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Labour highlights £200m schools gap

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Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 11.00.08WELSH LABOUR this week (Apr 18) said the Assembly elections on May 5 represented an important £200m choice for Welsh parents.

During an election visit on Monday Welsh Labour’s Julie James contrasted her party’s pledge to invest a minimum of £100m in Welsh schools over the next term with the Welsh Conservatives ‘secret plan’ to turn every school in Wales into an academy.

She said the Tory plan would cost more than £100m and said the election was a clear £200m choice between the two main parties.

A plan in England to turn every school into an academy was announced in the March UK budget. It was also later revealed that the cost of converting each school into an academy was £66,000 per school. A similar move in Wales would cost £109m in legal fees and other costs.

Speaking on Monday (Apr 18), she said the plan would be ‘a disaster’ for Welsh Schools coming on top of a 12% cut to education and local government budgets that the Welsh Conservatives already had planned.

Julie James said: “Welsh Labour has been very clear about its ambitions for Welsh schools over the next Assembly term. We want to build a world class curriculum and teacher training system and move the Welsh teaching profession onto an all-Masters footing.

“To support this plan we will invest a minimum of £100m of additional funding in our schools over the next five years. This contrasts clearly with the secret Tory plan to turn every school into an academy, as they have done in England, needlessly wasting millions of pounds in the process.

“The UK Government have already admitted the cost of converting each school to an academy is £66,000 per school to cover the legal fees and other costs of the change.

“Indeed, we know that just days after the Chancellor’s plan was announced, solicitors and lawyers were already sending out letters to Headteachers offering to assist schools with their plan

“That is exactly what will happen here in Wales, we will see millions of pounds being leached out of Welsh schools. To convert every one of the more than 1,600 schools we have in Wales to an academy would cost more than £100m.

“So this election is a clear choice between a Labour Government led by Carwyn Jones that would invest in frontline teaching and learning and a Tory Government that would spend millions on a wasteful reorganisation.

“Of course this comes on top of the Tories existing plans to slash 12% off education and local government budgets meaning schools in Wales would be hit with crippling cuts at the same time as getting a huge legal bill through the post.

“The choice at this election is clear, it’s between a Welsh LabourGovernment that would invest an additional £100m in frontline funding or a Tory UKIP alliance that would waste £100m on academies and legal fees.

“This would have a devastating impact on Welsh school budgets; increase the workloads of our teachers and support staff and imperil the major curriculum changes schools are already planning.

“There is new momentum in Welsh education thanks to the reforms put in place by the Welsh Labour Government. Last year we saw record GCSE results, two thirds of Challenge Schools improving their results and the closing of the poverty attainment gap at every key stage of education.

“A Tory Government aided by their UKIP allies would imperil that progress and come at a huge cost to the futures of our young people.”

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News

Council takes steps to focus social housing allocations for those in greatest need

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says that it is taking the first steps towards delivering on Welsh Government’s Rapid Rehousing approach by introducing an Emergency Social Housing Allocations Policy to focus the way the housing needs of residents are met in Carmarthenshire.

The Emergency Policy, developed by Communities Scrutiny Task and Finish, will be considered by the Committee on Thursday 26th January and has been created to help address housing pressures and reduce the time that those in greatest need wait for social housing.

The Policy will enable direct matching of homes to applicants most in need, such as those who are homeless, are at risk of homelessness or in urgent housing need. It will also enable homes to be allocated more quickly and to those residents they are most suitable for.

The proposed Emergency Social Housing Allocations Policy has three defined bands:

Band A: Additional preference – Those who are homeless, are at risk of homelessness or have an urgent housing need.

Band B: Housing need: Reasonable preference – Including residents who need to move due to medical/welfare needs, are looking to transfer to a smaller property (under-occupying), want to move from an adapted home they no longer need or are currently living in an overcrowded/insanitary property.

Band C: Applicants who have no housing need

Applicants who can financially meet their own housing need, do not have a local connection to Carmarthenshire or they/a member of their household have been found guilty of unacceptable behaviour will be given no preference under this Policy.

As a part of the Policy, applicants will be sent reminders to re-register their interest on the 6 and 12 month anniversary of their registration date. Failure to re-register, to use their account or to bid for properties that meet their needs may mean that applicants will be removed from the Housing Register to ensure that only those in need of the service are registered. Help to do this will be provided for people who need it.

Cllr Deryk Cundy, Chair of the Scrutiny Task and Finish Group responsible for developing the Policy said: “As Chair of the cross-party working group that developed this Emergency Policy, I am delighted to be able to present this Emergency Social Housing Allocations Policy to Scrutiny. I am confident that if approved this will have a major impact on the lives of residents in housing need in Carmarthenshire.”

Cllr Linda Evans, Cabinet Member for Homes said: “If approved, the Emergency revised Social Housing Allocations Policy will transform the way social housing is allocated in Carmarthenshire.

“By more clearly defining the needs of those on the housing register, the Council can provide suitable housing more quickly to those who need it by directly matching properties to applicants. Only if a property cannot be matched to someone in exceptional circumstances or Band A of the register will it be advertised on home finder website, Canfod Cartref.”

If approved at the Council’s Scrutiny Committee, the Policy will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet and then submitted for Full Council approval.

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Anger as Pembrokeshire misses out on latest round of ‘Levelling Up’ funding

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CEFIN CAMPBELL, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales, has criticised the UK Government’s methodology for allocating funding under its ‘Levelling Up Fund’ after a UK Government announcement today revealed that Pembrokeshire will not receive any funding.

A total of eleven projects in Wales have been allocated around £208 million from round two of the Levelling Up Fund. The UK Government has claimed that these projects will create jobs, drive economic growth, help restore people’s pride in the places where they live and spread opportunity more equally.

However, Pembrokeshire is among eleven Welsh local authorities that have not received any money under today’s announcement. This comes despite announcements that wealthier areas, including Rishi Sunak’s constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire, will receive funding.

Responding to the UK Government’s announcement, Cefin Campbell MS said:

“Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Carmarthenshire are amongst the eleven Welsh local authorities that will not receive a single penny from today’s ‘Levelling Up’ round.

“This is despite the real need for ‘levelling up’ in these communities across mid and west Wales – with rural poverty, a housing crisis and poor infrastructure continuing to hamper economic growth and opportunities.

“The Tories promised that Brexit would leave Wales no worse off, and that European funding would be replaced, pound-for-pound. This promise has rung disgracefully hollow, with Wales now looking at a funding shortfall of £1.1bn compared with previous EU schemes.

“The way in which the ‘Levelling Up’ Fund has been allocated appears to reflect cynical political decision-making rather than any real assessment of Wales’ material need – and appears to be little more than a Tory stich up.”

Ben Lake MP, Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson added:

“Between 2009-2020 local authority spending per head in Wales fell by 9.4%. The idea that we should now be grateful for the privilege of competing over a small pot of money is frankly insulting. The arbitrary and ad-hoc way in which Westminster is allocating this funding is not conducive to the kind of cohesive long-term economic planning needed to break the poverty cycle.

“From the outset, Plaid Cymru have called for funding to be allocated according to need. If the UK Government want to redeem any credibility on ‘levelling up’, they should revise their criteria so that Wales receives funding according to our relative need.”

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Council launches social care campaign to support the NHS and those most in need

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has launched Operation Nightingale 23, a campaign to support and reduce pressure in our hospitals.

The Council is acutely aware of the considerable challenges currently being experienced within the NHS in Wales including within our local hospital at Withybush.

Withybush has a significant numbers of patients who need to leave hospital but are waiting for an assessment of continuing care need or the right care package in the community.

Under Op NG 23, Pembrokeshire County Council will deliver a variety of measures to help increase the flow of patients out of hospital including:

  • the short-term redeployment of staff into community support roles
  • additional social work capacity
  • the redeployment of existing social care capacity into the hospital teams to prioritise patient care assessment and care package allocation

This will also include the engagement of community groups and volunteers to allow people to safely leave hospital and return home.

The Authority will be looking to its partners and communities for support across a variety of contributing activities that have the potential to have an immediate impact.

Last week the Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services

Eluned Morgan MS visited Pembrokeshire County Council and received a briefing on Operation Nightingale 23.

Cllr Tessa Hodgson, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Safeguarding, said:

“We understand that pressures around bed capacity, discharges from hospital and challenges around the provision of care packages in the community, all impact negatively on our most vulnerable citizens.

“Some of the challenges that the council is experiencing in social care are shared across the health sector, not least of all with regard to workforce, winter flu and the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 virus.

“We acknowledge the significant impact this has on those in hospitals and care, and for their families. As part of our work we want to get the best results for everyone.”

It is as a result of these acute pressures, particularly at this time of year, and the risk they create, that Pembrokeshire County Council has decided to launch Operation Nightingale 23.

Cllr Hodgson adds: “This will see the authority and in particular the social care directorate step up to a critical response mode, in order to develop immediate and short term innovative responses to the current pressures, to improve flow of patients out of hospital, and to reduce pressure on our colleagues in the NHS.”

The Authority will review how it can effectively embed this work in the medium to long term, to face the challenges of an aging population for the good of this generation and those to come.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive for Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Our hospitals continue to be extremely busy with many sick patients and continuing high demand for emergency and urgent care. This means patients are waiting longer than we would want them to.

“This is always the most difficult period of the year, and we are managing the complexity of flu, Covid and increased urgent and emergency care demand.

“Currently, we have around 300 patients who are medically fit for discharge across the Hywel Dda region. This equates to over a third of the number of beds in our hospitals.

“Operation Nightingale 23 will help to free up some of those beds allowing us to treat patients more quickly and we are grateful to our colleagues in social care in Pembrokeshire for prioritising this work to free up capacity in the system.”

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