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Welsh Government

Winter fuel support payment to be doubled to £200

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The Winter Fuel Support Scheme payment will be doubled to £200 as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt announced today.

The £100 one-off payment, which was launched in December, is now being extended to support eligible households with rising energy bills and costs.

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It is part of the Welsh Government’s bespoke Household Support Fund, which is providing £51m of targeted support for families and the most vulnerable in society.

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “Right across Wales, people are seeing their bills rise and wages are being stretched like never before. From energy bills, to prices at the pumps and the costs of everyday essentials.

“We know some people are facing the incredibly difficult decision about whether they heat or eat. We’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, which is getting worse.

“Our £51m Household Support Fund targeted support at families across Wales. We know these initiatives are working and making a real difference to the lives of low income households.

“That’s why I’m delighted to announce we’re going to extend support to households by doubling the Winter Fuel Support Scheme payment. We’re increasing the £100 payment to £200 and this will be available to new applicants and retrospectively paid to those who have applied already.”

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Local authorities will process new applications from eligible households. To be eligible for the payment, one member of the household must be in receipt of certain welfare benefits. Further details are available on local authority websites, which will be updated to reflect the increased payment.

Councils have contacted people they believe are eligible. If they have not yet made an application, these can be submitted until 28 February.

People who have already received a £100 payment under the scheme do not need to anything – they will receive a further £100 payment in the coming weeks.

Ms Hutt added: “We are determined to do all we can to support our people with the bills they are facing, and this will go a long way to do just that.

I want to pay tribute to our local authorities for swiftly processing these payments. We all know they’ve been under tremendous pressure during the pandemic – time and again, they have stepped up to the plate and delivered for our communities.

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“This additional £100 increase will go some way to helping the most vulnerable in our society to pay their fuel bills during this difficult time and I’m determined to do all we can to continue to support the people of Wales through the cost of living crisis.”

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Cycling

Minister announces £50m investment to encourage cycle use

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Getting people out of cars and on to bikes is the aim of a £50m investment announced by Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters.

Speaking on a visit to Cardiff-based cycling charity Pedal Power, the Deputy Minister said the money would fund cycling routes and new facilities right across Wales.

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Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “This is a substantial investment and part of our commitment to making cycling easier so people cut the amount of journeys they take by car and travel in a way that is better for our planet.

“Getting people out of cars for short journeys and encouraging them to walk or cycle instead is a huge challenge for us, but one that has to be met if we are to reach our net zero carbon emission target by 2050.

“We need to make sure that we have the right infrastructure and routes in place so that people have the choice of cycling for their everyday journeys – we need to make the right thing to do, the easy thing to do.”

One organisation that is benefiting from this investment is Pedal Power in South Wales.

As part of a series of Welsh Government e-bike pilot schemes, the cycling charity received £0.21m for its ‘See Cycling Differently’ project which is aimed at increasing the inclusivity of cycling by offering a range of e-cycles.

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Thanks to the money received the charity has expanded its e-cycle fleet and is encouraging its users to cycle more.  

Jeff Mayle, Pedal Power use and Deputy Minister Lee Waters

Director of Pedal Power, Cardiff, Sian Donovan said: “Cycling is a fantastic way for everyone – all ages and abilities – to have fun, gain more independence and enjoy a sense of freedom which we know has provided a lifeline to many during the pandemic.

“We were delighted to receive funding from the Welsh Government to help us to continue to remove barriers to cycling so that it can be truly accessible and inclusive for all.”

As part of the investment announced today, all local authorities will receive a minimum of £500k with additional allocations having been awarded based on the outcome of a competitive application process.

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Business

Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Welsh Government

Welsh Government plans to set up a supervisory authority to oversee coal tip safety

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Climate Change Minister Julie James has set out plans to introduce a new law to manage the legacy of centuries of mining in Wales which put “community safety at the forefront.”

The Minister confirmed the Welsh Government will recommend the creation of a supervisory authority to oversee the new regime, which will ensure management arrangements are in place for the highest-category tips as well as compile and maintain a new national asset register.

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The full proposals, which also include a new national approach to the categorisation of tips, follow a recent report by the Law Commission which provided valuable evidence to help shape a White Paper released today.

Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “Wales has a proud mining heritage, but I understand the nervousness felt by those living in the shadow of coal tips. Due to increased risks from the climate emergency, it’s clear the current coal tip safety law is no longer fit-for-purpose.

“The Welsh Government is committed to introducing legislation during this Senedd to ensure people can feel safe and secure in their own homes, within communities that were vital in firing up the industrial revolution.

“We have put these people at the heart of our proposals for a whole new regime, while ensuring we protect critical infrastructure and continue to care for our environment.”

A new national approach to the categorisation of tips will be led by the new supervisory authority, who would arrange tailored hazard assessments for each site to scope the threats a tip might pose, with a management plan then agreed.

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While the new supervisory authority would ensure management arrangements are in place for the highest category tips, it would introduce maintenance agreements for those in lower category sites.

The Welsh Government say that addressing the lack of enforcement powers within the existing legislation is also key. They say this would include allowing rights of access for inspections, upkeep, or remedial works, with civil sanctions imposed when the new legislation is not complied with.

The White Paper consultation on the Welsh Government’s proposals for coal tip safety is now open and will run for 12 weeks.

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