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Welsh Conservative leader criticises Cardiff Bay Government’s £150k spend on ‘woke’ jobs

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The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies has criticised the Labour-run Government in Cardiff Bay after it’s claimed they spent £150,000 on four diversity officers last year.

The spend has lead to accusations that they are more interested in “woke” issues than dealing with everyday problems like the cost-of-living.

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A Freedom of Information request by the Welsh Conservatives revealed that “there are four staff in roles which have responsibility solely or predominantly for diversity issues in the Welsh Government”. Supported by colleagues across the organisation, the total sum spent on salaries for these staff during 2021-2022 was £151,436.62.

The figure only includes salaries and does not include other use of public money for the roles such as employer national insurance, pension contributions, and resources like computers.

The grades, salary ranges, and average salaries for the pay bands of the four staff are:

  • Team Support: Salary range £21,300-£24,630; Average is £22,963
  • Part-time Executive Officer: Salary range £25,860-£29,430; Average is £27,370 (Full-time)
  • Senior Executive Officer: Salary range £40,100-£47,470; Average is £43,437
  • Grade 7: Salary range £51,380-£61,440; Average is £56,072

However, the Welsh Government Employer Equality Report for 2020/21, released last month, revealed that pass rates for Fixed Term Appointment schemes in its civil service were lower for:

  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic applicants compared to White (12% compared to 18%);
  • applicants from a minority sexual orientation compared to heterosexual (11% to 18%);
  • and disabled applicants compared to not disabled (15% to 18%).

It admitted: “Overall (as an average across all schemes) we, generally, did not meet the new targets agreed in 2021”.

The Welsh Government workforce by race is 91% white and only 3% declared themselves to be of a different ethnicity. 6% did not declare or preferred not to say. The report also revealed that fewer than 200 of the 2,700 external applications to work in the Welsh Government were from non-white people.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said: “£150,000 is not going to solve the cost-of-living crisis – but spending money on redundant, woke jobs shows a complete lack of perspective and priority within the Labour Government when it comes to spending public money.

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“Not only that, it seems that having diversity officers is not producing positive results, with any progress being very slow.

“I think spending this much money on this many people to tell the Labour-run Welsh Government that they should hire people based on demographic characteristics rather than on merit and the content of their character suggests something is deeply wrong within its recruitment practices, or that it is more concerned with virtue-signalling than achieving actual results.”

(Lead image: Welsh Conservatives)

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Museums

Review of locomotive replica amid slave trade links branded “wokeness getting out of control”

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A decision to review a replica of the first steam-powered locomotive in Wales over claims it was linked to the slave trade has been branded “utterly preposterous” by the Welsh Conservatives.

The National Museum Wales could relabel Richard Trevithick’s locomotive, which was used in the first steam-powered rail journey in 1804, to highlight slave trade links.

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Officials at the Museum admitted there were no direct links between the Trevithick locomotive and the slave trade, but they said the use of the invention is “rooted in colonialism and racism.”

The museum has confirmed the Trevithick replica, which is on display in the Waterfront Museum in Swansea, would be subject to the Charter for Decolonising audit.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, Tom Giffard MS, said: “Threatening to relabel a replica locomotive created by someone who had no direct links to the slave trade is utterly preposterous.

“This is just another example of wokeness getting out of control, and it appears that the museum has well and truly lost the plot if they go ahead with this.

“Fantastic pieces of work such as Richard Trevithick’s locomotive, which was used in the first steam-powered rail journey, should be celebrated – not punished.”

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(Lead image: Wikimedia / Oxyman / Creative Commons)

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Farming

Call for Food Summit in Wales as Ukraine crisis triggers supply worries

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The Leader of the Opposition in the Senedd today called for a Food Summit to bring together industry leaders to agree a strategy to build resilience and security into Wales’ food supply chains.

Questioning the First Minister today, Andrew RT Davies MS highlighted that Ukraine produces a third of the world’s wheat exports, with the current conflict being waged there by Russia is endangering Wales’ food security.

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Mr Davies added: “It’s not just wheat, but fertiliser and many other fundamental aspects of food production” that are under threat, with knock-on consequences for the abilities of British farmers to cultivate their own produce and price increases for consumers as wheat prices jump by a third.

This prompted the Welsh Conservative leader to ask the Cardiff Bay Government to convene a Food Summit “of farmers, processors, and retailers so they can inform the policy development work and outcomes of the Welsh Government so Wales can play its part in growing its food production base and play our part in overall food security goals of this country”, in light of Russian aggression.

The First Minister said he would instruct the Rural Affairs Minister to discuss such a summit with industry leaders following a UK Inter-ministerial meeting where they will ask for food security to be on the agenda.

Davies, who is also a farmer by trade, also quizzed Mark Drakeford if the forthcoming Agriculture Bill – the first of its kind in 75 years – would be significantly changed in light of the Ukrainian conflict.

The First Minister said in response: “The agriculture Bill will, of course, support the production of food by Welsh farmers, and the changing nature of the marketplace, the Member is right, needs to be taken into account in that”.

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 Commenting afterwards, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The barbaric Russian campaign against a sovereign and democratic Ukraine extends far beyond that country and it is important that the freedom-loving world prepares itself for the consequences.

“One of these is certainly food security because it is not just the crops of the bread basket of Europe that will be lost, but vital by-products like fertiliser that I know, as a farmer, is an essential part to food production.

“That’s why industry leaders from food retailers and processors to farming unions must assemble urgently in a landmark Food Summit to build resilience into our food supply chains.

“With the Agriculture Bill coming up, now is the time to respond to the conflict in Ukraine and deliver a strong future for Welsh food security with a long-term vision of self-sufficiency and free trade with other free countries, ending our reliance on those with leaders like Putin.”

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Education

Call to reverse decline in Modern Languages taught in Welsh schools

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The Welsh Conservatives are calling on Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to reverse the declining trend in pupils taking up modern foreign languages, highlighting the benefits of bilingualism as a reason to adopt a third language.

On International Mother Language Day, the shadow ministers for education and the Welsh language have thrown their weight together to call for a concerted drive to increase the uptake of foreign languages (MFLs), the teaching capacity, and the amount of lessons pupils receive at an early age.

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They would also like to see a framework that allows schools to become centres of excellence that specialise in MFLs.

In the 2021 election, the Party committed to discounting tuition fees for those studying MFLs at university.

Welsh Conservative Members of the Senedd Laura Anne Jones and Samuel Kurtz believe that the falling numbers of pupils taking up MFLs is negatively impacting the life chances of Welsh pupils and the success for bilingualism here is an ideal launch pad to build a “trilingual Wales”.

A recent Language Trends Wales report conducted by the British Council outlined some concerning statistics about MFL learning in Wales that included:

  • GCSE entries for French and German had almost halved between 2015 and 2021, and by 11% and 12%, respectively, in the past year alone;
  • GCSE entries over the past two years for languages other than French, German, Spanish, and Welsh have declined significantly from 626 in 2018 to just 175 in 2021, a 72% drop;
  • 46% of responding secondary schools either do not have post-16 provision or do not offer international languages in the sixth form; and
  • 78% of schools reported a negative impact from the Covid pandemic on language learning.
  • The report also noted that teenage population in Wales is growing slightly, so any decline in the numbers of students studying languages cannot be attributed to falling school enrolment.

It noted that, by contrast, in England there were noticeable increases in French and Spanish from 2019 to 2020 (although there was a 2% increase in the GCSE-age school population) and that for the first time since records began, Spanish attracted over 100,000 entries, almost double the 2005 total.

Laura Anne Jones MS, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, said: “Foreign languages in our Welsh schools are in serious danger of going extinct. There is an urgent need to address this, if we are going to future-proof education and arm our children with the tools they need to be able to compete on an international stage, which is how our country is moving now post-Brexit.

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“We know those who speak multiple languages benefit on numerous fronts and gain transferrable skills that would serve them well in adulthood, ensuring they can compete in competitive future job markets, travel and put them on a par with and lovely playing field with the rest of Europe, and the world.

“Labour cannot continue saying Wales is an open, international society, when it fails to enthuse pupils to take up foreign languages, and are unable to recruit the necessary teachers to do so.

“That’s why the Welsh Conservatives will be campaigning hard for a shift in approach from the Labour Government, that aims at increasing the provision and take-up of foreign languages within the New Curriculum for Wales and possible changing of the structure of the school day – modern and the likes of mandarin, so the next generation can live in a skilled and prosperous trilingual Wales.”

Samuel Kurtz MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Welsh Language, said: “We are proud defenders of the Welsh language because, from it, we see that bilingualism is a positive force in Welsh society. Data suggests those who can speak more than one language have a higher level of employability and increased cognitive function.

“However, as a country, we shouldn’t just be limiting ourselves to two languages.

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“Given the success of Welsh in demonstrating the benefits of bilingualism, International Mother Language Day is a great time to promote our calls for a concerted drive to increase the uptake of MFLs, so more people can experience the gift of speaking multiple languages.”

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