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Brexit – a new dawn for Welsh agriculture?

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Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 09.44.56THE WEATHER was perfect for the Royal Welsh Show – golden Mid Wales sunshine tempered with a welcome mist of drizzle on the final day, to dampen the Llanelwedd dust. 

Strong entries in the livestock classes, the wheat futures market firming up, and, due to the combination of a lower sterling rate and the recent end of Ramadan, fat lamb prices stronger than they have been in recent years. No wonder, then, that Brexiteer AMs such as Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies, and UKIP supremo Neil Hamilton were bestriding the Showground, talking of unparalleled opportunities, with Welsh farmers unshackled from the unloved clutches of Brussels bureaucracy. I dare say that a few pints of Fosters were downed at the Young People’s Village, to celebrate the opportunities of reconnecting with our Commonwealth cousins.

However, such optimism, especially amongst those who campaigned with zeal for Brexit, did not reflect the wider mood that I encountered, talking with Farming Unions and ordinary farmers and growers from all parts of Wales. Rather, I found a genuine apprehension out there about what the Brexit vote means for the future of farming, so central to the prospects for our wider rural economy. Surprisingly, it was the contribution of two, until recently obscure, MPs that crystallised their concerns.

In the last Welsh Questions before the House of Commons Recess, Ian Lucas, Labour MP for Wrexham, hailed the Brexit vote as an opportunity to reassess the public support for agriculture, especially at a time of fiscal stringency. Also, with a hint of dog whistle politics, Mr Lucas referred to ‘prosperous farmers’ who could surely cope without public subvention. While Mr Lucas was doubtless appealing to his own immediate core voters in thus caricaturing farmers, the wider farming community cannot afford to ignore his contribution. Indeed, given the Brexit vote, which it seems that many Welsh farmers supported despite the warnings of the Welsh Farming Unions and agricultural economists, it is inevitable that the debate on farm support, and the payment structure for environmental goods and services provided by farmers, will intensify.

Perhaps of greater significance to farmers in Wales were the recent comments of the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, a veritable lioness of Brexit, whose rise to DEFRA Secretary after her abortive bid for the Conservative leadership has been meteoric. During the Referendum campaign, Mrs Leadsom commented: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies. That would make a lot more sense for the UK and it’s perfectly possible but only if we leave the EU and sort it out for ourselves.” Alongside her call for the repeal of the Hunting Act and her crusading support for fracking, these remarks certainly single out Mrs Leadsom as a ‘red meat eater’ – but have served to send shivers down the spines of farmers and environmentalists alike. As early as 2007, Leadsom argued that ‘subsidies must be abolished’ in an article on how to rejuvenate British farming, so at least in this respect, there is some depth to her views, if not her analysis.

In the economic conditions that now confront us as a country contemplating the reality of Brexit, pressure on the public purse will be more acute than ever before. Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader, Mark Williams MP, and I launched the ‘Not a Penny Less’ campaign on farm support at the Royal Welsh – and are already tapping into a rich vein of support. This was boosted by a visit from Federal Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Farron MP, on the final day of the Show. It is now more important than ever for all farmers to engage in the public debate, so that there is a better understanding of the vital contribution that they make as custodians of the land, both in terms of maintaining biodiversity, but also to the whole tourist sector, such a critical part of the wider rural economy.

However, more important than anything for Welsh farming is securing long -term access to the European Single Market for our quality farm exports – and making that an essential element in the permanent post -Referendum settlement. A Seminar on Welsh Upland Farming hosted at the Show by Aberystwyth University reminded us of the consequences of the withdrawal of public subsidy for farming in New Zealand. It is not the butterflies that have suffered, but rather animal welfare standards, as well as formerly thriving villages and market towns turned to ghost towns. Whilst the positives of a vibrant New Zealand agricultural sector are often cited, the consequences of such huge scale ranch farming would destroy our pattern of community life in Wales, with the Welsh speaking upland areas suffering worst of all.

The farmers with whom I spoke at Llanelwedd agree with the stance of both FUW and NFU Cymru. We urgently need fresh leadership from Welsh Government ahead of any triggering of Article 50 to leave the European Union. Central to that is the reassertion of the vital role for tariff free access to the European Single Market. The industry needs also to engage with the environmental sector – and the wider public – to stress the critical importance of food security, as well as the public benefits in terms of biodiversity and flood risk management that flow from maintaining human scale family farms. Only proportionate farm support systems from the public purse will safeguard this for the future.

Another reason for genuine leadership on these issues from Welsh Government, from the First Minister down, is the danger of agricultural policy being repatriated from Brussels only for vital powers to be retained at Westminster. This concern has been raised by voices as diverse as Penri James of Bangor University, constitutional expert Sir Paul Silk and well known Radnorshire farmer and commentator, David Hardwick. Despite disquiet about Welsh Government agricultural policy over recent years, in terms of RDP/ modulation and the challenges of bovine TB eradication, it would be a strange definition of progress for EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan to be replaced by Mrs Leadsom. But then, the best outcome for the future of Welsh Agriculture looks rather like Norwegian style EFTA membership, with tariff free trade, free movement of people and a full contribution to the EU budget, just no influence on the rules. Those in Wales who have delivered Brexit for our rural communities really must be careful what they wish for.

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Business

Update for Multi-purpose Community Centres following First Minister announcement

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TODAY, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that multi-purpose community centres including community centres, village halls, church halls and other community facilities can reopen from 03 May. This decision has been brought forward from 17 May.

Welsh Government announced changes during today’s briefing, and the guidance for multi-purpose community venues is being updated to ensure compliance with developments in regulations, including greater emphasis on ventilation. Welsh Government continue to advise authorities that the regulations on social gathering will still prevent a number of activities from taking place at community venues, and only organised activities for up to 15 people will be permitted.

The panel strongly advise you to make every effort to carry out your activity digitally or make contact by phone. If not, consider whether it is possible to hold your activity outdoors, in-line with Welsh Government guidance. Holding your activity indoors should be considered as a last resort. If this is the only option and it’s essential that you meet then please keep the session brief and involve as few people as possible, with all necessary procedures and protocols in place.

Those responsible for community activities should remember to;

  • maintain a social distance of 2 meters.
  • wear a face covering in indoor public spaces.
  • regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer provided.   

A multi-agency panel has been set up to advise and support around the safe and proportionate reopening of facilities in-line with national guidance. The panel has been created under Ceredigion’s Public Services Board Sub Group; Understanding our Communities. Leading on the development of the group is Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations (CAVO) and Ceredigion County Council in partnership with Heddlu Dyfed Powys Police and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service. The panel includes representation from Health & Safety, Environmental Health and Community Safety.

The panel encourages anyone responsible for community facilities to seek advice to ensure that arrangements are safe and secure and that compliance is in-line with national guidance. Prior to re-opening any community facility those managing centres must ensure that they are ‘Covid-Free Zones’.

The panel will aim to host another briefing session on April 28 at 13:30 to support those in charge of community venues with the latest developments. If you would like to join the next briefing session, please register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cyfleusterau-cymunedol-ceredigion-community-facilities-information-session-tickets-152071456821?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch or get in touch via the contact details below.

The multi-agency panel will continue to support and advise Community Groups and Organisations, and questions or information requests can be submitted to the group which meets on a weekly basis via CAVO on gen@cavo.org.uk or by phone on 01570 423232.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

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Ceredigion Museum’s digital storytelling celebrates LGBTQ+ history month

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February marks LGBTQ+ History month and Ceredigion Museum has been working with local organisation Aberration to unveil and record fascinating and untold stories of Aberystwyth.

These stories form part of the museum’s ‘It Happened in Aber’ project, which will allow people to listen to the untold stories that have shaped Aberystwyth.

This project was made possible thanks to the ’15-minute heritage’ funding, a partnership between The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service.

Carrie Canham, museum curator, said: “For too long the LGBTQ+ community has been marginalised, or even completely concealed, in history. Ceredigion Museum is keen to share the stories that have lurked in the shadows, to celebrate the diversity and rich LGBTQ+ heritage of Aberystwyth with pride.”

The LGBTQ+ stories researched and recorded with by Jane Hoy, of Aberration, include historic and modern-day characters from the town, including famous academics, poets, mariners, dancers and a spy!

“We are delighted to be working so closely with Ceredigion Museum contributing to ‘queering up’ the museum with lively local stories and events,” Jane.

Aberystwyth has certainly played its part in developing the LGBTQ+ community in West Wales and Sarah and Rosie, founders of Aberystwyth’s ‘Wrecked’ nightclub for women, have documented their fond memories of their venue in the town: “It became a fun and safe haven for lesbians who travelled there from all corners of the county”.

Ceredigion Museum staff and volunteers will be continuing to document stories linked to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as stories linked to specific locations in the town, until April.

From May onwards, The ‘It Happened in Aber’ stories will be available to enjoy in podcast format on the museum’s website as well as forming a digital walking tour of the town, allowing people to listen and enjoy the stories whilst walking around the locations in Aberystwyth.

Councillor Catherine Hughes said: “It’s fantastic that Ceredigion Museum is providing us with an opportunity to enjoy the history and the important contribution of the LGBTQ+ community in Aberystwyth. This is such an important project to document our local heritage. We look forward to listening to all the stories.”

If you can’t wait until the summer, join this years’ virtual Aberration – Between the Lines event on Friday, February 26 from 7pm, when the ladies of ‘Wrecked’ will be sharing some of their stories!

For further information or to share your untold story, contact Sarah Morton, Ceredigion Museum’s sustainability officer, at Sarah.Morton@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Aberaeron takeaway closed for ignoring coronavirus restrictions

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A Premises Closure Notice has been issued to Paradise Pizza, Regent Street, Aberaeron due to repeated non-compliance with the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

The business was issued with a premises improvement notice on 15th January 2021. It was required to take reasonable measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including the need to ensure that staff use personal protective equipment and face coverings. However, officers have since witnessed staff failing to wear face coverings on multiple occasions in contravention of their advice.

Monitoring inspections have shown that the majority of Ceredigion‘s retail premises are complying with the restrictions placed on them during the pandemic. Ceredigion County Council’s Public Protection team will continue to take action against businesses who fail to comply with the coronavirus restrictions. Whilst non-compliant businesses will usually receive advice and guidance, serious or persistent breaches will be dealt with by means of closure powers, fixed penalty notices or prosecution.

This takeaway must remain closed for 28 days, or until Public Protection officers are satisfied that the alleged non-compliance has been addressed.

Premises improvement and closure notices are required to be published by law.

The full closure notice can be found on Ceredigion County Council’s website, under Improvement and Closure Notices: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-improvement-closure-and-direction-notices/

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