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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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News

Withyhedge Landfill: Multi-agency statement issued to residents

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NATURAL Resources Wales (NRW) shared the most recent findings from a visit to Withyhedge Landfill site in Pembrokeshire at a Multi-agency Incident Management Team meeting on Wednesday, 10 April. The meeting included representatives from Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC), Public Health Wales (PHW) and Hywel Dda University Health Board.

All authorities acknowledge and empathise with the impact this prolonged odour issue is having on members of the communities that surround Withyhedge Landfill.

This is a complex and ever-changing situation, and partners are working extremely hard to reach a point where the odour problems are resolved.

NRW officers attended the site on Monday 8 April. It appears, from a visual assessment of the work undertaken on site, that the required capping work and gas well installation has been completed by site operators, RML, in line with the deadline of the S36 Enforcement Notice, issued by NRW on 13 February 2024.

However, this can only be fully assessed by NRW once survey and construction validation reports have been submitted. The operator is now preparing these and once received, a formal assessment will be undertaken.

The authorities will review the findings and revise their action plans where appropriate.

Odour Monitoring

Since the passing of the S36 Enforcement Notice deadline of Friday 5 April, and in response to continued high volumes of odour reports from the local community, NRW and PCC increased odour monitoring in residential areas over the weekend and into this week.

Other possible areas on site where odour may be coming from have been identified and the statement from the company issued 9 April provides further detail.

RML submitted plans to address these on 10 April, which are now being considered by NRW.

Air Quality Monitoring

RML has also commissioned an independent party to carry out air quality monitoring, and this work continues. PCC and NRW are providing technical advice in support of this work.

The first round of diffusion tubes monitoring results detected Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) at one of the 10 monitoring sites. Hydrogen sulphide being a colourless gas which often smells like rotten eggs and can come from the breakdown of waste materials in landfill.

More data is required for meaningful analysis and Public Health Wales continue to advocate for further air monitoring to take place as soon as possible. This is being progressed by PCC and NRW.

Reporting odour

NRW requests that instances of odour from the landfill continue to be reported via this dedicated form: https://bit.ly/reportasmellwithyhedge.

Please report odours at the time of them being experienced, rather than historically. Reporting odours in a timely manner will help guide the work of partners more effectively, particularly in the further development of air quality monitoring.

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Health

Doctors to enter pay negotiations with the Welsh Government

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BMA CYMRU Wales has suspended forthcoming industrial action for Consultants and SAS doctors following a constructive meeting with the Welsh government to resolve its pay disputes.

As a result of sustained pressure, including three rounds of industrial action by junior doctors in Wales, the Welsh Government has made a significant proposal to form the basis of talks to end the pay disputes with all secondary care doctors including Consultants, SAS and Junior doctors.

Since the meeting last week, the committees representing doctors from all three branches of practice have voted to enter pay negotiations based on this proposal.

The planned 48-hour strike by Consultants and SAS doctors due to take place from 16 April will now be suspended.

Junior doctors have paused plans to announce more strike dates whilst they enter negotiations with the Welsh Government.

The Welsh junior doctors committee, Welsh SAS committee and Welsh consultants committee will now each engage in pay negotiations, with the aim of reaching deals which can be taken separately to their respective members.

Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh Junior doctors Committee said:

“This is a significant step forward. It is sad that we had to take industrial action to get here, but we are proud of members for demonstrating their resolve in pursuit of a fair deal for the profession.

“Whilst we are optimistic and hope to quickly resolve our dispute, we remain steadfast in achieving pay restoration. Until we reach a deal, nothing is off the table.

 “We will continue to work hard to reach an offer that is credible to put to members who will ultimately have the final say.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ Consultants committee said:

“The Welsh Government’s recent efforts to reach an end to the pay dispute are encouraging and so we have called off our planned strike for now whilst we allow time and space for negotiations to take place.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach a deal that sufficiently addresses years of erosion to our pay to help retain senior doctors in Wales but remain ready to strike if we’re not able to do so during negotiations.”

Dr Ali Nazir, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ SAS doctor committee said:

“As a committee, we felt that this latest development goes someway to understanding the strength of feeling of our members. We will work hard to reach a settlement that sufficiently meets the expectation of our colleagues who have faced real terms pay cuts of up to a third since 2008/9.”

In August last year, the BMA’s committees representing secondary care doctors in Wales voted to enter into separate trade disputes with the Welsh Government after being offered another below inflation pay uplift of just 5% for the 23/24 financial year. SAS doctors on some contracts were offered as little as 1.5%. This was the lowest pay offer any government in the UK offered and less than the DDRB, the pay review body for doctors and dentists, recommended last year.

As part of their disputes, SAS doctors, consultants and junior doctors carried out successful ballots for industrial action. Since then, junior doctors have taken part in 10 days of industrial action since January this year.

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Health

BMA pay disputes – Junior Doctors, Consultants and Specialist Doctors

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THE WELSH Government and BMA Wales’ three national committees representing consultants, SAS doctors and junior doctors have today agreed to formal negotiations about pay.

Planned industrial action will be suspended during the negotiations.

A mandate is being developed for the talks with all three BMA branches of practice with the aim of resolving the disputes over pay for 2023-24.

In the context of the most challenging financial position the Welsh Government has faced since devolution, a significant amount of work has been undertaken to identify funding to support the negotiations.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We recognise the strength of feeling among BMA members and that industrial action is never taken lightly.

“This is a government that listens and engages to find solutions. I prioritised a meeting with the BMA directly alongside the Cabinet Secretary for Health to reinforce our commitment to that partnership approach.

“We currently face the most severe financial situation in the devolution era which makes our task far harder. Despite this backdrop, we have worked to identify a way forward that I hope will lead to the successful resolution of this dispute and ensure that doctors can return to work in NHS Wales.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health Eluned Morgan added: “Even in these very challenging circumstances, we have worked in social partnership with the BMA and NHS to maintain patent safety during industrial action.

“But the strikes have been very disruptive to the delivery of NHS services – none of us want to see doctors on strike. I am pleased the three BMA committees have agreed to pause further industrial action and begin formal talks with Welsh Government and hope we can bring an end to this dispute.”

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