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Priority grid access needed for community energy projects



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William Powell AM: ‘Priority grid access would promote local energy generation’

A SUGGESTION that the Welsh Government should lobby Ofgem to ensure that community energy projects are given priority grid access met with the approval of senior Welsh Government Ministers. 

The issue was raised by Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Minister William Powell during an Environment and Sustainability Committee meeting last week and was met with agreement from both the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant AM, and the Minister for Economy, Science & Transport, Edwina Hart AM.

Mr Powell said: “Priority access to the grid would provide an assurance for local renewable energy projects that they will be able to sell and transmit the electricity they generate from renewable sources at all times. Providing this priority grid access would be a really effective way of helping to promote local energy generation and the Welsh Government should be really pushing Ofgem on this. I am very pleased to have secured agreement from the Minister on this issue, but what we need now is for the Welsh Government to take action and prove their commitment on this.

“The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive 2009 states that Member States shall provide for either priority access or guaranteed access to the grid system for electricity produced from renewable energy sources, and I believe this should be fully implemented. The Directive also states that appropriate grid and market-related operational measures should be taken in order to minimise the curtailment of electricity produced from renewable sources. At the moment, grid connections can be prohibitively expensive for small-scale community energy projects and I will be pressing the Welsh Labour Government to ensure that progress is made with Ofgem on this matter. ”

Chris Blake, Director The Green Valleys (Wales) CIC also commented: “In many parts of Wales the distribution grid is severely constrained. It is impossible for many renewable energy schemes to get connections at reasonable cost. But industrial energy customers are also being denied the ability to grow due to the inadequate rural grid. This is a double whammy for the rural economy – no new income from renewable generation and potential new jobs being lost.”

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WASPI women call on Simon Hart MP for help with compensation package



PENSIONS Minister Guy Opperman, like Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales have said that they have no plans to meet with WASPI campaigners.

In the latest twist for these women, Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq questioned the Government on when the last meeting between a minister and the women of WASPI was held, and when the Government next intends to schedule one.

Guy Opperman, minister for pensions, stated there had been a meeting between a minister and representatives of WASPI.

However, he acknowledged this had occurred years ago on June 29, 2016.

Jackie Gilderdale said that “The Ombudsman has been clear that the Department could be pro-active on compensation”.

“All we are asking is that Ministers meet with us to discuss a fair, fast compensation package now before more women die waiting for justice. We have lost over 220,000 women during this campaign including members of the local 1950s WASPI Women of Wales.

“The MPs refusal is ignorant. They need to remember they’re paid from the public purse, to represent their constituents”.

Rupa Huq MP, who posed the original question in Parliament, has described the Government’s response as “shocking”.

She has called for the Government to take further action on the matter for women affected.

Ms Huq added: “The DWP has already been found guilty by the Ombudsman of maladministration”.

On Saturday some 1950s women joined over 115,000 people in London at the TUC rally, demanding justice now.

Simon Hart MP/Secretary of State responded recently to one of his 1950s WASPI Women of Wales constituents who asked for his help. His opening paragraph in his response was as follows:-

“Thank you for your recent email regarding pensions and the cost of living. I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling with the increase in heating and electricity bills; I appreciate the stress it is causing in households across the country”.

Local 1950s WASPI Women of Wales Organiser, Jackie Gilderdale said: “It’s all very well that Simon Hart responded, but what does he intend to do to help the 1950s women and others during an economic crises caused by his Party, and the fat cats who profit through Tory Policies? His responses continue to be cut, copy and pasted from websites, rather than from himself”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies stated today that as a result of increasing the state pension age from 65 to 66 the income poverty rate of single people aged 65 rose by 22 percentage points, from 16% to 38%; the income poverty rate of 65-year-olds with at most GCSE-level education rose by 21 percentage points, from 14% to 35%; the income poverty rate of 65-year-old renters rose by 24 percentage points, from 22% to 46%.

The rise in the state pension age from 65 to 66 led to larger increases in income poverty rates among those affected than the increases in poverty rates seen following earlier rises in the female state pension age. This is due to a growing gap in state support over time for those just above and just below the state pension age, together with the fact that people are more reliant on state support at older ages as fewer people are in paid work.

With lower state benefits and higher tax revenues from employment, the increase in state pension age from 65 to 66 boosted the public finances by £4.9 billion per year, equivalent to around a quarter of 1% of national income, or 5% of annual government spending on state pensions. The benefit to the exchequer is the key counterpart to the reductions in household incomes caused by the reform.

Jackie said that “just to make it clear, the national insurance fund has a surplus of approximately £30 billion and that surplus has been generated by the women who have paid national insurance. All we ask is that the 1950s women are given what they are entitled too – after all they’ve paid into the system for decades. The state pension should be seen as a right, but the Government have changed the terms and conditions of that right without consulting the 3.6 million women affected! 12 months ago the Government and DWP were found guilty of maladministration and now we await the findings of stages 2 and 3, so these women can be rightfully compensated”.

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Ex-Pembrokeshire County Councillor Paul Dowson ‘brought authority into disrepute’



A DECISON has been made by the Standards Committee of Pembrokeshire County Council over allegations that a former County Councillor, Paul Dowson was racist. Dowson was voted out at the recent local authority elections.

After a number of hours of deliberations, members of the council’s standards committee finally ruled that Dowson had breached the code of conduct by bringing his office or the local authority “into disrepute” with what could be considered racist social media post.

The committee had previously determined that they would hold the hearing into whether Paul Dowson had breached the council code of conduct in public, said chairman Corinna Kershaw, but additional information in recent days led to further discussion with members.

Mr Dowson had requested the introduction of the additional information and said he would not take part in a private meeting, but the committee decided that it would hold the entire hearing in private session as it was likely that exempt information would be disclosed.

Mrs Kershaw said that there were two main factors disputed in relation to the alleged breach in June 2020 – whether Mr Dowson was acting in his capacity as a councillor when he made public comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, and if he was or should have been aware that some or all of the post “was likely to be considered racist.”

The breach related to conduct that could be reasonably considered  to be bringing the office of councillor or county council into disrepute.

An investigation and report had been carried out by the Public Services Ombudsman, with a representative present at the hearing, however this, along with a council summary report and other evidence was not included in the public agenda.

The committee went into private session at around 11.45am and returned after 4pm on Thursday to state that it had been determined after consideration of “all the evidence and submissions in this matter” that there had been a breach of the code of conduct.

Mrs Kershaw said that the committee was of the view he had been acting or appeared to be acting in his capacity of councillor and was aware that some or all of the Facebook post was likely to be considered racist.

It was also stated that sections of the code relating to showing respect and consideration for others were also breached.

As he is no longer on the council the “maximum sanction” of censure was imposed but Mrs Kershaw added the committee wished to put on record that if he had been re-elected it would have been “highly likely that suspension for a period would have been a serious consideration.”

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First Minister taken to task over Ed Sheeran Cardiff concert chaos



THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have slammed the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay for failing to plan ahead for major events after the chaos that befell the capital the weekend before last.

When asked by Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies MS about why rail services were not prepared for an influx of visitors to the city – there to see Ed Sheeran and My Chemical Romance at the start of half term – the First Minister said: “On capacity, it is genuinely difficult to expect a train company with fixed assets and a fixed pool of staff to provide those services to turn the tap on in a major way around any sort of event.”

After suggesting the lack of capacity was just something people had to live with, Davies challenged Mark Drakeford over the trains that never arrived at all, coupled with the jammed roads and miles-long tail-backs at a time when roadbuilding in Wales has been banned by his government.

Drakeford added: “Transport for Wales are currently in the process of loaning [sic] two trains from Northern trains [sic].”

He did agree with the Welsh Conservative leader that the lack of information for those experiencing delays at Cardiff rail stations was not good enough and will be taken on board by Transport for Wales.

The events in Cardiff saw 15 mile-long queues on the M4 from the Severn Bridge into Wales, further showing that the Drakeford’s decision to cancel the M4 relief road three years ago after spending £150m on a review he ignored was a mistake.

Commenting afterwards, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said: “Cardiff is meant to be a destination city, but in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other great European cities, we need a modern transport network.

“Sadly, two weekends ago, just two concerts brought the city’s transport routes to a standstill, not only showing that the appropriate infrastructure is not in place, but also that planning around major events is simply not up to scratch.

“It wasn’t just Cardiff that was gridlocked, it was vast swathes of South-East Wales.

“The answers the First Minister, a Cardiff MS, gave today fell short of the ambitions the people of the city have – it is not good enough to simply say there is no possibility of ramping up capacity ahead of major events. We know the influx of people will come, and we should plan accordingly.

“Wales needs and deserves integrated, modern transport infrastructure fit for the 21st Century, not more Labour excuses.”

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