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Wales at the forefront of UK action as Senedd says no to single-use plastics

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WALES will become the first part of the UK to legislate against a thorough list of single-use plastics as the Senedd approves legislation to ban selling unnecessary, disposable products to consumers.

The new law is a key step in reducing the flow of damaging plastic waste into the Welsh environment and is being introduced following consultation with the public and other stakeholders.

Taking effect in autumn 2023, it will give local authorities the power to enforce the offence of supplying or offering to supply the commonly littered items – even when they are free.

Wales is currently ranked as the world’s third best domestic recycler and the new law demonstrates how the Welsh Government is continuing to take ambitious steps to tackle the climate and nature emergencies.

Moreover, the Bill allows the Welsh Government, working with the Senedd, to revise the current list of banned or restricted products meaning Ministers will be able to ban other types of environmentally harmful single-use plastic products in the future, by passing regulations.

Speaking after the vote, Climate Change Minister, Julie James, said it puts Wales in the driving seat for future action: “As well as being unsightly, single-use plastics are extremely destructive to our wildlife and environment.

“Building a greener Wales requires a team effort. This new law builds on the efforts of communities, businesses and young people who have already chosen to go plastic free.

“Now is the time for all of us to think differently and change our habits to avoid leaving a legacy of plastic waste for future generations.”

Most plastic is made from fossil fuels. Reducing it can assist efforts towards net zero and help to minimise the worst impacts of climate change.

The Minister added: “We will continue to work with industry, businesses, third sector bodies, academia, and others – ensuring we say goodbye to the scourge of this littered plastic from our streets, parks and seas for good.”

Owen Derbyshire, Keep Wales Tidy Chief Executive said: “Keep Wales Tidy welcomes legislation to ban single-use plastics. It is a positive step on our journey towards transforming the way we consume plastics and reduce waste as a nation. Crucially, it paves the way for industry to move away from polluting practices which are damaging our environment and harming our wildlife.

“We hope that the powers granted in the Bill will allow Wales to respond to emerging threats of other single-use products as consumer trends continue to evolve.”

Louise Reddy, Policy Officer, Surfers Against Sewerage said: “As more plastic floods into the ocean every year, Wales’ ban on single use plastic is a great step to ending plastic pollution. We look forward to Wales continuing to stop plastic in its tracks by transitioning to a circular economy and ensuring polluters pay for the good of people and planet.” – Louise Reddy, Policy Officer, Surfers Against Sewerage.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative Shadow Climate Change Minister Janet Finch-Saunders MS said: “It is high time Labour banned single-use plastics as we have been saying they should for years, as has been done in the rest of Britain.

“Around 10m tonnes of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans annually, with studies predicting that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish – but less than 10% of single-use plastics have been recycled, showing just how much this legislation is needed.

“I do wish that, instead of being unhelpfully and unnecessarily contrarian, the Labour Government just adopted the same definition of “single-use” as England and Scotland, but we felt that an imperfect Bill should not be allowed to torpedo the wider objective.

“Hopefully now, Labour ministers can get on with its other long-awaited environmental promises like a Clean Air Act and show it is as serious about tackling climate change as the Welsh Conservatives.”

City to Sea’s Policy Manager, Steve Hynd, said: “Today’s vote is an opportunity for Wales to tackle some of the most polluting single-use plastics in a way that we know will have a credible impact on plastic pollution. This is a chance to see our beaches and riverbanks free from many of the main sources of plastic pollution like single-use cutlery that have for too long been a visual blight and a danger to our ecosystems. This also includes items that are still in circulation in most other countries, such as thin single-use plastic bags. To include them on the list of items to be banned shows real leadership by the Welsh Assembly.”

He continued, “However much of the bill includes items such as cutlery, plates, and cotton buds that have been banned across the rest of the EU for years now. Although it’s welcome that the ban is finally coming into place, it is far too late, and more still needs to be done. Equally this legislation only further embarrasses Defra as it leaves England as now the only country in Europe to not have banned some of these items like single-use plastic cutlery. This is despite Defra consulting to do so over a year ago. We were promised a ‘Green Brexit’ but on key environmental standards Defra is dragging its feet and is falling behind its closest neighbours.”

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Milford Haven: Police investigating sexual assault

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POLICE are investigating an incident of sexual assault which occurred in Hakin, Milford Haven.

Milford Haven Police say that the alleged incident took place in Croft Avenue on February 7, 2023 at around 19:50hrs.

If anyone is able to give any information regarding this incident please ring 101 quoting reference DPP/0956/07/02/2023/02/C.

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Pembrokeshire County Council faces less bleak finances than previously expected

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL faces a less bleak financial position than had previously been expected, to the tune of nearly £10m, members of a schools committee have heard.

At the February 6 meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack, presented outline draft 2023-’24 budget proposals to members.

He told members an updated draft budget was to be reported to the February meeting of the council’s Cabinet after a previously feared funding gap of £28m was now smaller, at £18.6m, due to a higher settlement from Welsh Government.

An expected 3.5 per cent settlement ended up being 7.9 per cent, which meant some expected cuts were now unlikely to happen, he told committee members.

“A large number of the most severe cuts are now very, very unlikely; we’re now looking at a deficit of £18.6m, it’s not as severe as it was.

“The officer team is looking at how that funding gap could be closed with budget savings and with different levels of council tax.”

Members heard the budget is expected to be addressed through an increase in council tax – potentially in the area of 7.5 per cent – along with significant cost reductions.

Director of Resources John Haswell said: “It was a better settlement, but still an £18.6m gap; this isn’t a one-year issue, this is an issue over the medium-term plan, over £50m over the four-year period.”

He said that Pembrokeshire, having the lowest council tax rates in Wales, meant that each potential percentage increase returned less than other local authorities.

Members heard papers listing the latest budget proposals for Cabinet discussion are expected to be released soon, in advance of the February 13 meeting.

Members agreed to defer making any recommendations to Cabinet, pending the release of the revised papers.

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Welsh Freeport competition heats up with Senedd vote

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ON WEDNESDAY, the Senedd will hold a debate regarding freeports as the competition for UK and Welsh Government funding nears its conclusion.

Currently, three bids are in from across Wales for a chance to benefit from £26 million of direct UK Government funding, as well as reduced taxes for businesses in the freeport area. A Welsh freeport could see up to 16,000 jobs created and further investment or the local area into the billions.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Paul Davies MS said:

“Benefits of a freeport cannot be understated, bringing much needed jobs and investment into some of the most deprived areas of Wales.

“The UK Government put the challenge to Wales to submit exceptional bids, and Wales has delivered.

“All three bids would help to transform their local communities in different ways. It’s essential that the UK and Welsh Governments work together to deliver that second freeport for Wales, maximising the opportunities that these bids have to offer.”

The three Welsh Freeport bids are:

  • The Celtic Freeport (covering Pembrokeshire to Neath) which has estimated that it would create over 16,000 new jobs and up to £5.5 billion in new investment.
  • The Anglesey Freeport would support up to a £1 billion contribution to UK GDP by 2030, while also creating up to 13,000 new, high salary jobs in Ynys Môn.
  • The Newport Freeport (including Cardiff Airport) is aiming to increase non-passenger revenues to 50%, ending their reliance of passenger generated income.

The UK Government stated that “if a truly exceptional proposal were presented at the bidding stage” than a second freeport would be funded.

The Welsh Conservative debate reads:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Recognises the opportunities for freeports to energise the Welsh economy, create high quality jobs, promote regeneration and investment.

2. Notes that three bids from Wales have been submitted for consideration by the UK and Welsh Governments.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with the UK Government to deliver two freeports in Wales, recognising the truly exceptional proposals submitted and the transformational benefits they can deliver for the Welsh economy.

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