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Welsh Government triples PR spend

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A truly profligate use of public money: Nick Ramsay

MORE than £10.7m has been spent by the Welsh Government on the services of PR and Marketing agencies over a three-year period.

Figures obtained via a freedom of information request submitted by the Welsh Conservatives show that spending on marketing more than doubled (+109%) between 2014 and 2016, while PR spend more than tripled (+326%) over the same period.

Whereas the majority of agencies listed are based in Wales, it is a company in England which received the most public money over the three-year period.

Between 2013-14 and 2015- 16, Northamptonshire-based Event Exhibitions received £2,495,045, having grossed £970,549 in 2015/16 alone.

Other big earners include Golley Slater (£495,549), Fernleigh Design (£514,825), JM Creative (£640,023), Equinox Comms (£729,068), and Puri-Evans (£784,985).

Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary, Nick Ramsay AM, said: “When you consider the hundreds of the thousands of pounds spent by the Welsh Government on its own in-house spin machine, this strikes me as a truly profligate use of public money.

“Of course, any good government has a responsibility to keep the public informed about its activities, public health initiatives and new laws.

“But given that the Labour administration’s spend on PR and Marketing agencies is marked by a meteoric rise in the same year as the Assembly election, it does suggest a government desperately trying to disguise its appalling record at any cost.

“The best kind of PR is free, which is to deliver good public services and a strong economy – something which Welsh Labour has singularly failed to do after nearly two decades in government.

“Instead of spending millions of pounds outsourcing their spin, the Welsh Government would do better to redirect this money at our struggling schools and overstretched hospitals where it is desperately needed.”

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Diverse voices but unity of purpose – a sustainable future for food production in Ceredigion.

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Cardigan XR have been delighted by the reception to the People’s Assembly held on line on Tuesday 23rd and attended by over 150 people. It has led to a surge of positive feedback from people who would seldom be in the same meeting; retired and busy farmers, ecologists, smallholders, politicians, horticulturalists, food advisors and vendors. Topics were diverse, but all centered on the importance of agriculture and land use in its widest sense and how the current system might be made more sustainable in Ceredigion. Attendees listened to introductions from Elin Jones MS and from XR Aberteifi who co-hosted the event, followed by short talks from the NFU, FUW, an ecologist, organic horticulturalists, the RSPB, Welsh food representatives, water and flooding, and Ben Lake MP.

For many, the People’s Assembly was their first experience of Deliberative Democracy. They welcomed the opportunity to listen to experts and then form into small groups so that the opinions of each individual could be listened to. The 17 groups discussed: ‘What might a sustainable farming system in Ceredigion look like? how might we get there?’ They noted their detailed answers and chose their main points to report back to the main meeting. There were many recommendations covering a very diverse field; education through to easier entry into farming. The results are still being brought together but will be made available shortly. It is planned that the results will be sent to all participants, Councillors, Members of the Senedd and anyone else who wishes to see them. ” This is what open democracy is about. Now we need to build on it to make real and lasting change for a sustainable future. Similar assemblies can help us to build consensus in our urgent need to find a way forward to halt dangerous climate change.” said Sarah Wright, co-host from Extinction Rebellion.

Many attendees expressed their feeling that this was just the beginning of the journey and that there is a need to keep the doors open to positive discussion. Clearly there is a lot more to be said and many attendees elected to stay on and keep talking after the official Assembly ended.

Elin Jones MS said
If we’d organised a public meeting to discuss sustainable agri in a village hall somewhere between Llanon and Llanarth then we’d never have got 150+ all in one place, with great speakers, breakout to small groups and all over in 2hrs. But it happened tonight on Zoom in Ceredigion.

A constructive meeting with diverse voices but unity of purpose – a sustainable future for food production in Ceredigion.

Start of a very useful discussion. Start of a great conversation. And action.
Diolch i’r trefnwyr, XR Aberteifi, i’r NFU, FUW, CFfI, Ben Lake, cynghorwyr, ffermwyr, cynhyrchwyr, gwerthwyr, a phawb. Cychwyn trafodaeth fuddiol iawn.

If you would like an emailed copy of the many ideas from the People’s Assembly, please contact Cardigan Extinction Rebellion on cardigan@xrcymru.org

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Joyce calls for action on illegal scallop dredging

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Local MS Joyce Watson is calling for increased monitoring and enforcement to tackle illegal fishing activities around the Welsh coastline.

The Marine Conservation Society confirmed reports of people exploiting the lockdown period through a range of illegal activities. Due to the challenge of social distancing on boats, the normal monitoring of the coastline has been restricted during recent months.

Mrs Watson, who has campaigned over this issue over many years, raised this issue at the Senedd Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee (25 June 2020).

Speaking later, Mid and West Wales Member of the Senedd Joyce Watson MS said:

“I was disgusted to hear that as many as 30 scallop dredgers have been spotted, potentially within marine protected areas.

“This could do untold damage to our marine environment. It can take up to 15 years to recover from just one trawl by scallop dredgers in marine protected areas.

“This behaviour also damages the local fishing economy. It is particularly unfair on those who play by the rules at such a challenging time.

“Unfortunately because of a lack of direct on-the-water evidence, prosecutions may be difficult in these cases.

“Therefore I plan to call for a return to effective monitoring and enforcement as soon as is possible.”

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Elin Jones calls for support for coach and bus businesses

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Ceredigion MS says sector is in ‘dire need of immediate financial support’

Elin Jones MS has written to the Welsh Government to call for support for Bus Companies operating in Ceredigion, an industry that is in ‘dire need of immediate financial support’.

In her letter to Ken Skates MS, the Welsh Government’s Economy and Transport Minister, Elin Jones said that only 2% of coaches that are usually in use are currently active. The sector employs over 42,000 people in Wales. However, bookings across the sector are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until summer 2021, due in part to the difficulty in implementing social distancing.

Elin also called for a specific package of support for the coach and bus industry, as they weren’t classed by the Government during the pandemic as leisure companies, they have been ineligible for the financial support packages that have been offered to date. Europe’s largest coach tour operator, Wigan based Shearings, has already collapsed.

In her letter, Elin Jones MS said:

“This pandemic has plunged the industry into a fight for its future. The collapse of Shearings is an indication of what could happen to well established family owned coach businesses across Wales, as well as the whole of the UK, without direct government investment.

“Whilst companies are taking all reasonable steps to cut costs, including the mothballing of coaches and placing the majority of staff on furlough, they still face large costs, some I’m told have costs that are totalling on average £1,900 per day.

“As well as providing some short term financial support, the sector would also be in need of a flexible job retention scheme to allow staff to remain on furlough until business levels return to normal, which will be beyond the current October end date.

“Certainly in Ceredigion there are several local coach and private hire companies, many of which are longstanding family businesses who work to support public transport, school transport and community activities. It would be a travesty in this rural area if these businesses were to fail.”

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