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Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies takes leave of absence to deal with mental health issues

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Leader of the Welsh Conservative’s in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies has announced that he is to take a break from front line politics to deal with mental health issues.

Former leader Paul Davies will deputise during Andrew RT Davies’ break.

In a statement posted to social media, Mr Davies said: “As some of you are aware, over the past fortnight I’ve been fighting a dose of the flu and subsequently coronavirus.

“I’m starting to recover but I will admit that it’s knocked me for six and had a troubling impact on my mental well-being.

“Like many men, I’ve always believed I had a shield of invincibility, and like many who have struggled, I’ve contemplated whether I should make this public,”

“However, as a leader, I believe you should set an example and I want to be open and honest – in the good times and the bad – as I know many people have struggled and will do with their mental health.”

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Mr Davies added: “As such, and on doctor’s orders, I will be taking a complete break from work to ensure I can fully recover and bounce back from the difficulties that I’ve experienced in the past fortnight.

“In the meantime I would like to thank Paul Davies for continuing with my duties during my absence, and I ask that my privacy and that of my family are respected.”

Current Welsh Conservative Deputy Leader Paul Davies, is himself a former leader of the Conservative group having stepped down in January. He tweeted in response: “Wishing you all the best for a speedy recovery. Get well soon!”

In response to Andrew RT Davies’ statement, leader of the Plaid group Adam Price said: “We heard powerful personal accounts of mental health struggles in the Senedd yesterday. Speaking out is brave and should be applauded. My best wishes to you, Andrew.”

Labour Senedd Member, Lynne Neagle, the Welsh Government Minister responsible for mental health and wellbeing tweeted in response: “I’m very sorry to hear this Andrew. Please look after yourself and take the time you need to recover. Take care x

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Politics

Welsh Labour Government’s new commission to look at constitutional change – including potential Welsh Independence

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The Welsh Conservatives however claim that the creation of the commission is a “waste of time and resources”.

Professor Laura McAllister and Dr Rowan Williams will be co-chairs of the independent Constitutional Commission.

The Welsh Government say that the commission will develop options for fundamental reform of the constitutional structures of the UK in which Wales remains an integral part, and will also consider all progressive options to strengthen Welsh democracy.

Dr Williams and Professor McAllister will lead the Commission in making recommendations on how Wales’ constitutional settlement can best improve outcomes for the people of Wales. It will aim to engage with the public for a national conversation about the future of Wales.

The establishment of an independent commission to consider the constitutional future of Wales was a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government. Following the appointment of the co-chairs the remaining members will be confirmed next month and its first meeting is expected to be in November.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and Professor Laura McAllister will co-chair the commission.

Professor Laura McAllister is a Welsh academic and former international footballer. She said: “Serious contributions to our constitutional debate are greatly needed and I’m looking forward to our work contributing to filling that space. We’ll think boldly and radically about all potential options for the future of Wales, in the context of the increasing pressure on the Union.”

Dr Rowan Williams, born in Swansea, served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002-2012. He commented: “This Commission’s job is to ask what structures and constitutional provisions will best release the potential of Welsh communities and Welsh people.

“We want to make sure that the governance of Wales is effective, accountable and imaginative, and look forward to hearing what hopes and visions are animating people around the country.”

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The creation of the new commission has been criticised by the Welsh Conservatives.

Darren Millar MS

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Constitution, Darren Millar MS said: “People in Wales overwhelmingly rejected independence at the recent Senedd elections; and why the Welsh Labour Government would want to waste it’s time and resources discussing the topic is beyond me. 

“Instead of prioritising discussions on independence and constitutional change the Welsh Labour Government should be using the powers it already has to get to grips with the challenges facing Wales. 

“Talking up independence and talking down the Union won’t do anything to address the waiting list backlog in our NHS, the months of lost education experienced by our young people, or the adverse impact of severe restrictions on our economy and society.”

(Lead image: Llewelyn2000 / Wikimedia)

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Health

Patient inequality as Wales misses out on lifesaving drug

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A new drug with potential lifesaving qualities has been approved for use in NHS England but not the Welsh health service.

Anti-cholesterol drug inclisiran, a twice-yearly injection to treat those who have already had strokes and heart attacks, would help cut the risk of similar life-threatening cardiovascular events reoccurring.

Following approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England and the company behind the drug, Novatris, have reached a deal to offer it to patients.

However, the Welsh Labour Government has not yet reached an agreement to offer the medicine, which usually costs nearly £2,000 per dose, at a discounted rate through NHS Wales.

Meindert Boysen, NICE deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “Inclisiran represents a potential game-changer in preventing thousands of people from dying prematurely from heart attacks and strokes. We’re therefore pleased to be able to recommend it as a cost-effective option on the NHS supported by the ground-breaking deal between NHS England and NHS Improvement and Novartis – a deal that could see as many as 300,000 people with high cholesterol or mixed dyslipidaemia who have already had a previous cardiovascular event receive the drug over the next 3 years.”

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Commenting on the news, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “This is great news for people in England and will give better piece of mind to those fearful of a repeat heart attack or stroke. Hopefully, those who live near the English border will also be able to benefit from access to the drug.

“I understand that the Welsh Government are in negotiations to supply them in NHS Wales. However, beyond value-for-money they have a responsibility to ensure that our British cousins are not better off than them due to their own inability to act swiftly.

“The Labour Government already have form for missing the boat on the efficient purchasing of vital drugs for patients: from cancer to cystic fibrosis, there are a number of treatments that have come too late in the day for those in Wales.

“As waiting times in A&E soar, ambulance queues mount, and treatment waiting lists balloon in the Labour-run NHS, the least people can expect is that they are not put at a disadvantage to others who live elsewhere in Britain.”

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Business

‘Radical intervention’ needed as one in seven Welsh high street shops empty

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As a new report reveals one in seven Welsh high street shops lie empty, a Welsh Government Minister admits that radical intervention is needed to save Wales’ town centres.

The report by Wales’ Auditor General has prompted calls for action by the Welsh Labour Government.

Reasons for the decline of the high street have been attributed, by Adrian Crompton, to changing consumer habits and expectations, advances in technology, past policy choices, and measures taken to counter the spread of coronavirus.

A second report ‘Small Towns, Big Issues’ follows an in-depth study of three Welsh town and city centres – Bangor, Bridgend and Haverfordwest. It was led by Professor Karel Williams – a professor at Manchester Business School.

Both reports conclude that town and city centres are at the heart of Welsh life but addressing the challenges they face requires ‘imagination and ambitious leadership’, backed up by ‘co-ordinated, cross-government decision making’.

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Specific recommendations for both Welsh Government and for local authorities include everything from access to public transport and effective promotion of town centres to the simplification of funding streams.

Lee Waters MS

Welsh Government Minister, Lee Waters MS admitted that “We need joined-up intervention to lift town centres, and an effort to tackle out-of-town development, if we are to succeed in turning things around”.

The minister also stressed the need to focus on dealing with out of town developments.

“Town and city centres are the places most of us can walk to, or get public transport from, and they provide common access points into many transport routes,” he said.

“We want better jobs and services in town centres where people can access them without needing to get in their car.”

“Both reports make clear that we have all failed to control out of town development and we need to mobilise alliances for change in our town centres to turn things round.”

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At an event in Bangor, Mr Waters unveiled a new Town Centre First plan, meaning that town and city centre sites should be the first consideration for all decisions on the location of workplaces and services.

He also announced the establishment of three sub-groups, one of which will lead on finding ways to incentivise town centre development but also disincentive out of town development. A second group will look at how funding offered under the Transforming Towns programme can be simplified. The final group will look at planning and engaging with communities so that they have a say in what happens in their town.

Paul Davies MS

Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Economy Minister Paul Davies MS said: “It is a sad fact that the traditional high street has been struggling over the last few years as we change the way we shop, but this report is a much welcomed wake-up call for those with the ability to put change in motion.

“Politicians of all hues are constantly trying to keep banks and cash machines in our towns, for example, but it’s just as important to address what can be done for the future to aid our economic recovery and support jobs.

“Measures such as scrapping car parking fees, abolishing rates for small businesses, and introducing job support schemes to help micro businesses grow are other proposals we hope the Welsh Government look at, in addition to the British Government’s Community Renewal Fund.

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“However, it is undeniable that the pandemic has played a part in harming the high street. Given the distinct actions of the Welsh Labour Government to counter coronavirus and their effect on the economy, this only further demonstrates the need for a Wales-specific Covid inquiry.”

(Lead image: Kaique Rocha / Pexels.com)

 

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