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CIEH urges Liz Truss to tackle twin crises of climate change and cost of living

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FOLLOWING the election of Liz Truss MP as the new leader of the Conservative Party, and new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has urged the new Prime Minister to prioritise environmental health measures as a means of tackling the twin crises of climate change and soaring cost of living.

The new Prime Minister will be faced with the difficult task of leading the country amidst soaring energy bills, rampant inflation, and concerns regarding energy security in the immediate term, while also having to ensure the UK meets its mid and long-term climate change ambitions.

Ofgem’s recent decision to increase the price-cap to £3,549 means millions of households will be plunged into fuel poverty this winter. Furthermore, their decision to implement a quarterly price cap means that consumers are at risk of even further increases in January, with market analysts predicting January’s price cap to be as high as £4,650.

While Liz Truss promised “more help is coming” with respect to tackling soaring energy bills, CIEH urges that she introduces an Emergency Budget which will freeze energy bills and introduce further financial support to households struggling with their energy bills, as well as introducing a raft of energy efficiency measures. This will have the dual impact of both lowering bills and supporting households through this spiralling cost of living crisis, while also effectively tackling climate change.

Longer term, the new Prime Minister will also have to ensure we have robust policies in place to improve air quality, tackle rising concerns regarding water companies dumping raw sewage into our waterways and ensuring that any new trade deals do not result in reduced food standards.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said:

“We would like to congratulate Liz Truss on her successful campaign to become the new leader of the Conservative Party and the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

She takes over the running of the country at a vital time, with concerns about inflation, soaring energy bills and the ongoing war in Ukraine threatening our energy security. We at CIEH urge Prime Minister Truss to prioritise strengthening environmental health measures as a means of both meeting these urgent challenges, as well as ensuring the UK remains a world leader in meeting our climate change objectives.

Whether through immediate policies such as freezing energy bills, reversing the quarterly price cap, and targeted energy efficiency measures to better insulate the poorest households, or through long-term measures such as enhancing air quality targets, tighter regulation of water companies dumping raw sewage in our waterways, or ensuring new trade deals either meet or enhance or food standards. Prioritising environmental health policies should be at the forefront of this new administration and we at CIEH look forward to proactively engaging the new government on these urgent and important issues.”

News

Pembrokeshire airport lease expected to be completed by end of year

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HAVERFORDWEST’S council-run airport, which had a circa £119,000 deficit last year, is expected to be leased out by the end of the year following “reasonably complex” negotiations, councillors heard.

Back in May, members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet supported the leasing of Withybush Airport as part of plans to make the facility cost-neutral to the authority.

Last year, Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members heard the financial position at the council-supported Haverfordwest/Withybush airport deteriorated in 2022/23, with an out-turn position for 2022/23 of £238,000.

That loss has been reduced to an expected £119,000 for 2023/24 “following an extensive review of the operations of the airport”.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s full council, a series of submitted questions on the airport were heard.

Merlins Bridge councillor John Cole asked: “With the council leasing out the Haverfordwest airport, can members be assured that the lease is at comparable rent with similar airport facilities, and the airport being offloaded purely as a cost savings measure?”

He also asked a second related question: “Are current users protected and assured that their tenancy and rents currently payable to the authority are taken into consideration?”

Responding, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miller said the proposed letting was considered to be “best letting,” with restricted private documents detailing the figures available to all members.

On the second question, he said existing tenants had been involved throughout the process, and once the new overall lease was in place tenants would be protected through legislation.

However, he stressed the new leaseholder would be able to change conditions in the future and the council would “not dictate terms” in the future.

A further question was asked by Saundersfoot South councillor Chris Williams: “On a recent services meeting back in 2023, we had a productive meeting at Withybush Airport to look at the impact regarding costs to PCC and to consider options with regards to its future operation.

“Can you please clarify if the airport is still owned and operated by Pembrokeshire County Council and if so at what cost since April 1, 2024?”

Cllr Miller said the airport was still currently owned by the council following the Cabinet decision, with “reasonably complex” negotiations ongoing, complicated by land ownership issues and the need to obtain the civil aviation licence.

“Hopefully by the end of the calendar year we will have completed that transaction,” Cllr Miller said, adding that £25,000 had been spent since April 1.

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Charity

More than 19k animal lovers call to end greyhound racing in Wales

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IN RSPCA open letter signed by an astonishing 19,715 people which calls for the end of greyhound racing in Wales has been delivered to the First Minister’s office.

The open letter, addressed to Vaughan Gething MS, the First Minister of Wales, stated that the thousands of signatories wish to see a phased end to the “outdated practice” in Wales in order to protect the welfare of countless dogs at risk of injury – or worse.

The RSPCA is part of the Cut the Chase coalition – which includes the Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, Hope Rescue and Greyhound Rescue Wales – who have long expressed concern about the negative welfare consequences that racing and the greyhound industry has on the dogs involved. The regulated sector’s own figures show that between 2018 and 2023, 2,751 greyhounds died or were put to sleep for reasons other than natural causes or illness. (data covering England and Wales).

Meanwhile, more than 26,500 injuries were recorded from greyhound racing over the same time period*. The latest statistics from the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) – which regulates Wales’ only track – show that the number of dogs involved in racing who died increased by 47% in 2023, further adding to the coalition’s concerns.

Wales could be the first nation in the UK to phase out the activity. Earlier this year, the Welsh Government carried out a 12-week consultation which is considering the future of greyhound racing. The consultation closed in March.

The Welsh Government has yet to publish the outcome of the consultation – and in the meantime dogs at the Valley Greyhounds Stadium in Ystrad Mynach continue to risk death or serious injury due to being knocked over or falling at speeds often in excess of 40mph.

Published results from races and trials at the Valley track, analysed by Greyhound Rescue Wales, shows that, between 3 March and 29 May this year, nine dogs were recorded as “fell” and 15 more were recorded as “knocked over”.

But these stats don’t show the full picture. Injury data from individual tracks and veterinary reports aren’t released publicly, so the exact welfare impact of the dogs who have fallen in races remains unknown.

Billie-Jade Thomas, RSPCA Senior Public Affairs Manager in Wales said: “Greyhound racing is inherently dangerous for the dogs involved. Running at speed around oval tracks causes significant injury to many dogs, and in some cases, the injuries are so severe that it is necessary for dogs to be put to sleep.

“There are only 10 countries in the world – including all UK nations – where commercial greyhound racing still goes on in 2024. But the Welsh Government now has a golden opportunity to commit to phasing out greyhound racing in Wales once and for all, sending an important message to the rest of the UK that they need to act to deliver a better life for greyhounds.

“We’d like to thank everyone who signed our open letter – we were delighted to have such a strong response and have more than 19,000 people support this cause. It really does show the strength of feeling there is about ending greyhound racing, and what we can achieve together for animal welfare.”

At its peak, there were 250 licensed tracks in the UK. Today, only 20* remain, with only one that is unlicensed in Great Britain.

The Cut the Chase coalition has called for greyhound racing to be phased out over the next five years, and remains committed to the welfare of the dogs involved in the industry during this time.

Phasing out greyhound racing in Wales is a major campaign priority for the RSPCA, as the charity marks its landmark 200th anniversary this year. Since its formation in 1824, the RSPCA has changed more than 400 laws for animals.

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News

Senedd Chief demands evidence from Gething on Blythyn sacking

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IN an unprecedented move, the Senedd Chief Executive has issued a formal request to First Minister Mark Drakeford, asking him to provide the evidence that Vaughan Gething relied upon to sack Hannah Blythyn. This request comes in response to a motion put forward by the Welsh Conservatives, demanding transparency from the Welsh Government.

Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, emphasised the gravity of the situation, stating, “This notice to the First Minister is unprecedented. We are facing unprecedented circumstances and hope the First Minister will comply with this notice. The people of Wales deserve answers regarding this saga.”

Davies also raised concerns about the potential existence of other undisclosed communications relevant to the ongoing COVID inquiry. He remarked, “The next important question is how many other sets of messages that may be relevant to the COVID inquiry are lurking around.”

The Senedd Chief Executive, Manon Antoniazzi, has given the First Minister until 5pm on 1st August to respond to the motion. The letter detailing this request has been made public and is expected to increase pressure on the Welsh Government for greater transparency.

The Welsh Conservatives’ push for accountability highlights a significant moment in Welsh politics, with the potential for broader implications on the management and oversight of governmental decisions during the pandemic.

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