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Assembly debate on battling bovine TB

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Over 8,100 a year: BTB cattle slaughtered in Wales

Over 8,100 a year: BTB cattle slaughtered in Wales

“THE TOTAL number of Welsh cattle slaughtered in 2015 due to bTB (bovine TB) has gone up by 27% from 2014 and now counts for 8,103 cattle slaughtered a year.

That’s 675 cattle per month, 169 per week and 24 cattle slaughtered every day.”

These figures were given by Glyn Roberts, President of the Farmers Union of Wales, in a briefing in advance of a debate on the issue in the Assembly on September 28.

Glyn Roberts went on to say that the official advice to the Welsh Government in 2011 estimated that vaccination was likely to lead to a net cost of £3.5m. On the other hand, culling badgers in the Intensive Action Area could be expected to save farmers and government £31,000. In the Assembly debate, a cross-party motion called on the Welsh Government ‘to take decisive action to tackle bovine TB by committing to use the most effective measures to control and eradicate bovine TB and ensuring that testing and movement restrictions are proportionate to the disease status of an area’. The debate was proposed by Plaid Cymru AMs Simon Thomas and Llyr Huws Gruffydd, Paul Davies of the Welsh Conservatives and Neil Hamilton of UKIP.

THE DEBATE

The fact that bovine TB remains a significant problem for farmers in Wales is not contested. Arguments do rage, however, about how badgers are implicated in the transfer of the disease and how best it can be controlled. Three elements of any strategy that are always hotly contested are the culling of badgers and the vaccination of cattle and/or badgers. Opening the Assembly debate, Simon Thomas, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs for Plaid Cymru, explained that the motion was worded to reflect advice given to the Government by its own consultative group on animal health. The advice recommended a TB eradication programme that would be a combination of different measures aimed at all sources of TB, both those within the herd and those within the wildlife reserve. A different assessment was advised in areas where incidents were low, with rules made to proportionately reflect the status of the disease. Simon Thomas went on to quantify the impact of the disease in various areas of Wales, highlighting the cost of compensation to the taxpayer, around £100 million across the whole of Britain. He then raised the question of Brexit and what that would mean for EU continuing to accept beef and dairy produce from Wales, which does have an elevated level of TB in its cattle herd. Like most of the speakers who followed him, Simon Thomas highlighted the emotional distress that bovine TB and culling cattle meant for the farming community across Wales.

TO CULL OR NOT TO CULL

On the thorny issue of a badger cull, Labour’s Joyce Watson quoted Lord Krebs, one of the UK government’s most respected scientific advisers who has reported on the issue: “Badger culling is a sideshow. The only effective way to stop TB is stopping the spread from cattle to cattle by more testing and a much better test.” Responding to Joyce Watson, UKIP’s Neil Hamilton said: “The Krebs report has been criticised for many reasons on account of the weaknesses and anomalies in its strategies.” Based on a report produced by the British Veterinary Association, Hamilton proposed ‘that a targeted, effective and humane [badger] cull is going to have to be part of a long-term policy of eradication’. Conservative Mark Isherwood also cited the British Veterinary Association’s report: “They believe that slaughtering cattle that test positive for bovine TB is essential to control the disease in cattle, but has not been enough to get on top of the disease. Therefore, they also believe that badger culling in a targeted, effective and humane manner is necessary in carefully selected areas.

“They state that vaccination of both cattle and badgers should play a central role in any bovine TB eradication policy, but its current role should not be overstated or exaggerated.” Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Huws Gruffydd also backed a cull unequivocally: “The time has come for the Government here to be brave and to face the reality once and for all. We need a badger cull scheme as part of the solution to TB in Wales, and we need it now.”

UKIP’s Mark Reckless expressed his reservations about a badger cull, fearing that ‘for some, the idea of culling badgers will be a solution, if not a silver bullet. I think a great deal of belief is invested in it. Whereas, even if we were to go down the route of really significant and continual badger culling, it is not clear to me, at least, how much effect that would have on the problem, even if it were to have some, and I continue to study the evidence on either side of this’. UKIP’s Caroline Jones also spoke up against the idea of a badger cull as a panacea. She told the Assembly: “The most effective measures to control and eradicate the disease are increased biosecurity and vaccination, and not wiping out the entire badger population in the UK.”

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, responded to the debate for the government: “As Members will have seen from the latest business statement, I will be making an oral statement on a refreshed approach to TB eradication on October 18. Therefore, I don’t intend to go into too much detail today… I have made very clear my intention to refresh the TB programme in Wales, to ensure it’s robust and fit for purpose, and I will certainly not turn my back on the extremely important Welsh agriculture sector. I support the motion proposed today, and believe the only way to tackle this issue is to use a combination of the most appropriate and effective measures, proportionate to the different risk areas in Wales. All measures applied must be supported by firm evidence and veterinary risk assessment, focusing on all routes of transmission, not just transmission from wildlife reservoirs, which seems to receive all the attention.” Presiding Officer Elin Jones, Ceredigion’s AM, concluded the debate when the motion was agreed without objection.

A HOLISTIC APPROACH

Following the debate, Simon Thomas told The Herald: “Bovine TB continues to have a devastating effect on farming in Wales and remains one of the biggest threats to our cattle herd. It is the responsibility of the Welsh Government to respond to the situation and Plaid Cymru as the official opposition in Wales will scrutinise their actions. The debate was an opportunity to bring attention to this important issue. It is essential that we deal with this issue after the decision to leave the European Union.

“Farming unions have expressed their concern it could be used as a bargaining chip and used to hit Welsh dairy exports. The fact that the Welsh Government and Labour Assembly Members did not oppose the cross-party motion shows they realise we must have a credible strategy to control disease in the wildlife population. The Party of Wales believe that there needs to be a holistic approach to eradicating this disease and that any increased burdens on the movement and testing regime must be matched by policy measures which deal with the disease. Plaid Cymru recognises that tackling the disease within the wildlife population has to go hand in hand with animal testing and movement restrictions. The suspension of the badger vaccination trials within the intensive action area has highlighted how vulnerable a single approach to disease control within the wildlife population can be.”

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Health

Council end contract with Plas Y Bryn Care Home

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FOLLOWING significant concerns with its financial position and an inability to pay their staff and creditors, Carmarthenshire County Council has had to give notice on its contract to provide care with Plas Y Bryn Care Home, Cwmgwili. 

The residents at Plas Y Bryn are being supported by the council to find new homes by a dedicated team of social workers and managers.

Whilst this has come as a great disappointment to the Council, we have been providing significant financial support to ensure that the care company can meet its financial obligations and that care is not impacted. This has included bringing regular payments in advance to enable the company to pay staff salaries.

As a result, the council has had to take the difficult decision to give notice to the care company. The decision has not been taken lightly and we share the deep concerns that the people living and working in the care home will have.

There have been continued attempts to work with the operators to understand their financial position. A variety of alternative options have been considered but, unfortunately, due to the legal and financial circumstances that surround the care company, there are no viable solutions that can be found at this time.

We would like to recognise and thank the staff within Plas Y Bryn Care Home for their commitment to delivering high-quality care and highlight that the quality of care has at no point been a contributing factor to this difficult decision.

Cllr. Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Services, Carmarthenshire County Council, said:

“The welfare of the residents at Plas Y Bryn is of the utmost importance and we have acted quickly to support the care home to continue to provide excellent care of its residents.

“We are supporting residents along with their families and next of kin, during what is a very difficult and distressing situation, to find suitable and adequate accommodation for them to find new homes.

“On behalf of the council, I would like to express my gratitude to the staff at Plas Y Bryn for their invaluable work at the care home. We are also supporting them during this hard period as they continue to provide care to the residents.”

Ahead of the contract coming to an end, the council will be working with people and their families over the coming weeks to find new homes where they can receive the care and support that they require. Wherever possible, we will do our best to ensure that people are supported to move to locations of choice. Residents are also being provided with access to advocacy services to support them through this difficult time.

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Carmarthenshire County Council cracks down on fly-tippers

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council handed out a total of £4,350 in fixed penalty notices (FPN’s) related to fly-tipping last month.

17 FPN’s were issued as a result of CCTV footage at Carway recycling facility, resulting in a total of £2,675 in fines being given.

This includes:

  • £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway male for depositing black refuse bags, blue recycling bags and paint pots at the site on several different occasions
  •  £125 FPN issued to a Carway female for depositing a bag
  • £400 FPN issued to a Carway resident for depositing blue recycling bags and other items

Fixed penalty notices issued at other locations in the county include:

  • £125 FPN issued to a female for depositing a black refuse bag at Red Roses recycling facility.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Gorseinon resident who failed in his duty of care when he had his household waste removed by a person not registered as a waste carrier.
  • £400 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident for fly tipping after CCTV footage provided by a member of the public led to his identification.  The male was seen driving along the rear lane between James Street and Swansea Road in Llanelli where he was seen throwing a blue recycling bag from his moving vehicle into the lane.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli resident who failed in their duty of care after their waste was found in an overgrown verge/hedgerow in the rear lane of their street.  The resident claimed to have paid a male to dispose of their waste but failed to provide their details.
  • £300 FPN issued to a Llanelli business for failing to produce waste transfer notes after waste produced by the business was found illegally deposited in Swiss Valley, Llanelli. The business was issued a notice requiring them to produce waste transfer notes within 7 days which they failed to do. The business was also issued a legal notice to ensure any waste from the business is disposed of correctly in the future.  

Cllr Aled Vaughan Owen, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability said: “The introduction of CCTV at Carway recycling facility has enabled us to clamp down on the unlawful dumping of waste at this site. I hope this serves as a reminder that all waste deposited at our recycling facilities must be placed in the correct container, with all bags and boxed removed from the site.”

“The Council’s CCTV strategy will be extended to other recycling facilities in the county in the coming months to help combat instances of fly tipping in these areas.”

“I would urge anyone who needs to dispose of waste to do so responsibly. We have recycling centres at Nantycaws (Carmarthen), Trostre (Llanelli), Wernddu (Ammanford) and Whitland as well as a bulky waste collection service and weekly household waste collections. When paying for rubbish to be disposed of, please use a licensed business and ensure that you are given a valid waste transfer note when waste is collected.”

For more information on disposing of waste please visit Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/recycling

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Wales stands firm in support for Ukraine

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IN THE latest update on the Ukraine crisis, Wales’s Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt thanked all those households across Wales who have come forward to offer their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the War and encouraged more households to provide this vital support.

APPEAL FOR MORE HOST FAMILIES

The Minister for Social Justice said: “I’m delighted to say that over 5,650 people from Ukraine, sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households, have already arrived in the UK.
“More than 8,200 visas have now been issued to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow in the coming weeks.
“Thousands of Welsh households sponsored Ukrainians to arrive in Wales and committed to hosting them for at least six months.
“As we move into the autumn, we approach the end of that initial period.
“We hope hosts and Ukrainians will agree to extend many of those placements, but we need additional hosts to support those who cannot continue living where they are.
“To ensure a warm welcome to Wales, I’m inviting households across Wales to come forward and open their homes to welcome those seeking sanctuary.
“We’re immensely thankful to all those across Wales acting as hosts to Ukrainians, but more households must come forward.
“I completely understand that there are those who want to help but may not have the resources to do so, given the circumstances we’re all facing with the cost-of-living crisis.”

WALES WILL STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Jane Hutt continued: “What we all know, and has been proven countless times, is that the people of Wales are one of the most generous across the globe, and I’m sure we will step up to the plate once again.
“The idea of hosting can be daunting. That’s why we have funded Housing Justice Cymru to provide a Host Support service which includes expert and reliable information, training, advice, and guidance for people hosting, or those considering hosting, Ukrainians in Wales.
“More information on sessions and training can be found on the Housing Justice Cymru website. We also publish regularly updated guidance for hosts and sponsors at gov. wales/ukraine.
“We still need many more households to consider whether they could provide a home for those in need. This would normally be a commitment to hosting for 6 to 12 months.
“If anyone is considering this, we encourage them to register their interest at gov.wales/offerhome, and to attend one of the ‘Introduction to Hosting’ sessions, facilitated by Housing Justice Cymru. You won’t need to continue the process if you decide it is not for you.
“We have also partnered with Airbnb.org to ensure very short-term emergency placements can be provided to prevent homelessness.
“If you cannot host for more than 6 months but you could offer your property for up to 30 days at a time, you may also be able to contribute. Visit gov.wales/offerhome and follow the link to the Airbnb.org platform.”
Finally, the Minister stated: “We will continue to communicate with those who host Ukrainians, with updated guidance and information to support the valuable role you are undertaking.
“To all those that are already hosting and to those that are considering hosting, thank you, we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.”

WESTMINSTER MUST BACK HOSTS
DURING COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Conservative MS Mark Isherwood raised how the cost-of-living crisis affects Ukrainian refugees.
Where families had taken in those fleeing Russian aggression, he noted a risk of sponsorships not continuing beyond six months because the hosts cannot afford the rise in fuel costs.
He asked the Minister what discussions she’d had with the UK Government about increasing the £350 contribution to households who’d taken in Ukrainian refugees.
The Minister agreed with Mark Isherwood that ending a specific ministerial post dealing with refugees was regrettable.
She noted a lack of information from the UK Government over the summer months and since Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as head of the Conservative Government.
Ms Hutt said: “We asked for an increase at least to £500, or up again, doubling to £700 per month. An urgent decision is needed regarding this as they reach the end of their six-month period.
“That period is underway, so we’re writing to all hosts to see if they will continue.”

UK GOVERNMENT URGED
TO PICK UP THE PHONE

The Minister thanked Mark Isherwood for introducing her to a charity offering support in North Wales, Link, and hoped that he and his colleagues would bring pressure to bear on their Westminster colleagues to ensure those in need from Ukraine and those in Wales helping them received support.
She added: “I look forward perhaps that we might have some telephone calls from the Prime Minister and other Ministers to us in Government. We must engage with them and follow this through.
“There is a huge job of work to be done here. We’re taking responsibility in the way I’ve outlined, funding our welcome centres and paying thank-you payments to hosts if they support a family who initially arrived in Wales under the Ukraine family scheme.
“That’s not happening in England. The commitment that we’re making is considerable.
“I hope everyone will join us today, saying that we need to press for those answers in terms of financial support.”

THE THREAT OF HOMELESSNESS

Sioned Williams of Plaid Cymru raised the spectre of Ukrainian refugees becoming homeless in Wales due to a lack of financial support and the end of existing hosting and housing placements.
The Minister praised the work of local authorities across Wales supporting refugees.
She said: “There are very imaginative programmes. That includes a whole range of issues like repurposing empty buildings.
“Local authorities are really coming up with a whole range of ways in which we can support people, perhaps, from a welcome centre, or a host family, into that intermediate accommodation, and then on to other longer-term accommodation.”
Pembrokeshire currently houses around 200 Ukrainian refugees, with the demand for assistance outstripping the availability of suitable accommodation.

NOT ONE PENNY FROM WESTMINSTER
TO SUPPORT FAMILIES FLEEING WAR

Responding to a question from Mabon ap Gwynfor about problems housing family groups, Jane Hutt hit out at the lack of support from the UK Government and how it’s u-turned on a commitment to help families.
“The UK Government has never given a penny towards the family scheme.
“The former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in one of his last PMQs, actually said that he thought the Ukraine family scheme should get the same funding and support as the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It’s never happened.
“We have provided thank-you payments to people who are hosting Ukrainian families. It’s all Welsh Government money; it’s not UK Government, because they don’t provide a penny. And also, the British Red Cross—£246,000—who are actually supporting Ukrainian families who are hosting family members under the Ukrainian family scheme.”
On Wednesday, September 28, Eluned Morgan, Wales’s Health Minister, announced the continuation of free healthcare in Wales to Ukrainian residents displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The exemption will continue to apply unless there’s a significant change in circumstances in Ukraine.

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