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New Shadow Welsh Secretary speaks to The Herald

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‘I will hold the government to account’: Nia Griffith

‘I will hold the government to
account’: Nia Griffith

NIA GRIFFITH MP has been appointed Shadow Welsh Secretary of State to Wales in a shake-up of the opposition frontbench, following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour Leader. We asked Nia how she received the news that she had been chosen to become Shadow Welsh Secretary. She said, “I had a phone call for Jeremy asking me if I would like to serve in his shadow cabinet and then he offered me the post. “It is a great privilege for me taking on the post. It is an exciting and challenging time. It isn’t going to be easy at all. My family and friends are delighted and I would like to thank everybody for all their lovely messages and their kind words.”

Corbyn has defied expectations

 The Herald asked the Shadow Welsh Secretary whether she believed that Jeremy Corbyn would bring a new approach to politics and whether he would survive demonization by the Tory press. She replied, “I think Jeremy has already defied expectations in his resounding victory. He is completely unperturbed by this onslaught from the press and he continues to stand by his principles fight for what he believes in. “He will incur immense wrath and ridicule from some areas of the press. What Jeremy has done is that he has spoken to people who are fed up and who care deeply about things but who have been put off by the convention of presentation. “Today (Wednesday, Sept 16) at Prime Minister’s question time, I think he took the Prime Minister surprise by asking him to adopt a different style to PMQ’s. Already he is showing that you can be strong in a different way by taking up questions that he has asked people to email him and he had 40,000 replies. Of course there will be people ready to criticise but I do think he will bring a very humanitarian approach to many issues.”

The refugee crisis

The role of Shadow Welsh Secretary will see Nia taking on more responsibility for a wider community. We asked her how she will be responding to the refugee crisis as Shadow Welsh Secretary. She told us: “I think the general public were very clear about what they wanted us to do. Yvette Cooper spoke up for us as shadow home secretary and shamed the government about its attitude and the dehumanising nature of Tory rhetoric about refugees. “We need to keep the pressure up. Today we had a statement in the House of Commons on migration. We need to impress on Cameron the need to cooperate with other European countries about what to do with the arrivals in Southern Europe in countries like Greece. Lebanon and Jordan has an enormous number of refugees. “The UN says they do not have the money and they will run out of food so it is no wonder they want to flee the country. It is really important that we keep challenging the government to get a solution at source but we can’t ignore the people who have arrived in Southern Europe as well.”

The justice system

Changes to the criminal justice system have been wreaking havoc in communities across the country. The practice of levying charges against those accused of offences has drawn sharp criticism from solicitors, barristers and judges that they lead those who find themselves into repetitive crime, costing the tax payer more in the long term as they are imprisoned for offences that begin as minor criminal acts. We asked Nia if she would be looking at trying to influence some changes regarding the criminal justice system in particular. Focusing on the justice system in its widest sense she said: “I think there are some very serious issues in relation to justice not least of which, has been the cuts to legal aid. That is the first thing we need to look at in terms of getting justice for people. “We also need to look at the charges being imposed at employment tribunals. We have issues about courts being closed and how easy it will be for people to access justice at all in rural Wales. We have major worries about cuts to police including cuts to the police helicopter. “There is no doubt about it that it is going to be harder and harder for the ordinary person to get access to justice. I will be speaking up for the whole of Wales and I will be visiting many areas of Wales. My experiences in Llanelli inform me and I find that the issues facing us in Llanelli are the same for those in the Rhondda and in North Wales for example.”

Holding the government to account

The Herald asked Nia Griffith what the key issues facing the people of Wales were and which issues she would be focusing on in her new role. She told The Herald: “The key areas of policy in Wales are health and education and they are devolved. Our colleagues at the Welsh Assembly will be driving those forward. “I am focusing on non-devolved issues like Child Tax Credits. The Prime Minister promised he would not make cuts in Child Tax Credits over and over before the election. Well, we can now all see what that promise was worth. That money now is going to be sucked out of Wales. “We are talking about a quarter of a million families in Wales who are going to lose about £1,000 a year. It is going to be taken out of our local communities. That would also mean two hundred million pounds less in our High Streets. Think of the knock on effect that is going to have. “We need to hold the government to account about what’s happening in Wales in the non-devolved areas, that’s my role as Shadow Secretary of State to Wales.” Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “I’d like to offer my congratulations to Nia Griffith and Owen Smith on their appointments. Nia has done a great job as Shadow Welsh Minister already, and this elevation is well-deserved. Her stand-out result in Llanelli in May tells you all you need to know about her campaigning ability. I know that she will make sure that Wales’ voice is heard loud and clear in Westminster. As the first Labour woman to hold the post either in Government or as Shadow Secretary of State, I can’t think of a better person to make that bit of history.”

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Wales’ hospitality sector will prepare to re-open outdoors from 13 July

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The Minister signalled the first phase of a planned reopening for bars, restaurants and cafes with outdoor spaces following a rapid review of the sector. 

A final decision about outdoor re-opening will be made at the next review of the coronavirus regulations on 9 July and will depend on whether rates of coronavirus are continuing to fall.

Future decisions about indoor re-opening will be made later and will depend on the success of the first phase of outdoor opening.

The Minister will today also confirm the timetable for re-opening outdoor visitor attractions and the partial opening of the tourism industry in Wales for the remainder of the summer season.

If the requirement to stay local is lifted in Wales on 6 July, outdoor visitor attractions will be able to reopen from Monday.

And, subject to the forthcoming review of coronavirus regulations on 9 July, the tourism sector is preparing to re-open self-contained accommodation.

The Minister will today confirm the date that owners of self-contained accommodation can accept bookings is being brought forward to 11 July from 13 July, to help with the pattern of Saturday-to-Saturday bookings.

Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said:

“Tourism is a vital part of the Welsh economy at a national, regional and local level. I’d like to thank all our industry partners for working with us to carefully reopen the visitor economy.

“A successful, safe and phased return will give businesses, communities and visitors confidence to continue with the recovery of the visitor economy.

“We ask everyone who travels to and around Wales to enjoy their time here, but always to respect local communities. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Wales – but we want everyone to Visit Wales Safely.”

Guidance to help businesses in Wales’ visitor economy has been published this week. Further guidance for cafes, bars and pubs will follow.

Visit Wales has also worked with the other national tourism organisations on a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide reassurance as the sector works towards reopening.

The Good To Go industry standard and supporting mark means businesses can demonstrate they are adhering to the respective government and public health guidance; have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and checked they have the required processes in place. The scheme is free to join and open to all businesses across the industry.

Folly Farm are ready to welcome back its loyal annual pass holders from 8 July and will open to all on 13 July.

Zoe Wright, head of marketing at Folly Farm, said:

“We’ve been preparing for our re-opening for several weeks and are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Folly Farm, safely.

“We’ve been hugely encouraged by the support we’ve received from our visitors and our local community. Lots of local accommodation providers have been sharing our staying safe re-opening guide ahead of their guests returning.

“We’ve got lots of measures in place to keep our visitors, staff, animals and our wider community safe, including the essential pre-booking of visits so we can limit visitor numbers and provide even more space across our 120-acre site. As an animal attraction, we’re naturally geared up to offer and encourage regular handwashing but we’ve added hand-sanitising stations across the park too.

“Our animals provide a fun way to encourage visitors, especially the younger ones, to follow our social distancing signage with paw prints marking out a safe distance in queuing areas and penguin and pig themed arrows for our one way systems.”

Sean Taylor, Founder & President of Zip World is making preparations to open on 6th of July and said: “As one of North Wales’s biggest outdoor tourist attractions, there is a huge responsibility in the way we restart our operations.  We have a strong sense of community and have an important role to play in rebuilding the region’s visitor economy all of which has to be managed responsibly and firmly in line with the current government guidelines.

“We have spent the last few months rethinking the logistics of our operations to keep staff, customers and the community safe.  To begin with, the reopening will be a staggered approach by only opening two of our three sites initially and 6 of our adventures. This means a reduction in capacity and we have also introduced robust hygiene regimes, clear wayfinding & signage, PPE and the use of tech where possible to reduce consumer touch points. There is now a simple 6 steps guide for all customers to follow before and during their visit – this includes signing the waiver online pre visit, contactless payments etc.”

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South West Wales Virtual Open Day 8 July

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Welsh local authorities, schools, colleges and work-based learning providers will be hosting a series of Virtual Open Days for Year 11 pupils for the first time this month.

An event specifically for pupils from Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Llanelli, Swansea and Powys will be held on Wednesday 8 July and will cover a series of sessions on post-16 options including A Levels at sixth form or college as well as work-based qualifications.

Jonathan Davies OBE will host the sessions on apprenticeships and traineeships and will be on hand to field questions about how to apply and get the most from industry-led training opportunities.

Other sessions will be led by Pembrokeshire College, NPTC Group of Colleges, Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion as well as Careers Wales and local authorities.

The spread of COVID-19 has not only meant a break in students’ learning, but also the cancellation of many planned events like open days which were scheduled to take place throughout the summer.

Open days are vital ways of helping Year 11 pupils to understand all their options for continuing their education and deciding on the right path for them. It’s also the way pupils make connections with new people and different environments to support them in making their decision.

With no indication yet of when face-to-face events might be able to go ahead again, over 220 schools, colleges and work-based learning providers across Wales are partnering with the Welsh Government to hold virtual sessions for all Year 11 pupils in Wales to make sure nobody misses out.

Organised by Welsh Government and hosted by Working Wales, the Virtual Open Days will enable young people across Wales to discover the options for furthering their education in their area, including what school and college courses are available, as well as training opportunities like apprenticeships and traineeships, and access to careers advice from
Careers Wales.

Live sessions will be held for each region across Wales from 7 – 10 July, with lots of additional content available throughout the second week of July and beyond. There will also be the opportunity to put questions to local careers advisors and learning providers who know about the provision in your area.

Virtual Open Days will be hosted online, but those without internet access at home will have the option to phone and speak directly with schools, colleges and work-based learning providers.

Welsh Government will be providing information about the full range of Virtual Open Days, as well as links to partner websites and content, on Working Wales where there will also be advice for those students who are unsure of what they want to do next.

Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said: “Now more than ever, it’s vital that young people are equipped with the skills, information and training they need to find fulfilling work.

“If you’re a young person, you may be unsure of what you want to do after school, or whether you want to continue in education at all. Open days can play a vital role in helping access the right education or training, providing a vital insight into the different courses and ways of learning that are available to young people considering their next options.

“Virtual Open Days are a really innovative way to explore options digitally and will help young people in deciding what to do next. Whether you are shielding at home, returning to school to say goodbye for the summer, or are not sure what to do next, our national virtual open days will ensure learners in every region of Wales have the opportunity to engage and
ask questions at this important time.”

Nikki Lawrence, chief executive of Careers Wales, said: “Deciding what the next step is with your education is an important time for young people across Wales and we want to make sure that they are still able to explore the different options that are available.

“During the four days we will be offering additional support from our expert careers advisers who will be available via our live web chat. This will enable young people who are not sure what the next step is to get the advice and guidance they need.”

To find out more about Wales’ Virtual Open Days, call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or go to www.workingwales.gov.wales/start-your-story

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25 apprenticeship in the construction industry on offer

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Applications are still being taken for up to 25 paid apprenticeships through the Next Steps programme.

Now in its 11th year, Next Steps is open to men and women living in Carmarthenshire aged 16 and over who have an interest in obtaining qualifications in groundworks, carpentry, bricklaying, plastering, electrics, plumbing and painting and decorating. No previous experience is required.

Working in partnership, Carmarthenshire County Council, Lloyd & Gravell, TRJ, Coleg Sir Gar, CCTAL and CYFLE the Next Step Programme is looking for up to 25 people to become professionals of the future.

Successful candidates will have the opportunity to learn through a practical hands-on experience.

The programme has already changed the lives of countless local people – including people who have gone on to set up their own business and win national skills competitions, as well as children and adults with severe disabilities who have benefitted from community projects built by the Next Steps teams.

The successful candidates will commence a minimum two-year paid apprenticeship/training programme with Lloyd & Gravell Ltd, TRJ Ltd, CYFLE or Carmarthenshire County Council starting September 2020.

A basic knowledge of Welsh is required to accomplish this post. Support can be provided on appointment to reach this level. For further information and to download an application form visit https://recruitment.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/wrlive/pages/vacancy.jsf?latest=01007474

Deadline for entries is July 6.

For an informal discussion please contact Jason Jones – 07880 504117

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