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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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Police and Crime Commissioner secures almost £300k for Safer Streets across Dyfed-Powys

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POLICE and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn has secured funding of almost £300,000 that will deliver a series of initiatives that aim to ensure safer streets within towns and communities across the Dyfed-Powys area.

In particular, the initiatives will look to address anti-social behaviour and acquisitive crime in specific areas, address women’s safety, increase prevention and intervention resources within youth support services in Carmarthenshire, and increasing the number of CCTV cameras in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion.

The total amount of funding secured by Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is £292,741, and will include;

Installing 4 additional CCTV Cameras in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion as an intervention to mitigate issues including drug misuse and anti-social behaviour (ASB) in the town.
Purchasing 14 CCTV rapid deployment units aimed at not only tackling ASB, but violence against women and girls (VAWG) issues and acquisitive crime
Funding for a Youth Support Service Interventions Co-ordinator based in Carmarthenshire County Council to work closely with Dyfed-Powys Police to assess and deliver interventions to children and young people, aged 8-18, to reduce their risk of committing offences or ASB.
Hollie Guard Extra app designed to protect users, focussed on young women and girls and will play a pivotal role in keeping members of the public protected against VAWG. Victims from will be able to download the app with vouchers from the Force to access it.
Community Champions’ education programme – delivery of an awareness raising and educational programme, and roll out of Community Champions. The Programme will aim to raise awareness of stalking, harassment and hate crimes, to work towards creating Safer Streets and communities.
ASB Help partnership training – to police and key partners on ASB tools and powers and the community trigger process
This latest funding secured by PCC Dafydd Llywelyn from the Home Office’s Safer Streets fund is in addition to the almost £500,000 that has already been secured by his Office through previous bids to the Safer Streets fund over the last two years.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I am extremely pleased to announce that we have been successful in securing this latest safer streets funding from the Home Office. We have worked closely with our partners to identify certain initiatives that will aim to ensure that our communities and streets are safe environments for residents.

“Over the last two years we have received almost £800,000 from the Home Office’s Safer Street Fund, which highlights our commitment to making streets safer for those in local communities, and to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour related issues, including violence against women and girls.

“Preventing harm to individuals and communities caused through crime, anti-social behaviour and vulnerability is one of my three key priorities, and the safer streets funding supports us significantly to work collaboratively with partners to address these issues.”

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Passengers advised to avoid rail travel as more strikes hit the network

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PASSENGERS are facing major disruption as nearly all trains in Wales are cancelled on Wednesday.

More than 40,000 UK railway workers, who are part of the RMT union, are set to take part in national strikes over pay.

Transport for Wales (TfW) urged people to “only to travel by rail if necessary” during the industrial action.

It said the strikes are expected to cause “severe disruption” across the whole of the UK.

TfW is not in dispute with the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT), but as Network Rail maintains tracks services in Wales will be hit.

This means only a handful of trains will be running on Wednesday.

GWR says on strike days it will operate an extremely limited service between 7am and 6.30pm and last trains will leave much earlier. Due to the timing of the strike action, services after strike days will also be affected. Passengers are advised to find alternative ways to travel on these days and to only travel if absolutely necessary. The majority of train services will not operate and there will be no services on some routes.

Avanti West Coast has published revised timetables for travel and says passengers can amend their tickets, or ask for a refund. “If you do travel, expect severe disruption and plan ahead. The days after industrial action are also likely to be affected.” They say their timetables will be “significantly reduced with shorter hours of operation, less frequent services, and trains that do run are expected to be very busy.”

Cross Country says their services will be impacted on Wednesday, July 27, as well as Thursday, July 28, and Saturday, July 30.

Nick Millington, route director for Wales & Borders at Network Rail: “We are doing our best to run the trains that we can – we recognise that’s a significantly reduced service here in Wales.”

He added: “We are in dialogue and we have made progress. I recognise it’s not the progress that everybody wants.”

“It’s not all about money either – we want to make sure that we get a sustainable deal for the railway industry and for those that pay for the railway industry, but also the people that use the railway industry.”

TfW say customers with existing non-season tickets valid for travel on the two strike days can use those tickets any time between Tuesday, July 26, and Tuesday, August 2. 

Customers are encouraged to avoid travelling on Friday, July 29, and Sunday, July 31, as services are expected to be extremely busy.

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New Quay RNLI has now launched 13 times in 12 days

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AT the weekend New Quay RNLI volunteers launched both lifeboats on Saturday 23 July and Sunday 24 July.

On Saturday afternoon (23 July) New Quay RNLI was tasked to a report of multi persons in difficulty on kayaks near Penbryn. Cardigan RNLI and HM Coastguard Rescue helicopter had also been paged. However, soon after launching the lifeboats were stood down as they had all made it safely back ashore in Llangrannog.

Then on Sunday (24 July) New Quay RNLI launched both lifeboats at 16.25 to a report of two paddleboarders in trouble on rocks near Llangrannog. They had paddled out but could not back into the beach due to the strong wind.

Brett Stones, New Quay RNLI’s helm said, “One of the paddleboarders had been able to clamber up the cliff and raise the alarm with the lifeguards on the beach in Llangrannog. A lifeguard then paddled around to find the casualty and wait for the lifeboats to arrive.

“In the strong south westerly wind we made good speed down the coast and was first on scene. Locating the casualty and the lifeguard we were able to veer down near the rocks to pick them up and take them back to Llangrannog beach.”

Also on scene were New Quay HM Coastguard team and New Quay RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat, the relief Mersey class lifeboat that stood by and then escorted the inshore lifeboat safely to New Quay.

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Operations Manager added, “These recent shouts demonstrate the importance of always telling someone where you are going and when you will be returning, having the right equipment, wearing a wetsuit in cold water temperatures, always having a buoyancy aid and means for calling for help – a mobile phone or hand-held radio. Remember if you are in trouble or see someone in difficulty call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

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