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Andrews blames media for ‘information deficit’

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Leighton’s back: And this time it’s digital

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY must look beyond the fragmented media in Wales to better communicate its work to a wider audience and address the democratic information deficit, at least that’s the claim of the Digital News and Information Taskforce report presented to the Assembly last week.

The report encourages the Assembly to lead the way and establish an integrated content service using social media and other channels to engage directly with the people of Wales. It recommends placing people, rather than the institution and its processes at the heart of topical news stories as it looks to build citizen engagement.

Chaired by Leighton Andrews, the former Welsh Government Minister who lost his seat to Leanne Wood, who was then appointed to a publicly-funded post which never previously existed, and who has now turned up as ‘Professor of Practice in Public Service Leadership and Innovation’ with Cardiff University’s Business School, the Taskforce also recommends:

The Assembly reimagines itself as a content creator, pushing content directly to the platforms that audiences are already consuming

Designing all communications with the user at its heart, taking every opportunity to consider the impact of the Assembly’s work on people of Wales when explaining Assembly business, structures or policy making

A presumption of Open Data, so that others can freely use, re-use and redistribute Assembly data

Providing open access to the Assembly’s resources for teaching via the Hwb platform, which is accessed by over half a million young people, and all schools in Wale s

Leighton Andrews said: “These are radical proposals to use modern digital communication to better understand what people are thinking and concerned about, to engage in real-time with people and to share with them how their representatives are responding to these issues, and I want to thank the members of the Digital News and Information Taskforce for their work.

“Assembly Members and staff must recognise their role as content creators, and see the Assembly as a content platform which should reflect the nation’s conversations about the issues which are of most concern to it.

“The Assembly has done much to embrace digital communication, but in an age where increasing numbers of people are looking to social media for news, and traditional media outlets are providing less political coverage than ever, the Assembly must provide the people it serves with engaging content, delivered in formats that they wish to use.”

The report prepared by the Taskforce does not consider whether the Welsh Government – as opposed to the Assembly – in which Mr Andrews played such a boisterous and controversial part, might be to blame for alleged public ignorance and indifference to its activities.

The report instead appears to countenance blaming the institution itself, as opposed to its distinguished current (and former) political occupants.

When Mr Andrews refers to ‘traditional media outlets providing less political coverage than ever’, it is interesting that a supporting example given in the report refers to Trinity Mirror’s decision to cease the Daily Post’s dedicated Assembly coverage. It does not reference other local media, shows no sign that other local media have been considered, and does not mention the coverage of local and national politics by other newspaper groups in Wales.

Mr Andrews failed to mention that many members of the panel advising him were drawn from a narrow cohort of ‘digital media consultancy’ firms, who might be considered to have an interest in boosting the claimed effectiveness of the strategy he now propounds.

Leighton Andrews’ announcement was also given enthusiastic coverage by the BBC, for whom he was formerly Head of Public Affairs.

Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales Elin Jones AM said: “I want to thank the Digital News and Information Taskforce panel for their work. They have provided us with thought provoking, practical proposals to strengthen the way we communicate as we seek to become an open, digital parliament which engages with all the people of Wales.

“We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the Assembly, which is an opportunity to refresh the way in which the Assembly presents itself and to build a deep and genuine dialogue with the people of Wales. I look forward to discussing the report, and how we take it forward, with Assembly Commissioners.”

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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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Politics

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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Politics

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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