Senedd Bites #34: Council mergers shelved (again) & more

(Title Image: Electoral Reform Society)

Councils will not be forced to merge

Public Services Secretary, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) has withdrawn plans for council mergers after previously suggesting the number of local authorities in Wales could fall to as few as 10. It’s the latest failed attempt to reform the local government map.

He told the WLGA in Llandudno that he intended to work with them to come up with another proposal which could mean new legislation on the relationship between national and local government.

Deal agreed on steel company merger

Tata Steel and ThyssenKrupp agreed on a deal to merge after a year of negotiations following a rescue deal for Port Talbot steelworks and other Tata operations.

The merger will create a steel company with annual sales fo £13billion and included an agreement to avoid compulsory redundancies until 2026.

Trade unions cautiously welcomed the agreement following the redundancy commitment as well as a commitment to repair No. 5 blast furnace at Port Talbot and believe it will provide a measure of security.

Fracking consultation launched

Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham) launched a public consultation on powers over onshore oil and gas extraction – including “fracking”. The powers are set to be devolved in October 2018.

The initial Welsh Government policy position opposes new oil or gas extraction licences, with the Secretary saying “Our aim is to sustainably manage our natural resources in a way which meets the needs of Wales today, without compromising the needs of future generations. To meet our climate change targets, our long-term aim is to remove fossil fuels from our energy mix while minimising economic impact and providing clarity for investors and encouraging them to invest in lower carbon alternatives.”

The consultation – available here – closes on 28th September 2018.

Antiquated IT equipment delays cancer treatment

During a session with the Public Accounts Committee, NHS bosses admitted that IT problems at Cardiff’s Velindre hospital – which specialises in cancer – led to delays in treatment, but didn’t put patients at risk.

The system went down 11 times over a 4 week period between April-May 2018 and was no longer supported by Microsoft and it was also claimed it was more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) was yet to report on the problems, which were subject to a critical Wales Audit Office report, resulting in the Committee inquiry.

Huw Irranca-Davies joins Labour leadership race

Children & Social Services Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies (Lab, Ogmore) announced his intention to join the Labour leadership race.

Mark Drakeford is currently the only candidate with the right number of AM nominations, though Vaughan Gething is just one short. Neither Eluned Morgan or Huw Irranca-Davies have any confirmed nominations yet.

Plaid AM calls for “co-leadership”

One of the challengers to Leanne Wood’s leadership of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) called for the party to adopt co-leadership with a male and female leader to prevent “a toxic residue of bitterness and recrimination”. It was effectively an ultimatum to accept the proposal or face a leadership challenge, which was confirmed on July 4th.

He added that change was needed “badly” and “fast” due to a lack of progress in achieving the party’s aims and the loss of more than 1,000 members in eight months – a claim denied by the party. He was particularly critical of the party’s lack of strategy on Welsh independence.