News in brief: Johnson condemned for ‘pinching pounds’ from poorer Welsh families
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, has criticised the UK Government for using Welsh taxpayers’ National Insurance contributions to fund social care in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a UK-wide hike of 1.25% in National Insurance at Westminster yesterday and claimed Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would share £2.2bn a year between them from the extra revenue generated.
Following the announcement, Mr Lake accused the Prime Minister of “pinching pounds from Welsh families who can least afford it, while protecting higher earners and the wealthy” and hit back at the suggestion the additional money from the hike will have to be spent in the way the Westminster government decides.
“The UK Government’s decision to use National Insurance – a tax paid across the UK – means Welsh taxpayers will pay more but have no say over how their money is spent or on how much funding is allocated to the Welsh Government,” Mr Lake said.
“This is a deeply unfair and regressive method of raising funds, disproportionately impacting young people, businesses and those on the lowest income. In effect, the Prime Minister is pinching pounds from Welsh families who can least afford it, while protecting higher earners and the wealthy.
“There is now an urgent need for the Welsh Government to solve the social care crisis. I would remind the Prime Minister, however, that it is not for ministers in Westminster to direct policy in Wales on devolved matters.”
Government plays down October lockdown speculation
The Welsh Government says there are currently no plans for a firebreak lockdown next month despite the rise in Covid cases and increase in hospital admissions due to the virus.
New figures from Digital Health and Care Wales, for the three days up to Monday show the daily average of those with confirmed Covid-19 in hospital beds has risen by 41% in a week and figures released last week by Public Health Wales confirmed the number of people with Covid in hospital had doubled in the previous two weeks.
A government spokesperson said, “There are no plans for a firebreak in Wales, adding: “Coronavirus has not gone away and we would encourage everyone to continue to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones, including taking up the offer of a vaccine if they have not had one yet.”
Yesterday Ceredigion council’s leader Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn told her cabinet a potential October ‘firebreak’ lockdown could be considered following an earlier national meeting with education officers and union members.
“The numbers are increasing everywhere and everyone is concerned once again about how things will be – there might be a ‘firebreak’ lockdown over half term but that’s not confirmed yet at all,” said Cllr ap Gwynn.
Meanwhile, PHW has confirmed five further deaths due to Covid and 2,669 new positive tests for the virus in the past 24 hours.
Five of the newly recorded deaths were in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area and Cwm Taf Morgannwg recorded three further deaths since yesterday’s report. Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay each recorded one death, taking the total recorded since the start of the pandemic in March last year to 5,712.
In the seven days up to 3 September, 15,173 new cases have been recorded, the highest weekly total since 13 December when 18,000 infections were reported.
The national case rate has increased to 481.2 per 100,000 people from 486.6 yesterday, the highest level since the week ending 20 December when it was 603.5.
Eight of 22 local authorities have currently have case rate over 500, with Merthyr recording the highest rate in the country at 782.4, up from 752.6 yesterday and the 15th highest rate in the UK.
Extra funding for youth mental health support announced
Minister for Education and the Welsh Language Jeremy Miles has today announced additional funding to help more young people access support for emotional, mental health and wellbeing services.
An extra £2.5m will be provided to local authorities through the Youth Support Grant this financial year, to work with the voluntary sector to reach a wider range of young people, including those who are harder to reach and those with protected characteristics, who may not currently be engaged with formal education, training or work.
The funding will support youth workers to deliver early intervention and prevention services for those with low-level emotional mental health and wellbeing issues and be available all across Wales.
“The emotional mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people is an absolute priority for me, and our ‘whole school’ approach ensures this is central to the way schools work and touch on all the different aspects of school life,” Mr Miles said.
“But we know the pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of people of all ages and youth work has a vital role in supporting young people in their schools and their communities.
“We also understand that getting the right support at the right time, in many cases, can prevent longer-term adverse effects, and that’s why we’re making access to support a priority too.
“This additional funding will make a significant difference to improve the resources and youth work services available to young people in these challenging times, and help them access the help they need, where and when they need it.”
Former council leader returns to cabinet after seven month ban
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
The former leader of Merthyr Tydfil Council has returned to take up a role on the cabinet.
An information report to full council on Wednesday, September 8 showed that Councillor Kevin O’Neill is back on the council and will take up the role of cabinet member for housing and public protection with Councillor Lisa Mytton staying on as leader and cabinet member for learning.
Cllr O’Neill returns following a seven month suspension by the Adjudication Panel for Wales following six breaches of the council’s code of conduct in relation to his failure to declare an interest in the business of the council regarding a property at Luther Lane and his conduct towards the former chief executive of the council.
There is a new deputy leader of the council as Councillor Geraint Thomas replaces Councillor Chris Davies who is stepping down because he has taken up a role outside his responsibilities as a councillor.
Councillor Tony Rogers will take up the role of cabinet member for social services.
Cllr Thomas will remain the cabinet member for regeneration, transformation and commercialisation, Councillor Andrew Barry will remain the member for governance and corporate services and Councillor David Hughes will remain as cabinet member for neighbourhood services, planning and countryside with the changes having come into effect from September 1.
Council leader Lisa Mytton said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cllr Davies for all his hard work as deputy leader and cabinet member for social services. Chris has been a fantastic colleague and we will continue to have his support within the Independent Group.
“I would like to welcome Cllr Geraint Thomas as my deputy leader and Cllr Tony Rogers and Cllr Kevin O’Neill back into cabinet.