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Bovine TB: WG wants to talk

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screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-09-46-22IT WAS TRAILED as a major announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, but reaction to the Welsh Government’s change of tack from having a failed strategy to talking about a different strategy was met with a decidedly mixed response from opposition parties and farming unions.

After the failure of its vaccination trial, which came to an end when international supplies of vaccine ran out, the Welsh Government has still not advanced any concrete plan to resolve the problem.

Instead, Lesley Griffiths announced a consultation.

Over the past 12 months, nearly 9,500 cattle have been slaughtered as a result of this disease, a 38% increase from last year.

The situation is even worse in endemic areas of the country, with Pembrokeshire suffering a 40% increase in slaughtered cattle, Carmarthenshire 78% and Clwyd an increase of 137% in the 12 months to July 2016 compared to the same period in the previous year.

Since January 1996, the number of animals slaughtered in Wales as a result of bovine TB has reached 118,488 animals – equivalent to 23% of the total number of adult cattle we have on farms across Wales today.

The Cabinet Secretary told AMs: “Our current programme for TB eradication in Wales comes to an end this year.”

In fact, the ‘current eradication programme’ ended in October 2015, when supplied of vaccine ran out.

When it came to the promise to ‘take stock, reflect on our successes, learn lessons’ towards a TB free Wales, there was very little in Ms Griffiths’ statement that suggested that among the lessons the Welsh Government was prepared to learn were those relating to the successful steps taken in New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland about control of the infection reservoir in wildlife.

Instead, the range of other options available will be considered, including learning from a pilot in Northern Ireland where badgers were cage-trapped and infected animals were humanely killed. Working with vets and wildlife experts, the Cabinet Secretary will consider whether a similar approach might be appropriate in high incidence areas where there is chronic herd breakdown and an objective confirmation that badgers are infected.

The conditional ‘might’ is significant.

The consultation is also seeking views on:

  • Introducing a mandatory Informed Purchasing Scheme to help farmers make informed decisions about the health of the cattle they wish to purchase;
  • Imposing compensation penalties for cattle moved within a multi-site restricted holding;
  • Reducing the TB compensation cap from £15,000 to £5,000, which would not affect the majority of farmers but would result in around £300,000 a year savings.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s statement on Bovine TB, Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies, who speaks for the Welsh Conservatives on Rural Affairs, welcomed the Welsh Government’s consultation on its ‘refreshed approach’ but believes it is a case of ‘too little, too late’.

He said: “Sadly, Labour’s measures to tackle the scourge of Bovine TB do not go far enough in eradicating this awful disease.

“There is a clear requirement for a more holistic approach and the Welsh Government’s strategy should include all the tools at its disposal to ensure we eliminate Bovine TB in both our cattle and wildlife population.

“The proposed regional approach to tackling this disease must ensure area risk-based strategies are not disproportionate to farmers and that farmers are not facing impossibly stringent controls.

“While some of the measures are welcome, it is imperative we see more decisive action from the Welsh Government as this disease is having a devastating impact on rural communities and Welsh farming.

“Farmers in Wales need to see an holistic TB strategy that learns from other countries and if necessary difficult decisions will have to made.”

Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas, Mid and West regional AM, said: “This announcement is a step forward towards a proper integrated strategy to tackle bTB. It is welcome that the link between the disease in wildlife and in cattle is being recognised and that measures are being taken to address the policy vacuum that has been in place. It needs to be ensured that the measures taken are targeted, effective and humane.

“Recognition that a regional approach is needed to tackle the problem is welcome. Instances of TB infection in cattle has stayed persistently high in west Wales and is increasing in new areas in Carmarthenshire.”

“I am calling for assurances that testing and movement restrictions will remain proportionate to the disease status of an area.”

In relation to the proposal to cap compensation, Simon Thomas said: “A cut of £10,000 from the current cap of £15,000 will be a cause of concern to many farmers.”

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the Welsh Government’s announcement that it will consider a badger test-and-cull type approach to TB as a small step in the right direction, but says many farmers will be concerned at the implications of splitting Wales into TB zones.

The proposals, announced as part of a TB eradication programme consultation launched by Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths on Tuesday (Oct 18), include splitting Wales into five regions – one ‘low TB’ area, two ‘intermediate TB’ areas and two ‘high TB’ areas, with differing approaches to eradication in each area.

NFU Cymru President Stephen James said: “In setting out her plans for dealing with chronic herd breakdowns, there is a welcome recognition from the Cabinet Secretary of the link between cattle and wildlife in disease transmission, but we are concerned at the time it may take for this issue to be adequately addressed.

“It is important to stress that Welsh Government’s low incidence area in North Wales has always had low levels of disease incidence and this new area should not be seen as a vindication of previous Government strategy.”

Stephen James concluded: “We have always said that we must use every option available to us, this includes; cattle testing, cattle controls, improving biosecurity, encouraging farmers to make informed purchasing decisions and strengthening the role that local vets play in tackling this horrendous disease. Any comprehensive TB eradication strategy must also actively remove infection from diseased wildlife across high incidence areas.

“Clearly, the proposals put forward by Welsh Government in today’s statement will ratchet up the control

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Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest

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POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.

Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.

The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.

It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.

Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.

Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.

Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.

“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”

The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.

The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.

The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.

Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.

An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”

Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.

“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.

“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”

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Ceredigion’s Energy Efficiency work recognised at the Wales Energy Efficiency Awards

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ON June, 17, 2022, Wales Regional Energy Efficiency Awards were held in Cardiff. Ceredigion County Council’s Energy Efficiency Schemes scooped 2 awards.

The Energy Efficiency Awards were introduced to help recognise the fantastic work being undertaken by the energy efficiency sector in Wales. The measures were introduced to help homeowners reduce their energy bills, tackle fuel poverty and reduce Carbon emissions.

Ceredigion County Council have been delivering the ECO Local Authority Flexibility scheme along with the Warm Homes Cozy Ceredigion Scheme for a number of years. These schemes have seen a number of insulation measures and heating systems being installed in properties improving their energy efficiency. With the drive towards renewable heating systems the concentration lately has been on the installation of air source heat pumps.

The Council scooped the top prize for the Regional Council or Local Authority of the Year where one exceptional council in each of the 11 Regional areas of the UK has shown a true commitment to promoting energy efficiency within their region. This award was sponsored by Improveasy.

For this award, the judges look at the impact their work has had within the local community, what their customer and local community have to say about the council, what level of expertise the council has within its own teams and what priority the council gives to tackling fuel poverty within its current plans.

The Council also won the Regional Vulnerable Customer Support Organisation of the Year having shown a true commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable people within their region. This award was sponsored by Consumer Energy Solutions.

Councillor Matthew Vaux, is the Cabinet Member responsible for the Housing Service. He said: “I would like to congratulate the Housing team for their hard work and success at the Regional Energy Efficiency Awards this year. With the current rise in fuel costs and the increase in cost of living, this is a fantastic achievement for the Council’s housing team in showcasing that they are helping our residents save energy and combat fuel poverty.”

Find more information about Energy Efficiency Schemes on the Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/housing/financial-assistance/energy-efficiency-schemes/

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The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme

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FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.

Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.

The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.

Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.

To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.

They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.

“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.

“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”

Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.

“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”

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