News in brief: Plaid Cymru raises ‘deep concerns’ over NHS pay ‘fiasco’
Plaid Cymru health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has written to Health Minister Eluned Morgan seeking confirmation the 3% NHS pay increase announced in July will also apply to staff paid the National Minimum Wage.
In April the lowest paid NHS workers were given an uplift in salary to the Living Wage of £9.50 per hour and on 21 July the minister announced a 3% pay rise for all NHS staff, to be applied retrospectively from April 2021.
In the press release announcing the increase on 21 July, Ms Morgan originally said “For our lowest paid staff, this means we have gone above the living wage recommendation of £9.50 an hour which we implemented from April 2021, with our starting salary being £19,918 pa (£10.18 per hour).
Nine days later the minister confirmed in a letter to Senedd Members that the figure of £10.18 was a “factual error” and confirmed starting salaries for the lowest paid would remain at £18,576 a year – or £9.50 an hour.
“This NHS pay fiasco is an example of giving with one hand and taking with the other,” Mr ap Iorwerth said.
“First, our NHS staff are promised a 3% pay rise, and those on the Living Wage are to be uplifted to £10.18 per hour. Next, we learn that not only was the £10.18 incorrect, but it’s possible that those on the lowest wage won’t receive a pay rise at all.
“This will be a huge blow to our hard-working NHS staff and government must now explain how these erroneous statements came to be made.
“Truly valuing the skills and commitment of the workforce has never been as important, and that is why I have implored the Welsh Government to honour the original 3% pay rise promise made on July 21st.”
The Office for National Statistics has recorded a big jump in the number of Covid deaths in Wales over the seven days covered by their latest study.
Over the week ending 23 July, 16 deaths were recorded involving coronavirus, an increase from just four the previous week, accounting for 2.5% of deaths from all causes.
The total number of deaths registered for the week was 638, 75 more than the previous week and 14.5% above the five-year average (81 more deaths).
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, 50,687 have been registered from all causes and of these, 7,928 deaths (15.6%) mentioned Covid-19, 5,045 deaths above the five-year average.
According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales, 5,616 people have died due to Covid in the last 16 months.
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales include the deaths of a hospital patients or care home resident where Covid-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and the clinician suspects this was a causative factor in the death.
Deaths counted by the ONS are when Covid-19 is mentioned by doctors on the death certificate and which occur in all settings – including hospitals, care homes, hospices and people’s homes.
Meanwhile, PHW has confirmed there have been no further deaths due to the virus in the last 24 hours, while 581 people have tested positive for Covid.
Cardiff (49) reported the highest number of new cases since yesterday’s update, followed by Flintshire (48) and Conwy (40).
The recent decline in the weekly case rates has continued, falling to 139.8 per 100,000 people from 144 yesterday and is back to the levels seen at the start of July.
The highest case rate remains in Denbighshire, where case have been falling over the last week, to currently stand at 358.4, down from 385.6 yesterday. The positivity rate is also the highest in Wales but is down 0.4% to 15.8% per 100,000 tests.
The national test rate has also reduced, from 10.1% to 9.9% in the last 24 hours.
Petition launched against unisex changing rooms
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
An Anglesey mum petitioning against a council decision to make all changing rooms in leisure venues unisex, says they “are dangerous for women and girls”.
Rhian Hughes said she and her 14 year-old daughter will not use the facilities while men and women can change in the same space – and neither will her husband.
The row broke out after Anglesey county council decided to adapt all of its leisure facilities to include unisex changing spaces instead of single sex and family areas.
It said it had done so “in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, to allow people to maintain social distancing and to provide the best opportunities to be able to clean between sessions”.
Although users have lockable cubicles to get undressed in, a group of mums including Mrs Hughes took exception to the adaptations, citing research suggesting mixed facilities lead to more sexual assaults against women.
The mum of one maintained far from being a feminist she was just a “concerned mother” and the mums’ online petition, started on Thursday last week, had almost reached its 500 signature target by lunchtime yesterday.
Speaking to the Local Democracy reporting service, she said: “I’m a 45 year-old woman and my daughter is 14.
“I am for family rooms, not against them, but the fact the council has done this is unreal.
“There are locked cubicles but men can buy cameras for as little as £10 which can be placed under and over the doors.
“There is research showing there are lots of assaults against women in unisex changing areas.
“It’s simple – do a rota and send male staff to male changing rooms and female staff to the women’s to clean them.
“There’s a lot of women out there who are outraged by this – I will not have it on my doorstep.”
Research by The Times in 2018 showed 90% of sexual assaults in changing rooms took place in unisex areas, which accounted for less than half the number of changing facilities in sports and leisure centres and swimming pools.
Of 134 reports of sexual assault in changing rooms over the two-year period 2017 to 2018, 120 took place in gender-neutral changing rooms compared to 14 in single-sex areas.
Mrs Hughes added: “My 14 year-old daughter is sports mad and she loves swimming but she won’t change when there are men there.
“There’s no way she will feel comfortable, or will I be letting her, shower next to a man.
“She will not visit unisex changing rooms – mixed sex changing rooms are dangerous.”
The petition wants changing rooms converted back to female and male areas claiming the move “discriminates against women” and those with specific “religious and cultural beliefs”.
An Anglesey county council spokesman said it had received complaints “in relation to the changing rooms at Plas Arthur leisure centre” in Llangefni.
He said: “These areas are separated by lockable doors to ensure people are able to change in private.
“All areas have been reserved specifically for the people for whom they have been designated and a member of staff inspects the changing rooms before and after each session.”
“Before the pandemic, our changing rooms were separated into men’s and women’s sections and Plas Arthur also had a family section.”
The spokesman said most “modern leisure centres” have changing villages split into family and individual rooms, which he claimed “increases the users privacy”, before saying the move may not be permanent anyway.
He added: “Naturally, we will consider the implications of further easing of restrictions, and we expect to return to the previous changing arrangements when appropriate to do so.
“We continue to monitor the situation and we welcome any further feedback from residents.”
Green light for Celtic Sea wind projects
Three new test and demonstration floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea have been given the green light to advance to the next stage of development.
The three projects, each located in the Celtic Sea, have satisfied the initial application criteria set out by The Crown Estate, demonstrating technical competence, delivery capability and technological innovation.
The next stage will see the projects subject to plan-level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) to assess possible impacts on protected marine habitats. Subject to the outcome of this assessment, the applicants could then be granted seabed agreements for lease.
The three projects advancing are:
- The Llŷr 1 and Llŷr 2 projects, comprising two separate 100MW sites, each testing different technologies, located south of Pembroke, on the Welsh coast. Brought forward by Floventis Energy Limited, a newly established joint venture between SBM Offshore and Cierco Ltd.
- The 100MW Whitecross project, located off the coast of Devon and Cornwall. Brought forward by Offshore Wind Limited, a Joint Venture between Cobra Instalaciones y Servicios, S.A. and Flotation Energy plc.
The three projects will each test new foundation and mooring technologies, using new designs, materials and construction approaches.
Welcoming the news, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, said: “This development news from the Crown Estate is a fantastic step forward to realising the energy producing potential of these floating engineering marvels.
“Finding space approximately 45 km away from the coastline, they not only realise the issue of coastline saturation but could also help generate thousands of long-term green-collar jobs.
“Given the concerns about the oversaturation of our waters through the usual static wind projects, as well as their potential impact on the sea bed and fish stocks, I have long been calling on the Welsh Government to review its policies with regards to marine spatial planning, placing an emphasis on collecting the necessary data to confirm their impact on the environment.
“These are central to my concerns about Awel y Môr, in my own constituency of Aberconwy, with those turbines potentially being as tall as the Eiffel Tower and possibly having an impact on the local seabird population. As the technology evolves, we should look to embrace these new developments to ensure that the impact on our marine habitats and tourism hotspots are minimised.”