Senedd Bites #100: Land transaction tax threshold raised & Media Wales job loss concerns

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

Land Transaction Tax threshold increased to £250,000 until March 2021

The threshold at which first-time buyers pay Land Transaction Tax (LTT) – the Welsh equivalent of stamp duty in England – will be increased to £250,000 until March 31st 2021 as part of measures to kick start the property market as the economy reopens following the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

At present, property buyers in Wales start to pay LTT from £180,000. The Welsh Government believes that more than three-quarters of purchases in Wales will be exempt from the tax. The discount won’t apply to second home purchases or buy-to-lets.

The policy change in Wales mirrors that of Scotland, while England and Northern Ireland have increased their threshold to £500,000.

Grave concerns over media job losses

See also: The Talking Point #21: Is the end nigh for Welsh newspapers?

The announcement of significant job losses at Newsquest, BBC Wales and Media Wales (Reach plc) prompted concerns from politicians and commentators that the already inadequate coverage of Wales will worsen.

The Daily Post – covering northern Wales – is set to be produced in north-west England, while Media Wales – which publishes The Western Mail and Wales Online – is set to be amalgamated with Reach plc’s English Midlands division.

Senior report and NUJ representative, Martin Shipton, said: “(Journalists) have given their all during the pandemic to produce high-quality content for print and online, yet even at this stage they have not been told how many of them the company wants to leave the organisation.”

Minister welcomes increase in university applications from deprived areas

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) has welcomed an increase in university applications from students from deprived communities.

21.6% of applications for the 2020 intake came from students from deprived areas – an increase of 2.2% compared to 2019. Across the board, applications to study at Welsh universities increased by 6% – which recently revealed they were facing serious financial problems.

The Minister said: “We’re opening up higher education to more people than ever, providing the most generous student support package in the UK. Wales is the only country in Europe which offers equivalent living costs support for undergraduate full-time, part-time and postgraduate students.”

NHS IT systems suffer “glitch” as work continues on upgrades

An IT system to track cancer patients through the NHS Wales temporarily went down at the end of last week due to a glitch.

BBC Wales reports that the First Minister said the glitches were due to systems upgrades. The NHS Informatics Service said access to test results and other associated documents wasn’t affected.

The Public Accounts Committee published a highly critical report on NHS IT systems in 2018, which resulted in the Welsh Government announcing a £50million overhaul at the end of 2019.