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Welsh Government appoint members of constitutional commission

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The people who will serve on an independent commission which will make recommendations about Wales’ constitutional future have been announced.

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

Last month, Professor Laura McAllister and Dr Rowan Williams were confirmed as the co-chairs of the commission.

The commissioners, who will be working with the co-chairs, are:

  • Dr Anwen Elias, a Reader in Politics at Aberystwyth University. Her research interests include comparative territorial and constitutional politics, political parties and deliberative democracy. She is co-director of the Centre for Welsh Politics and Society and the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Data and Research.
  • Miguela Gonzalez, a diversity and inclusion practitioner and a former journalist. She worked for the BBC for 15 years, most recently as the diversity and inclusion lead for the nations. She currently works for life science firm Abcam, where she is working to build an open and inclusive culture. Miguela has worked with the Welsh Government on the implementation of the Culture Connect Cymru project and has also been a visiting lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture.
  • Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London and Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity. Professor Marmot has led research groups on health inequalities for over 40 years. He chaired the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, several WHO Regional Commissions, and reviews on tacking health inequality for governments in the UK.
  • Lauren McEvatt, a former Conservative UK Government special adviser to the Wales Office, during the coalition administration, when she worked on the Silk Commission and the Wales Act 2014. She has subsequently worked for several governments across East Africa and the Caribbean, on constitutional reform, trade and investment.
  • Albert Owen, the former Labour MP for Ynys Mon from 2001 to 2019. During his time in Parliament he was a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, Welsh Affairs Select Committee and the International Development Committee.
  • Philip Rycroft, who was a civil servant for 30 years. He worked at a senior level for the devolved government in Scotland before moving to the Cabinet Office in London where he led civil service work for the UK Government on the constitution and devolution. His last posting was as Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU.
  • Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC’s first BME General Secretary. Shavanah is a passionate campaigner and can often be found contributing speeches at round table debates and protest marches on issues such as anti-racism, just transition, climate change, human rights, women’s rights, fair pay and fair work.
  • Kirsty Williams, a former Member of the Senedd and Minister for Education in the Welsh Government during the Fifth Senedd. She became the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats in December 2008 and, at the time, she was the first female leader of a Welsh political party in the Senedd.
  • Leanne Wood, a former Member of the Senedd for the Rhondda and former Leader of Plaid Cymru. As the first female leader of her party, she brings a wealth of political experience and has a longstanding commitment to issues of social justice.

The commission will be supported by an expert panel, which will bring expertise in areas including governance, law, constitution, the environment, economics, and finance. Its first meeting will be on 25 November.

Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, said: “Each commissioner brings with them different strengths, knowledge, experience and perspectives. They are drawn from across Wales, across the UK, and further afield and from across the political spectrum.

“Collectively, the commissioners combine the academic rigor and the alternative perspectives the commission will need to think creatively and radically about Wales’ future.

“I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to engage with the commission and join the national conversation about our constitutional future.”

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The creation of the commission has not been universally welcomed however, with the Welsh Conservatives criticising the body as a waste of time.

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.”

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Coronavirus

Covid measure-avoiding cinema threatens to disobey latest closure notice – branding First Minister a ‘grinch’

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The Welsh Government issued Swansea independent cinema and food outlet Cinema & Co with an order to close on public health grounds on Friday.

Swansea Council originally issued a closure notice for the business on Thursday 18 November saying the business had not completed a COVID risk assessment, staff had no training on how to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and there was no implementation of the COVID pass scheme.

It was also noted that there was no signage advising customers to wear face coverings and there was inadequate cleaning products to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Business owner, Anna Redfern described the Welsh Government COVID pass law as “nonsensical” and “unnecessary”.  She also refused to comply with the council’s closure notice saying

The Council took Redfern to court to enforce the closure. Ms Redfern failed to attend court, while the judge asked for an adjournment to proceedings to query the act of law that the council was using to bring the closure notice.

Prior to the new court date, the Welsh Government has decided to act itself using enforcement parts of the Coronavirus legislation for the first time.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, the Welsh Minsters have powers to take action against specific premises where they consider the premises to present a risk to public health.

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In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “To support Swansea Council and to protect public health, Welsh Ministers have issued a direction under the Act for the closure of Cinema & Co in Swansea.

“Recently the Local Authority identified a series of breaches of the Coronavirus Regulations at the premises.

“The premises was previously served with a notice requiring it to close due to the risk to public health.

“As the owner has chosen not to comply with this legal requirement, Welsh Ministers have taken further enforcement action.

“The Welsh Government will not be commenting further on ongoing legal proceedings.”

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Council officers attended the cinema on Friday evening to close the Castle Street business once again, with the order prohibiting anyone from entering the building unless given approval from the court, the council or the Welsh Government.

There was a strong police presence to enforce the closure, although media reports indicate a small number of protestors remained inside the building, with some of those reportedly wearing Voice of Wales branded clothing.

The controversial organisation has been supportive of Ms Redfern’s anti-COVID pass stance, but while describing itself as a media organisation it has been dogged by allegations of being a far right, racist group – something that it strongly denies.

Ms Redfern herself also denies any link to racism or extremism, saying that her “life had become totally surreal” and that she was “being acted on by so many forces out of [her] control. Some very dark.”

In a statement on social media she said: “I absolutely reject any claims that I am in any way connected to far-right groups, far-left groups or any form of racism”

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Following the most recent closure notice, signed by Welsh Government First Minister Mark Drakeford himself, Cinema & Co described the First Minister as a “grinch” and vowed to disobey the order, organising a showing of the film The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” at the cinema on Sunday 28 November at 4pm.

The sold-out event was promoted on Cinema and Co’s social media showing the face of Mark Drakeford photoshopped into the grinch, accompanied by further anti-COVID pass slogans.

It is unclear as to what, if any further action the Police, Council or Welsh Government will take should the cinema breach the latest closure notice and reopen as promised.

A crowd-funder set up by former Brexit Party & Abolish the Welsh Assembly candidate Richard Taylor, has raised over £60,000 so far.

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Plaid Cymru

Spectre of tourism tax raised by Labour-Plaid Cymru pact says Wales Tourism Alliance

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Welsh Government

New package of support for unpaid carers

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On Carers’ Rights Day Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan has outlined how £7m Welsh Government funding will support unpaid carers in recognition of the vital support they provide to the people they care for.

The support package will allocate £5.5 million to local authorities to provide targeted support to unpaid carers; £1.25m for the Carers Support Fund – last year, this fund successfully helped almost 6500 unpaid carers to cope with the financial impact of Covid 19; £20,000 to fund online mental wellbeing support sessions; and £230,000 for the Family Fund to support over 600 further low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children.

Welsh Government previously committed £3 million in 2021-22 to allow more carers to take a break from their caring role, bringing the total additional funding support for unpaid carers this year to £10 million.

Examples of how this money has been spent to date include;

  • £5,000 to fund the creation of a Respitality scheme in Gwynedd to work with the holiday sector to offer cheaper holidays to unpaid carers;
  • £10,000 to fund the remodelling of day care for older people in Gwynedd which includes paying for flexible short care packages for carers and the individuals they support;
  • £20,000 to fund a 6 week programme of wellbeing counselling to help support carers with personal stresses and anxieties in Conwy;
  • £40,000 to fund Carers’ Outreach in Conwy to provide breaks, days out, weekends away in Conwy for carers over 18 and;
  • £32,000 to run a pilot scheme for parent carers to choose practical support which meets their needs in Swansea.

The Deputy Minister for Social Services said: “The physical and emotional impact of caring can be overwhelming. We share concerns that many are at breaking point due to the additional pressures put upon them from the pandemic. Thousands of unpaid carers have been supported since the start of the pandemic but it its vital we continue to help unpaid carers cope with the emotional and financial impact of COVID-19.”

“The funding announced today shows how much we appreciate the army of unpaid carers in Wales who have gone above and beyond to care for family or friends and our commitment to support carers to have a life beyond their caring role.”

“Unpaid carers play a vital role in our society, helping reduce pressures on the health service by ensuring people can return from and stay out of hospital. Their extraordinary work and contribution to social care is part of a £42m package to support the NHS winter plan.”

An unpaid carer attending a dementia support group in Gwynedd commented: “The Dementia Carers Group has provided me with companionship, moral support when feeling a bit lost whilst looking after my husband who has mixed dementia.  I have made friends through the meetings, have improved my qualities as a carer, with practical advice received, not only from other carers, but the amazing guest speakers who have guided us all with their knowledgeable advice on all practical matters relevant to being a carer.  Tuesday mornings are a lot less lonely since I joined the group.”

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