News in brief: Covid case rates continue to climb with areas in the north bearing the brunt
Covid rates are continuing to rise in Wales, according to the latest figure released by Public Health Wales.
A total of 513 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours and the total number of cases for the week up to 25 June is 2,043, the highest since mid-February.
Four local authorities in the north currently have case rates of over 100, and infections in Cardiff (93.2) and Gwynedd (91.5) are also closing in on three figures.
The weekly case rate in Flintshire continues to be the highest in Wales at 155.7 per 100,000 people, an increase from 145.4 yesterday and the positivity rate is also the worst in the country at 8.4% per 100,000 tests, an increase of 0.3%.
Wrexham’s case rate has jumped from 112.5 to 131.7 since yesterday’s update and the rate in Denbighshire has risen from 112.9 to 120.2. Conwy is also back in three figures with a rate of 100.7.
Flintshire reported 70 new cases today, followed by Cardiff with 61 and Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf both with 41.
Wales national case rate is up from 58.7 to 64.8, the highest since the week ending 21 February and the positivity rate has risen from 3.9% to 4.1.
New round of support for struggling businesses unveiled
Government support for businesses in Wales that are struggling due to the Covid pandemic has been extended for a further two months.
What is described as “the final package of Economic Resilience Fund emergency support”, opens on 13 July for two weeks and will pay out sums that range between £1,000 and £25,000, depending on size and circumstance of the company.
To qualify for the funding, businesses have to prove that their turnover is at least 60% lower than it was at pre-pandemic levels.
Eligible businesses include those in the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors and their supply chains who continue to be severely impacted by Covid restrictions.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have pulled every lever we can to back Welsh businesses,” Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said.
“We’ve provided in excess of £2.5bn funding to Welsh businesses, in a package that has been designed to complement and build on the support provided by the UK Government.
“We’ve also extended our 100% business rate relief package until the end of this financial year. This targeted approach, focused particularly on backing small businesses and Welsh communities, has helped protect in excess of 160,000 Welsh jobs which might otherwise have been lost.”
The government says it also intends to introduce a new Business Development and Recovery Fund later in the year, designed to support businesses with match funding to relaunch, develop and expand following further relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
MSs elect new Senedd committee chairs
Members of the Senedd have elected the Chairs to lead the new Committees for the next parliamentary term.
Policy and legislation committees have six Members, specialist committeess have four and the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee has five.
MSs will vote on the full membership of the committees next week.
Senedd Committees carry out many functions, including scrutinising the expenditure and policies of the Welsh Government, holding Ministers to account, and examining proposed new laws.
The new Chairs elected today are:
Jane Bryant MS (Welsh Labour, Newport West) – Children, Young People and Education Committee
Russell George MS (Welsh Conservatives, Montgomeryshire) – Health and Social Care Committee
Paul Davies MS (Welsh Conservatives, Preseli Pembrokeshire) – Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee
Llyr Gruffydd MS (Plaid Cymru, North Wales) Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee
Jenny Rathbone MS (Welsh Labour, Cardiff Central) – Equality and Social Justice Committee
Delyth Jewell MS (Plaid Cymru, South Wales East) – Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee
John Griffiths MS (Welsh Labour, Newport East) – Local Government and Housing Committee
Peredur Owen Griffiths MS (Plaid Cymru, South Wales East) – Finance Committee
Mark Isherwood MS (Welsh Conservatives, North Wales) – Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee
Huw Irranca-Davies MS (Welsh Labour, Ogmore) – Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee
Vikki Howells MS (Welsh Labour, Cynon Valley) – Standards of Conduct Committee
Jack Sargeant MS (Welsh Labour, Alyn and Deeside) – Petitions Committee
New scheme launched to help private tenants pay rent their arrears
The government has launched a new £10 million scheme to help people in private rented accommodation who are struggling to pay their rent because of the Covid pandemic.
The Tenancy Hardship Grant is designed to support people who have fallen behind on their rent by more than eight weeks between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021 nd prevent them losing their tenancies.
The grant, which will be administered by local authorities, will be open to people who are not receiving housing-related benefits and will replace the Tenancy Saver Loan, which was introduced in October 2020. Anyone who received a loan under that scheme will have it converted to a grant.
People who are eligible can register their interest with their local authority immediately and grants will be processed from mid-July.
“I understand the stress and worry people will be experiencing if they have fallen behind in their rent. We also know that once someone falls behind with their rent it can be increasingly difficult for them to catch up without support,” Minister for Climate Change Julie James, who is responsible for housing, said.
“We also know that if they are made homeless, the impact on them and their families is huge – so too is the cost to public services of dealing with homelessness.
“This grant helps to prevent homelessness by helping people address their rent arrears and keep their tenancies.”
Sexual exploitation to be targeted under Newport anti-social behaviour measures
Emily Gill, local democracy reporter
Sexual exploitation will be targeted as part of new measures in the Pill area of Newport, despite it being dropped after a consultation.
Newport council has passed a public spaces protection order (PSPO) for Pill after a previous one expired in July.
PSPOs are aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour and can be enforced by police and council officers, with breaches of the order constituting a criminal offence, resulting in fines of up to £1,000.
The previous order contained three restrictions aimed at targeting street drinking, anti-social behaviour caused by groups and use of intoxicating substances.
A new order was proposed earlier this year, which aimed to tackle sexual exploitation, aggressive begging, spitting, littering, unsafe use of scooters and bikes and defecation and urinating in public.
However, after a public consultation, the sexual exploitation element was dropped after a request from Gwent Police. This was because they though it could be dealt with more effectively by laws already in place.
Ahead of the full council meeting this evening (June 29) a petition from local businesses and residents with around 60 signatures was submitted to Newport council asking for the sexual exploitation element to be reinstated,
In the meeting, the cabinet member responsible for PSPOs, Cllr Ray Truman, submitted an amendment to re-add the sexual exploitation amendment.
He said: “It’s necessary, it’s proportionate.
“The people of Pill have enough to put up with.”
Local ward member Cllr Tracy Holyoake said the issue had been more evident throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “It was evident just how many street workers we had within our community.
“You could clearly see sex work taking place.
“Pill is not the only community to suffer a crime rate we are the second highest crime rate ward within Newport.”
Cllr Matthew Evans said: “I think we should have a complete ban on begging in Pill and the city centre.
“We do need to have a tougher stance agains the criminals.”
Cllr Kevin Whitehead said: “I really do feel sorry for the residents of Pill.
“I find it very sad.
“There is an answer somewhere but it will be a slow progress.”
A council report says that, since August 31 last year, 35 people have been arrested for soliciting in the Pill ward, with 28 of those charged.
A further six arrests were made in this time relating to street sexually exploited adults, which were non-prostitution offences, the report says.