A COMMUNITY radio body should be set up to provide practical and effective support for Wales’ network of community radio stations, says a National Assembly for Wales Committee.
A report from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, also recommends establishing a closer relationship with the BBC and commercial radio stations to share knowledge, access to resources and help with talent development.
Community radio was introduced following legislation, in order to introduce a new tier of radio broadcasting in the UK, focused specifically on community engagement. There are currently eleven community radio stations in Wales.
Ten stations, Calon FM, Tudno FM, BRfm, Radio Tircoed, Radio Glan Clwyd, Môn FM, Radio Cardiff, Rhondda Radio, Bro Radio and GTFM are already on air with Radio Aber aiming to start broadcasting soon.
The Committee’s short report into community radio in Wales contains a total of eight recommendations and is published based on information gathered during a Community Radio Symposium held on 20 June 2019 at The Atrium in Cardiff.
People from all community stations, academia, commercial radio, the BBC and members of the Committee attended the symposium to discuss a range of issues including where stations could collaborate (both within the community radio sector and with commercial radio/the BBC) and solutions to common problems.
The first recommendation published in the report is that the Welsh Government should fund a community radio body for Wales to offer practical support to stations, perform a representative role and co-ordinate cross station knowledge sharing. Practical support might include performing common tasks for stations like HR, marketing or grant writing.
The body should also help forge links between community stations and commercial and BBC radio, to help volunteers gain experience and develop skills across Wales.
The Committee also recommends that community radio is given access to the output of the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service and are given first refusal with a preferential rate when the BBC sell off equipment they no longer need.
Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee: “During our work into community radio stations in Wales, we discovered the wide range of benefits that these stations provide the communities they serve, as a community link and hyperlocal news provider. They also provide a route for people to gain valuable training and experience in radio, whether they are interested in a career or just want to learn new skills and meet new people.
“Early into the symposium event, we saw for ourselves the value of networking as representatives from one station managed to help another with advice on a long-term technical issue. This affirmed our opinion that radio stations must be given opportunities to share knowledge and help each other. A Community Radio Body, funded by the Welsh Government, would co-ordinate this network and provide much needed practical support for both on-air and non-studio roles.
“We also believe that the sector would benefit greatly from closer co-operation with the BBC and commercial radio stations and sharing access to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service would enable them to cover their local authority proceedings as part of a valuable hyperlocal service.”
Labour’s Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire Candidate Marc Tierney, who has extensive experience in commercial and community radio, told The Herald: ““I am pleased that Assembly Members have taken an interest in developing the Community Radio sector here in Wales. Over the years, community radio in Wales has been one step behind other parts of the United Kingdom due to various restrictions imposed by the regulator which has, due to our rurality and lower population, made it more difficult to establish stations here.
“At a time when commercial stations are consolidating and regionalising or even nationalising their output, the community sector can fill a vital gap in providing programme content that meets the needs of our diverse communities. As someone who started work in Commercial Radio almost twenty years ago, I understand the importance of a vibrant local media that gives a voice to communities, provides access to local news and current affairs and offers training opportunities for young people.
“The future of radio is very certainly now DAB and this report gives a welcome push to Ofcom, the communications regulator, to do all it can to embrace community broadcasting and to support the sector in empowering communities in every corner of Wales.”
Living Wage Week highlighted during Kidwelly launch
Plaid Cymru Mid and West AM, Helen Mary Jones visited Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire to launch Living Wage Week locally.
PPLAID CYMRU Mid and West AM, Helen Mary Jones visited Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire to launch Living Wage Week locally.
The company is a champion of the Living Wage movement in Carmarthenshire, and the visit emphasised the importance of employers adopting the Living Wage for their workers.
Speaking at the launch Helen Mary Jones AM said:
“A big thank you to Burns Pet Food for hosting the Living Wage Celebration in west Wales. It’s very fitting that we are here today in the headquarters of this pioneering company that was established to provide a much-needed focus on nutrition, health and natural ingredients in animal food. Animal welfare is at the heart of everything for the firm. Their ethical emphasis also extends to the Burns workforce.
“The organisation is the first champion of the Living Wage Movement in Carmarthenshire; what a privilege and a responsibility that brings and one that John Burns and his staff have taken on board with energy and commitment.
“Everyone here at Burns is a passionate advocate for paying a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and we are delighted they hosted the event to help encourage and inspire as many employers in the region as possible to take up the mantle and follow their excellent example.
“Living Wage Week is about celebrating our Living Wage Employers – thanking them for making such a difference in people’s lives. It’s also about helping our friends and colleagues in other organisations who are also in favour of fair pay and want to learn as much as possible about what it means to become accredited Living Wage Employers.”
In addition to the advocation of the Living Wage implementation across Wales, Helen Mary Jones AM congratulated the 224 Living Wage accredited employers and celebrated the achievement in a statement of opinion in the Senedd. The statement has been signed by Labour and Plaid Cymru members.
Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly kicked started the celebrations of The Living Wage Week, which runs from 11th November to 17th November 2019.
Four friends helped by new Carmarthenshire housing initiative
A GROUP of friends from Bristol who wanted to support each other through varying physical and mental health issues sold up and moved nearly 100 miles away to a small holding in Llandybie, Carmarthenshire.
The four friends – Roz, Heather, Chris and Jo – found that they were unable to support each other adequately while living in different areas across Bristol. They decided to move their lives, and for one of them their career, so that they could be closer together and are now living together in a terraced house in Ammanford while working on the smallholding.
Collectively, they formed the MeddwlCoed co-operative, and bought fifty acres of marginal land, on which they hope, via the One Planet Development scheme, to create a self-sustaining, community-housing initiative which will provide affordable housing and benefit the wider community through courses, workshops and retreats.
Roz Clarke, who has fibromyalgia, explained that living in Bristol wasn’t working for the group: “We used to travel back and forth through Bristol to look after each other and help when it was needed, but it wasn’t easy. It was in around 2016 that we started chatting about how difficult it was becoming, and we thought that living closer together would make it easier to support each other.
“As a group, we also had similar views on living sustainably but were finding it difficult to make this a reality in Bristol so in April last year we upped sticks and moved to Carmarthenshire. Four of us now live together in our home in Ammanford and we juggle the small holding with other work, and our medical conditions.”
Roz added that they had been welcomed with open arms by the local community: “We were worried that people would think we were raving hippies, but everyone has been so welcoming, helping us out in lots of ways and local farmers have been chatting to us about some of our initiatives such as fossil fuel free gardening and not deep ploughing on the farm.
“Now we’d like to encourage others to get involved in what we are doing at MeddwlCoed. We are planning a big tree planting event and would love people to come along and support and we can then chat to them about the joys of living in a nurturing and supportive co-housing project such as ours.”
Meddwl Coed is just one of a large movement of co-operative and community-led housing schemes in Wales that are being championed by the Wales Co-operative Centre with its Communities Creating Homes programme. The programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and Welsh Government.
Recent research commissioned by the Wales Co-operative Centre found that those living in community-led housing felt less isolated as they were surrounded by a supportive network, had improved mental health and wellbeing and had further developed their skills set as well as gaining improved levels of confidence.
Jocelle Lovell, Communities Creating Homes programme manager for the Wales Co-operative Centre, said: “MeddwlCoed is the epitome of a supportive and nurturing co-housing project, which was borne out of a real need for those involved. The fact that they are now looking for people to network with who share the same interests and concerns to partner with to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes from the land is wonderful and we wholeheartedly support them.
“Wales is facing a housing crisis, with many people not able to afford a home to buy or to rent. The problem isn’t going away, so we need new and creative ways to work around it – community-led housing schemes are an exciting development that solves the affordability problem and helps to create strong, like-minded communities.”
Jocelle added: “Anyone who feels isolated, lonely or is struggling in their current accommodation should consider developing something similar to MeddwlCoed. A place where people will be able to live in peace, but with help and support on hand should they need it. It’s the perfect antidote to today’s remote society.”
Wales Co-operative Centre has been supporting and championing the growth of community-led housing since 2012, and in April this year, it launched its Communities Creating Homes programme which aims to stimulate demand for co-operative and community-led housing throughout Wales.
With more than 30 schemes already in place across Wales, communities can be created for various purposes and shared visions. Where some schemes have been created to make housing more affordable for residents, others have been developed for people who want improved eco-friendly lifestyles.
Foundational economy funding boost for Mid and South West Wales
PROJECTS to increase the number of local food businesses supplying the public sector and set up an apprenticeship scheme in the construction industry are among eight schemes to win Welsh Government funding from the new Foundational Economy Challenge Fund.
First Minister Mark Drakeford and Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters made the announcement during a visit to University of Wales Trinity Saint David, in Carmarthen today (Thursday, November 7).
They were met by catering staff who are part of a scheme being run by the Carmarthenshire Public Service Board, which is being awarded £100,000 to improve the procurement of local food from the area.
It is one of 52 experimental initiatives across Wales to receive a share of the £4.5m Foundational Economy Challenge Fund. The project will provide business opportunities for locally or regionally-based companies and bring environmental benefits by lowering food miles and associated carbon costs.
The foundational economy approach is being adopted by cities and regions across the world, but Wales is the first country in the world to embrace it on a national scale. It is made up of the everyday goods and services we all need and use with estimates suggesting it accounts for four out of every 10 jobs and £1 in every three we spend.
The Economy Challenge Fund aims to support a series of experimental projects which will enable the Welsh Government, with support from partners, to test how the foundational economy can best be supported.
Eight schemes in Mid and South West Wales will share almost £650,000 from the fund.
Speaking about the food procurement scheme in Carmarthenshire, Barry Liles, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Skills & Lifelong Learning), University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Chair of Carmarthenshire Public Services Board (PSB) said: “As a PSB we are really pleased to have been successful in our bid to the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund.
“Public sector procurement is an area that we as partners recognise as having scope to have a greater impact on local economic wealth and development and this something we will test and develop in our project. We will focus on public sector food procurement but we firmly believe that if we can develop a multi-agency progressive procurement methodology as part of this project, there would be scope to introduce this in other areas of procurement.
“Carmarthenshire has a rich history of food production and supply and as well as the economic benefits of enhancing the local supply chain we will also be looking at the potential health benefits for the pupils, students and staff that consume the food we procure, by promoting good food for all.
“We look forward to working with our PSB members and partners in the commercial sector to consider and develop opportunities for moving this much talked about agenda forward, learning from the other successful projects as we go.”
Another project to be awarded funding is being led by Cyfle Building Skills Ltd. It will receive £86,500 to work with construction employers and provide opportunities for apprentices to receive valuable work experience placements throughout the industry.
Anthony Rees, regional manager of Cyfle Building Skills, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding, which will be of huge benefit to our young learners.
“We see this project as providing the crucial, first stepping stone for them into the world of work and the construction industry specifically. It will both develop their skills and employment prospects, and provide a boost to the industry at the same time.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I’ve been delighted to visit University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s campus in Carmarthen to hear more about this innovative project which really puts a sense of community at its heart.
“Looking at ways of ensuring local food is used and enjoyed in the area where it’s produced will be a boost for businesses and ensure it doesn’t need to travel far which supports efforts to improve our environment.
“The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is all about making a real difference to people throughout Wales. It aims to drive prosperity across the nation and reach out to communities.
“As a government, we are committed to supporting all parts of Wales and help safeguard and create jobs and build the economic growth that we all want to see.”
Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters said: “Supporting the Foundational Economy is a key priority for the Welsh Government. This is a vitally important part of the economy which makes a big difference to the livelihoods of many people as well as our cities, towns and villages.
“The standard of applications throughout Wales has been so high that we have been able to treble the amount available from the fund to £4.5m, supporting 52 projects.
“It’s been great to join the First Minister in Carmarthen to learn more about what it potentially a very exciting project and one which will change the way food is procured locally for the benefit of area’s communities.
“The Foundational Economy Challenge Fund is a clear demonstration of our commitment to supporting people in all parts of Wales today, tomorrow and into the future.”
More information on the successful projects can be found on the Business Wales website: https://businesswales.gov.wales/foundational-economy
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