News in brief: Plaid Cymru urges government action to preserve Ystrad Mynach jobs
Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to intervene to prevent job losses at Kautex Textron in Ystrad Mynach.
The company, which designs and manufactures plastic fuel systems for cars, confirmed earlier today that it had entered a consultation period to review the potential closure of the site in 12-18 months’ time.
According to the GMB union, Brexit is a contributing factor, with companies operating on the continent wanting to use suppliers that are within the EU, and the business has also been hit by the closure of the Honda plant in Swindon.
The GMB Union said it was notified by the manufacturing company before Easter that it was considering cutting the workforce and the Welsh government said it was “working with the company” to help save jobs.
Mike Payne, the union’s senior Wales and South West organiser, told BBC Wales “It’s absolutely devastating for our members at the plant but also for the local economy, the businesses that supply the plant and the Welsh manufacturing industry in general.”
“My heart goes out to the workers at Kautex Textron who must be feeling very worried about the future after hearing news of the risk of potential job losses,” Plaid Cymru’s candidate for Caerphilly for the Senedd election Delyth Jewell said.
“Although we are now in the election period, the Welsh Government is still operational and should take an active role in the process to lay the groundwork for the next government to act straight away to try to save these jobs.
“Plaid Cymru repeatedly warned that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which erected trade barriers and created a new layer of expensive bureaucracy for exporting, would have a detrimental impact on companies that depend on trade with Europe, and I’m deeply saddened to see this coming to pass in our local area.
“If Plaid Cymru is in government after the election we will no stone unturned to try to save these important jobs since we believe that having skilled, well-paid, local jobs is crucial in terms of our vision for a prosperous manufacturing economy where people are able to get a a good income without having to relocate away from their community.”
Covid infection rates in Wales continue to fall
Latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics show a further fall in the number of coronavirus cases in Wales.
Over the week ending 10 April, the ONS estimates that 3,300 people in Wales had Covid-19, 13% down on the previous seven days and just 0.11% of the community population – the equivalent of around 1 in 920 people.
In the report for the previous week, the ONS reported 3,800 people had Covid, equating to 0.12% of the population or around 1 in 800 people.
England currently has the highest number and proportion of infections in the UK. During the most recent week of the study, it’s estimated that 112,600 people in England had the coronavirus, 0.21% of the population or around 1 in 480 people.
In Scotland 10,500 people were estimated to have the virus, 0.20% the population in Scotland or around 1 in 500 people and in Northern Ireland 2,600 people had Covid, 0.14% of the population or around 1 in 710 people.
Meanwhile, todays update from Public Health Wales reported no deaths due to coronavirus in the last day and 48 new cases of the virus.
Swansea (10) was the only local authority in Wales to record a double-digit increase in cases since yesterday. Cardiff and Neath Port Talbot were second highest with four new positive tests apiece.
Swansea has the highest weekly case rate in the country at 29.2 per 100,000 people, and the highest positive test proportion at 3.3% per 100,000 tests.
The national case rate has fallen from 17.4 to 16.7 since yesterday’s report and the test rate is down .1% at 1.9%.
Since the start of the vaccine rollout on 8 December, 1,657, 028 people have received a first Covid jab and 574,590 have had both doses.
Wrexham AFC secure Welsh Government support
Wrexham AFC have received a grant of £100,000 from the Welsh Government’s Spectator Sports Survival Fund.
The National League outfit missed out on a share of the £11m loan from the UK Government that was made available to cover expenses from January to March by the UK government as, despite playing in the English football pyramid, it was decided the club didn’t qualify for support it was in Wales.
In a statement, the club said: “The club has suffered losses well in excess of this amount as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which are currently being met by the club’s owners, Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds.
“The owners have committed to ensure the club survives the financial implications of the pandemic.
“This grant helps to ensure this commitment does not compromise the owners’ proactive plans to make a positive difference in the wider Wrexham community.”
Wrexham are currently 7th in the National League and are battling for a place in the end-of-season playoffs.
Concerns remain over performance of Merthyr Tydfil Council
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Auditors say Merthyr Tydfil Council has made progress but concerns remain over its capacity to deliver changes.
An Audit Wales report set to go before full council on Wednesday, April 21, is an update on performance of the council in addressing some key concerns that have been raised.
Audit Wales’ letter to the council in May 2019 raised concerns about the council’s financial situation, service pressures, leadership, capacity, and governance.
It lead to the council seeking assistance from Welsh Government which has included the establishment of an improvement and assurance board, support with social services, governance and leadership, and advisers for education and HR.
The council submitted a recovery, transformation, and improvement (RTI) Plan to the Welsh Government in August 2020 which sets out a series of actions aimed at transforming and improving the council and underlines that “the status quo is not an option”.
The main finding of the latest Audit Wales report is that the council has “shown resilience in its response to recent challenges and has made progress in developing an improvement plan but it urgently needs to address its lack of capacity to drive the transformation needed and use its available resources to strengthen its resilience over the medium to long term”.
Audit Wales acknowledged the unprecedented year of challenges for the council with Storm Dennis and then the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic but added it is important that the council focuses on addressing the ongoing concerns and implementing its RTI Plan.
The report said that the council cannot continue to rely on there being positive financial settlements in the future and warned the council will need some form of continued support as it lacks the capacity to address the medium to long-term issues at the same time as operating from day to day in the short term.
The report mentioned that the council has efficiently delivered business grants, provided continuity of free school meals, and delivered the mass testing programme among a host of other emergency responses.
Estyn and Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) identified strengths in the council’s response to the pandemic on education and social services.
Audit Wales said while it had not undertaken a comprehensive review of the council’s services and performance it did not consider services to be at immediate risk of failure.
CIW’s recent inspection of social services identified strengths and areas for
improvement and, aside from education, the national indicators from 2018-19 show a “mixed picture of performance”.
The council’s short-term financial position has improved with £300,000 added to its general reserves so these now amount to £5m.
The council currently has no plans to use any general reserves in the next two financial years and is broadly on track with planned savings for 2020/21 while projecting a surplus of £73,000.
The council has set a balanced budget for 2021/22 based on a council tax increase of 3.55%.
The May 2019 letter raised concerns about the £1.3m overspend of its social care budget in 2018-19 and the unprecedented demand around looked-after children.
In 2019-20, the looked-after children budget had a net budget deficit of
£669,000 but there was an overall social services budget surplus of £376,000.
As it stands although the council’s looked-after children budget is
projected to overspend in 2020-21 by £863,000 the council considers that the overall social care budget is under control.
The council has taken some steps to mitigate the overspend within its looked-after children budget and it is progressing aspects of the RTI plan aimed at safely reducing looked-after numbers.
The council’s revenue budget for 2021-22 includes £591,000 for additional
demand pressures for looked-after children residential placement services.
Relationships between cabinet and the senior management team are said to have improved.
The 2021-22 revenue budget includes £705,000 for resources to help fill the capacity gap.
The council has filled, or is in the process of filling, many of the gaps identified
including additional posts in environmental health, housing, additional learning
needs, engineering, and social services.
The report said: “Whilst weak educational outcomes, particularly in the secondary sector, are a long-standing issue for the council we are seeing some early positive signs that the council is taking steps to address this.
“There is optimism within the council that the new strategy can lead to sustained improvement within education.
“The council has told us that there have also been more constructive discussions with the education consortium about its role to
improve the educational outcomes for children in Merthyr Tydfil.”
Audit Wales’ June 2019 report on leisure services found that outsourcing the council’s leisure and cultural services has protected the services from cuts but that the services “lack strategic direction, are restricted by the current contract, and require more effective oversight”.
The council’s view is that the current relationship with the leisure trust has improved over the last 18 months as has the trust’s financial position.
Examples of the council and trust’s cooperation include the use of the leisure centre for the mass testing programme and the transfer of assets for the Cyfarthfa Plan.
But Audit Wales has highlighted governance, leadership, transformation, capacity, the medium-term financial position and financial resilience, service challenges, performance management, and partnership working as areas where improvements still need to be made.
Audit Wales have made 10 recommendations for the council:
- Address the lack of capacity and expertise to drive and sustain the transformation agenda.
- Make its senior management structure more permanent at the earliest opportunity.
- Continue with its capacity review to reflect the transformation needed and learning from the pandemic.
- Ensure the RTI plan has the money and staff to deliver it.
- Strengthen its communication and engagement with staff.
- Build on its current financial position and take a more medium to long-term approach.
- Ensure it remains focused on improving education outcomes of all children and young people.
- Continue to strengthen its performance management arrangements.
- Strengthen its scrutiny arrangements.
- Build upon its recent partnership working.