News in brief: Campaigners seek to block plans for military training airfield

RAF Valley. Photo by lynothehammer1978, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Welsh government has been urged to withhold support for a new military training airfield at Llanbedr in north-west Wales.

Protesters claim the RAF is expected to use the site for training pilots from Saudi Arabia, at a time when Saudi forces are bombing civilians in Yemen.

Estimates by Amnesty International suggest that over 20,000 civilians have been killed and injured by fighting in Yemen since March 2015.

Snowdonia Aerospace, who rent the site from the Welsh government, say that the RAF need the new airfield because of lack of space at the existing training facility at RAF Valley on Ynys Mon.

RAF Valley has trained at least 60 Saudi pilots in the last two years.

Snowdonia Aerospace claim that their plans could bring up to 500 jobs and contribute about £19.5 million to the local economy over ten years.

Cymdeithas y Cymod, one of the groups campaigning against the plans, has asked how many of these jobs will be available to the local workforce, and for an explanation of how these figures were arrived at. Snowdonia Aerospace has yet to respond to the request.

The Peace Pledge Union and Cymdeithas y Cymod have jointly written to all Members of the Senedd and all Welsh MPs highlighting concerns about the plans.

Local residents are also worried about the environmental impact and noise levels if the airfield gets the green light.

Symon Hill of the Peace Pledge Union said: “Over 20,000 people have been killed in Yemen and 16 million are going hungry. Should Wales, should Britain, be part of making this disaster worse? No wonder so many people in north-west Wales are objecting. They are being asked to live with unbearable noise levels and environmental damage for the sake of the military interests of the UK and Saudi governments.”

Public Health Wales reports there have been no further deaths due to coronavirus in the last 24 hours. The total number of people who have died with the virus remains at 1,589.

Fourteen new cases of Covid-19 were reported taking the total number of confirmed infections in Wales to 17,575.

On Sunday 7,035 tests were carried out by PHW and at non-NHS laboratories.

Money

Ministers unveil multi-million-pound support package for local authorities

The Welsh Government has announced a funding boost of more than £260 million for local councils in Wales.

This latest package takes the total amount of Welsh Government Covid-19 support for local authorities to almost half a billion pounds. It will help cover increased costs, manage loss of income pressures, and will fund additional cleaning requirements for schools in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Anticipating the possibility of further peaks of coronavirus during the autumn and winter months, this support aims to provide local authorities with the confidence to prepare their budgets for a potential second wave.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “Local councils have been at the heart of our response to Covid-19. This new package of financial support recognises the scale of the unprecedented challenges being faced by authorities across Wales and provides them with the certainty they need to continue to respond to the crisis and prepare for the rest of the financial year.”

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Shadow Minister urges replication of England’s Green Home Grant Scheme  

The Welsh Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, has urged the Welsh Government to replicate the Green Home Grant scheme which launches in England next month.

The scheme will see over 600,000 homeowners in England receive up to £5,000 to install insulation, heat pumps, and draft proofing to help cut energy bills. Under the scheme, households on a low income can receive vouchers covering 100% of the cost of the improvements, up to a maximum of £10,000.

The new programme offers a broader range of support than the existing Welsh Government Nest policy, which looks to install free boilers, central heating systems and insulation to help households on low incomes and those tenants with pre-existing conditions. The Shadow Minister’s call comes in tandem with her letter to the First Minister last week, which urged for the mandatory use of Welsh wool in all new home insulation schemes.

“I urge the Welsh Government to immediately set about investigating how to replicate this scheme in Wales, which offers a sure-fire way to scale up the assistance offered when compared to current offerings like Nest,” the shadow minister said.

“Having explored potential routes of funding for the scheme, I believe that Wales can find the necessary monetary support through the consequentials received for spends in relation to COVID-19. This would suggest that the scheme would be worth approximately £100 million.

“Bold and innovative leadership is required to sustain clean economic growth into the future. Replicating this scheme is a long-term investment in our economy, which would also mark a necessary step change to level up our green recovery.”

Photo by Jeremy Segrott and licensed under CC BY 2.0

Essential travel restrictions lifted

The essential travel restriction on public transport has been lifted from today, opening trains and buses up to more potential passengers.

The essential travel message was introduced to prioritise the travel of key workers, as well as those with no alternative mode of transport during the lockdown.

The lifting of the restriction comes as the number of coronavirus cases continues to fall in Wales.

Over recent months the Welsh Government has provided funding to support public transport, helping to make up for the inevitable loss of revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week the government announced £10 million of additional support for the bus industry to provide more services with children due to return to school next month.

The requirement to wear a face covering on public transport in Wales remains in place, although there are some exceptions such as being unable to wear one because of a physical or mental illness.

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