News in brief: Conservatives turn fire on Welsh government over ‘new era of austerity’ claim
Conservative Shadow Economy Minister, Paul Davies MS, has slammed the Welsh Government following criticism of the level of funding being made available to replace EU grants by Westminster.
After Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to match any funding shortfall to the devolved nations, however full details of how the Shared Prosperity Fund will replace EU support are yet to be agreed and the share Wales will receive from the £220m Community Renewal Fund will be considerably less than the minimum of £375m which would have been received from the EU from January this year.
Earlier this week Finance Minister Vaughan Gething warned Wales, “is heading towards a new era of austerity” after losing EU support because of Brexit, in an interview with the Financial Times – sparking the angry response from the Tories in the Senedd.
Describing the minister’s comments as a return “to the worn-out anti-Brexit playbook”, Mr Davies turned his fire on successive Labour Governments and accused them of financial mismanagement.
“The Minister knows full-well that the current funding stream from the UK Government is a pilot before the full launch of the scheme where funding levels for Wales have been guaranteed to be at least as much as when we were in the EU,” he said.
“Since 2000, Wales qualified on three separate occasions for the highest level of EU structural funds, which totalled over £4bn. We continued to get large sums of aid because Labour failed to put it to good use and deliver lasting improvements.
“What Labour has delivered in government for Wales is the lowest take-home pay in the UK, the least productive economy, and some of the highest levels of deprivation in Europe. That’s austere.”
Cases of the Covid Delta variant increase by over 20% in the last week
The number of people infected by the Delta Covid variant has increased by 21% in the last week according to the latest figures released by Public Health Wales.
Over the seven days to Tuesday 2,006 new cases of the variant were detected, taking the total number of cases in Wales since May to 11,471.
Betsi Cadwaladr is the worst affected health board in the country, with 856 new cases taking the total there to 4,452 – 39% of all cases identified in Wales so far.
Meanwhile, PHW has confirmed three further deaths due to Covid and 681 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours.
Two of the newly recorded deaths were in the Aneurin Bevan health board area and the other was in Swansea Bay, taking the total number of deaths in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 5,623.
Cardiff (68) posted the highest number of new cases since Wednesday’s update followed by Wrexham (55) and Swansea (46).
The weekly case rate has continued to fall and currently stands at 133.4 per 100,000 people, down from 136.3 yesterday.
The case rate in Denbighshire remains the highest in the country but is down from 359.5 to 356.3 since yesterday.
Plaid renews calls for Wales specific Covid inquiry
Plaid Cymru has renewed its call for a Wales-specific public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Welsh Government has rejected pressure from both Plaid and the Welsh Conservatives calls for a specifically Welsh probe and is instead backing a UK-wide inquiry which is due to get underway next spring, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“The loss of life, as well as the loss of freedoms, of education, and a deep economic impact will weigh heavy on us for years to come. We’ll need to look at what happened in detail, and in public, to learns lessons for the future,” Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said.
“But with so many of the relevant policy areas devolved, and so many decisions having been taken in Wales, we need a Wales-specific inquiry.
“Government has to take responsibility for its actions – good and bad, and there should be no avoidance of detailed scrutiny.
“In rejecting the demand for a Wales-specific public inquiry, the Welsh Labour Government is essentially agreeing to the Prime Minister’s delay and confirming that they’re happy for Wales to be a chapter in the deferred UK inquiry. The people of Wales are owed more than that.”
Second round of grants to help communities celebrate their local heritage unveiled
Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service and the Heritage Fund in Wales are teaming up to offer grants of between £3,000 and £10,000 to enable communities across the country to celebrate their local heritage.
The funding is being made available under the’15-Minute Heritage’ programme, which is based on a concept called the 15 minute city, where everyone should be able to meet most of their needs within just a short walk or cycle from their home.
The aim of the capital grant programme is to support projects that help to connect communities with the heritage on their doorstep so that local people can benefit from it and it can fund the buying of, upgrading and maintaining of equipment; furnishings; fixtures; land and buildings and also digital projects such as creating apps or websites.
In 2020, the first year of the scheme, 84 projects in each of Wales’ 22 local authority areas received a “15-Minute Heritage”grant.
Launching the second round of funding, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport Dawn Bowden said:
“In Wales we are surrounded by heritage, not just in our museums, castles and historic structures, but in anything that inspires a sense of belonging.
“Whether it’s through empowering volunteers with new skills, enabling people to engage with their local heritage in new and accessible ways, or providing opportunities for groups and individuals who are sometimes harder to reach, each successful project will deliver benefits to communities nationwide.
“That’s why I’m so very pleased that Cadw is once again collaborating with the Heritage Fund to help communities explore, celebrate and share their local heritage stories.”
Details about how to apply for a ’15-Minute Heritage’ grant are available here.