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Colonel James Phillips made first Wales Veterans’ Commissioner

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The Office for Veterans Affairs and the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales appoint Colonel James Phillips as the first Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said he was delighted that James Phillips had been appointed to the role, which will build on the success of counterpart roles in Scotland and Northern Ireland and will mean that all devolved nations have a Veterans’ Commissioner.

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James will be working to enhance the support for veterans in Wales, as well as scrutinising and advising on government policy for veterans.

The establishment of a Welsh Veterans Commissioner will ensure that the particular needs and contributions of veterans in Wales are represented.

The Veterans’ Commissioner will help direct veterans and their families to local support available in areas such as healthcare and mental health provision, housing and employment, as well as assisting charities and advocating for the veteran community in Wales.

The appointment has been announced as Wales celebrates St David’s Day and during Wales Week in London, where the UK Government is holding a number of events.

James has just completed his own transition to civilian life after 33 years in the Army. He has served in Germany, Cyprus, The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. He has commanded soldiers, sailors and air personnel and worked in NATO, MOD, Joint and Army Headquarters. He is married and lives in Pembrokeshire with 4 children and a very boisterous Welsh Springer Spaniel.

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The Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales, Colonel James Phillips said: “As a veteran of more than thirty years’ service, I am very excited to be appointed as the first Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales.

“The ex-forces community forms an important part of Welsh society and there is a long tradition of service and sacrifice. I will utilise my experience and position to improve the lives of all veterans and their families.”

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “The Armed Forces have a long and important tradition in Wales and we are exceptionally proud of our Welsh veterans. Our ex-servicemen and women and their families deserve recognition, support and respect throughout the duration of their service and beyond.

“The appointment of a Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales will increase and coordinate the support available and highlights the UK Government’s commitment to the welfare of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.

“I am delighted that we could make this hugely important announcement on St David’s Day.”

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Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said: “We want to ensure that veterans across all corners of the United Kingdom have access to high quality support.

“The appointment of Colonel Phillips to this role now means that all parts of the UK have commissioners to champion veterans across society and hold the public sector to account.”

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said: “This appointment delivers on a key part of our Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan and I look forward to working with Colonel Phillips.

“I know they will work hard to represent veterans in Wales – driving forward support for them across the country, whether it is housing, employment or healthcare.”

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn said: “Wales provides a wide range of support for veterans – from NHS Veterans Wales to our Armed Forces Liaison Officers – and we are committed to working with stakeholders to supporting all those who have served.

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“The Veterans’ Commissioner for Wales is a UK Government appointment. We look forward to working with Colonel James Phillips as part of our commitment to veterans across Wales.”

Colonel Phillips will be reporting directly to the Secretary of State for Wales, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay and Minister for Defence, People and Veterans Leo Docherty.

In January the Office for Veterans’ Affairs launched the government’s Veterans Strategy Action Plan. Commitments in the plan relating to Wales include:

  • Stepping up data and understanding of the veterans’ cohort in Wales, through the first veterans question in last year’s Census in England and Wales. This will allow us to publish insights developed from the census data across a range of topics affecting veterans and their families, from health and wellbeing to housing and employment.
  • The Welsh Government continuing to support the Veterans NHS Wales specialist mental healthcare service and Veterans Trauma Network (VTN) Wales service for veterans with complex physical injuries.
  • The Welsh Government will work with Armed Forces Liaison Officers (AFLOs) and partners including regional suicide and self-harm prevention coordinators to promote mental health first aid training.
  • The Welsh Government will review and publish a new Armed Forces Covenant, Healthcare Priority for Veterans Guidance, subject to UK developments including the Armed Forces Bill.

(Lead image: Crown copywrite)

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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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Farming union hits out over Welsh and UK Government’s lack of engagement on Ukraine supply chain crisis

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has, for a second time, written to the Welsh Government urging them to instigate actions within their control to alleviate some of the pressures of the Ukraine war on Welsh farmers and consumers.

In response to the initial letter sent to the Welsh Government on 4th March 2022, in which the Union requested a roundtable meeting with them and other stakeholders to discuss such issues and possible actions, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd stated that the Welsh Government did not believe such a meeting was appropriate.

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FUW President, Glyn Roberts
(Image: FUW)

In his letter of reply, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We are acutely concerned at the failure of both the Welsh and UK Governments to engage with the supply chain early on in order to explore immediate actions that will help mitigate problems that are having an impact now, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year and at least into 2023.

“Such impacts are affecting and will continue to affect not only farmers, but also consumers, and this is therefore an issue not only for the food and farming industry but also for the Welsh and UK population as a whole.”

Mr Roberts also highlighted the need for the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group on which the Welsh Government sits to take a more proactive approach and share information in a more timely manner, stating:

“It is worth noting that the last set of minutes published on the UK Government website relates to a meeting held on 8th February 2022, many weeks before Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”

“I know you will be aware of the impacts being reported across the supply chain, whether in terms of cooking oil, fuel, feed or fertiliser, and predicted shortages, for example of eggs, and we fully appreciate that with regard to many of these there is little if anything that the Welsh Government can do,” wrote Mr Roberts.

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“However, there certainly are actions that can be instigated by the Welsh Government to alleviate some pressures for Welsh farmers which will benefit consumers over the coming months and years, and while these may be limited we believe it is incumbent upon the Welsh Government to act now in order to do what it can to assist farmers, food producers and consumers,” he added.

(Lead image: FUW)

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Grassroots sports in Wales get £1.3m investment in UK Government Levelling Up announcement

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Beneficiaries of an initial £1.3 million investment in grassroots football facilities across Wales this year are announced by the UK Government.

In the Swansea Bay Region, Mumbles, Pontarddulais and Fishguard football clubs see over £140,000 in investment.

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Seventeen projects across Wales will receive funding to create and improve pitches, changing rooms and pavilions, so that more local communities can access high-quality facilities.

Projects have been chosen for their ability to deliver improved facilities in deprived areas, support multi-sport use and increase participation among currently under-represented groups, including women, girls and disabled players.

Mumbles Rangers AFC

Mumbles Rangers AFC who play at Underhill Park (pictured above) will receive £19,332 for essential grass pitch maintenance machinery. The club say this is so the pitch can effectively service the rugby and football teams across all age groups who use it.

The pitch has been upgraded over the last two years and supports two-day male and female football festivals with teams competing from across South Wales

The club will also invest £2,148 of its own funds towards the scheme.

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Pontarddulais Town FC

Pontarddulais Town FC who play at Coed Bach Park will get £98,842 to renovate an old changing room block that is no longer fit for purpose, bringing it back into use. The club say the funding will provide female toilet facilities and allow other community groups to benefit from the increased capacity.

The club will also invest £8,000 of its own funds into the scheme, in addition to £2,000 from Funds for Wales, £1,000 from Mynydd y Gwair wind farm and £3,477 from a voluntary works labour contribution.,

Fishguard Sports AFC

Further West, Fishguard Sports AFC who play at Tregroes Park will receive £26,072 to improve the drainage of the second pitch and purchase portable floodlights, so that it can be used into the evenings. The club say the poor drainage has prevented the club from expanding its offer, especially for ladies football, cricket and the U16’s disabled team which this project will unlock.

The club will invest £1,897 of its own funds, as well as £1,000 voluntary works labour contribution towards the scheme.

Investment in community facilities

The funding, combined with contributions from clubs and other local partners, will improve the quality of community facilities, bring people together to enjoy playing sport in their local area, regenerate communities and enhance social cohesion.

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It forms part of a £25 million UK-wide investment in grassroots facilities during this financial year, out of a total of £230 million set to be invested to help to build or upgrade up to 8,000 quality pitches across the UK over the next four years. The funding will also support the construction or refurbishment of clubhouses, changing facilities and community buildings.

The Football Association of Wales is delivering the programme on behalf of the UK Government in Wales. Following the UK Government’s commitment, the Welsh Government has also opted to invest £1.3 million to improve grassroots facilities this year – the FAW is working with both governments to maximise the benefits of this combined investment for local communities.

UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “We are committed to improving access to high quality sports facilities for the underprivileged and underrepresented in Wales.

“From female changing rooms at Treborth Playing Fields in Bangor to new pitches in Welshpool and Swansea, this will ensure more people can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of sport at top class facilities in their local community.”

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “Grassroots football clubs are at the heart of their communities, providing sporting opportunities but also bringing incalculable health and social benefits to local children and adults.

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“They play a hugely important role and I’m thrilled that the UK Government is making this investment in facilities the length and breadth of Wales which will help the clubs and groups receiving this funding to continue their fantastic work.”

Chief Executive Noel Mooney from the Football Association of Wales said: “The Football Association of Wales is pleased to be working closely with the UK and Welsh Governments to improve facilities across Wales and are grateful for their support.

Improving the facilities across Wales is the FAW’s number one strategic objective. This initial round of funding marks the beginning of an exciting journey, and the FAW will continue to work closely with all of its stakeholders, to create a facilities investment fund in order to deliver impactful projects across all corners of Wales as we strive to make football inclusive and accessible to all.”

Joint UK bid for Euro 2028

Today’s announcement follows a joint ‘Expression of Interest’ submitted to UEFA by the Football Associations of England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales on Wednesday (23 March).

The Governments of the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Wales have confirmed their support for the EOI submission and, given the Northern Ireland Executive is currently not meeting formally, officials there continue to observe the process closely.

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Formal discussions on the technical specifications for the tournament are expected to take place with European football’s governing body over the coming weeks, before a final decision is made on submitting a formal bid.

On the prospects of hosting UEFA EURO 2028, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston added: “This is welcome news from the FAs, and the Government remains committed to working closely with them and our partners in the Government of Ireland and the Devolved Administrations to bring UEFA’s flagship festival of international football to the UK and Ireland.

“Our unprecedented partnership creates the potential for the best EUROs ever, and we are passionate about bringing another world-leading sporting event here, creating a real celebration of football for people across the UK and Ireland.

“The government continues to demonstrate its commitment to sport and recreation, recently announcing that it is also investing £30 million to refurbish more than 4,500 tennis courts across the UK.”

(Lead image: Go Underhill)

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