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‘ Tougher action needed on littering and fly tipping ’

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Llyr Gruffydd AM: Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food

Llyr Gruffydd AM: Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities,
Energy and Food

PLAID CYMRU is urging a crackdown on fly tipping, littering and dog fouling following a Freedom of Information request.

The request found a very mixed picture among Welsh local authorities when it came to dealing with local environmental offences.

Llyr Gruffydd, whose Shadow Cabinet portfolio includes the environment, said: “Reduced budgets may make it difficult for local authorities to put resources into tackling issues, such as prosecuting and fining culprits for dropping litter or fly-tipping.

“However, cracking down on environmental crimes can lead to short term benefits with cleaner and tidier streets and the longer term benefits of improving the local economy and environment.

“Most tax-payers want to see action against those who are not prepared to take their litter home or just dump unwanted items without any regard for the local environment.

“At the same time it is important to educate people about the importance of caring for the environmental, leading to cleaner and green streets.”

Information obtained by Plaid Cymru discovered the extent to which these powers are used varies a lot by council and by offence with very few fixed penalty notices issued for fly-tipping by local authorities. Flintshire used its legal powers the most to tackle fly-tipping at 194 fixed penalty notices/prosecutions in 2014- 15.

Of the councils that responded to the request for information, Swansea issued the most fixed penalty notices for littering at 4,892 2012/13- 2014/15. It also carried out 347 prosecutions in that year.

The Vale of Glamorgan used its legal powers to deal with litter 1,322 times in 2012-13, mainly through fixed penalty notices but that dropped to 64 the following year.

Powys and Pembrokeshire have not used their legal powers to tackle littering over the last five years and few have been issued by other authorities including Monmouthshire and Merthyr Tydfil.

Pembrokeshire has also not issued any fixed penalty notices or carried out any prosecutions for dog-fouling and fly-tipping over the last five years.

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Cost-of-living ‘perfect storm’ has now landed, says Plaid Cymru

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URGENT action is needed to ease the “pain” of cost-of-living crisis as a new report shows millions of families in deep or persistent poverty.

Analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found households on low incomes will be spending on average 18% of their income after housing costs on energy bills after April.

For single adult households on low incomes this rises to a shocking 54%, an increase of 21 percentage points since 2019/20.

Lone parents and couples without children will spend around a quarter of their incomes on energy bills, an increase of almost 10 percentage points in the same period

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for social justice and equalities has called for Welsh Government to publish an emergency cost-of-living action plan as a “matter of urgency.”

Ms Williams that too many households in Wales are being squeezed between rising costs for everyday items, rising household bills and stagnating wages, and the number of households struggling to pay for everyday items already equals the size of Swansea.

Plaid Cymru will be leading a debate in the Senedd this afternoon (Wednesday 19 January), calling on the Welsh Government to publish an emergency cost-of-living action plan to tackle the pressures caused by the twin problems of surging costs and stagnating wages.

Ms Williams says that alongside the action plan, attention must also be given to food poverty, fuel poverty, household debt and address the well-established links between debt and mental ill-health.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for social justice and equalities, Sioned Williams MS said,

“This crisis is not just looming – it’s already landed for too many Welsh households.

Rising cost of living, increasing energy costs and stagnating wages are all in the maelstrom of what’s being called the ‘perfect storm.’

“Thousands of households in Wales – equivalent to the whole of Swansea – are already struggling to pay for everyday items. With rising energy costs and tax hikes approaching in Spring 2022, the predicted £1,200 additional costs will prove a leap too far for those who are already at a socio-economic disadvantage.

“With precious few months to go before the energy price rise cap is raised, Welsh Government must act with the appropriate urgency in tackling this imminent crisis, and publish an emergency action plan. While many of the levers are in the hands of the Tory government in Westminster, it’s up to us in Wales to protect people from the brunt of the storm.”

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‘Nothing to apologise for’ over Wales Covid rules says Mark Drakeford

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FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford has rejected Conservative calls for him to apologise to pubs and restaurants for the impact of Wales’ coronavirus restrictions. 

During the weekly First Minister’s Questions, Tory leader Andrew RT Davies accused Mark Drakeford of keeping tighter restrictions in place than were in force in England during the outbreak of the omicron variant. 

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS called on Mark Drakeford to apologise to business owners across the country and increase financial support to help them survive and thrive.

But during today’s First Minister’s Questions, Drakeford insisted he had “absolutely nothing to apologise for” and refused to make more cash available for businesses.

The Tories say that many business owners are anxious that the money set aside by Labour ministers won’t even scratch the surface when it comes to recouping losses over the festive period and covering staffing costs.

Davies also pressed the First Minister to reveal what metrics will be used to judge when restrictions such as vaccine passports and masks to be removed in Wales.

However, Drakeford swerved the question, failing to outline criteria that would have to be met.

Commenting after the FMQ exchange, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS, said: “The First Minister’s refusal to apologise for the damage his overzealous restrictions have done to companies across Wales will feel like a massive slap in the face for business owners.

“Traders have been shouting from the rooftops that the current financial package isn’t enough and it’s clear they need more, but as well as refusing to say sorry, the First Minister is also refusing to provide them any additional support to compensate for the lost trade.

“It was also disappointing that the First Minister couldn’t give the Senedd a full and frank answer about what criteria has to be met before the use of COVID passports and other anti-business restrictions are dropped in Wales.

“Welsh residents and businesses deserve answers and clarity so they can start planning for a time when they can trade and live their lives as normal again, but Labour ministers are leaving the country in limbo.”

In response the First Minister said he had “absolutely nothing to apologise for.”

He said: “The Conservative Party in Wales has a great deal to apologise for, in the way that it has time after time, sought to deny people in Wales and businesses as well the protections that are needed from a global pandemic.

“We put in measures that were designed to make sure that lives were saved in Wales, and that businesses could go on trading and there’s absolutely nothing to apologise for in doing that, because those measures were necessary, and those measures have been effective.”

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Magistrates to give longer jail sentences in plan to help clear cases backlog

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MAGISTRATES are to have their sentencing powers increased in order to reduce pressure on the Crown Courts and speed up justice, it was confirmed today.

Under plans announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has said., the maximum 6-month prison sentence that can currently be handed out by Magistrates is to be doubled to a year.

The move will free up an estimated 2,000 extra days of Crown Court time annually, it will also allow more serious cases to be heard by magistrates – such as fraud, theft and assault.

At present, any crimes warranting a jail term of more than 6 months must be sent to Crown Court where judges determine the appropriate sentence.

“Retaining more cases in the Magistrates’ Courts, which have been less severely affected by Covid, means Crown Courts can focus their resources on tackling the backlog which has built up during the pandemic.” The MoJ has said.

Bev Higgs, National Chair of the Magistrates’ Association said: “We have been campaigning for years for magistrates’ sentencing powers to be extended to 12 months for single offences, so we are delighted with the announcement today.”

“It is absolutely the right time to re-align where cases are heard to ensure a safe, effective, and efficient justice system and this demonstrates great confidence in the magistracy.”

“Magistrates have been integral in keeping the justice system functioning during the Covid-19 pandemic and, by enabling them to hear more serious offences, this new provision will mean they can contribute to easing the pressure on the Crown Courts.”

“I know our members and colleagues will take up this new level of responsibility with pride, professionalism, and integrity and will – as always – strive to deliver the highest quality of justice in their courts.”

The UK Governments Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said: “This important measure will provide vital additional capacity to drive down the backlog of cases in the Crown Courts over the coming years.”

“Together with the Nightingale Courts, digital hearings and unlimited sitting days, we will deliver swifter and more effective justice as we build back a stronger, safer and fairer society after the pandemic.”

Human rights barrister Kirsty Brimelow, the vice chairman of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), said the prospect of being jailed for longer by a magistrate could see defendants elect to have their case heard by a crown court.

She told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The issue with a backlog, which was there before the pandemic, is not about sentencing powers – that’s really rearranging the deck chairs.

“It is about lack of investment in the criminal justice system … it needs money into the system, and it needs barristers who are actually going to prosecute and defend in these cases. And what we’re seeing is a huge attrition of barristers leaving the profession.”

A survey of CBA members showed 96.5%, of 1,967 who responded, are willing to “take action now” – which could see barristers go on strike – if there is not a “substantial” increase in criminal legal aid fees.

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