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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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Success at Youth Work Excellence nominations

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CEREDIGION Youth Service have been successful in being shortlisted for a number of awards at this year’s National Youth Excellence Awards. The awards will take place on Friday, 28 June at Deganwy, Llandudno. Youth Workers from across Wales will gather to celebrate excellent practice in youth work over the last year.

The Welsh Government’s Youth Work Excellence Awards recognise the value of youth work and youth services from across Wales. The Welsh Government has celebrated excellence in youth work since 1993 and the awards are now in their 25th year. Welsh Government said, “Celebrating Youth Work continues to be a priority, as we know that Youth Work continues to be an important part of many young people’s lives”.

Ceredigion Youth Service will not only be presented with both the Silver and Gold Quality Mark Awards for Youth Work in Wales by Minster for Education, Kirsty Williams at the event, but have also been shortlisted for a number of special awards, in which the winners will be announced on the evening.

Ceredigion Youth Service has been shortlisted for their ‘Prosiect 2050’ under the category; Promoting Heritage & Cultures in Wales and Beyond, their Cooking Club at Ysgol Henry Richard under the category; Promoting Health, Well-being & Active Lifestyles and the Inspire Program under the category; Promoting Engagement with Formal Education, Employment and Training.

In addition, Thomas Evans from Aberaeron Youth Club has been shortlisted for the Outstanding Volunteer in a youth work setting award and Lowri Evans, Ceredigion Youth Service has been shortlisted for the Outstanding Youth Worker award.

Elen James, Corporate Lead Officer with responsibility for Ceredigion Youth Service said, “It comes as no surprise that Ceredigion Youth Service have been shortlisted for such awards. The Youth Service team has achieved all three National Quality Mark Awards, and now having been shortlisted for so many special awards is a tremendous achievement.”

“The awards evening which celebrate outstanding youth work from across the country will be a fantastic opportunity for the Youth Service to receive recognition for their work with young people in Ceredigion. I wish them the very best for the night.”

For more information or to find out what opportunities are available to you, head over to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages at @GICeredigionYS or contact the team on youth@ceredigion.gov.uk

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Local MP pledges to be a Bowel Cancer Champion

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BEN LAKE, Member of Parliament for Ceredigion, has pledged to become a Bowel Cancer Champion to lead the change in Parliament for people affected by the disease.

Someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer every 15 minutes, making it the UK’s fourth most common cancer. It’s also the second biggest cancer killer, nearly 16,000 people die from the disease every year. Yet bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. However, only 15% are diagnosed at the earliest stage of the disease when the chance of survival is highest.

As a Bowel Cancer Champion, Ben Lake MP, will work with Bowel Cancer UK – the UK’s leading bowel cancer charity – to increase early diagnosis and improve access to best treatment and care both in Ceredigion and nationally. By working together with people affected by the disease and the clinical and research community, as well as MPs, the charity’s ambition is that by 2025, survival rates can be transformed from 60% of people surviving bowel cancer to 75%.

Ben Lake MP says: “It simply isn’t acceptable that so many people die from bowel cancer each year. That’s why I’m proud to be working with Bowel Cancer UK and helping them make real change happen through my role as a Bowel Cancer Champion. I look forward to using my position in Parliament to call for changes which can improve outcomes for patients with bowel cancer in Ceredigion. Together we can stop bowel cancer.”

Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, says: “I’m delighted that Ben Lake has pledged to become a Bowel Cancer Champion. Ben will serve as a valuable ally in helping us to put bowel cancer firmly on the political agenda and campaigning for crucial improvements to services for bowel cancer patients both nationally and in Ceredigion.”

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Ceredigion Youth Service Awards Night Success

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Ysgol Henry Richard pupils receiving certificates.

ON Tuesday, 9 April, over 220 young people and their families, from across Ceredigion joined Ceredigion Youth Service to celebrate their annual Awards Night. The evening was an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the achievements and successes of all young people who have engaged with Ceredigion Youth Service during the past year.

Young people attended from each Secondary School in Ceredigion, Coleg Ceredigion, Ceredigion Training, young people working with the outreach service, and all the young people who attend youth clubs, youth projects and holiday provisions. There has been a wide variety of projects, activities and events held again this year, with up to 5,000 young people in attendance. These have been successful due to the commitment and enthusiasm shown by the young people from all over Ceredigion.

The special awards presented during the evening included awards for Young Volunteer of the Year, Outstanding Contribution awards, Campaign of the Year, Special Achievements and Community Engagement awards. In addition to the special award categories, numerous local certificates were celebrated and distributed to young people achieving national accreditations or to those who have participated in various clubs and projects.

Beca Fflur Williams, Chair of Ceredigion Youth Council leading the evening.

Catrin Miles, Cabinet member for Learning Services opened the evening. The evening was then hosted by Beca Fflur Williams, Chair of Ceredigion Youth Council. Guest speakers included Ashlie Day, Chloe Toose and Thomas Evans, Ceredigion Youth Service Young Volunteers. The awards were presented by Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, Eifion Evans, Chief Executive of Ceredigion County Council and Hag Harris, Chairman of Ceredigion County Council. Clips were shown on the screen including a message from MP Ben Lake. The night was closed by Chelsea Jones and Louise Bryan, members of Penparcau Youth Club.

Elen James, Corporate Lead Officer for Lifelong Learning and Culture said, “Both Ceredigion Youth Service and the Council are extremely proud that over 400 young people have achieved awards through the Youth Service during the past year. Youth Service provision is hugely valuable to young people’s development as they transition into adulthood. Our youth clubs, outreach provision, work within schools and holiday programs offer a variety of opportunities for young people to be a part of something that supports and interests them.”

“The number of young people achieving awards, accreditation and certificates this year is a reflection of our young people’s commitment and enthusiasm across the county and it was a pleasure to welcome so many young people and their families to celebrate with us in Theatr Felinfach. Congratulations to you all!”

For more information or to find out what opportunities are available to you, head over to their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages at @GICeredigionYS or contact the team on youth@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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