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Timber industry have ‘no confidence’ in NRW

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IN AN unprecedented move ten of Wales’ major timber processors have formally notified the Welsh Government they have no confidence in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) management of its commercial forestry.

The companies expressing concern include local firms Teifi Timber Projects Ltd and James Davies (Abercych) Ltd.

In a leaked letter, the companies claim that NRW mismanagement of its forestry estate risks 12,000 jobs in the Welsh rural economy; £100m of new investment; Welsh Government revenues; mill closures; and Welsh processing becoming uncompetitive.

The problem is particularly acute as NRW forestry is the principal supplier of the Welsh wood processing industry, providing over 50% of raw material to the companies.

Their principal request is the removal of commercial forestry management from NRW.

NRW ACTIONS INEXPLICABLE

Late last year, a key Assembly Committee concluded that incompetence alone could not explain the actions of NRW in the awarding of a series of multi-million pounds timber contracts to a single logging company, that led to the qualification of NRW’s accounts qualified for three consecutive years.

The Committee stressed it didn’t have enough evidence to reach a full conclusion but said it struggled to comprehend how an organisation led by highly experienced, knowledgeable and skilled individuals could repeatedly make the same mistakes despite previous warnings both by the Assembly and the Wales Audit Office (WAO).

NRW awarded more contracts to the same company without a tendering process even AFTER it was warned off by the WAO.

David Sulman, Executive Director of the UK Forest Products Association told the Committee: “I certainly wouldn’t call these actions mistakes or oversights, as has been claimed. And it seems to us that these actions were premeditated, deliberate, and made in the full knowledge of the facts and the existence of long-standing and well-understood official procedures around timber marketing.

“Talking to people in the industry, some might even go so far as to say that, in view of the very serious concerns that the Auditor General and his staff—and, indeed, this committee had expressed about NRW’s behaviour, their action might amount to almost being contemptuous.”

For Welsh Conservatives enough is enough.

Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, Andrew RT Davies AM, called for NRW to be scrapped and replaced by two separate bodies; one handling the regulatory duties undertaken by the organisation and the other its commercial aspects.

The scandal has claimed the scalps of former-NRW Chair, Diane McCrea and former Chief Executive Emyr Roberts.

PLAID WANTS INDEPENDENT REVIEW

Responding to the letter, Llyr Gruffydd AM Plaid Cymru shadow minister for environment and rural affairs said: “This letter is a significant development in the ongoing issues surrounding Natural Resources Wales’ handling of its responsibilities over forestry in Wales.

“For the sector to state that it has lost confidence in NRW’s ability to deliver a commercially viable and sustainable service should force the government to consider looking again at whether NRW is the best vehicle to deliver some of these services.

“I am therefore calling on the Welsh Government to establish an independent review to ascertain whether it is still appropriate for NRW to continue to manage the commercial forest estate in Wales. If the inquiry finds that a change is needed then it should offer alternative models for the government to consider. If it concludes NRW is the appropriate body then it must make clear recommendations as to how to improve relations with the sector.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaked correspondence.”

Clare Pillman, chief executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “We fully accept that we have had some significant issues in our commercial forestry operations.

“We are taking these very seriously and have left no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of these issues, which is why we commissioned independent experts to carry out a thorough review, which will conclude very soon.

“Our relationship with our forestry partners is very important to us and we will be meeting with them in the near future to discuss our plans for improvements.”

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Overall ‘excellent’ performance at Mynach Primary School

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A RECENT Estyn report on the primary school in Mynach has given the ‘Excellent’ status to each of the five inspection areas.

It was noted in the report that the school had attained ‘Excellent’ status in standards; wellbeing and attitudes to learning; teaching and learning experiences; care, support and guidance; and leadership and management.

The report notes, ‘A particular feature is the opportunities for Key Stage 2 pupils to plan and deliver lessons for the rest of the class, focusing on specific skills.’

Joyce George is headteacher at Ysgol y Mynach. She is also headteacher at Pontrhydfendigaid Primary School and Sir John Rhys Primary School. She said, “As a headteacher, I am extremely proud of the results of the survey and very grateful to the staff, governors and those who work effectively together as a team to ensure a first class education for all pupils. I am proud of the fact that the inspectors identified pupils’ literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology skills as excellent.

It was also noted that a pioneering feature of Ysgol Mynach is the way in which teachers adapt and develop the curriculum in order to raise pupils’ independence. Working together as a wider partnership with Ysgol Pontrhydfendigaid and Ysgol Sir John Rhys, Ponterwyd is a great advantage and an opportunity to share expertise, co-design and share ideas which extend and widen the experiences of pupils across the schools.”

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member for Learning services. She said: “The Estyn report shows that Ysgol Gynradd Mynach has achieved exceptionally high standards. The hard work and dedication of the headteacher, staff, governors and of course the children is very evident. The school shows that a way of working together with neighbouring schools in a progressive way can produce excellent results. Everyone in the school deserves congratulations.”

The report notes that the school is an extremely close community. It also notes that the head teacher has a progressive vision that is continually focused on maintaining and raising standards of pupils’ achievement and wellbeing.

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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Machynlleth

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ON Thursday 15 August Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed around 200 local Labour Party members from Mid, West and North Wales at Machynlleth Bowling Club. Tickets for the event had all been taken within 24 hours, and an additional video link was live streamed into the club bar to allow those who could not get into the packed venue the opportunity to hear him speak.

Mr Corbyn was joined by Christina Rees, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, and West Wales Regional AMs Joyce Watson and Eluned Morgan, Welsh Labour Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language.

Eluned Morgan AM’s passionate introductory remarks highlighted Welsh Labour’s ongoing commitment to improving outcomes in education, health, housing, jobs and the environment. She urged immediate action from international UK and international governments on the climate crisis, declaring ‘The emergency is now!’

Mr Corbyn made clear that he is expecting a general election to be likely very soon and proceeded to outlined the scale of the current crisis the UK is facing, with 14 million now in poverty in the world’s 5th richest economy, and child poverty predicted by some to rise as high as 40%.

He went on to congratulate Welsh Labour on the great work that has been possible in Wales to insulate the Welsh people from the worst of the effects of Tory austerity, protecting vital NHS services and preventing the worst of school cuts, but he explained that there was only so much that could be done without the full support of a Labour government in Westminster.

“Things will be very different under a Labour government” Mr Corbyn added, saying that Labour will invest in people, with principles of equality and social justice and to demonstrate his state of readiness, with great vigour declared: “I’m up for an election anytime”.

He expressed grave concern over the effects that a reckless No Deal Brexit would have on the UK economy with particular reference to the devastating effects on Welsh industry and agriculture. He promised that Labour will do everything they can to prevent a no-deal, including the offer of a second referendum with Remain as an option, and the formation of a national unity government to prevent further political chaos.

Outlining his commitment to green industrial development Jeremy Corbyn stated that a Labour government would support the creation of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon which would bring valuable new green transitional jobs to Wales which would lead the world on renewables technology.

Mr Corby thanked everyone present for their efforts in Wales and reaffirmed his commitment to core Labour values of equality and social justice. He received a standing ovation and stayed after the event to chat and have photos taken with supporters.

A Ceredigion Labour spokesperson commented: “Jeremy Corbyn spoke passionately and inspiringly. He was full of praise for our outstanding efforts in the 2017 election and said he would be visiting Ceredigion during the next General Election campaign.”

The following day Mr Corbyn visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth to see new renewable energy technology in action and learn about pioneering methods of sustainable building and farming. He also confirmed that he would not stand in the way of any future discussion of a Welsh Independence referendum, and that he was open to considering all options for Wales’future.

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Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Assessment 2019

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CEREDIGION County Council are currently trying to contact as many members of the community as possible to take part in a survey on accommodation for Gypsy Traveller communities. Information collected from the survey will be used to understand how many pitches may be needed in Ceredigion now and in the future.

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 requires all local authorities in Wales to undertake a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) at least every five years to ensure that appropriate sites are provided where an unmet need is identified.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards, Cabinet member with responsibility for Housing said: “An understanding of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation is essential for us as a Council to make properly planned provision. We need to speak to as many families and individuals as possible in order to produce a robust evaluation of need for a gypsy/traveller or showmen site, or sites, in the county. If you have any contacts in the gypsy or traveller community, let the Council know how to contact them or encourage them to contact the Council directly.”

Any personal data gathered will be held under the Council’s privacy notice which is available here: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/your-council/data-protection-freedom-of-information/data-protection/privacy-notice/.

Contact the Council directly using gt@ceredigion.gov.uk or phone Clic, the Council’s Customer Contact Centre on 01545 570881.

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