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BBC must do more for Wales

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John Toner: welcomes the conclusion

John Toner: welcomes the conclusion

THE BBC must do more to to find ways to ensure audiences are kept informed about Welsh matters, according to a report by the BBC Trust 

The report, BBC Trust’s Service review: BBC nations’ news and radio services, examined news and current affairs services on TV and online made in and for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

It concluded audience expectations of BBC news were extremely high and, while most rated its programming highly, occasionally it fell short of expectations.

The main conclusion was: “To improve its services, the Trust recommends the BBC should plan how it can provide more content online, examine how minority language services should evolve, and make meeting audience expectations on news output a specific part of the BBC’s overall annual performance assessment.” It noted that audiences across all the nations considered the BBC needed to get better at holding decision-makers to account over its news programmes.

The review found that the BBC’s performance in Wales was strong, but it also highlighted that these services faced challenges. It said: “Particularly within the context of a deficit of other sources of Welsh news, the BBC will need to find ways to ensure audiences are kept informed about Welsh matters and that their expectations in areas such as Welsh political coverage and holding decision-makers to account are fully met.”

Like the other nations, younger Welsh audiences were still proving the hardest to reach, with older audiences remaining the main consumers of BBC TV and radio services.

BBC Radio Wales, the only national radio station in the English language, had made various changes to strengthen its portrayal of contemporary Wales, said the report, with greater prominence for journalism and sport and some very popular comedy. The station reached 16 per cent of adults each week in 2015, but its reach was under pressure and has fallen since 2011.

Radio Cymru reached 30 per cent of fluent Welsh speakers, equivalent to 4.6 per cent of all adults in Wales. “While general impressions of quality are strong and average listening hours are high, its reach has declined since 2011,” the Trust said.

In line with trends for BBC TV overall, the reach of BBC Wales’ news and current affairs output fell from 54 per cent in 2011 to 50 per cent in 2015.

John Toner, national organiser Wales, said: “The NUJ welcomes the conclusion that the BBC must increase its efforts to inform audiences about Welsh matters and political coverage, and that the corporation has a vital role to play in holding decision-makers to account. In our Media Manifesto for Wales, the NUJ argued for a ‘strong publicly-owned, licence-fee-funded BBC and greater oversight and scrutiny of public service broadcasting in Wales by the Welsh Government and Assembly’. We remain adamant that such scrutiny by the democratically-elected Assembly is essential to deliver the service that audiences need.

“The BBC is the only provider of comprehensive Welsh language radio coverage and we would not wish to see it packaged into a minority language ghetto. Welsh is spoken by more than 500,000 people in Wales, largely concentrated in remote areas where people rely on the BBC for much of their coverage of news and current affairs. Any attempt to dilute Welsh language broadcasting will be damaging to the future of the language itself. In fact, ant move to dilute news and current affairs coverage on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru would be a retrograde step. We have arranged a meeting with Bethan Jenkins, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, to address these points, among others.”

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Carmarthenshire farmer dies following attack by bull near Llandeilo

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A FARMER has died following an incident with a bull on a farm in Llandeilo.

The 58-year-old, named locally as Maldwyn Harrier, was attacked by the animal during a TB test on Friday morning.

Police have confirmed that they were called to a farm in the Penybanc area of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, and are investigating alongside the Health and Safety Executive. 

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Kwarteng gambles on rush for growth

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CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled his and Liz Truss’s economic vision for the UK on Friday morning.

The headlines are straightforward.

There will be £45bn in tax cuts by 2027; however, the largest cuts – national insurance cuts, the abolition of the cap on bonuses and the highest income tax rate- benefit only high earners.

MAIN POLICIES

Cut in the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023;

National Insurance will not rise as scheduled, and the Government will reverse the current year rise as of November 6;

New Health and Social Care Levy to pay for the NHS will not be introduced;

The top rate of income tax was cut from 45% to 40%;

Cancel the rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023;

Rules around universal credit tightened by reducing benefits if people don’t fulfil job search commitments;

VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors;

End of the cap on bankers’ bonuses;

Planned increases in the duties on beer, cider, wine, and spirits cancelled;

Government to discuss setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England.

Alongside the above, the Chancellor announced plans to remove environmental safeguards for building developments and reduce the regulatory burden on financial institutions.

KWARTENG LEAVES LABOUR AN OPEN GOAL

In an interview with Rishi Sunak during the Conservative leadership contest, Nick Robinson observed that it would be a nasty surprise for the former Chancellor when he found out who’d been in power for the last twelve years.

Kwasi Kwarteng followed Liz Truss’s preferred method of operation: he pretended they hadn’t happened.

The Chancellor comprehensively dumped on the policies pursued over the last dozen years by successive Conservative governments, for a decade of which Liz Truss has been a member.

His statement was, as one ministerial colleague said, “a game changer”, although perhaps not in the way he envisaged.

So complete was the change of economic policy that it leaves an open question about how Mr Kwarteng and his Cabinet colleagues ended up in the same political party as most of their backbench colleagues and served under the last three Conservative leaders.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves did not miss the open goal. Even as Mr Kwarteng and Ms Truss shook their heads on the government benches, she hammered home that the Chancellor’s statement was an admission the record of Conservative governments since 2010 was one of a failure to deliver growth or a viable economic plan.

THE SUPPLY SIDE FIX

The Chancellor and Prime Minister’s rationale is that cutting taxes for the already well-off will benefit all citizens as they are incentivised to invest and act in entrepreneurial ways. In addition, reducing regulation for businesses will encourage increased commercial enterprise.

They believe the growth stimulated will make up for any loss in tax revenues as increased economic activity, encouraged by lower taxes, leads to increased government revenues.

That approach is called supply-side economics, which focuses on increasing the supply of goods and services through growth.

In every developed nation where the Government’s brand of economics has been tried, two things have happened: a cataclysmic bust has followed a short-term burst of economic activity.

In addition, wealth inequalities – and the UK is already grossly unequal – are embedded and made worse.

Low taxes on the wealthiest do not distinguish between those who generate wealth through their industry or create economic activity through business investment and those who inherit wealth or sit on capital without producing anything.

“THE RICH WILL REJOICE”

Wales’s Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans MS, responded: “Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “Instead of delivering meaningful, targeted support to those who need help the most, the Chancellor prioritises funding for tax cuts for the rich, unlimited bonuses for bankers, and protecting the profits of big energy companies.

“Instead of increasing funding for public services in line with inflation, we get a Chancellor blithely ignoring stretched budgets as public services find their money is not going as far as it did before.”

Plaid Regional MS Cefin Campbell said: “This Budget will see the rich rejoice as their bonuses rocket and their tax bill sliced, once again it will be the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the brunt of the disastrous cost of living crisis.”

 Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, added: “Tax cuts for the super-rich will do absolutely nothing to drive growth in the Welsh economy.

“I urge the UK Government to recognise that our Government in Wales must be given the fiscal tools to unlock our economic potential ourselves. That is the only way to improve the lives of people across Wales.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance, Peter Fox MS, said: “Today shows that the UK Conservative Government has a comprehensive plan to provide a sharp boost to the economy by putting cash back into people’s pockets. Labour in Wales has the power to cut taxes in Wales but chooses not to.

“Mark Drakeford needs to take a leaf out of Liz Truss’ book and take immediate action to support hard-working people and struggling businesses, stimulating the Welsh economy rather than stifling it.”

Scott Corfe, Research Director at Social Market Foundation, said: “The Chancellor is taking a very high-risk gamble with the economy.

“If his package of enormous tax cuts and ‘supply side reforms’ fails to translate into significantly higher economic growth, we risk further falls in the pound and surging gilt yields as investors lose confidence in our ability to pay our way in the world.

“That, in turn, means higher inflation, an unsustainable trajectory for the public finances and steeper interest rate rises – potentially deepening rather than alleviating the cost of living crisis.”

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The world watches HM Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in state funeral

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THE QUEEN’S state funeral is taking place with ceremonial processions in London and Windsor today. This is the latest update at 12:40pm.

The UK’s longest-serving monarch will be laid to rest after a state funeral.

The Royal Family, world leaders and dignitaries have descended on Westminster Abbey to honour the life of Queen Elizabeth II, after her death at the age of 96.

At 10.44am, the Queen’s coffin travelled from the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) to Westminster Abbey for the state funeral.

This is a very short journey, and was not be part of the public procession.

The state funeral service

The state funeral service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster and The Sermon and the Commendation will be given by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the Service, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth read Lessons.

The Archbishop of York, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Free Churches Moderator said prayers.

The Procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch

At the end of the Service, Her Majesty’s coffin wase borne to Wellington Arch, via The Mall on the State Gun Carriage.

The King’s Guard gave a Royal Salute as the Coffin passes the Queen Victoria Memorial.

All processions and services are being broadcast on near-all national television and radio channels.

Once the coffin reaches Wellington Arch, it will be placed in the State Hearse. The parade will give a Royal Salute and the National Anthem will be played as the State Hearse begins its journey to Windsor.

Procession from Albert Hall, Windsor to St George’s Chapel

When the Coffin reaches Windsor, the State Hearse will slow to join a Procession to be formed up on Albert Road to travel via the Long Walk to St George’s Chapel. Members of the Royal Family will join the Procession in the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle. Minute Guns will be fired on the East Lawn, Windsor Castle by The King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, and Sebastopol Bell and the Curfew Tower Bell will be tolled throughout the Procession.

The Procession will halt at the bottom of the West Steps of St. George’s Chapel where a Guard of Honour, found by the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, will be mounted. The Queen’s Coffin will be borne in Procession into the Chapel.

The Committal Service

The Committal Service will begin at 4pm, and alongside His Majesty The King and Members of the Royal Family, the congregation will be made up of past and present members of The Queen’s Household, including from the private estates. Also in attendance will be Governors General and Realm Prime Ministers.

The Service will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor, with prayers said by the Rector of Sandringham, the Minister of Crathie Kirk and the Chaplain of Windsor Great Park. The Choir of St George’s Chapel will sing during the Service.

Prior to the final Hymn, the Imperial State Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre will be removed from Her Majesty The Queen’s Coffin, and placed on the Altar. At the end of the final Hymn, The King will place The Queen’s Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier Guards on Her Majesty’s Coffin. At the same time, The Lord Chamberlain will “break” his Wand of Office and place it on the Coffin.

As The Queen’s Coffin is lowered into the Royal Vault, the Dean of Windsor will say a Psalm and the Commendation before Garter King of Arms pronounces Her Majesty’s styles and titles. The Sovereign’s Piper will play a Lament and The Archbishop of Canterbury will pronounce the Blessing. The National Anthem will be sung at the conclusion of the Service.

Not seen on the streets of London since the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the State Gun Carriage will be pulled by 98 Royal Navy sailors, with a further 40 marching behind acting as brakes. The King and Members of the Royal Family will again follow The Queen’s Coffin in Procession. The Procession will include detachments from the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth, as well as detachments of the British Armed Forces who held a special relationship with The Queen.

A Private Burial will take place in The King George VI Memorial Chapel later that evening, conducted by the Dean of Windsor.

The Queen is to be buried together with The Duke of Edinburgh, at The King George VI Memorial Chapel.

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