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A devolved justice system is inevitable says Counsel General

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A WELSH legal jurisdiction and a devolved justice system “is inevitable” Counsel General tells Legal Wales Conference

The Counsel General, Jeremy Miles AM has today [Friday 12 October] been at the Legal Wales conference in Aberystwyth University talking about his plans to improve the accessibility and accountability of the law in Wales.

Making the law accessible is vital to enable citizens to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law—something that has become increasingly important since repeated cuts have been made to legal aid and to other services designed to advise those in need of assistance or representation.

Addressing an audience of legal professionals the Counsel General set out his plans to improve accessibility, through a series of initiatives. The first of these initiatives is the Legislation (Wales) Bill which will be introduced later this year. This Bill will set Wales on a new journey to develop clear, accessible codes of law – a first for the UK.

The Counsel General told delegates that the Bill will be accompanied by a draft Taxonomy of Codes, which will aim to organise Welsh law into comprehensive codes by the subject areas devolved to Wales.

Moving on from the Bill the Counsel General expanded on other initiatives in place to improve accessibility. He said: “We are working with the National Archives whose role it is to publish Welsh laws to develop a clearer and more accessible system of categorisation of law, prior to its future consolidation. This will enable us to organise the publication of legislation by subject matter, rather than by the date it is made, which will be a significant breakthrough.”

During his address the Counsel General discussed his intentions to re-launch the Law Wales website. He said: “This site already serves a useful purpose but it remains a work in progress and its content is limited. I recognise that the content on the website falls short of people’s expectations, not least mine. If each of us as practitioners, legislators, academics, commentators and others in the Welsh legal community shared a small part of our experience and expertise, by producing content for Law Wales, this would have a huge impact. Collectively we can transform this asset from something that is little known and under used into a genuine public good for the people of Wales.”

Bringing his speech to a close the Counsel General commented: “A process has begun to create a distinct legal infrastructure for Wales. This is a process that won’t stop. The process of making laws for Wales won’t stop, the divergence in laws between Wales and England won’t stop. The creation of a Welsh legal jurisdiction and the devolution of the justice system is inevitable.”

The Legal Wales Conference is organised by the Legal Wales Foundation. The first conference was held in September 2003 and for the first seven years took place every one or two years. By around 2010 the Foundation had accrued sufficient funds to enable them to hold an annual conference, which they have successfully delivered ever since.

The Foundation seeks to rotate the location of the event around Wales – in 2017 it was in Swansea, in 2016 Cardiff and in 2015 Bangor.

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Council tax reduction supports people on low incomes

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A COUNCIL Tax Reduction Scheme is in place to help people who are on a low income. The council administers the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government for people who are liable to pay Council Tax and who live in Ceredigion. With the recent decision to raise Council Tax by 7%, residents on low incomes are being urged to find out if they are entitled to some help towards paying their Council Tax.

People can be eligible for the reduction if they are on a low income, working or unemployed, cannot work because of illness, retired or are caring for someone. The amount of the reduction depends on a person’s circumstances and how much Council Tax they need to pay.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Financial Services. He said, “We made the difficult decision to raise Council Tax by 7% to reduce the amount of cuts we have to make to council services. The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising.”

“We want to urge anyone who is on a low income to consider if they are eligible for Council Tax Reduction. Tax increases can add pressure onto people’s budgets, and although this increase is vital to keep quality services in Ceredigion, we want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for help gets it.”

For more information on eligibility and how to claim council tax reduction, email revenues@ceredigion.gov.uk or call 01970 633 252.

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7% council tax increase to protect education funding

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THE COUNCIL TAX in Ceredigion for 2019-2020 will increase by 7%. The increase was agreed by councillors to reduce the impact of cuts to the Council’s budget and, in particular, to protect education spending. The decision was made in a Council meeting on 21 February 2019.

2% of the 7% increase will be used to protect education spending. Schools budgets have been under severe stress after years of needing to make savings. Costs have increased yet again following the agreement of new teachers’ salary increases together with increased pension contributions. This extra 2% uplift will enable school budgets to be kept flat.

The council tax rate increase is 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 of 7.56%.

Councillor Ellen ap Leader of the Council, said, “We had no option but to ask Council to increase Council Tax by 7% in order to reduce the impact of the cuts we have had to make across council budgets. A successful Ceredigion in the future needs well-funded and well run schools. We want to invest in the future of our children and our county.”

“The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising. The uplift of teachers’ salaries and pensions has not been fully funded by Welsh Government to date. If council tax had not increased, we would have to make deeper cuts.”

In 2018-2019, the average Council Tax Band D property was £1,226.48. The increase means that the same property will pay £1,312.33 in 2019-2020. The council’s budget has been cut by £39m or 25% in the last seven years. The Council will still need to save another £6m in the coming financial year.

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Information management policies updated to improve security

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THREE key information management policies have been updated by Ceredigion County Council. The policies were updated because of new laws and the need make sure that they are effective in a changing technological environment.

The updated policies were approved by the council’s Cabinet in a meeting on 19 February 2019.

The three policies that have been reviewed are:

· Data Protection/GDPR Policy
· Information Security Policy
· Information and Records Management Policy

The Deputy Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Cabinet member responsible for Governance, Councillor Ray Quant MBE said, “The council needs to keep information and data to carry out the many service we provide. Because of this we have to make sure we’re up to date on data and information protections laws. This decision means that we have approved the hard work done to update the policies and make sure that they are fit for use.”

The policies are essential to manage digital and paper records of the council.

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