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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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All four nations must have a say on farm funding, Ben Lake MP

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PLAID MP calls for legal guarantees that Welsh farming will have a say in post-Brexit funding decisions.

Ben Lake MP has called for an equal say for Wales in any decisions on post-Brexit farm funding.

Mr Lake made the call in his submission to the Bew Review, which is looking into how agriculture will be funded if the UK leaves the EU. The call for evidence for the Review closed this week.

Mr Lake called for a new body to oversee agriculture spending, that would ensure each of the four nations would have an equal say on farm funding going forward.

Agriculture policy is currently almost entirely set at a devolved or European level. The European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), for example, sets out the financial frameworks for food production. The devolved governments – and the UK Government on behalf of England – are then responsible for the administration of funding.

If the UK leaves the EU, a new mechanism for deciding the size and allocation of agriculture funding within the UK will have to be created.

The UK Government has already conceded that any future funding allocation should not be determined by the Barnet Formula – the population based funding calculation used to decide how much devolved government receive from the UK Treasury. Wales has significantly higher rates of employment and productive farmland in proportion to its population size.

Mr Lake has suggested that an amendment be included in the Agriculture Bill to create an intergovernmental agency and framework as a way of ensuring not only that Wales gets its fair share of UK funding, but also that multi-annual frameworks can be introduced.

Ben Lake MP said:

“I hope the Bew Review is the first step to a sensible proposal for agriculture funding if the UK leave the EU.

“Throughout the Brexit process, Wales has been ignored. Wales is only talked about by the UK Government when they want to take powers away or renege on promises of funding. That is why we need a legal lock on our say in farm funding post-Brexit.

“In this most crucial of sectors, Wales must have an equal say when discussing future funding models. If these frameworks are to be sustainable, they need to be the products of joint agreement. At present there is no appropriate body to oversee the policies in the four nations of the UK, and neither is there a dispute mechanism that is trusted by the four administrations and the four industries.

“Welsh farmers were promised not a penny less and I will keep fighting their corner in Westminster until that is confirmed in law.”

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RSPCA Cymru launch information appeal after shetland pony found with overgrown hooves

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RSPCA CYMRU is appealing for information after a shetland pony – believed to have been abandoned – was found in a poor condition, with severely overgrown hooves near Aberystwyth.

The pony was found among other shetlands in a field in the Bronant area, but did not belong to the owner of the other ponies.

RSPCA inspector Julie Fadden said: “This poor shetland had very overgrown hooves and must have been in a huge amount of discomfort and pain. The hoovers were inches long and were curled.

RSPCA Appeal after pony found in field in Aberystwyth

“The pony was believed to have been dumped there at the beginning of April. He was then collected World Horse Welfare on Friday 12 April.

“However, sadly due to his condition it was decided by a vet that the kindest thing would be to put the pony to sleep to prevent any further suffering. Sadly his feet could not be treated as they were so far gone.”

“If anyone has any information about this pony please contact us in complete confidence on 0300 123 8018.”

If you find any animal in distress call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

To support the RSPCA’s work and help our officers continue investigating animal cruelty please donate by visiting www.rspca.org.uk/give.

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Not on our patch: No Easter rave thanks to police and partners

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CLOSE partnership working between Dyfed-Powys Police, Gwent Police, Natural Resources Wales, local authorities, Brecon Beacons National Park and LandMarc saw off three raves this Easter.

23 potential sites across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys were patrolled over the bank holiday weekend, in an operation known as Flamenco.

As part of #OpFlamenco, police urged members of the public to report suspicious activity immediately, so gatherings could be disrupted before they grew.

An event in the Brechfa forestry, Carmarthenshire, was thwarted when Natural Resources Wales staff spotted a suspicious bag of stones, and ribbons tied to gates and hedges, designed as a signpost. Police seized the items and the gathering was cancelled.

One resident in Gwynne Fawr, Powys, reported vehicles arriving in the valley, allowing three Dyfed-Powys Police units and a Gwent Police unit to attend and disperse five vehicles from the area.

A gathering of 14 vehicles was moved from the Tal-Y-Bont on Usk reservoir, Powys, after a report from a Welsh Water Ranger alerted police. A sound system was packed away but a number of people were made to stay in a layby because they were too intoxicated to drive away.

On Twitter, PS 298 Owen Dillon said: “Dispersed a small gathering at the Takybont on Usk [sic] reservoir after call from @DwrCymru then turned vehicles back from Gwynne Fawr assisted by @gwentpolice to disrupt their plans. Officers left to cover the road. #OpFlamenco.”

Illegal raves are extremely disruptive for communities and cause damage to farmland and the countryside. Dai Rees, land management team leader from Natural Resources Wales, said:

“Our forests and countryside should be available for everyone to enjoy but illegal raves can damage the environment, impact on wildlife and leave it in a dangerous state for other people.

“These events cause misery for visitors and local communities, and we’re already taking measures to make it more difficult for people to organise them on our land. But spotting the signs early and reporting them is also really important and means that we can take action early to stop large gatherings forming.

“Working together with the Police and local communities has proved invaluable and we continue to encourage people to report anything suspicious to the Police on 101.”

In a Tweet, Temporary Deputy Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Claire Parmenter, thanked the police officers and staff who worked on the operation, saying:

“Thank you to all the Dyfed-Powys Police officers and staff that have worked over the Easter break, some excellent proactivity and several illegal raves prevented through partnership working and intelligence sharing, diolch.”

Efforts to crack down on the events are continuing in the coming months, working to tackle the issues that unlicensed events bring, such as:

· Safety concerns: people are under the influence of drink and drugs with no first aid or medical facilities at hand. It is difficult and sometime impossible to get ambulances to casualties.

· Drink and drug driving.

· Rubbish and human waste left at sites and the subsequent hygiene issues this brings.

· Risk of fires.

· Criminal damage and theft.

· Illegal drug dealing.

· Underage drinking.

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