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Politics

First Welsh poll of year shows ‘Boris Bounce’

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PROFESSOR Roger Awan Scully writes: As the UK stands on the verge of leaving the European Union, voters are currently rewarding the man who has led them to this point, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His Conservative Party is at historic levels of support in Wales, and potentially on course for a major breakthrough at the next devolved election. There are the key messages to emerge from the first Welsh Political Barometer poll of 2020, the first since the general election.
Our new poll, as is typically the case, asked about voting intentions for both Westminster and the National Assembly. For the first time, though, and in light of the recent legislation that has given 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in devolved elections in Wales, our sample included a representative number from that age group; they are not included in the vote intention estimates for a general election discussed below, but they are included in the estimates for the Assembly.

First, Westminster. After the strong Conservative performance in December and the further boost they have had in post-election polls conducted across Britain, it is no surprise to see the Tories doing well in our latest poll. Here are the numbers (with changes on our last pre-election Barometer poll, conducted in early December, in brackets):

Conservatives: 41% (+4)
Labour: 36% (-4)
Plaid Cymru: 13% (+3)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
Brexit Party: 3% (-2)
Greens: 2% (+1)
Others: 1 (no change)

These are historically good figures for the Conservatives in Wales. Their 41 percent support equals the highest rating they have obtained in general election voting intention this century. Labour, by contrast, see their support slip since the general election. Plaid Cymru will be reasonably pleased with a modest rise in their support; all other parties, however, are at very low levels of support.

What might such support levels for the parties mean in terms of parliamentary seats? Using the standard method, of projecting the swings since the last general election indicated by this poll uniformly across Wales, gives us the following outcome in terms of seats (with projected changes from the December result in brackets):

Labour: 18 (-4)
Conservatives: 18 (+4)
Plaid Cymru: 4 (no change)

In short, this poll projects the Conservative to retain all six seats that they gained from Labour at the general election, and on top of that to gain four more ones: Alyn and Deeside, Gower, Newport East and Newport West. All other seats are projected to be won by the party that was victorious in December.

But it is not only changes at Westminster that are suggested by our new poll.

As well as Westminster, we also asked once again about voting intentions for both the constituency and the regional ballots in a devolved election. Here are the figures for the constituency ballot (with shifts in support since our December Barometer poll once again in brackets):

Conservatives: 35% (+4)
Labour: 33% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (+1)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-2)
Brexit Party: 4% (-3)
Greens: 3% (no change)
Others: 1% (no change)

These numbers (which include figures for 16 and 17-year-old voters, something that marginally reduces the Conservative lead) show that the current post-election boost to Conservative fortunes is not just confined to Westminster. The 35 percent support reported for the Conservatives is actually their highest ever reported vote intention for the constituency vote in an Assembly election. If we again assume uniform national swings since the last National Assembly election our new Barometer poll projects the Tories to gain eight constituency seats from Labour: these are (in order of current marginality) the Vale of Glamorgan, the Vale of Clwyd, Gower, Wrexham, Cardiff North, Clwyd South, Newport West, and Delyn). There are no other projected constituency seat changes.

For the regional list vote, the new Barometer poll produced the following results (with changes since our December poll once again in brackets):

Conservatives: 32% (+4)
Labour: 32% (no change)
Plaid Cymru: 19% (no change)
Liberal Democrats: 5% (-1)
Greens: 3% (-1)
Brexit Party: 3% (-4)
Others: 5% (+1)

These regional vote figures once more have the Welsh Conservatives equalling their best-ever showing, from early May 2017. Allowing for the constituency results already projected, and once more assuming uniform national swings since 2016, our new poll projects the following overall results for the Assembly’s regional list seats:
Regions:

North Wales: 3 Labour, 1 Plaid
Mid and West Wales: 2 Labour, 2 Conservative
South Wales West: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales Central: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
South Wales East: 2 Conservative, 2 Plaid
These figures therefore generate the following overall projected result for the National Assembly:
Labour: 24 seats (19 constituency, 5 regional)
Conservatives: 22 seats (14 constituency, 8 regional)
Plaid Cymru: 13 seats (6 constituencies, 7 regional)
Liberal Democrats: 1 seat (1 constituency)

Since the inaugural election to the National Assembly in 1999, Labour has always much been the largest party in the chamber. Our new poll indicates that, around fifteen months from the next devolved election in Wales, we are currently on course for a rather different type of politics in what will soon to be known as Senedd Cymru/the Welsh Parliament.
Overall, our latest Welsh Political Barometer poll suggests that these are good times in which to be a Welsh Conservative. Indeed, those times have never been better: on all three vote intention measures, the party is equalling or exceeding the best ratings they have ever scored before. But if nothing else, the last few years in politics should have taught us to take nothing for granted. Last May the Welsh Tories scored only 6.5 percent of the vote in the European elections; now they are buoyant. Within another few months, who knows where things will be?

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Politics

Paul Davies Plays Cancer Strategy Jenga

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Preseli Pembrokeshire Assembly Member Paul Davies recently met with representatives of Cancer
Research UK and even had a go at their Cancer Strategy Jenga! Mr Davies heard how there are around
2,700 cancer cases per year in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area and that to achieve better
outcomes for patients, the Welsh Government needs to tackle preventable risk factors and address
shortages in the cancer workforce.

Mr Davies said, “It was a pleasure to speak to Cancer Research UK about how we can improve cancer
services and patient outcomes for those affected by cancer in Pembrokeshire. I enjoyed playing the
Cancer Strategy Jenga and learning about the different ‘planks’ that an ambitious cancer strategy for
Wales should have. Thanks to research and improvements in diagnosis and treatment, survival in the UK
has doubled since the 1970s so, today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer and hopefully that figure will
continue to rise. I will of course, be doing all that I can to call on the Welsh Government to bring forward
a cancer strategy – and one that makes a very real difference to patients and their families in Wales.”

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Community

Closing day approaching for deposit plan consultation

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The deadline is nearing for public comments on Pembrokeshire County Council’s replacement Local Development Plan – known as the Deposit Plan.

The public consultation on the Deposit Plan opened in January and will end at 4.30pm on Wednesday, 18th March.

The consultation has included seven drop-in sessions at locations around the county. Cllr Jon Harvey, Cabinet Member for Planning, said they had been well-attended and thanked members of the public for their feedback.

“We would encourage anyone interested in the future development of Pembrokeshire to participate in the consultation if they haven’t yet done so,” he added.

The Deposit Plan and related documents are available to view on the Council’s website at: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/local-development-plan-review/deposit

The Deposit Plan covers the area of Pembrokeshire excluding the National Park.

It identifies a need for 6,800 new homes between 2017 and 2033 (425 a year) including 2,000 affordable homes. This growth will be distributed across the Plan area in accordance with a whole County strategy, which promotes sustainable development.

Residents can look at the Deposit Plan text and maps to view proposals in their area. The Plan proposes revised town and village boundaries (known as settlement boundaries) and a range of sites are allocated for different land uses, including 70 sites for housing. It also identifies a range of industrial sites (known as Strategic Employment Sites), local employment sites and two quarry sites.

The Deposit Plan seeks to respond to the challenges of climate change by including policies and designations to protect sites and species that are of importance for their biodiversity and nature conservation interest, open spaces and Green Wedges.

New growth is directed to sustainable locations. Proposals for vulnerable uses are directed away from flood risk areas and new development will be limited in areas at risk because of climate change. All new dwellings will be built to high quality, energy efficient designs and will incorporate charging points for ultra-low emission vehicles. Three sites are allocated for solar photovoltaic arrays.

The Deposit Plan and related documents are available to view on the Council’s website at: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/local-development-plan-review/deposit

Hard copies are also available at County Hall, Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire County Council Customer Service Centres and in local Libraries, during normal opening hours.

• If you wish to have your say on the Deposit Plan you can do so using the Representations Form available online at the above website address, or in paper format from County Hall, Haverfordwest. This form should be used for making comments wherever possible.

• Please email your representation forms to ldp@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or post to The Development Plans Team, County Hall, Freeman’s Way, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, SA61 1TP by 4.30pm on Wednesday, 18th March 2020.

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News

Pembrokeshire MP calls on Government to Secure Access to Cash

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Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb has joined the Association of Convenience Stores, British Retail Consortium, Federation of Small Businesses, Positive Money and Responsible Finance in urging the Chancellor to use next week’s Budget to secure long-term access to cash across the UK.

Stephen Crabb has endorsed action on access to cash in a private letter to the Chancellor submitted today (Thursday). The letter outlines that to secure long-term access to cash, the Chancellor should use his Budget to:

• Reverse the arbitrary cuts to LINK interchange fees paid by banks to fund the network
• Exempt free-to-use ATMs from business rates bills
• Recognise that ATMs are the only infrastructure through which to guarantee national access to cash

ATM closures and big banks leaving communities behind are threatening the future of cash. Research commissioned by the Payment Systems Regulator shows that ‘the majority of consumers use cash regularly’ while the Access to Cash Review has found that eight million adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society.

Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said: “In many rural areas cash machines have been disappearing at an alarming rate despite the fact that lots of people still prefer to use cash. Many small businesses have yet to make the move to contactless or digital payments because mobile and internet coverage is so weak in rural areas. There is a danger of cash deserts emerging in areas where there are no ATMs or bank branches. I hope the Chancellor and his team at the Treasury consider what steps need to be taken to address these trends”.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We acknowledge the growth in digital payments but access to cash remains crucial for the millions who still rely on it for essential purchases. We need a planned approach to changing payment methods instead of the haphazard removal of free to use ATMs from communities.

“Cash back is not a workable replacement for the whole ATM network and comes with costs and security risks for businesses. We need the Chancellor to take action at the Budget to reverse cuts to interchange fees and exempt free to use ATMs from business rates that are making them unsustainable for ATM operators and local shops to host.”

British Retail Consortium Head of Payments Policy Andrew Cregan said: “Cash accounts for almost 40% of retail transactions and is important to many vulnerable people, especially as a tool for budgeting and control. Government should safeguard consumers’ access to cash by ensuring retailers are fairly rewarded for providing cashback services to customers and protecting the viability of free-to-use ATMs.”

Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Cash is the payment method of choice for millions of small business customers, and millions more see it as an important part of the payments mix. There are some straightforward steps that the Chancellor can take on Wednesday to bolster our rapidly declining cash infrastructure. Removing business rates on free-to-use cash points is a good starting point. This a prime example of the many stifling quirks that exist within the archaic rates system. Equally, if the Treasury wants more small businesses to offer cashback, it must ensure they are given sufficient financial support to take that on.”

Positive Money Executive Director Fran Boait said: “After being bailed out by the public, banks have repaid the favour by slashing support for free ATMs, making us pay to access our own money. The Chancellor must stand up to banks’ cost-cutting in the Budget and make sure it is them and not the public who pay for Britain’s cash machine network.”

Responsible Finance Chief Executive Theodora Hadjimichael said: “The perils of relying on a single payment method have been illustrated by the weaknesses of digitalised financial systems, and the rapidly decreasing availability of free-to-use cash machines leaves million of people struggling to make payments, including the elderly and vulnerable. Paying for access to cash can compound the poverty premium for low-income families who rely on cash for their day to day budgeting and spending. It is critical that the Chancellor acts now to secure long-term access to cash across the UK.”

LINK, the ATM network body, is required under Specific Direction 8 from the Payment Systems Regulator to ensure the ongoing availability of access to free-to-use ATMs for consumers across the country. However, LINK’s own data shows over 500 free-to-use ATMs are closing every month and one-in-ten areas no longer have free access to cash via an ATM despite LINK’s commitments under the Financial Inclusion Programme.

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