News in brief: Government accused of ‘flashing the cash’ to secure Ryanair’s return to Cardiff Airport
Government ministers have been accused of “flashing the cash” to persuade the airline Ryanair to resume flights from Cardiff Airport this autumn.
On Tuesday Ryanair confirmed the return of its Cardiff – Dublin service after a 15-year gap and said the resumption was made possible by “necessary incentives.”
“Ryanair’s return to Cardiff Airport is welcome news, and I hope it goes some way to help improve the airport which has been struggling and under-performing since the Welsh Labour Government took it into public ownership in 2013,” Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar MS, said.
“However, it’s a little concerning to hear that the operator’s comeback has only been made possible by ‘necessary incentives,’ which can only mean the airport has once again been flashing the cash. I would like to see some transparency and know exactly what incentives have been provided.
“Taxpayers have the right to know how much money might have been spent enticing Ryanair to Cardiff Airport and I urge Labour ministers to come clean on this detail, particularly as the site has already been a beneficiary to the tune of nearly £150m.
“We want to see a thriving airport, but Labour’s policy of chucking public cash at airlines to entice them to its flailing airport, seems to fly in the face of ministers’ rhetoric in other areas of transport and environmental policy.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are pleased Ryanair has decided to continue their flights to Dublin re-instating this important route to Cardiff airport.
“We are committed to maintaining an aviation capacity in Wales, because of the benefits that it brings to the Welsh economy, whilst recognising the challenges this creates for meeting our targets on decarbonisation. ”
Last week the Conservatives urged the Welsh Government to sell Cardiff Airport if they can’t turn its fortunes around, describing it as a “failed vanity project”.
The airport, recently valued at £15m, was bought by the Welsh Labour Government for around £52m in 2013, before the airline industry was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last month Budget airline Wizz Air postponed its launch at Cardiff Airport until next year, citing Covid restrictions as the reason for the delay. The airline was set to bring 40 new jobs to the airport.
The Cardiff to Dublin service is expected to attract up to 100,000 passengers a year and will commence on 31 October, with flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Four further Covid deaths recorded as infections continue to rise across Wales
Today’s update from PHW has reported four further deaths due to Covid-19 and 1,373 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours, raising the weekly national case rate to 196.6 per 100,000 people from 184.3 yesterday and the tests positivity rate from 12.8% to 13.3% of 100,000 tests.
Three of the newly recorded deaths were in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area and one was in Cardiff and Vale.
Since the first death from Covid in March last year, 5,645 people in Wales have died due to coronavirus.
In the seven days up to 13 August 6,198 people have tested positive for the virus and the daily total of new cases in Wales has topped a thousand in three of the last for updates published by PHW.
Denbighshire continues to have the highest rates in the country at 357.4 up from 352.2 yesterday and the positivity rate is up 0.1% since yesterday to 19%.
Despite the recent surge in cases, hospital admissions due to Covid-19 are about a sixth of those recorded at the peak of the second wave earlier this year, with just 29 Covid patients being treated in critical care or on ventilation as of on Monday. During the January peak 150 Covid patients in critical care or on ventilation.
“We are not currently seeing the same levels of hospitalisation as we did during previous waves of coronavirus, thanks in large part to the successful vaccination programme in Wales. However, it remains a concern that over a quarter of people recently admitted to hospital are unvaccinated,” Dr Chris Williams, PHW incident director, told BBC Wales.
“Due to the high levels of vaccination uptake – over 84% in adults, and higher in the older age groups who have an increased risk of hospitalisation – we expect that most cases and hospital admissions will be in vaccinated individuals.”
Teenagers to receive vaccine offers this week
All 16 and 17-year-olds in Wales should receive their offer of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this week, according to Health Minister Eluned Morgan.
The rollout follows the decision last month from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to extend the offer of a jab to over 16s.
“Our vaccination programme is world leading, but we know that there are still some people who have yet to take up the offer of a vaccine,” Ms Morgan said.
“We are particularly keen to ensure that young people, including those over 16 who are now eligible for the vaccine, take up the offer so that they are at lower risk of the effects of coronavirus now that they are able to socialise more.”
“It’s not too late to get your vaccine,” she added.
An additional 67,142 teenager in Wales are eligible for the jab following the JCVI’s recommendation and a recent poll from Public Health Wales revealed 50% of parents in Wales wanted teenagers to have the vaccine.
Fire concerns raised over new £4 million waste facility
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Concerns have been raised that a blaze at a recycling centre in Welshpool could be replicated at Powys County Council’s (PCC) new £4 million facility on the outskirts of Abermule.
Councillors at both county and community level believe that better measures are needed at the North Powys Bulking Facility built on Abermule Business Park to tackle a potential fire.
Abermule with Llandyssil community councillor, Alan Meredith-Jones had been part of a delegation shown around Potters by council staff recently.
Cllr Meredith-Jones said: “The purpose of the visit was to demonstrate the safety of the site and to show that we need not fear a fire at the waste transfer station when it is operational, even though they do not plan to install any fire suppression measures.
“Two days later the Potters site is ablaze.
“I call on PCC to reconsider their decision to install no fire suppression system at the Abermule site.”
After the fire in Welshpool, Plaid Cymru group leader at PCC, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, has asked the council about safety measures at the Abermule site, and whether a water sprinkler system would be a “good idea?”
Earlier this year PCC applied to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for an environment permit to run the facility, and part of that includes details of how a potential fire would be dealt with at Abermule.
A spokesman for PCC said: “The Fire Prevention and Management Plan (FPMP) is a significant element of the environmental permit required from NRW to operate any waste and recycling facility.
“The FPMP has been submitted as part of the current application for the North Powys Bulking Facility and it will be up to NRW in consultation with the Fire Service to determine whether it is sufficient for the operations at the site.”
A public consultation on the environment permit for the site came to an end on July 1.
NRW say that they received 117 public responses during the six-week consultation period.
They will now start their technical assessment to decide the application.
NRW will hold a second consultation when they have reached a draft decision whether to grant of refuse the application.
Comments from this second consultation will then be considered before finally coming to a decision on the permit.
PCC propose that the site accept and process up to 22,500 tonnes a year of non-hazardous waste and a maximum of 425 tonnes is proposed at any one time.
The site is supposed to receive recycling collected from households across Montgomeryshire, where it will be squashed together or “bulked,” so that it can be more easily transported to processors to turn into new products.
PCC have always stressed that they need the site so they can increase recycling rates.
In August 2018, planning permission was given for the £4 million scheme.
In May 2019, the council’s cabinet voted unanimously in favour of going ahead with the scheme after a full council meeting had urged them to refuse it.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, it had been expected that building work at the site would have finished and that the facility would be up and running from last October.