the recent General Election result have settled that for this generation, it would be unwise to forget the huge support for EU Membership among younger people in Wales and across the UK. Whilst recognising the democratic endorsement for formally leaving the EU institutions this year, the Liberal Democrats remain committed to the cause of Internationalism and our ultimate European destiny.
HEARTFELT THANKS
As my term of office as Welsh Liberal Democrat President draws to an end next month, and I look forward to other challenges, I would like to congratulate those re-elected to the new House of Commons for Pembrokeshire, notably Stephen Crabb, newly appointed Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards and to wish them well. But I also wish to express heartfelt thanks to our exceptional Welsh Leader, Jane Dodds, who, with excellent candidates on the ground in Alistair Cameron and Tom Hughes, were the face of our Welsh Lib Dem campaign.
As Liberal Democrats, here in Wales and across the UK, reflect on the lessons of recent times, we recommit ourselves to public service, wherever we have a contribution to make. In the meantime, on behalf of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, I wish all Herald readers a Healthy and Peaceful New Year – Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

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Politics

Pembrokeshire County Council considering ‘Fire-break’ implications

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FOLLOWING the First Minister’s announcement at lunchtime today (Oct 19) of an all-Wales ‘firebreak’ commencing on Friday, Pembrokeshire County Council is currently assessing the impact this will have on its services.

Council Leader, David Simpson, said: “I can provide assurance that detailed planning arrangements both internally, and externally with our partner agencies, are underway to ensure that we are well placed to meet any challenges which may arise.

“We will be issuing further updates over the coming days.”

Councillor Simpson added: “The First Minister has clearly said the ‘firebreak’ has been put in place due to the increasing level of cases across Wales.

“Although the restrictions do not come into force until Friday we all have to act now – early prevention can make a huge difference.”

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Politics

Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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Cardiff and London at loggerheads over who will pay the bill for the Wales-wide lockdown

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THE PLANNED national lockdown for Wales still has many details to finalise before any final announcement of its terms and length.

The major sticking point is money.

During the UK-wide national lockdown from March to July, the Westminster Government picked up the tab for paying Welsh workers’ wages and provided a massive amount of extra funding for business support.

From November 1, the UK government will support eligible businesses by paying two-thirds of each employee’s salary, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.

Businesses might also be eligible for grant support of up to £3,000 a month to meet other costs.

Devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive a total of £1.3bn in increased funding this year to cover similar measures.

Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to lockdown restrictions.

Council leaders across Wales have expressed their deep concern to Welsh Government ministers about the lack of any detail of what will be done to provide financial support to businesses, particularly those which are not forced to close by lockdown restrictions but close as a knock-on effect of lockdown.

Local authorities, which channelled most business support during the lockdown which began in March, have still not been told by the Welsh Government what help or how much will be available for businesses in that position, let alone how it will be delivered.

The sour relationship between the Welsh Government and Westminster is not likely to help Mark Drakeford’s administration if it looks for fresh funding help from the Treasury to bail it out of the wider economic consequences of a Wales-wide lockdown.

If the Welsh Government tries to go it alone to soften the blow, it faces making significant cuts elsewhere in its budgets.

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