Senedd Bites #11: Watchdogs and Lynxes

(Title Image: NHS Wales)

Health watchdogs “told not to criticise the Welsh Government”

BBC Wales has reported that staff working for Community Health Councils (CHCs) have been told by senior staff “not to criticise or embarrass” the Welsh Government over plans to replace CHCs with a new independent watchdog.

One member of a CHC reportedly said their response to the consultation was toned down as a result. Chair of the CHC Board, Mutale Merrill, claims this was untrue.

In response, the Welsh Government said people should, “be free to comment openly and honestly on any consultation process, especially one that potentially affects the future of their organisation.”

3,700 landlords still not signed up to Rent Smart Wales

All private landlords in Wales who let under assured or regulated tenancy contracts are legally required to register with Rent Smart Wales body and attend training (where relevant) in a move designed to crack down on rogue landlords.

However, figures recently released by Cardiff Council, who administer Rent Smart Wales, show 3,762 landlords (out of around 90,000) are letting illegally.

Landlords who let without registration are liable to fixed-penalties of £250 and, in some circumstances, this can rise to £5,000.

Welsh Government to expand overseas presence

The Welsh Government are set to open five new overseas offices in 2018 as part of preparations for Brexit. The new offices will be located in Berlin (Germany), Doha (Qatar), Paris (France), Dusseldorf (Germany) and Montreal (Canada).

Germany, Qatar and France are amongst Wales’ largest export markets, while Canada is one of the world’s largest economies and Qatar is an increasingly important logistics hub as well as a rapidly-expanding market for Welsh produce.

There has, however, been criticism from the Federation for Small Businesses that city which already have a Welsh Government office recently saw drops in exports. Plaid Cymru has also called for a comprehensive international policy covering trade to international development.

Report: Disadvantaged pupils perform poorly in affluent areas

A major report into social mobility has concluded that pupils who are eligible for free school meals perform poorly in areas that are comparatively less-deprived than the Welsh average.

The Social Mobility Commission found that local authorities such as Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire have wider gaps in performance at GCSE between their deprived and non-deprived pupils than other areas – though one conclusion could be that other areas achieve lower scores generally.

Borth Zoo banned from keeping dangerous animals

Following on from the question raised in the Senedd a few weeks ago, Borth Zoo has been banned from keeping “category one” animals (animals that are a risk to the public if they come into contact with them) by Ceredigion Council.

The zoo is appealing the decision as they believe some of the category one animals they already keep are safe. Ceredigion Council also intends to closely monitor the zoo when it re-opens on 2nd December.