Senedd Bites #14: Bypass bill increases & more

(Title Image: Deryn Consulting)

£135million added to Newport bypass bill

The proposed M4 bypass of Newport will now cost £1.3billion after a £135million package of improvements to Newport docks was announced as part of an agreement which would see Associated British Ports drop their opposition to the project.

The preferred “Black Route” – which is still subject to an ongoing public inquiry – will pass through the Docks and the works will upgrade the docks, move affected businesses and upgrade/move cranes and other heavy machinery.

Plaid Cymru – who back an alternative route – said they would oppose the bypass if/when it comes before the Senedd, while the Conservatives criticised Labour’s handling of major projects in terms of keeping them on time and on budget.

Deryn Duo

Cardiff-based lobbying firm, Deryn Consulting, is gaining a reputation for being never too far away from a scandal, having been unflatteringly described as “The Welsh Bell Pottinger” by the Guido Fawkes site last month.

Prior to the recess, attentions focused there again, with Guido Fawkes naming Deryn’s former ITV Wales journalist and First Ministerial SpAd, Jo Kiernan, as the possible (stress possible) individual referred to in bullying complaints made by Carl Sargeant and others in 2014. The site also accused Deryn of being behind a “whispering campaign” against Carl because he refused to grant lobbyists access.

There’ve been no denials and no confirmations either, so for the time being take that with a pinch of salt.

It’s also likely no coincidence that Cathy Owens – another former SpAd and one of Deryn’s co-founders – was clearly aware of the November reshuffle.

Report recommends exhibition charges at museums

A review of National Museum Wales by Dr Simon Thurley has recommended possibly charging visitors to view special exhibitions, as well as increasing car and coach parking charges, rethinking the use of venue cafes, appointing a commercial director and even seasonal closures of National Museum sites.

The report describes a “breakdown” in relations between the National Museum and the Welsh Government, with a pay/working conditions dispute leading to a number of strikes since 2016 which had seen exhibition days cut.

128,000 “ignore” bowel screening invites

Public Health Wales, which runs cancer-screening services, said 128,000 people had ignored invitations to take part in bowel cancer screening tests every year.

All 60-74-year-olds in Wales are sent testing kits every 2 years as part of a programme to cut bowel cancer deaths through early detection, but of the 280,000 invites every year, only 152,000 (54.3%) take part.

Men and people living in more deprived areas were less likely to return test samples, with common misconceptions blamed (i.e. not having symptoms therefore not requiring testing) as well as an “ick factor” of having to test your own stool samples.

Health Secretary apologies for winter delays and cancellations

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) said sorry for the cancellation of routine operations due to winter pressures put on the Welsh NHS due to an increase in emergency admissions to hospital as well as a massive increase in ambulance call-outs over the Christmas/New Year period – some of which weren’t urgent.

Similar pressures prompted a similar apology from the English Health Secretary, but that didn’t stop Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), criticising the Welsh Government’s response as “late in the day”. Both the Tories and Plaid raised the matter at this week’s FMQs.

Gill goes; his replacement barred from UKIP

After a grim number of weeks for Welsh politics, it’s good you can always count on UKIP for comic relief.

As rumoured prior to the Christmas recess, Nathan Gill MEP has resigned his Assembly seat despite maintaining that he was staying back in December.

As there are no by-elections for regional list members, and Gill was originally elected as UKIP AM, the seat passes to UKIP’s third list candidate in North Wales, Mandy Jones….who’s immediately been kicked out of the UKIP group for employing staff who campaigned for other parties and didn’t meet the approval of the Hamiltons.

Nathan’s since criticised the “argumentative bubble” nature of politics in Cardiff Bay, but as he rarely turned up you’ve got to wonder how he came to that conclusion.

I’m sure all of us will treasure the valued contribution Nathan made to Welsh political life during his 18 months as an AM, such as: