Senedd Bites #61: Is the Senedd’s petitions system manipulated?

(Title Image: Animal Aid)

Senedd petitions system “manipulated by people outside Wales”

A Freedom of Information request by the Countryside Alliance claims that a majority of people signing a petition supporting a ban on the shooting of pheasants on public land lived outside Wales. Less than 1,500 signatories of a 12,706 signature petition gave a postcode in Wales and more than 1,000 lived outside the UK.

The organisation’s director in Wales, Rachel Evans, said: “It’s time that decision makers both in and out of the political sphere review the practicalities of petitions. Wales is a soft target for those with ideological and extreme views.”

In 2016, the Petitions Committee agreed to let non-Welsh residents continue to sign petitions as part of a number of reforms to the system, though only Welsh-residents and organisations are allowed to submit petitions. A majority of respondents to their inquiry called for signatures to be restricted to Welsh-residents only.

Call to regulate homeowner charges

Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly) has called for a cap on householder charges – known in colloquial terms as “fleeceholds” – to be introduced in Wales. The Senedd has debated the issue several times, but to date, no firm proposals for regulating the practice have come forward.

He said, “I think the Welsh Government has the power to take action. There needs to be at the very least a cap on those charges and the rights of residents to have a method of complaint.” An attempt to change the law is being made at Westminster, while the Welsh Government were said to be expecting a report on this over the summer from an expert group.

Pinewood Studios Wales rented out to Welsh production company

Cardiff-based Pinewood Studios Wales – which was subject to a stinging report from the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year – has entered into a year-long rental agreement with local production company, Bad Wolf. The deal has a two-year extension option.

The agreement will see Bad Wolf and the Welsh Government contribute £600,000 each to improvements to the facility. It’s reported the studios will be used to film the second series of Sky drama A Discovery of Witches and HBO drama Industry.

£50million tourism investment fund announced

On March 28th, Deputy Minister for Culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) launched a £50million investment fund for innovation in tourism at the 2019 Wales Tourism Summit in Llandrindod Wells.

He said, “Our ability to market Wales to new and ever-changing markets globally is wholly reliant on having a great story to tell – and part of that includes investing in experiences and places that define Wales and appeal to future visitors.”

The tourism industry has been invited to offer their views to a new tourism strategy as the current one – Partnership for Growth – comes to an end.

A465 dualling costs rise to £324million; won’t be finished on time

The cost of dualling a section of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road between Gilwern and Brynmawr has risen to £324million. The improvement is still under construction and is already behind schedule, with the new price £54million higher than first expected.

The section was originally due to be completed by December 2019, while the Wales Audit Office has reportedly begun an investigation into the project’s commercial position. Complex engineering works have been blamed for the delays and cost over-runs.