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Councillors back badger cull

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Blamed: badgers

Blamed: badgers

FRUSTRATION and no little anger were the keynotes of the County Council’s debate on a proposal to lobby the Welsh Government to permit a badger cull.

Councillors were told of the toll of the current policy had taken on farms, families, and communities. A packed Council Chamber heard harrowing stories of cattle being slaughtered late in pregnancy, outrage at discovering tests had delivered false positives, and an acknowledgement that there needs to be a broader approach than the one currently used. Proposing the motion, Cllr Gareth Lloyd began by setting out the nature of recent discussions members had held with their counterparts in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire regarding the deepening crisis in west Wales’s agricultural sector.

The dairy and livestock sector, Cllr Lloyd told councillors, was under particular pressure and the incidence of bovine TB (BTB) in the locality, together with the method chosen to deal with it, was making the problem worse. Cllr Lloyd continued by pointing out that BTB was having a ‘devastating effect’ on the wellbeing of animals and humans, while exacerbating ‘the fragility of Ceredigion’s economy’.

He reserved the majority of ire for a direct attack on the Welsh Government’s policy, ‘in light of the complete breakdown of the unscientific vaccination programme’. Stating that it was necessary to ‘break cycle of infection’ Cllr Lloyd told members: “I do not bring this before you without giving a lot of thought. I would like there to be no culling, the truth is there is a culling scheme – but it is happening to cattle! “Official figures show that in Wales 82,500 cattle have been culled. That is more than the population of Cetredigion, to give an idea – and that does not include unborn calves. The experiences of farmers are almost like coming back from war. You have cattle hours away from calving, minutes, before they are culled. Farmer can see the calves moving inside their mothers before the cows are killed.

This is the kind of thing we can avoid. We have spent twenty years culling cattle, and last year the number of cattle culled was 27% up on previous year.” Acknowledging the complexity of the situation, Cllr Lloyd said: “As things stand, this cycle will continue. It is a fact that badgers contract TB and are A (emphasis added) factor, but not the only factor, in infecting cattle. We could carry on culling thousands of cattle every year, but something must be done to stop the root cause of the problem, or at least tackle part of it. I understand some people have strong feelings against this idea, but I am representing my community.”

Cllr Lloyd concluded: “We need to come to an agreement for farmers, families, communities and to cooperate with our fellow councils in west Wales.” Following the formal seconding of the motion by Deputy Leader Ray Quant, Cllr Gethin James congratulated Cllr Lloyd on putting such a compelling case forward. Cllr James continued by suggesting: “The political will to deal with the issue has been lost. In 2008, during a visit to Ceredigion, I remember a discussion about this with the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan. He told me the evidence was there that a cull would work. “Our own AM, Elin Jones, was leading that. I think she wanted this to move forward. There was a legal challenge and the cull was delayed. Welsh Labour ditched the policy straight after the 2011 Assembly elections.”

Cllr Dai Mason told members that the decision should not even be made by the Welsh Government and that the Council should simply back a policy that allowed farmers to do whatever they thought necessary to protect their own stock. Cllr Towyn Evans was less combative, saying that there were no easy answers, he suggested that: “We are not proposing cruelty, but facing reality. The time has come, in the interests of humanity and people’s livelihoods, to make tough decisions and to make decisions that others will jump on to make political hay. “We are talking about targeting culls where TB exists. There is a genuine need for a political will to look at what’s happening in the dairy industry.” Highlighting the price collapse confronting dairy farmers, Cllr Evans said: “Farmers without contracts are now getting 12ppl for their milk.

That was 34ppl not so long ago. Families have invested in farms, they spend money locally. We must look at getting greater control of this issue. I agree with what Cllr James had to say about political will in the Assembly. There is a primitive system being used to test animals, and the system they are using is not fit for purpose. In this council, a rural council, we must have the will to be brave.” Cllr Dafydd Edwards addressed the issue in a different way and highlighted the loss of biodiversity in the countryside: “Badgers at one time, were endangered and were then protected. There are too many badgers now. It is time to for us to ask to look at lifting restrictions protecting badgers to reduce their impact on other wildlife; there is a lack of diversity thanks to badgers. We should look in more detail to see if there is a more sensible course of action to control their population and to review the impact on other wildlife. Cllr Lyndon Lloyd was very much more cautious than those preceding him: “The Government has accepted a scientific view as the basis for the vaccination programme. We might not agree with the scientific evidence, but if we are to present our own case we need to provide some science of our own.

“ We cannot simply say the process the Welsh Government is using is unscientific without showing why it is. We need to strengthen our case. As we have been debating here, BBC Radio Cymru has asked the Welsh Government for a comment. It claims the incidence is lower and the number of cattle culled is, too. “Vets have accepted the vaccination programme, some with misgivings, and we need to address that. “I can foresee the Assembly sending a letter back to us saying, ‘prove it’.” Responding to Lyndon Lloyd, Cllr Gareth Lloyd said: “We can use their evidence against them. The Welsh Government insisted on a five year programme and said it had to be five years unbroken to be scientifically sound. “They have failed to deliver that. By coming to an end after the fourth year, they have broken that.

Now they say it is fine to wait a year, but cannot say whether it will start again next year.” Cllr Paul Hinch picked up Cllr Lyndon Lloyd’s point: “This last Welsh Government has no about rural life in Wales or anywhere else. Unless vaccination is fully taken up, you cannot build up immunity. It’s not just the money, it’s the way of life. People get very upset about killing ‘cuddly animals’, but if they’re causing a problem they need management. If it takes a targeted cull, because the vaccination programme is incomplete, we should support that.” Cllr Alun Williams told members: “I understand the strength of feeling. I have had lots of emails about this topic. I would point out in England there has been intensive culling but that has not eradicated badgers in the affected areas. “My belief is there is no single simple solution to this and there needs to be a comprehensive science based policy. I cannot support only one solution. I fully support a motion to pressurise the WG to break the cycle of infection.”

His words were echoed by Cllrs John Lumley Hag Harries, who said they would abstain on the basis the evidence was not enough to back the motion. Cllr Peter Evans spoke at the end of the debate in support of the motion and made it clear that he could not support a petition in which one black and white creature was more equal than another. Highlighting the impact of the cull on the rural economy, Cllr Evans told members that: “We have to act, because farmers are the backbone of the rural areas. Farmers’ way of life is extremely important to the rural economies of the three counties. Ask the businesses who depend on them.” In a registered vote, an amendment to the motion to omit the recommendation of a cull only was supported by only 3 members with 4 abstentions. The motion was carried by 26 votes in favour to 1 against with 5 abstentions.

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Completing the Census will help improve the county’s services

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As Census Day approaches, everyone is reminded of the benefits of taking part in this once every ten years survey.

The Census gives an accurate picture of the population and the needs of the people in the county, and affects the funding that is allocated to Ceredigion from Welsh Government annually and therefore the funding that’s available to provide critical services in the county. As a result, it is vitally important for everyone to take part in this year’s survey.

Every household in the county will receive a Census Pack in the coming weeks, which will include either a letter with a unique access code for online completion or a paper questionnaire. The Census Packs will include instructions on how to complete the questionnaire.

The last Census, which was held in 2011, showed that 75,922 people lived in Ceredigion, including 11,318 students. The most popular occupation for the county’s residents was farming, with 2,063 people identifying themselves as farmers, and 676 people noted they were nurses.

Data from Census 2011 supported the identification of Ceredigion (and three other local authorities in Wales) as target areas for the £2 million Arfor Innovation Fund Scheme.The data highlighted Ceredigion as a suitable area for the scheme, due to the county’s high proportion of Welsh speakers, and inflow of older people and outflow of younger people. Consequently, almost £500,000 has been made available by the Welsh Government to Ceredigion, to support Welsh language businesses and entrepreneurs in the area.

In addition to this, the data collated during Census 2011 helped to develop play and recreation areas at Llanddewi Brefi, Llanon, Ponterwyd and Cardigan. By using this data, it was possible to apply to the Welsh Government Rural Communities Development Fund (RCDF) and show how much these services are needed by local residents.

Information gathered as part of the Census enables local and national governments to plan services for various sectors, including healthcare, social care, schools and transport.

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, said: “Not only is the Census fascinating, but it also gives the best possible estimate of our population today. Over the years, we have been able to use this data to plan services, by tackling and prioritising the needs of our communities in Ceredigion. I urge everyone to complete this mandatory survey in order to gain a true picture of the county’s fabric. Who knows what the data from Census 2021 will bring? But one thing is certain, taking part will benefit the residents of our county.”

Census Day will be on 21 March 2021, but households will soon receive Census Packs in the post explaining how they can take part. The Census will include questions about your sex, age, work, health, education, household size and ethnicity. And, for the first time, there will be a question asking people whether they have served in the armed forces, as well as voluntary questions for those aged 16 and over on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In Wales, households will also be asked a specific question about their Welsh language skills. And those who wish to complete the Census in Welsh can do so both online and in paper form. 

Because these things matter to us all, everyone needs to complete the Census. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) runs the Census in England and Wales and is independent from government. Your details are protected by law and information published is always anonymous.

For more information and to find out how you can access help, go to www.census.gov.uk or call the contact Centre on 0800 169 2021.

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Elin Jones backs calls for business rates holiday extension for independent businesses

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CEREDIGION’S Member of the Senedd, Elin Jones, has backed calls by the British Independent Retail Association for the extension of the current rates holiday for non-essential businesses in 2021/22.

Many local independent businesses have been closed for the best part of a year, and many will be in a more precarious situation now than when the initial rates holiday was announced last year. Many businesses will be looking forward to the easing of restrictions over the next few months, but Elin Jones warned that many would benefit from the continued business rates holiday.

Elin Jones said:

“Every effort must be made to secure the future of independent businesses in Ceredigion. They are such an important feature of life in Ceredigion, both as employers, and as a draw for people to our towns and villages.

“Normal trading will eventually resume, and these businesses will be able to flourish again, but local businesses owners know that this cannot be rushed. Therefore we must continue to sustain our businesses until they are once again back on an even keel.

“It will take a while for footfall to resume, and extending the business rates holiday is one way to help in this time of need.”

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MP makes Budget case for support for self-employed and small businesses in Ceredigion

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BEN LAKE MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the government’s financial support package for businesses and self-employed workers in next week’s Budget as many struggle to stay afloat during continued lockdown restrictions. 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020. 

To help businesses and our local high streets over coming months, the Ceredigion MP has called on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022 and to extend the business rates relief package. 

Mr Lake also called on the Chancellor to retain the furlough scheme for the duration of pandemic restrictions, as recent figures show more than 178,000* in Wales are still receiving government help from the CJRS. He also urged the Chancellor to expand the existing eligibility criteria for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme in order to offer some help to the many individuals who have not received a penny in Government support thus far. 

Ben Lake MP said: “For many businesses and self-employed workers, the financial support government has offered over the last 12 months has been a lifeline. Now, as we are finally starting to see light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, we cannot remove this lifeline prematurely. Extending this help for a little longer, and expanding the criteria to help those that have been excluded thus far, would offer small businesses the support they require to ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic.” 

Many businesses who are still not open due to lockdown measures are also now expected to start repaying their Bounce Back Loans. This is despite their situation largely remaining unchanged since they took out the loan, or in some unfortunate instances, worsened as they have not yet been able to trade.  

UKHospitality has estimated that the hospitality sector lost around £72 billion in sales in 2020 and faces, frankly, a debt mountain, including £4.2 billion in state-backed loans.  

Mr Lake said:  “It is important that businesses that took out bounce back loans and CBILS are required to pay only when they are in a position to do so – once they have ‘bounced back’ from the pandemic. Affording such a level of flexibility, and thus preventing avoidable business failures, would protect jobs, the taxpayer’s investment in the recovery, and the integrity of our financial system.

“We remain in the early stages of a vaccine-led recovery, and it is likely that we will have some form of restrictions for many months to come. Having done so much to protect the economy and the workforce, we must not withdraw support prematurely, as to do so would risk throwing away the investment taxpayers have made in the last year, and potentially our economic recovery.” 

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