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Railway electrification: Further delays likely

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Delays expected: Electrification is running four years late in England

Delays expected: Electrification is running four years late in England

AFTER Network Rail confirmed that rail electrification in the south of England is running four years late, Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson has called for urgent clarification concerning the implied further delays to electrification of the south Wales line.

In December 2015, the Labour Economy Minister said that the electrification of the Great Western Main Line between London and Cardiff will now be completed between 2019 and 2024, however reports say that the electrification of the line to Bristol is now expected in 2020, suggesting even greater delays to Wales’ electrification project.

Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP said that problems elsewhere must not lead to further delays in Wales. Delays to the project have already set the project to the south Wales mainline back by two years.

Further slippage would be ‘unacceptable,’ Mr Edwards added, claiming that it would prove that Wales is not on the UK government’s agenda, whilst the Labour government in Wales has proven itself incapable of fighting for Wales.

Mr Edwards said: “These reports raise serious concerns that the project in Wales is going to be put back even further. The electrification of the south Wales mainline was originally to happen next year, and it’s already been pushed back to 2019. Both the Conservative UK government and the Labour government in Wales need to tell us what’s going on – is Wales going to miss out even further?

“The electrification of the rail line is a necessary upgrade that will be important to the economy. It should be a priority, but it’s clearly an afterthought for the Tories in London whilst the Labour Government in Wales has failed to keep Wales on top of the agenda. This is a double let down.

“The people of Wales who voted for the Conservative government on the basis of this manifesto commitment will be questioning whether it’s going to keep its promise at all.

“What Wales needs is a government that will fight for its economic interests and will not let the UK Government to renege on its promises to the people of Wales. A Plaid Cymru government will also place a great emphasis in investing in infrastructure, upgrading transport, physical and digital infrastructure to keep Wales connected. Plaid Cymru is the change Wales needs.”

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News

Pembrokeshire pensioners set to be hit by removal of triple lock pension

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THE WELSH LIBERAL DEMOCRATS have published figures showing that Pembrokeshire is set to be hit hard by the Government’s decision to break its manifesto promise and suspend the triple lock on pensions after Conservative MPs voted to approve the change.

Figures released by the Party show Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is set to be the 9th hardest-hit area in Wales with 18,753 people or 23.9 percent of the constituency consisting of state pensioners. 

Meanwhile Preseli Pembrokeshire will see 18,244 people or 22.9 percent of the constituency hit, ranking 12th hardest hit in Wales. Both of Pembrokeshire’s Conservative MPs, Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb voted in favour of ending the triple lock.

The figures are based on analysis by the House of Commons Library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats had tabled an amendment to the Social Security Bill that called for additional support to address the impact of the pandemic on the two million pensioners currently living in poverty and making the uplift to Universal Credit permanent. However, the Conservatives, including Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb, voted against the amendment.

Commenting, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and Mid & West Wales MS, Jane Dodds stated: “The Conservatives have broken yet another manifesto promise that will hit people in the pocket.

“With so many pensioners living in poverty, the triple lock was a guarantee that vulnerable elderly people were relying on. Yet this winter the Government will instead turn its back on the poorest pensioners, some of whom risk no longer being able to heat their homes as energy costs spiral.

“The Conservatives claim that suspending the triple lock is just a temporary move, but how can pensioners have any faith that this is the one promise ministers will keep?

“I and the Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to demand that the Government doesn’t leave pensioners living in poverty high and dry and that we don’t return to the days of the derisory 75p rise to the state pension.”

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Health

NHS Covid Pass to enter large scale events and nightclubs to be introduced

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Next month, people in Wales will need to show an NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and attend events.

The move has just been announced by the first minister today (Friday 17th September).

According to the government, the measure is being introduced to control the spread of Covid in Wales, where cases are now at an all-time high.

Despite the increase in cases, the alert level will remain at zero for the next three weeks, and no new restrictions beyond passes will be introduced.

The First Minister is urging everyone to work from home whenever possible and to get fully vaccinated.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Across Wales, coronavirus cases have risen to very high levels over the summer as more people have been gathering and meeting.

“Tragically, more people are dying from this terrible virus.

“The very strong advice we have from our scientific advisers is to take early action to prevent infections increasing further.

“The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. That’s why we must take small but meaningful action now to control the spread of the virus and reduce the need for tougher measures later.”

On October 11, the NHS Covid Pass requirement takes effect.

All people over the age of 18 will need to have a pass to enter:

  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions
  • Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people
  • Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance

It means concerts and large scale sports events will now require the passes.

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status.

It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Mr Drakeford continued: “My message to you today is a simple but serious one – the pandemic is not over and we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

“We have high levels of the virus in our communities and while our fantastic vaccination programme has helped stop thousands more people from becoming seriously ill or dying, the pressure on the NHS is increasing.

“We hope introducing the requirement to show a COVID pass will help keep venues and events – many of which have only recently started trading again – open.

“Showing a COVID Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

“We will continue to work closely with all businesses affected to ensure a smooth introduction and operation of this system.”

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News

Crucial council meeting debating former Chief Executive’s pay-off cancelled

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AN EXTRAORDINARY meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council supposed to take place next Monday has been cancelled.

Pembrokeshire County Council was due to meet on Monday morning to debate the controversial settlement agreement between the local authority and former CEO Ian Westley.

In a circular sent to all councillors late on Wednesday afternoon, however, officials told councillors: ‘There are a number of issues that have recently come to light which are unable to be resolved ahead of the meeting and it is essential that Members have the fullest information and be correctly advised in order to consider the matter before them.’

Those issues might be open to speculation; they could range from the relatively trivial to the vital.The meeting would have taken place before Councillors received the full report into the circumstances of Mr Westley’s departure from Audit Wales.

Former council CEO Ian Westley

That report’s content is also strictly under wraps , and the Council has not yet received the full and final report.

Individuals named in it received copies of sections of the report dealing only with them earlier in the summer. That process’ purpose was to allow those named to respond to comments made by others regarding them and dispute findings of fact with which they disagreed.

The row over Mr Westley’s departure has been followed by the Monitoring Officer’s resignation and the Head of Legal’s absence on long-term sick leave. The HR director is currently seconded to ERW, the regional education consortium.

Each of those officers will have had some involvement in the events leading to Mr Westley’s departure and the signing of the Settlement Agreement between him and their employer.As the person who led the negotiations for the Council, its Leader, Cllr David Simpson, is also likely to feature in the report.Legal issues surrounding the confidential terms of the settlement agreement (bar the pay-out’s amount) meant the scheduled meeting was to take place behind closed doors.

That’s not an unusual step in itself. Meetings regarding HR matters – for example, discussions about the appointment of the new CEO – are routinely held in private.

Allegation and counter-allegation about what happened flew around the Chamber in meetings earlier this year, with one or two councillors appearing suspiciously well-briefed.

Therefore, the question arises as to what confidence those concerned can have councillors will keep their traps shut after a behind-closed-doors meeting or not try to spin its content one way or another to suit their own or others’ agendas.

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