News in brief: Welsh Government accused of neglecting infrastructure by UK Transport Secretary
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has accused the Welsh Government of neglecting transport infrastructure, as he hit the Senedd election campaign trail for the Welsh Conservatives in north Wales today.
Yesterday the Tories highlighted their plans for what they described as “a new deal for north Wales” which promises to deliver a north Wales Metro which integrates public transport with active travel, an upgrade to the A55 and improved rail links between north Wales and the North West of England, including Manchester and Liverpool Airports.
“For too long, the Welsh Labour Government has neglected transport infrastructure, particularly in north Wales,” Mr Shapps said.
“It’s time this changed. By working with the UK Government, the Welsh Conservatives will deliver a recovery plan for Wales that will create jobs and help to build back better as we come out of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Delivering the A55 is a vital part of this – boosting the north Wales economy and better connecting families and businesses across the region with the North West of England.”
Last month a report published by Cardiff University found the Welsh Government will receive less money to spend on transport “for decades” thanks to HS2.
HS2 was designated as an England and Wales project despite the fact that no part of the track is included in Wales.
The decisions excluded Wales from receiving the additional funding that will flow to Scotland and Northern Ireland over the lifespan of the project, researchers at the university said.
“For the remainder of the HS2 project’s lifetime – likely to be several decades – the Welsh Government will now receive a much smaller share from any increase in the Department for Transport’s budget,” they said.
It was part of what they called “historic under-funding” that was “being baked into the system” in Wales.
The Wales Governance Centre report also revealed that railway infrastructure investment in Wales would have been significantly higher if it had been devolved.
Deaths in Wales remain below five-year average for the seventh successive week.
The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal there were no deaths due to Covid in over half of 22 Welsh local authorities in the week ending 16 April.
There were no deaths due to the virus in Cardiff for the first time in seven months and deaths from all causes in Wales were below the five-year average for the seventh successive week.
The number of deaths registered involving Covid-19 decreased from 19 over the week ending 9 April to 14 in the week covered by the latest study, 2.2% of all deaths in Wales.
The number of deaths from all causes increased from 576 to 644, 4.0% below the five-year average.
The total number of deaths In Wales since the start of the pandemic is 42,428 and of these, 7,846 deaths (18.5%) mentioned Covid-19, 5,690 deaths above the five-year average.
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.
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales only 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.
There were no further deaths due to Covid in the last 24 hours, according to the latest update from PHW. The total number of deaths since March 2020 remains 5,548.
Nine local authorities reported no new cases, with Newport (8) recording the highest number since yesterday.
Gwynedd has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 23.3, down from 26.5 per 100,000 people yesterday and has the highest positive test proportion at 2.8% per 100,000 tests, .5% lower than on Monday.
The national case rate has gone down from 12.9 to 12.2 and the test rate is fallen .1% to 1.4%.
Lib Dems free childcare pledge
The Welsh Liberal Democrats say have pledged to eradicate poverty across Wales, with voting in this year’s Senedd election just 10 days away.
As part of the proposals the Lib Dems say they will invest in extending the provision of free school meals during school holidays; introduce free childcare for children up to the age of three and invest in making old housing stock more energy efficient.
Under the childcare plans, all parents with children between nine months to three years old will be provided with free part-time childcare, regardless of work status and the party says it will also work towards providing free part-time early learning and care to all three- and four-year-olds.
“Our manifesto for next month’s election includes a commitment to extend the provision of free school meals to tackle hunger during the school holidays beyond the pandemic and to invest in programmes which tackle holiday hunger, isolation, and exclusion,” Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader Jane Dodds said.
“We also have ambitious plans to lift Welsh homes out of poverty through initiatives such as free childcare, and the retrofitting of old housing stock to make them greener and more energy efficient.
“Nobody should be forced to go hungry, choosing between heating and eating or need to regularly rely on foodbanks. It is for this reason that in government the Welsh Liberal Democrats made free school meals a top priority and ensure that children received a decent meal even when schools where closed due to lockdown and recently during the school holidays.”
Home Office submits plans for radio tower within Snowdonia National Park
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Plans for an almost 60-foot radio tower have been submitted within the Snowdonia National Park in a bid to improve connectivity for the emergency services.
The application for the new 17.5 metre (57 feet) structure at Rhyd-Ddu, which has been submitted by the Home Office, is the latest as part of the UK Government’s new Emergency Services Network (ESN).
The Snowdonia National Park Authority, which will consider this application, also recently approved similar Home Office proposals for a 20 metre (66 feet) mast at Rhosygwaliau, Llangywer near y Bala.
All 107 police, fire and ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales currently use the Airwave network to communicate between rooms and officers on the ground, along with 363 other organisations such as local authorities and mountain rescuers.
But its replacement is intended to replace existing “walkie-talkie” style radios with a system based on a 4G network, enabling officers using smartphone equipment to speedily access data such as videos and images, while also tackling “not-spots”.
The Home Office also says that this ongoing investment will mean improvements to 4G network coverage, enabling 999 calls to be made securely from mobile phones in some of the most remote and rural parts of Great Britain.
These latest proposals near the Welsh Highland Railway station at Rhyd-Ddu also include a radio tower with antenna and dishes as well as an electronics equipment cabin within a new stone building, generator and VSAT dish.
According to the supporting documents, this specific site was chosen to minimise the visual impact, with the tower positioned with “suitable screening from public vantage points in mind”.
The documents said: “The angle of approach from the adjacent A4085 road offers only oblique and fully screened views of the proposed site, certainly at lower levels from public vantage points close by and along the access route to site, by virtue of the adjacent tree screening and station infrastructure.
“From the north and east the proposed site benefits from the backdrop of the nearby trees within the station car park area and bus stop, and when viewed from further afield to the east the rising ground and forestry backdrop of Bryn Cwellyn.
“This proposal forms part of a programme which will provide the emergency services with nationwide 4G voice and data services and forms part of the nation’s Critical National Infrastructure.
“The new 4G network which this proposal forms part of, will significantly improve the efficiency of the Emergency Services by giving them access to the latest type of data and applications for example the ability for an ambulance crew to send vital patient data on to the hospital to allow staff to make the best preparations in advance of a patient’s arrival for example.”
Similar Home Office proposals have also been approved over recent months by the national park including a 20-metre mast at Moel Llechwedd Hafod in Cwm Penmachno and a 12 metre one at Bod-Owen, Barmouth.
In March 2020, however, plans for a 10-metre mast at the foot of the Pyg Track at Pen y Pass were withdrawn after being proposed for refusal by national park planning officers.
It’s expected that Snowdonia National Park planners will consider the Rhyd-Ddu applications over the coming weeks.