Senedd roundup: Welsh Charities to miss out on UK Government funding

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Welsh charities are set to miss out on emergency support from the UK Government after it  backtracked on a pledge to ensure the fund was open to charities in Wales.

On Thursday the UK Department for Education (DfE) and the Home Office announced £7.6 million of funding to support national charities which work with vulnerable children and young people who are experiencing or at risk of domestic violence, sexual exploitation and abuse.

Charities in Wales will be ineligible for the funding because of the qualifying criteria decided upon by the Westminster government.

Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, and Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan have written a joint letter to the Home Office calling for the funding to also be made available to charities in Wales.

Jane Hutt said: ”We have been in discussion with the Home Office since early April and were told the fund would be open to national charities that are either Welsh charities, English charities, or charities that operate both in England and Wales.

“However, as only national charities with an annual turnover of over £40 million are eligible to apply, the Department for Education has set the criteria for applications in a way which effectively bars charities in Wales. To the best of our knowledge, there are no charities in Wales which support vulnerable children and have an operating turnover of more than £40 million.”

Public Health Wales has announced that six more people with coronavirus have died. The total number of deaths from the virus in Wales is now 1,441.

The have been 45 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. Total confirmed cases in Wales since the start of the outbreak is now 14,703. There were 3,912 tests for Covid-19 carried out across Wales yesterday.

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First Minister hints at green light for non-essential retailers

First Minister Mark Drakeford says he is open to a more flexible approach to easing the lockdown in Wales as ministers prepare their latest review of the measures in Wales next week.

Currently the restrictions are evaluated every three weeks, but Mr Drakeford has hinted he could take a more long-term approach from next Friday.

Describing the current three-week review cycle as a “framework and not a straitjacket”, Mr Drakeford said: “I will be keen when I speak next week to look ahead beyond the next three weeks, as well, to give some indications to part of the economy in Wales, as to how if we continue to take the actions we have been taking and continue to create that headroom we may be able to do more beyond the next three week cycle as well.”

“And if we succeed and we are able to create more space to return further freedoms to people, it may well be that a more flexible approach to doing so will become a more useful way of reflecting those circumstances,” he added.

Hinting that non-essential retailers might get the nod to reopen next week Mr Drakeford said he was “very encouraged” by the way retailers had been making preparations to reopen their stores after being encouraged to put safety measures in place following the last review. He noted businesses have been using the time “to put up shields in their premises, to organise 2 metres distancing,” and if they are given the green light to reopen “they’ll be able to move ahead as fast as they are able.”

Under the current lockdown regulations only essential shops, petrol stations and garden centres can open in Wales, provided social distancing rules can be applied.

Last week the Welsh Retail Consortium called on the government to give a date from when non-essential retailers can reopen their stores.

The UK Government announced last week that shops in England can reopen next Monday.

Photo by Nation.Cymru

Plaid Cymru calls on government to support arts sector 

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Culture Sian Gwenllian MS has expressed concern at the announcement yesterday that Wales Millennium Centre could remain closed until April next year due to the coronavirus pandemic – putting 250 jobs at risk.

The impact of a 12 month closure would result in around £20m of lost commercial revenue for Wales Millennium Centre and around £70m for the Welsh economy.

Ms Gwenllian said: “Welsh Government must tell us specifically what support they will be offering to institutions like the Millennium Centre and to other cultural organisations across Wales.

“Furthermore, the Westminster government must provide flexibility through the Job Retention Scheme to those sectors that will suffer disproportionately due to this crisis – such as tourism and the arts.

“The arts form a crucial pillar of the Welsh economy and they will play a key role in our recovery from Covid-19.  We must seek assurances that Welsh Government is doing all it can to support the sector before it’s too late.”

Last week Helen Mary Jones MS, Acting Chair of the culture committee in the Senedd warned the coronavirus crisis could risk Wales “losing a generation of artists or abandoning all of the positive work and investment which has gone into making Wales a world-leader in arts and culture.”

Nick Capaldi from the Arts Council of Wales told the committee the Council’s portfolio was losing £1.4 million a week.

Enough emergency funding has been provided to ensure the Arts Council portfolio stays afloat until September 2020, but a full financial recovery may not happen before Easter 2021 depending on how quickly Wales eases lockdown restrictions.

The Committee recommended that guidance on reopening live venues and other related businesses should be published by 1st August 2020 and recognised that arts organisations may take several years to fully recover and may need extended support.

Photo by Geof Sheppard and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Key local bus service to be maintained until December

A bus service linking Chepstow and Bristol is being maintained until December 2020, after Welsh Government and Monmouthshire Council agreed a short-term solution following the removal of a commercial service.

New Adventure Travel will operate an hourly service, called the Traws Hafren X7, in place of the Severn Express service.

Stagecoach West recently announced it was withdrawing their commercial X14 Severn Express bus service linking Chepstow – Cribbs Causeway and Bristol City Centre, with effect from 13 June 2020.

The service was used by over 244,000 passengers in 2018-19 and was popular with commuters, students and shoppers.

Welsh Government has now agreed a short-term solution with Monmouthshire Council, incurring no additional cost.

New Adventure Travel, who currently operate the Welsh Government funded T9 Cardiff Airport Express service, will take over the service from 15 June for a period of 6 months.

Monmouthshire Council and Welsh Government will continue to assess and make decisions on the long-term viability of the service.

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