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First Minister election ballot closed

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THE SPECULATION as to who will succeed Carwyn Jones as First Minister of Wales will soon conclude, as the ballot has now closed, with the result to be announced on Thursday (Dec 6).

Eluned Morgan, Vaughan Gething and Mark Drakeford have each put themselves forward for the leadership of the Welsh Labour Party and indeed the Assembly.

All three are currently members of the Welsh Government, with Ms Morgan acting as Minister for the Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Mr Gething as the Health Secretary and Mr Drakeford as Finance Secretary.

Mr Drakeford, 64, has styled himself as a ’21st Century socialist’, offering continuity and stability as a candidate, having worked as a Welsh Government special advisor under Rhodri Morgan and being the only Welsh Government cabinet minister to support Jeremy Corbyn when he ran for the UK Labour leadership in 2015.

The AM for Cardiff West has been in the Assembly since 2011, becoming Health Minister in 2013 before becoming Finance Secretary in 2016. His policies include an extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas such as restaurants and town centres, the cutting of emissions through greater emphasis on public transport and building on Superfast Cymru – a scheme to rollout 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.

Mr Gething, 44, in contrast, is championing the idea of change to prevent stagnation in a party that has been in power for nearly two decades. The AM for Cardiff South and Penarth has proposed policies including a national care service for elderly people, the removal of tuition fees for care leavers, provision of free school meals outside of term time to end “holiday hunger”, and expansion of the Welsh Government’s childcare offer to parents undertaking work-related education and training. Mr Gething has also supported giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote, and would like to see compulsory voting, as there is in countries such as Belgium and Australia.

Having joined the Assembly in 2011, Mr Gething became a Deputy Minister for Health in 2014 and Health Secretary in 2016.

The third candidate, Ms Morgan, has emphasised that the ideas put forward in her manifesto had been generated as a result of a listening exercise that she had conducted throughout Wales, ensuring that the proposed policies had grass roots support from beyond the bubble of Cardiff Bay. The AM for Mid and West Wales was determined to ensure that the creation of quality jobs and eradicating poverty was put front and centre of her manifesto commitments.

Ms Morgan, 51, prioritised five key themes which she believes will help to transform Wales for the future. Her vision aims tackle poverty and drive economic growth; care for the people of Wales; unite both the party and the nation; promote Wales as a confident green nation and prepare the country for a rapidly changing world. Ms Morgan became the youngest MEP when she was elected to European Parliament in 1994. In 2010 it was announced that Morgan had been granted a life peerage by the then Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. She has served as Shadow Minister for Wales in the House of Lords and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, was elected to Assembly in 2016 and became Welsh Language Minister in 2016.

Ms Morgan supports another referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU, but also believes her time in the European Parliament had given her international contacts that would have use whether Brexit happens or not. Likewise Mr Gething supports the People’s Vote campaign, yet has been criticised for previously failing to backing a Plaid motion on the issue in the Senedd. Mr Drakeford, however, is less set on another vote, saying he would only back it should the final deal fail to protect workers’ rights. As Finance Secretary, Mr Drakeford has been in charge of much of the Welsh Government’s approach towards Brexit so far.

Voting papers were sent to Labour members in Wales, as well as members of affiliated organisations and trade unions. For the first time, Welsh Labour have utilised the one-member-one-vote system, already used Labour in the rest of Britain and the method used to elect Jeremy Corbyn as the party’s UK leader. Previously an electoral college process has been used for such contests, which split the votes three ways between members, unions and politicians.

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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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