Happy new year / Blwyddyn Newydd dda to readers. I hope you had a happy festive break but I know not everyone will have had time off. So I’d like to thank anyone who was working over Christmas especially those working in the NHS and care homes.
I thought I would start this year’s columns with my new year wishes for constituents in 2022.
I hope that all the Year 11 and Sixth Form pupils whose education and confidence have been badly affected by the pandemic have a year of recovery in 2022.
The pandemic inevitably caused disruption and we now have evidence that certain learners, including those in exam years or from lower income backgrounds, have felt the impact most severely.
That’s why I particularly welcome the £24m of Welsh Government funding announced in December which will be targeted to supporting those year groups and ensure no learner will be left behind.
I look forward to the start of the roll-out which will see Free School Meals extended to all primary school children from September 2022. I hope this will be an important further step in tackling child poverty and ensuring that no child goes hungry.
Evidence also shows that there are wider benefits of Free School Meals, including raising the profile of healthy eating, increasing the range of foods pupils eat, improving social skills at meal times and improvements in behaviour and attainment. It’s a win-win all round and I’m so pleased this will begin to be implemented.
I am very glad that the Welsh Government has said it will ‘buy out’ people who are unable to sell their properties due to cladding issues which have arisen since the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in 2017.
Julie James, Minister for Climate Change said a new scheme which will help a “small number of leaseholders” in financial difficulties and ensuring new multi-occupied residential buildings will have safety built in. Details will be released in the new year but I hope this will provide some relief from the stress, worry and financial issues this has unfortunately caused some people.
In November, Natural Resources Wales made a decision not to allow any future trail-hunting on its land in Wales. As an animal lover one of my wishes for 2022 is that the Welsh Government will go on to consider a ban on trail-hunting on all publicly-owned land in Wales. Likewise I am very pleased that the Welsh Government has committed to banning snares and glue-traps in Wales, both cruel forms of pest control which entrap animals and lead to slow lingering deaths.
I am looking forward to progress on improvements to rail and bus networks across North Wales as part of the North Wales Metro system. I have long campaigned with the community for a station at Greenfield and the Welsh Government has also carried out a feasibility study, so I am hoping for more positive news on the plans in 2022.
Theatr Clwyd’s £35m redevelopment is due to start in 2022 after an understandable delay caused by the pandemic. It is great the funding has been secured from a variety of sources including the Welsh Government, trusts and foundations, private philanthropy, the Arts Council Wales and Flintshire County Council.
I hope the redevelopment of the building – which is four decades old – will ensure it’s greener, more energy efficient and fit for many more of us to enjoy in the future.
Last, but not least, I hope that social care workers will start to feel the benefit of being paid the Real Living Wage from April 2022.
The uplift in wages will follow a £43m investment by the Welsh Government to local authorities. It will apply to registered workers in care homes and domiciliary care, in both adults and children’s services. It will apply to Personal Assistants who provide care and support which is funded through a direct payment.
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