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MP claims victory over pension fund investments

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Jonathan EdwardsWALES could soon have its own multi-billion pound ‘Welsh Wealth Fund’ to invest in infrastructure and drive economic growth after the UK Government looks set to change it position on pension scheme investments.

Earlier this year Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards warned that a UK Government proposal to pool pension scheme investments into “wealth funds” with at least £25billion in assets would risk the funds of Welsh employers and employees being invested outside of Wales.

Wales’ councils are understood to have assets worth £12-13billion – a substantial figure in itself but almost half of the figure outlined by Chancellor last year.

Mr Edwards said he feared the £25billion threshold would result in “Welsh funds being pooled with an English region”. As the policy does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland, Mr Edwards said there was a “clear case for making sure that Welsh assets are combined into Welsh pools so that we are able to invest in infrastructure that will develop the Welsh economy.”

Since first raising his concerns the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP has tabled a parliamentary motion and challenged Treasury Ministers in the House of Commons to look again at the proposals for Wales.

The UK Government’s Minister for Local Government, Marcus Jones MP, has now given his consent for Welsh pension administering authorities to develop proposals for a Wales-only wealth fund.

Mr Edwards welcomed the change in policy branding it “a tremendous opportunity to make up for the years of chronic under-investment in Wales’ public infrastructure.”

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said:”As I have said in Parliament, Plaid Cymru has no opposition in principle to the creation of these wealth funds, indeed we first proposed something similar many years ago. Our innovative ‘Build for Wales’ policy in 2011 was partly aimed at creating a vehicle to draw down private investment for Welsh infrastructure development.

“We have always, however, been concerned that the assets built up by Welsh employees and employers would be pooled into a larger England and Wales fund which would see subsequent investments inevitably diverted outside of Wales.

“We are delighted that the Westminster Government has now conceded there is a case for a Walesonly fund.

“Welsh pension fund assets are worth more than £12 billion. Using just a fraction of this money could be a tremendous opportunity to make up for the years of chronic under-investment in Wales’ public infrastructure.

“It is imperative now, as details of the Welsh Wealth Fund are finalised before the July deadline, that the fund is set up with a clear mandate to invest in Welsh infrastructure in order to boost the Welsh economy. If utilised properly this could be a major shot in the arm for our economy.”

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Politics

Ben Lake MP supports campaign to close deadly cancer gap

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Ben Lake MP is backing calls from the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT) to end a vicious cycle which has seen survivability stagnate amongst the six deadliest cancers over the last decade.

Ben Lake MP met charity members of the LSCT in the House of Commons on 4 February to coincide with World Cancer Day.

The LSCT represents six ‘less survivable cancers’, lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach, with an average five year survival rate of 14% due to a legacy of neglect and underfunding. The Taskforce aims to double the survivability of these cancers to 28% by 2029.

At the event, Ben Lake met with cancer specialists and patients with first-hand experience of these ‘less survivable cancers’. They learnt about the critical situation for people diagnosed with these cancers and the urgent need for a step change in targeted investment in research in order to make much-needed diagnosis and treatment breakthroughs.

Ben Lake MP attended the event and said: “I am pleased to speak out for the less survivable cancers this World Cancer Day. We have made incredible steps in treatment and prognosis for many cancers and we now need targeted action to close the deadly cancer gap for these less survivable cancers”.

Anna Jewell, Chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce added:

“We are delighted that Ben Lake MP shares our concerns about the stark inequalities in cancer outcomes.

“There are some cancers which have seen remarkable progress in survivability but others that are just as deadly as they were decades ago. Together, these ‘less survivable cancers’ make up half of all common cancer deaths in the UK.

“Today we are calling on the UK governments to commit to doubling survival rates from 14% to 28% by 2029 and I’d like to thank Ben Lake MP for supporting our campaign to close the deadly cancer gap.”

The LSCT includes Action Against Heartburn, the British Liver Trust, Guts UK, Pancreatic Cancer UK, The Brain Tumour Charity and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Sarah Lindsell, Chief Executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, added:”Every year, thousands of people diagnosed with a less-survivable cancer, including those with brain cancer, are denied even the hope of a cure. Many are told they have only months to live. That has to change.

“We need more research and a committed drive towards improving survival for these cancers, so that fewer lives are cut brutally short and fewer families are left devastated by loss.”

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Politics

Ceredigion councillors to consider 4% increase in council tax

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COUNTY councillors in Ceredigion will be asked to consider a 4% increase in the Council tax rate when they meet on 5 March 2020.

They will consider the rate after Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet recommended the increase to ensure that there are no further cuts to council services in the next financial year.

The proposed increase would mean that an average Band D property in Ceredigion would pay £1,364.82 of council tax annually, an increase of approximately £1 per week.

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn is the Leader of the Council. She said: “We are proposing to the Council that the Council tax rate is increased at a similar level as our government funding has increased. This means that all Council services would be protected from further cuts during next year. The increase would meet the increased demands placed on social care budgets which we cannot avoid.”

The overall Council tax rate increase will be set by three key components, the County Council’s tax, the precept of Town and Community Councils and the Police precept. Increases set by the Police and Town and Community Councils result in a combined increase yet to be calculated.

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Community

Elin Jones congratulates Ceredigion Talking Paper in National Assembly

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AM marks 50 years of service by local news service for the blind

Elin Jones AM has congratulated the Ceredigion Talking Newspaper in a statement in the National Assembly for Wales, marking 50 years of service to blind people in Ceredigion and beyond.

In her statement on Wednesday the 20th of January, Elin Jones said:

“Fifty years ago, in January 1970, an innovative charity was established in Ceredigion for blind people, offering the first service of its kind in Wales and the United Kingdom – a service that would enable the blind people of Ceredigion to hear the latest local news in the press.

“That innovative scheme was the Ceredigion Talking Newspaper.

“The talking newspaper was set up by Ronald Sturt, a lecturer at the College of Librarianship in Llanbadarn. Initially, the recordings of local voices reading articles from the local press were on tape cassettes and provided to 18 people.

“Nowadays, the recordings are on a USB, and there are over a hundred regular listeners of the talking newspaper and more than 60 volunteers contributing regularly. The recordings are published weekly and the coverage includes the Cambrian News, Golwg and Y Cymro.

“One reader, Eileen Sinnett, has volunteered continuously for fifty years. What a contribution she has made!

“I would like to congratulate the Ceredigion Talking Newspaper for breaking new ground in 1970, for 50 years of service and for bringing the news, in both Welsh and English, to those who cannot see or read it in Ceredigion and beyond.”

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