Senedd Bites #92: Facebook rows undermining troubled council’s turnaround efforts

(Title Image: Wales Online)

Additional support needed at troubled local authority

A review of Merthyr Tydfil Council by an improvement board set up at the council’s request has found a “debilitating lack of capacity and resilience” revealing that council officers have had to referee disputes between councillors on a private Facebook group.

The review also found the council was struggling to deal with ongoing issues, with the council’s monitoring officer said to be the only qualified childcare lawyer as well as being responsible for running other services.

Local Government & Housing Minister, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West) said there needed to be “widespread commitment from all members and officers to achieve a sustainable future for the council and to deliver good quality services to the people of Merthyr Tydfil”.

“Mini nuclear reactor” eyed-up for Trawsfynydd

The former Trawfynydd nuclear power plant could be selected to trial small modular nuclear reactors. A mini-reactor being developed by Rolls Royce is reported to be up to a third of the size of a traditional nuclear power station and would provide 44OMW of energy.

Rolls Royce technology officer, Paul Stein, told BBC Wales: “With so-called brownfield sites – where there has been a nuclear reactor, we know the local population is happy, there is a skilled local population that used to run the plant, there’s a grid connection and the seismic condition of the site.”

Any decision to approve the project will lie with the UK Government as nuclear energy is non-devolved.

Plaid Cymru fined £29,000 by Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission fined Plaid Cymru £29,000 for failing to properly declare and account funding from the Commission itself and the UK House of Commons (known as short money) totalling £497,000.

The Electoral Commission described it as a “significant and substantial degree on non-compliance”.

The rule breaches were reported to have occurred during 2018. The party said: “As soon as Plaid Cymru were notified, the Party immediately corrected this oversight and is now in full compliance. All public funds have been fully reported in the party’s Annual Report.”

Possibility raised of a Severn Crossing congestion charge

The West of England Combined Authority has raised the possibility of introducing a congestion charge for vehicles using the Severn crossings, without the Welsh Government being consulted.

There are no firms plans for the charge to be reintroduced and it’s currently only a suggestion. However, since tolls were scrapped in December 2018, traffic using the crossings has reportedly increased by at least16%.

The bridges are the responsibility of Highways England.