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News in brief: Minister reveals Welsh Government has yet to see details of new Aussie trade deal

17 Jun 2021 8 minute read
Vaughan Gething on Question Time

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething says the Welsh Government is yet to see the full details of the UK-Australia free trade deal agreed earlier this week in London.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the deal, as historic” and said it would usher in a “new dawn” for the two nations.

Under the terms of the agreement, Australian farmers will be granted zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the UK market and it is feared that imports of Australian lamb and beef will land hardest in rural areas such as Welsh hill farms, and impact Welsh speaking heartlands.

“Although we have engaged with the UK Government throughout the negotiations and have had the opportunity to feed in our views on the potential opportunities and risk for Wales, we have yet to see the exact details of what will be included in the agreement,’ Mr Gething confirmed in a written statement.

“However, the Welsh Government have been clear throughout the negotiations that any trade deal must not disadvantage Welsh producers or compromise the high quality standards that are so important to us in Wales.

“We have also raised some concerns with UK Government, particularly around the need to ensure that our producers are able to continue to compete on a level playing field. My officials will be seeking further information on exactly what has been agreed in these areas.

“We have also been in dialogue with stakeholders in Wales throughout the negotiations period and will continue to engage with them in order to understand what the likely impact of the deal may be going forward.

“My officials will now scrutinize the detail of the agreement to determine the impacts on Wales.  Once we have had the time to complete this work, we will publish a report detailing the potential impacts on Wales and our thoughts on the agreement.”

In total the new agreement is believed to be worth £20.1bn and would increase UK GDP by an estimated 0.01 to 0.02%.

According to the UK government the deal will save consumers £34m a year, the equivalent of 52p a person.

Photo by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Wales record another big increase in Delta variant cases

Public Health Wales has confirmed another 184 cases of the Delta Covid variant, taking the total number of cases in Wales to 488.

A total of 315 case have been detected in the last seven days, with health officials confirming Delta is now the dominant strain in Wales and the majority of new cases are not connected to international travel but are due to localised community transmission of the variant.

Meanwhile, PHW reports no further deaths due to Covid and 140 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours..

Cases in north Wales are continuing to climb with the three local authorities recording the highest number of new positive test for the virus in Wales all being served by the Betsi Cadwaladr health board.

Flintshire recorded 21 new cases in the last 24 hours and there were 15 in Denbighshire and 14 in Conwy.

The weekly case rate in Conwy is the highest in the country at 71.7 per 100,000 of the population, up from 68.3 yesterday and Denbighshire is next highest with a rate of 64.8 up from 56.4. Denbighshire also has the highest positivity rate in Wales at 4.3% per 100,000 tests.

Overall, the national case is up from 22.2 to 22.5 and the test rate has increased from 2.0% to 2.3%.

Photo by huwgaran and licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Government under fire as NHS waiting lists continue to grow

Latest figures released by NHS Wales have confirmed a further increase in waiting times as demand for services continues to ramp up to level last seen prior to the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In April there were 595,272 people on waiting lists in Wales, up 29% on pre-pandemic levels and a 4.7% hike on the previous record high set of 568,367 set in March.

Welsh Conservative shadow health minister, Russell George MS described the figures as “astonishing” and called for the government to take urgent action to reduce the backlog.

“The pandemic has exposed Labour’s historic mismanagement of our NHS in Wales, with underfunding, service cuts and poor treatment of staff leaving our treasured service under immense pressure.

“We entered the crisis with record waiting lists and cancer targets not met since 2008, and as we look ahead, an astonishing 1 in 5 people in Wales are now stranded on a waiting list.

“For those in pain and desperate for treatment, we need to see far more urgency from the Welsh Labour Government to support frontline staff and implement detailed recovery plans to tackle this backlog.

“Labour ministers should listen to the calls from the opposition and the Royal College of Surgeons and create specialist hubs to tackle routine surgery as soon as possible so we can make a start eating into these record waiting lists.”

A government spokesperson admitted the NHS “faces an enormous challenge in recovering” but highlighted the amount of money that was being committed to cutting waiting lists.

“We are now starting to see patient demand return to, or exceed, pre-pandemic levels for Welsh Ambulance Service and emergency department staff, at a time when PPE and other infection control requirements remain in place,” they said.

“Health Boards are working to put in place new ways of working to ensure patients can be seen safely and as quickly as possible. We have also made £25m available to transform urgent and emergency care.

“Last month the Health Minister set out plans to help the service recover, supported by an initial £100m investment. As the Minister set-out this process will take at least the length of this Senedd term and will require innovation in delivering care. We will continue to work closely with health boards and social care providers to drive this work forward.”

The section of the B5605 between Newbridge and Cefn Mawr that was damaged during Storm Christoph in January.

Government urged to end disruption caused by storm damaged roadLiam Randall, local democracy reporter

The Welsh Government has been urged to bring an end to the disruption caused to a Wrexham community after a landslide closed a key route.

A section of the B5605 between Newbridge and Cefn Mawr was severely damaged during Storm Christoph in January, when torrential downpours caused part of the footpath to collapse down an embankment.

The closure has resulted in buses being unable to pick passengers up from some areas, as well as causing lengthy diversions for drivers.

Wrexham Council previously applied for funding from the government to fix the road, with the repair bill estimated at anywhere between £500,000 to £1m.

However, the request was knocked back as it did not meet the relevant criteria.

Cefn councillor Sonia Benbow-Jones has now called on Wales’ climate change minister to take action after highlighting the impact on residents’ lives.

The independent politician has also launched a petition addressed to Julie James MS over the issue, which has so far attracted almost 500 signatures.

It states: “The B5605 provides critical road links between communities in Newbridge, Cefn Mawr, Rhosymedre and Ruabon and also Chirk to the south.

“This is causing major disruption to local residents and businesses and also provides a critical diversionary route from the A483.

“In the event of closures or planned works on the A483 it means a fifteen mile diversion via Llangollen which is unacceptable.”

In a statement released last week, the council said repairing the damage was still a priority, but described the work need to fix the road as “complex”.

The issue has also been raised by Clwyd South MS Ken Skates who said the storm had “wreaked havoc” in the area.

Cllr Benbow-Jones said it was crucial for the situation to be resolved.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she said: “My challenge to Welsh Government is to show us what pot there is so we can get the thing done.

“It’s been five months and if people need a bus, they haven’t got a bus. That makes a big difference.

“It’s their everyday lives that this is impacting on.

“I know we need to find the right pot, but the Welsh Government needs to realise how important this route is.”

She added: “If you want to get to the doctors, you haven’t got a car and you’re older, it’s a taxi ride now.

“If you’re on a fixed income then it’s just another stress and after Covid, people have had enough stress.”

In response to the calls, a Welsh Government spokesperson said a potential source of money was being looked at to repair the road through its Resilient Roads Fund.

The petition can be signed here.

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