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20mph policy ‘should be targeted at schools, hospitals and nurseries’



WALES’ controversial 20mph policy should be targeted at schools, hospitals and nurseries, the new transport secretary has suggested.

Ken Skates, who was appointed to the cabinet last month, told the Senedd there is widespread support for 20mph in areas where children and older people are at risk.

He stressed that ministers want to undertake a “national listening programme” on 20mph, engaging with businesses, communities and citizens across the country.

Mr Skates said: “There is, I believe, a growing consensus in this debate that we can at least build on that 20mph is right around our schools, hospitals, nurseries.”

The transport secretary, who succeeded Lee Waters in Vaughan Gething’s new look Welsh Government, told the chamber ministers must make sure 20mph zones are truly targeted.

He vowed: “Changes will be done with and for the communities we all serve – with the voice of citizens right at the heart of all we do.”

Mr Skates also signalled a potential change in direction on new roads, emphasising: “We will continue to build new roads.

“Whether that’s to address localised congestion, pinch points and poor air quality, to improve safety, or, for that matter, to adapt our road network to the kind of extreme weather that we’re now seeing here in Wales with alarming regularity – we will build new roads.”

Responding to a Conservative debate on Wales’ “not fit for purpose” policies, Mr Skates pledged to change the tone of debate on transport.

Natasha Asghar, the Tory shadow transport secretary, said 20mph has proved hugely unpopular, with a record near-half a million people signing a petition to rescind the policy.

Ms Asghar questioned Welsh Government claims that the policy will save the NHS £92m, saying there is very limited evidence as she called for a detailed breakdown.

Delyth Jewell, Plaid Cymru’s shadow transport secretary, said major change is required as she warned that transport is all too often expensive and difficult to access.

The party’s deputy leader told MSs the price of bus tickets has increased at the same time services are being cut, leaving communities isolated.

Ms Jewell warned that Wales lost out on billions through HS2 as she urged the Welsh Government to challenge UK ministers’ decision through the courts.

She said: “We have paid towards impoverishing ourselves. Neither Sunak nor Starmer sees the need to right that wrong. Westminster will always prioritise Westminster, never Wales.”

Highlighting the climate emergency, John Griffiths stressed the importance of a modal shift from road use to public transport and active travel.

The Labour backbencher said five new railway stations in south east Wales will make a major contribution to easing congestion on the M4.

However, the Newport East MS emphasised that rail infrastructure is not devolved and Wales has only received a “paltry share of investment compared to the rest of the UK”.

Peter Fox, the Conservative MS for Monmouth, reiterated calls for a Chepstow bypass, saying the town is regularly gridlocked with an almost two-mile traffic queue.

He told the chamber: “We need to see the shelved road schemes back on the table to boost the economy and get our congested roads moving once again.”

Labour backbencher Carolyn Thomas argued Wales needs to prioritise investing in existing roads which are in a “dire” condition due to “ever-dwindling” budgets.

The North Wales MS said one council ran out of cash to patch potholes last month.

The Conservative motion also raised concerns about a north-south divide, with £50m allocated to the north Wales metro and more than £1bn to the south Wales metro.

But Mr Skates argued it is not comparing like with like because Wales has powers over lines in the south but rail infrastructure in the north remains the UK Government’s responsibility.

The Tory motion was defeated, 15-36, with Plaid Cymru’s amendment also falling, 10-41, before the motion as amended by ministers was agreed, 27-15 with nine abstentions.

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Pembrokeshire farm tent camping site plans backed



Plans to expand a tent site at a Pembrokeshire farm which has diversified into tourism since the 1980s have been backed by councillors.

In an application before Pembrokeshire County Council’s May meeting of its planning committee, Mr and Mrs James sought permission to expand a tent site at South Cockett Caravan and Tent Site, Broadway, Broadhaven.

The application included a number of enhancements which would improve its visual appearance.

The Council Landscape Officer has raised no objection, advising that the additional hedgebank is to be encouraged.

Speaking at the meeting, agent Andrew Vaughan-Harris said three generations of the James family had been farming some 140 acres, in a mix of sheep, beef and cattle, and now had 70 touring caravan pitches on-site after diversifying in the 1980s.

“It’s a good news story over the last 30 years, it’s now up to 50 per cent of their income,” he told planners, adding the applicants had invested £180,000 on-site in the last couple of years.

“They still want to have a site for tents, now we have the application in front of us for a further field,” he added.

He finished: “This is helping sustainable farming; it is creating jobs.”

Members of the committee unanimously backed a recommendation to approve the scheme.

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General Election: Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion hopefuls for new seats



WITH a July 4 date announced for the General Election, confirmed candidates for the two new seats in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion will be gearing up their campaigns.

As part of constituency changes, Pembrokeshire’s current seats of Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire have changed.

As part of the changes, parts of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids – are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency, which will replace the Pembrokeshire parts of the current Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

The north of the county will be part of a new Ceredigion Preseli constituency joining parts of north Pembrokeshire – including Crymych and Maenclochog – with Ceredigion.

Current hopefuls for the Mid and South Pembrokeshire seat are Welsh Liberal Democrat Alistair Cameron, with Stephen Crabb for the Conservatives and Henry Tufnell for Labour.

Candidates confirmed to date in the neighbouring constituency of Ceredigion Preseli are Ben Lake for Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, a former MP for Ceredigion, and Welsh Labour’s Jackie Jones, and  Conservative candidate Aled Thomas.

The constituancy changes follow a Westminster vote to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32; each constituency  must contain between 69,724 and 77,062 voters, with the exception of Ynys Mon.

The new Ceredigion Preseli constituency has a road distance of nearly 75 miles from the extreme north to southwest of the new constituency.

The Boundary Commission for Wales made minor changes to previous proposals, removing St Davids, Solva and Letterston from the proposed Ceredigion Preseli constituency and including the Maenclochog ward instead.

Mid and south Pembrokeshire, under the changes, will have the largest number of electors of any of the constituencies in Wales, at 76,820.

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Sunak calls summer General Election – we vote on July 4



THE UK goes to the polls on Thursday, July 4.

The Prime Minister announced the general election date in a sodden Downing Street at 5pm on Wednesday, May 22.

As the rain fell and “Things Can Only Get Better” blared over a nearby sound system, Mr Sunak set out his party’s key attack lines.

The Prime Minister attacked Labour for lacking a plan and Sir Kier Starmer for lacking principles.
Mr Sunak urged citizens to stay the course and trust his government to deliver stability and improvements.

The Prime Minister offered nothing new or inspirational, missing the chance to set a positive mood for the General Election campaign.

If one could detect a theme in the PM’s delivery, it appeared to be: “Things are going pretty badly; don’t let Labour ruin it”.

The weather matched the mood of the PM’s speech: wet. When Mr Sunak finished his speech and walked back into Number Ten, he was drenched.

Talking heads, the usual suspects, and the commentariat are already in overdrive.
Look! See! Scandal! Shock!

While the UK parties get ready for battle across key marginal seats and try grabbing headlines and favourable coverage, it’ll be easy to forget the importance of local issues in a General Election campaign.
There are three seats in South West Wales, all redrawn or renamed.

The key battlegrounds for Herald readers are Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Preseli Pembrokeshire, and Mid & South Pembrokeshire.

At the last UK General Election in 2019, Pembrokeshire’s working-class voters abandoned Labour. Our County returned two Conservative MPs. In 2021, our County returned two Conservative MSs. At the Council elections a year later, the Conservative vote held up even as it went into shrank drastically elsewhere.

It would not be surprising if Labour’s performance in West Wales were worse than in the rest of the country.

As at previous elections, Labour candidates in West Wales must overcome the Welsh Government’s reeking and widespread unpopularity.

Twenty-five years of devolution has delivered nebulous benefits for the Welsh people.

A quarter of a century of “the Welsh difference” has made little or no difference to Wales’s people.

Banging on about crises in education, transport, public services, housing, and the NHS could be fruitful in England. It would be astonishing if it weren’t. However, Labour is hamstrung by being responsible for those policy areas and their appalling condition in Wales.

Labour in Wales can’t rely on claiming things are much worse over the Severn Bridge any more than the Welsh Conservatives can claim they’re much better.
Unable to campaign on its record in the Welsh Government, Labour will have to fight on a broader battleground:

  • The cost-of-living crisis.
  • The feeling that fourteen years of a Conservative government in Westminster have not improved Welsh voters’ lives.
  • Pressing the case that the time has come for change.

As for Wales’s other political parties, the Liberal Democrats are nowhere, the Greens will take any protest votes on the left from those who confuse activism and virtue-signalling with politics, and Reform will take any protest votes on the right from those who think “Two World Wars and One World Cup” is a programme for government.

Plaid Cymru faces different problems, not least because it comprises several factions that loathe each other more than they dislike other parties.

A good night for Plaid Cymru would be three seats won. A great night would be four seats won. There are, however, thirty-two Welsh constituencies. Do the maths.

Plaid Cymru—like the SNP or DUP—could have considerable leverage in a hung parliament or a parliament where the governing party has a small majority. The problem is Plaid chaining itself to the

Labour Government in Wales. “Vote Plaid, Get Labour” could switch off voters Plaid must win over, whether or not Leanne Wood wants them.

Plaid would be functionally irrelevant in a parliament with a large Labour majority. They would have no more say than an independent MP or the departing Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas.
In addition, fewer seats in Wales (down to 32 from 40) will almost certainly mean fewer Plaid MPs. The tiny seats in North West Wales that Plaid usually won are gone, merged with other constituencies. Ceredigion has merged with Preseli Pembrokeshire. Carmarthenshire’s new seat boundaries exclude some strong Plaid-voting areas, and the local party is divided.
Despite New Labour’s anthem, “Things Can Only Get Better,” being played over Rishi Sunak’s speech on Wednesday, Sir Kier Starmer has not tapped into the public mood like Tony Blair did.
So far, Labour’s messaging offers only vague hope of undefined improvements.
Anyone for “Stuck in the Middle with You”?
It might be enough.

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