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Welsh Government publishes council changes bill

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'A real opportunity to save money': Leighton Andrews hails end of local democracy

‘A real opportunity to save money’: Leighton Andrews hails end of local democracy

WHILE the Welsh Government has today (Tuesday, Nov 24) published its plans for local government reorganisation in a draft bill, the battleground between Cardiff Bay and local councils remains the same.

While the Welsh Government persists in claiming that reorganisation will produce savings in excess of the massive costs of merging Welsh local authorities, both Councils and the Welsh Local Government Association point out that against a background of increasingly deep budget cuts frontline services will have to be sacrificed to make the savings projected.

While the report underpinning the draft bill, the proposals in which will be the subject of public consultation, provides two options involving the three West Wales Councils of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Government has already indicated that its preferred option will see all three Councils merge their operations to create Dyfed Mark II.

None of the West Wales Councils want that: with Ceredigion – in particular – baulking at the prospect of losing its unitary authority status; Carmarthenshire’s leader Emlyn Dole has waxed lyrically and at length regarding the importance of retaining Carmarthenshire’s status as a unitary authority; Jamie Adams of Pembrokeshire has stressed that protection of the Pembrokeshire brand is his primary concern.

The Welsh Local Government Association said: “The Draft Bill does not adequately address the issue of Council Tax harmonisation and whatever the outcome of the Assembly election, reorganisation will not happen until 2020 at the earliest. Any predicted savings may therefore be almost a decade away and will not remedy the enormous financial challenges we face over the next five years.”

The WLGA response also points out that with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on public finances due to be produced after the Draft Bill’s publication, it remains to be seen precisely how much is yet to be squeezed out of Councils’ existing budgets before the costs of merger can be met.

The Welsh Government wrung support out of Plaid Cymru in October, only days after Simon Thomas AM – a front bench spokesperson for the party – described the Welsh Government’s plans as “taking the p*ss”.

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Ceredigion chosen as rehearsal county for the next census

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CEREDIGION is one of four regions in England and Wales chosen by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to take part in the Census Rehearsal on Sunday, 13 October 2019.

For the first time ever, the 2021 Census is designed to be answered primarily online. Because of this, this year’s rehearsal is particularly important as it gives the ONS the chance to test out their brand new systems and processes to make sure that everything works as it should.

Later this year, everyone who lives in Ceredigion will be asked, by the ONS, to complete a questionnaire about the people in their household as on 13 October 2019. The rehearsal will be ‘digital first’, like the 2021 Census.

Help will be available for people who find completing the online form difficult, and paper forms will be supplied to those people who really need them.

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn is the Leader of Ceredigion County Council. She said: “The information gathered during a census is very important to all of us because it helps us to understand our population and guides our planning for the whole range of public services, such as the number of school places needed and the provision of housing, hospital and GP services and social care in local areas. The information collected is the basis of the Council’s level of financial allocation for the next 10 years. It is therefore vital that we gather up-to-date information about our population.”

“A sample of primary schools across Ceredigion who have already been contacted by the ONS are being provided with educational resource packs to inform children about the Census Rehearsal. In 2021, secondary schools in Ceredigion will also be provided with information packs but they won’t be asked to take part in the rehearsal process this year.”

“The Census Rehearsal should not be mixed up with the annual Electoral Registration canvass which is currently being carried out by Ceredigion County Council. During the annual canvass, each household receives a Household Enquiry form which is used to check who is living at an address and confirms who is currently on the Electoral Register – You need to be on the electoral register to vote in elections and referendums.”

Ceredigion was chosen for the rehearsal because it has a high proportion of Welsh speakers and includes a large rural area with varying internet coverage. Tower Hamlets and Hackney in London and Carlisle in Cumbria will also be taking part.

Director of ONS Census Operations, Pete Benton, said: “As the Census only takes place every ten years, it is important we hold an operational rehearsal to ensure that all our processes run smoothly. The people who take part will all be helping to ensure the overall success of the 2021 Census.”

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Llanbadarn Fawr – Sulien ward by-election results

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MATTHEW WOOLFALL JONES won the majority of votes at the Llanbadarn Sulien by-election held on Thursday, 18 July 2019.

Matthew, from Plaid Cymru will now represent the ward as a County Councillor for Ceredigion County Council.

The position became vacant following the tragic death of the late Paul James in April 2019.

The turnout for the Election was 38.16% with 63% of the votes going to Matthew Woolfall Jones. He will begin his position in the coming days.

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Brownies work together to increase their use of the Welsh language

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CERED: MENTER IAITH CEREDIGION have been working closely with Penrhyncoch Brownies over the last year to increase their use of the Welsh language and to raise awareness of its importance.

The partnership has enabled Penrhyncoch Brownies to receive the Ceredigion Girlguiding Vice President award which represents their commitment and contribution to the Welsh language.

Cered has been working closely with Girlguiding Ceredigion by working with Girl Guides branches as well as the Brownies. Cered’s intention is to continue working closely with Brownies and Girl Guides in Ceredigion so that they are able to offer a wide variety of Welsh language activities.

A series of Welsh activities were organised for members including Welsh song composition sessions supported by Mari Mathias, a young singer from Ceredigion.

Rhodri Francis, Cered Development Officer said: “Cered has established a successful partnership with the Brownies in Penrhyncoch which has enabled them to increase their Welsh portfolio. The Welsh song which they composed is a testament to their success, their commitment and enthusiasm towards the Welsh language.”

Wendy Reynolds, Penrhyncoch Brownies Leader said: “It was a wonderful surprise to learn that we had won the Ceredigion Girlguiding Vice President award for our contribution to the Welsh language. We always encourage the girls to speak Welsh. The composition of a Welsh song with the help of Mari Mathias in particular, certainly raised the girls’ confidence and as a result they are using the Welsh language. I am very proud of them.”

Caroline Wilson, County Commissioner for Girlguiding Ceredigion said: “The Penrhyncoch Brownies really enjoyed working with Cered to produce the CD. This was a new experience for the girls which they really enjoyed. The Penrhyncoch Brownies were put forward for an award at the recent Inspire event at Broneirion home of Girlguiding Cymru. As county commissioner for Girl-guiding Ceredigion I was invited to the unit to present the awards to the girls – it was a great honour!

Girlguiding Ceredigion welcomes the opportunity to work more with Cered in the future. We are always looking for new leaders so that more girls can have opportunities of experiencing guiding.”

Cered’s main aim is to support, influence and develop the use of the Welsh language in Ceredigion through partnership and co-operation to establish the best possible foundation for the development of the language in the society and community.

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