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The new Secretary of State for Wales

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Alun Cairns: New Secretary of State for Wales

Alun Cairns: New Secretary of State for Wales

JUNIOR Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns has been announced as the Secretary of State for Wales, following Stephen Crabb’s promotion to the Department for Work and Pensions on Saturday (Mar 19).

Mr Cairns was elected as MP for the Vale of Glamorgan in the 2010 general election. However, prior to this, he was an Assembly Member for 11 years. During this time, he developed a reputation as a combative debater, with an interest in Special Educational Needs. On one occasion he forced a change of Assembly Policy after championing a local Special Needs case by exposing that WG guidance was against the law.

However, before his election as an MP he was almost deselected, following a verbal gaffe made during a live radio broadcast, when he described Italians as ‘greasy wops’. He immediately apologised, and prominent members of the Welsh Italian community supported him.

Mr Cairns’ upbringing appears to have been influential on his political choices. The son of a British Steel welder and a shop-keeper, Mr Cairns, in the words of his online biography, ‘first became aware of politics whilst growing up in a deprived community near Swansea.

“He saw that a close family member, who ran her own small grocery shop worked all hours possible for almost 50 years ended up worse off than many of our neighbours who hadn’t bothered working, in spite of being able to do so.

“He felt that it was wrong that people who were able to work could live off the state, yet others worked every hour for little reward. Naturally, he wants to see support for those who genuinely can’t work.”

A relatively recent Wales Office appointment (he was given the role of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales in July 2014) he will now assume responsibility for the Wales Bill, which has currently been put back until after the Assembly Elections.

Mr Cairns has specified that largescale infrastructure projects form a large part of his vision for Wales, and believes that he will be able to work as a ‘deal-maker’ in much the same way that Mr Crabb did before he soured the relationship with Welsh Labour whilst campaigning for the 2015 elections and by his unwillingness to listen to criticism of the Draft Wales Bill.

“This has been an extraordinary week for Wales with a city deal for Cardiff Capital Region, the doors being opened for a north Wales growth deal and negotiations for a Swansea Bay city deal,” Mr Cairns recently said

“The Severn Tolls announcement demonstrates that Wales is open for business and I am determined to keep this momentum going and deliver on these projects.”

The new Secretary of State has also said that he knows Carwyn Jones ‘particularly well’ and claimed that they were friends ‘on a personal level.’

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Cairns added that ‘of course politically we won’t always see eye to eye and challenges will remain.

“But it’s only by working through these issues for the benefit of Wales will we all benefit and that will be good for the Welsh Government as well as good for the UK Government – but more importantly it will be good and better for Welsh people,” he said.

However, Mr Cairns also referred to the defeat of the ‘e-cigarette ban’ as a sign that Plaid Cymru may not be as willing to work with Labour as has previously been thought, which could pave the way for a non Labour-led Welsh Government.

Mr Cairns has previously courted controversy for his views on smoking. Shortly after his election in 2010, he signed an early day motion calling for a review of the smoking ban. In 2012, he was one of 50 MPs who wrote to the then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley expressing serious concerns over plain packaging proposals.

The letter described the proposal as ‘a smuggler’s charter. this policy threatens more than 5,500 jobs directly employed by the UK tobacco sector, and over 65,000 valued jobs in the associated supply chain. Given the continued difficult economic climate, businesses should not be subjected to further red tape and regulation’.

However, it was subsequently revealed that Mr Cairns had accepted two tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show from Japan Tobacco International in 2011 and 2012. The total value of these tickets was around £2,300.

He recently represented the Wales Office at the St David’s Day debate, when Mr Crabb had ‘parliamentary duties’ with the Bexley Conservative Club ladies’ lunch. Mr Cairns subsequently apologised for ‘inadvertently misleading’ Welsh MPs.

Outside of politics, the 45-yearold former banker is a keen runner, and recorded the quickest time by an MP in last year’s London Marathon. He is married, with one son.

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Politics

Senedd praise for Llanelli Youth Voluntary Group.

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Plaid Cymru’s Helen Mary Jones MS praised the work of Llanelli-based CYCA, Connecting Youth, Children and Adults in the Senedd.

The Mid and West MS took the opportunity of a 90 second statement in the Senedd to congratulate the organisation on 40 years of working in Carmarthenshire.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty Minister Helen Mary Jones Mid and West MS said:

“It was my privilege last week to visit, with my colleague Adam Price, a wonderful Llanelli-based organisation, CYCA—formerly the Carmarthenshire Youth and Children’s Association, now Connecting Youth, Children and Adults.

“I have known of and supported CYCA’s work for almost 20 years, and it was really inspiring to see how they’ve gone from strength to strength supporting children, young people and families in these challenging times, and this year, they celebrate their fortieth birthday.

“It would be easier to list what CYCA doesn’t do in the field than what they do, such is the breadth of their work. They run nurseries and youth groups, education and training courses, they provide counselling and individual support, and support for families. We were particularly impressed with the stories of two young mothers who, through CYCA, had not only received support with the challenges of isolation and family life, but had also been able to get back into education; one starts her training as a midwife this week.

“And we were struck, too, by an innovative social prescribing scheme where GPs refer children and young people experiencing distress to CYCA. The team then work with the whole family, identifying support needs and providing whatever is needed—counselling, parenting support, support at school—and this support lasts as long as the children and family need it.

“It’s already proving very successful, with young people’s well-being greatly enhanced. One service user said to me many years ago, ‘The thing about CYCA is that they never give up on you’. And they don’t. CYCA never gives up on a child, a young person, a vulnerable adult or a family. We are lucky to have them in our town, our county and our community. Pen-blwydd hapus iawn, CYCA. I’m looking forward to seeing what you get up to in the next 40 years.”

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Llanelli thanked for all their efforts to help control the spread of Covid-19

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RESIDENTS in Llanelli are being thanked for all their efforts to help control the spread of Covid-19 – almost a week after new local restrictions were introduced.

A large part of Llanelli has been designated a ‘health protection zone’ following a large increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

The temporary restrictions were introduced on Saturday, September 26 in a bid to halt the spread of the virus and to protect people’s health.

Council Leader Emlyn Dole has praised locals for changing their behaviour and adhering to the new restrictions.

However, it is still very early days and residents, not only in Llanelli, but across Carmarthenshire are being urged to please continue to follow the advice around social distancing, washing hands, face coverings, self-isolation and testing.

Anyone who has a positive Covid-19 result or has been in contact with someone with confirmed Covid-19 will receive a call from the Test, Trace Protect team on this number 02921 961133.  Residents are being urged to please answer the phone. If you do miss a call, the team will continue to try and reach you. Calls from this number are outbound only, so you will need to wait for a call back.

In the last week, the council’s enforcement team, with support from Dyfed-Powys Police, has visited more than 100 business premises to offer advice and support. The majority of businesses are compliant, however, there is a small minority of licensed premises who have failed to put appropriate measures in place. As a result, a total of seven closure notices and five improvement notices have been issued for breaches of coronavirus regulations.

Cllr Dole said: “I cannot thank residents enough for all they are doing to protect their loved ones, their families and friends. I can assure you that all your efforts and sacrifices will make a big difference.

“It is vital we keep on following the rules and do all we can to stop the spread, we all have a part to play in this, and together we will come through it.

“Please follow the advice on self-isolation and if you have any symptoms get a test; we are working closely with the health board and they have increased testing capacity in the town so there is no need to travel far. And those residents that do test positive, please work with our TTP teams so that we can trace anyone you may have come into contact with. This is now part of our ‘new normal’, and people should not be alarmed, but should listen carefully to their advice.

“As promised, we have increased our monitoring and enforcement and we are grateful to local businesses who, on the whole, are providing a safe environment for their customers. And where they have fallen short, action has been taken.

“We will continue to monitor the infection rates, the effectiveness of the measures that have been introduced and the compliance of residents and businesses, working closely with our key partners, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales.

“We know what we need to do to stop the spread, and together we will beat this and Keep Carmarthenshire safe.”

It will take some time before these restrictions have an impact on the number of cases in the area, so it is important residents do not become complacent.

They will be reviewed every two weeks. The main restrictions are:

  • people will not be allowed to enter or leave the defined area of Llanelli without a reasonable excuse
  • people will no longer be able to form, or be in, an extended household (sometimes called a “bubble”)
  • this means meeting indoors with anyone who is not part of your household (people you live with) is not allowed at the moment, unless you have a good reason, such as providing care to a vulnerable person
  • all licensed premises must stop serving alcohol at 10pm, and will have to close at 10.20pm
  • people must work from home wherever possible

Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:

  • Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
  • The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
  • The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)

Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 0300 333 2222.

Visit carmarthenshire.gov.wales/localrestrictions for further information, including some Frequently Asked Questions and to find out if you live in the restricted area.

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The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister

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THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.

The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.

Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.

Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.

He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.

Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.

“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.

“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.

“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”

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