PLAID CYMRU has accused the Welsh Government of ‘doing nothing’ for three years to secure a share of funding for Wales from the HS2 rail project. However, the Welsh Government has claimed that this is ‘nonsense’ and that Wales will receive hundreds of millions of pounds as a direct result of HS2 spending. Plaid Cymru’s Westminster Treasury spokesman Jonathan Edwards wrote to the first ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland asking them to consider opposing the project if the devolved nations did not receive financial compensation. In his letter of response on June 2, First Minister Carwyn Jones said the Welsh Government had “made representations to the UK Treasury previously about High Speed Rail funding.”
The First Minister concluded that his government would ‘continue to press Wales’ case on this issue of High Speed Rail… aiming to ensure that all parts of the UK receive full consequentials arising from decisions about High Speed Rail.” However, Mr Edwards claims that, following a series of Parliamentary questions and an FoI request, it has been revealed that the Welsh Government has made no formal representations to any UK Government Minister or Department on the matter in the last three years.
In response to one question, asked in Parliament in October, Robert Goodwill MP said that ‘Ministers have not received representations from the Welsh Government regarding HS2 and Barnett consequentials.’ Following a written question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which Mr Edwards asked what representations had been received from the Welsh Government concerning Barnett consequential from HS2, he received the reply that ‘Treasury Ministers are in regular contact with Welsh Government Ministers on a variety of matters.’
Jonathan Edwards said: “In the Assembly chamber, on television interviews and in newspaper articles Labour elected members and spokespeople from Wales are misleading the public on their support for our nation getting a fair share of this enormous rail investment project in England.
“It’s bad enough that Labour MPs from Wales supported the project despite being fully aware that it will suck hundreds of millions of pounds out of the Welsh economy each and every year. Now, however, the First Minister and his party have been exposed as having done nothing to back up their rhetoric. Indeed, I would say that the First Minister, including in his letter to me, has tried to pull the wool over our eyes.
“With every week that passes more and more people recognise that there will be a huge injustice unless Wales has full fairness from HS2. It was growing public pressure that saw the Labour Party u-turn in the first place. But just like so many other occasions, the Welsh Government will play to the gallery but never follow through with actions. “The reality is that the Labour party supports HS2 and the Welsh branch office will always put the interests of the Labour party before the interests of Wales.”
In Parliament this week the Secretary of State for Transport said Wales would benefit from the high speed rail project, but avoided answering the direct question from Mr Edwards who wanted to know why Wales was being unfairly treated in relation to HS2 expenditure. Mr Edwards asked the Transport Secretary: “Given that, unlike Network Rail, HS2 Ltd is not devolved to any part of the United Kingdom, will the Secretary of State explain why the statement of funding policy for the devolved institutions, which was published along with last week’s comprehensive spending review, provides for a 100% Barnett consequential from HS2 to Scotland and Northern Ireland, and one of 0% to Wales?”
The Transport Secretary said “I believe that Wales will benefit from what I have announced today, because it will be very important to the north Wales economy.” Speaking after his question, Mr Edwards said: “The way HS2 has been handled stinks to high heaven. An independent report says the Welsh economy will lose over £200million a year yet Labour and Tory politicians are blissfully content to see a generation’s worth of transport investment swallowed up, with our nation paying for transport improvements in English cities, and then have the audacity to tell us we should be grateful.
“As has been shown, the First Minister, his government and Labour party in Wales have done nothing more to secure funds from HS2 than issue a press release over three years ago. “The people of Wales deserve a government that will always act in the Welsh national interest as opposed to the interests of their London bosses.”
However, a spokesman for First Minister Carwyn Jones rejected these claims: “Plaid Cymru have fallen asleep on this issue – they are way behind the curve,” he claimed. “Their propensity for getting things wrong on funding just shows they can’t be trusted with the Welsh economy. “These particular claims are, again, nonsense. “Welsh Ministers have made representations to the UK Government to ensure Wales gets its fair share of additional funding as a result of HS2.
“As a result, Wales will receive a Barnett consequential of more than £755m over the next five years because of increased UK Department for Transport budgets, a consequence of the investment being made in HS2. “However, we have long been of the view that the Barnett Formula itself does Wales no favours and have repeatedly called for fair funding. “We welcome the UK Government’s commitment to a ‘funding floor’ to deliver fair funding for Wales as part of the Spending Review, and await the details.”
Boris Johnson, his wife and chancellor Rishi Sunak to be fined for breaking lockdown rules
THE PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, and chancellor Rishi Sunak, have been notified that they will be issued with fines for breaking lockdown rules.
The fixed penalty notices are the result of a Metropolitan Police investigation into parties in Downing Street and Whitehall in 2020 and 2021.
Mr Johnson will become the first sitting prime minister to receive a punishment for breaking the law.
Labour immediately called for both the PM and chancellor to resign while Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called for parliament to be recalled for a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon also demanded that they should quit.
Those calls have been echoed this week by Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has called on the Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies and Welsh Secretary Simon Hart to “show a backbone” and call for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to resign following the news that both men are to be fined over lockdown parties.
Commenting Jane Dodds MS told The Herald: “Boris Johnson & Rishi Sunak have broken the law & repeatedly lied, they must resign from their positions at once.
“While people in Wales were playing by the rules at great personal expense, those in charge thought they were above the law.
“This also will come as a painful blow to all those covid bereaved families in Wales. The behavior of Johnson and Sunak
“The Welsh public deserves much better. For the sake of the country, both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must resign immediately.
“If the Conservative Party is to have any legitimacy in Wales Andrew RT Davies and Simon Hart need to show some backbone and be calling for resignations immediately. No Welsh Conservative MP should be backing the Chancellor or Prime Minister staying in post.”
Plaid sets out its economic vision for Llanelli ahead of County Council election
PLAID CYMRU has set out its vision for economic regeneration in Llanelli ahead of the county council elections next month. The party’s priorities for Llanelli, include:
- Delivery of a new £27m Leisure Centre for Llanelli, as part of the first phase of Pentre Awel
- Ensuring supply chain opportunities for local businesses, and local recruitment arising from the multi-million-pound Pentre Awel scheme
- Plans to enhance and redesign Spring Gardens and Central Square
- Developing retail sites in the town centre
- Commission a feasibility study for a Skateboard Park of national significance and BMX Pumptrack in Llanelli
- Tackling empty buildings, and promote residential uses in the town – as is being done with the YMCA building
- Delivery of the £9.3m Tyisha Project
- Champion reform of business rates for town centre traders
- Support more businesses with their online offering to support sales
The pledges build on actions already taken by Plaid over recent years, such as the £4.5million Market Street North project, which saw the Council buy up empty shop units from private ownership, to renovate and bring them back in to use, and the investment and revamp of the Grade II-listed Llanelli Goods Shed.
Plaid Cymru’s Hengoed ward candidate Susan Phillips stated: “Plaid Cymru is committed to doing all that we can to ensure that Llanelli has a bright future. Our manifesto sets clear ambitions for Llanelli, and places town centre regeneration at the heart.
“After decades of under-investment by Labour, the Plaid-led Council has already started the work of regenerating the town centre – leading on the YMCA building, and have also approved the development of Y Linc – the new £3.5m Arcade connecting Eastgate with the town centre. Developments such as this will breathe new life into the town, and we want to do more.
“Plaid Cymru has led on the development of Pentre Awel in Llanelli and we are committed to ensuring that as well as providing health and wellbeing benefits, that the businesses of Llanelli benefit through the construction stage, and that it will deliver employment and training opportunities to local people.
Tyisha candidate Terry Davies added: “Work has already started on the £9.3million Tyisha regeneration project, with the demolition of outdated flats already underway and we are committed to further investment in order to provide quality housing in the ward and improvements to the local environment, and now the town.
“Tackling the deprivation and decades of Labour neglect in Llanelli is a top priority for Plaid Cymru and this can be seen in the money that the party has channelled into the town. It is a breath of fresh air for Llanelli to see Plaid delivering on its promises.”
Removing Plan B rules ‘a headline to distract from Boris failings’ says Drakeford
FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford has said the decision to end “Plan B” restrictions in England next week is not part of a “careful, long-term plan” but it’s a “headline to distract people’s attention from the Prime Minister’s failings.”
Wales will complete the move to alert level zero on 28 January First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed unless the public health situation changes for the worse.
He said the phased plan to gradually relax the alert level two measures and move back to alert level zero will continue.
The Welsh Conservatives have called for the immediate removal of the vaccine passport scheme, restrictions on businesses such as the rule of six in pubs, ditch all social distancing and the removal of mandatory face masks in schools.
Critics have questioned the Welsh Government policy to ease restrictions at a slower pace than England.
Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that England’s Plan B measures are to end from next Thursday, with mandatory face coverings in public places and Covid passports both dropped.
But that announcement came as the Prime Minister faced mounting pressure to resign amid allegations of parties held at Number 10 during lockdown.
Mark Drakeford said the move in England to ditch those restrictions was not part of a carefully thought-out plan, speaking to BBC Radio Wales he said:
“I don’t think anybody watching objectively at what has happened in England could imagine that their decisions have been made by careful attention to public health advice and with some sort of long-term plan in place.”
“Their announcements this week are entirely due to the astonishing mess that they find themselves in and an effort to find some other headline to distract people’s attention from the Prime Minister’s failings.”
Mr Drakeford said: “Here in Wales we’re in a very different position, we’ve got a government that is capable of making decisions in line with the advice, to do things in the way we’ve done throughout the pandemic, step by step following the science, making sure that we are keeping people in Wales safe.”
Speaking to Sky News this morning, Mark Drakeford said it was “very hard to see how the Prime Minister survives.”
“Even if he were to survive, he will just limp on because he’s never going to escape the damage that this week has done to his reputation.”
“From my point of view, the thing that worries me the most is the fact that the UK Government is frozen by the impact of what has happened to them.” He said.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN WALES?
Welsh Government have said the latest public health data “suggests Wales has passed the peak of the omicron wave and coronavirus cases are falling back to levels similar to those seen earlier in the autumn” adding “There have also been reductions in the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital”.
From Friday 21st January, Wales will move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities.
- Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events.
- There will be no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities and events.
- Outdoor hospitality will be able to operate without the additional measures required introduced in December, such as the rule of six and 2m social distancing
- The Covid Pass will continue to be required for entry to larger outdoor events attended by more than 4,000 people, if unseated, or 10,000 people when seated.
- The Covid Pass is required in all cinemas, theatres and concert halls which are currently open.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The latest figures show we have passed the omicron peak and we can continue to lift the alert level two protections as part of our careful and phased plan.
“We will lift the limits on the number of people who can gather for outdoor events. We remain cautiously confident the public health situation is heading in the right direction and next week we will be able to complete the move to alert level zero unless the situation changes for the worse.
“We are in this position thanks to the efforts of everyone in Wales and our fantastic vaccination programme. It is important that everyone continues to follow the rules and the guidance to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe, including taking up the offer of a booster vaccine if they haven’t already done so.”
On Friday 28th January, Wales will complete the move to alert level zero.
- Nightclubs will re-open.
- Businesses, employers, and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
- The general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces will be removed.
- The rule of six will no longer apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas, and theatres.
- Licensed premises will no longer need to only provide table service and collect contact details.
- Working from home will remain part of advice from the Welsh Government but it will no longer be a legal requirement.
- The Covid Pass will continue to be required to enter larger indoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, and concert halls.
The self-isolation rules for everyone who tests positive for Covid and the face-covering rules, which apply in most public indoor places will remain in force after 28th January. The next three-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 10th February, when the Welsh Government will review all the measures at alert level zero.
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