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Welsh government outlines cuts to protect NHS budget amid ‘unprecedented pressures’ | UK News

The Welsh government has outlined cuts to some services amid “unprecedented” financial pressures.

In the Senedd on Tuesday, the finance minister outlined a package of financial measures which she said would protect public services, the NHS and transport.

Rebecca Evans said she was “grateful” to cabinet colleagues for finding savings within their departments’ budgets.

She added the current economic situation meant the devolved government in Cardiff faced “incredibly difficult times”.

First Minister Mark Drakeford had asked members of the cabinet to find savings to combat the Welsh government’s “toughest financial situation” since devolution.

The government has blamed the pressure on a combination of high inflation, austerity and what it called the UK government’s “mismanagement of the economy”.

In response, Wales Secretary David TC Davies said the Welsh government was responsible for its own spending choices on devolved matters.

“For our part, we are providing the Welsh government with the largest funding settlement in the history of devolution,” he said.

The finance minister added the current financial situation meant the Welsh government would not be able to do “all the things we wish to do”.

Statements such as these are rare outside of a usual budget announcement, with the Welsh government’s next budget not due to be published until February.

The largest cuts have been made to the education and Welsh language budget which sees a £74.7m reduction in funding.

But two departments will see an increase in their budgets.

Health and social care will see an increase of £425m in revenue funding and an increase of £82.6m in climate change revenue funding has also been announced.

Transport sits within the climate change department and Transport for Wales will see an increase of £125m in its budget.

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The Welsh Conservatives – the largest opposition party in the Senedd – have accused the Welsh government of having “grossly mismanaged their budget”.

They also accused Labour of having “the wrong priorities”.

Wales tourists could pay extra fee for overnight stays as Welsh government pushes ahead with tourism tax plans | UK News

Visitors to Wales could be paying an additional fee for staying overnight amid plans to introduce a tourism tax in the country.

The Welsh government says it is moving ahead with plans to introduce a “visitor levy” in Wales.

Local authorities will have powers to introduce a levy in their areas, the money would then be spent on maintaining the local area.

Plans will need to be rubber-stamped by the Senedd before they are introduced but they are likely to get passed it’s one of the policies included in the co-operation deal between the Labour government and Plaid Cymru which was agreed after the last Senedd election in 2021.

The Welsh government says the charge will be “small” at commercially-let overnight visitor accommodation.

The Welsh Conservatives, the largest opposition party in the Senedd, has accused the government of “taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

A similar scheme is already in place in more than 40 destinations across the world including Greece, Frankfurt in Germany, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the Welsh government argues.

Cardiff Castle, one of Wales' best-known tourist destinations.
Cardiff Castle, one of Wales’ best-known tourist destinations.

A consultation received over 1,000 responses and the government says there was support across most local authorities and other organisations.

Responses also came from tourism industry representatives and many disagreed with the principle of introducing a fee.

The Welsh government’s consumer research found that 58% of respondents thought tourists should pay towards the upkeep and investment in their local area.

It also found that support for tourism tax was highest in areas which attracted the most tourists.

‘Sledgehammer to crack a nut’

Finance and local government minister Rebecca Evans said: “We understand some businesses have reservations about a visitor levy and I am grateful to all those who took the time to respond to our consultation.

“These responses will be carefully considered as we continue to develop our specific plans for a levy.

“Many destinations around the world use visitor levies to empower and enhance their local areas for the benefit of visitors and locals alike – I am confident this will be the case here in Wales.”

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The Welsh Conservatives’ shadow tourism minister, Tom Giffard, voiced the party’s opposition to the plans.

“Nothing says welcome to Wales more than Labour announcing they will be pressing ahead with their toxic tourism tax as families gear up for the Easter holidays,” he said.

“Tourism supports one in seven jobs in Wales enabling people to pay council tax, helping to tackle the issues that Labour claim a tourism tax would fix.

“The Labour government should be working with the industry to boost this vital sector instead of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Kate beats William at spin class on visit to Welsh leisure centre – all while wearing high-heeled boots | UK News

The Princess of Wales beat her husband at an endurance spin class during a visit to an Aberavon leisure centre – while donning her high-heeled boots.

The royal couple joined gym goers at the endurance cycling session in south Wales, and were challenged to see who could cycle the furthest in 45 seconds while riding a virtual race in the Italian mountains.

As they entered the room, the prince apologised to the class saying: “Sorry for ruining your spin class.”

He then pointed out to Kate that she was still wearing her high-heeled boots.

“Not sure I am dressed for this,” she responded.

Once under way, and clearly teasing her husband, Kate said: “Can I make it harder?”

At the conclusion, William said, while breathing heavily: “Talk to you in a minute.”

The Princess of Wales looks at her winners trophy after beating the Prince of Wales in a timed distance spin class during a visit to Aberavon Leisure and Fitness Centre in Port Talbot, to meet local communities and hear about how sport and exercise can support mental health and wellbeing. Picture date: Tuesday February 28, 2023.
The princess was given a trophy for her victory over William

The event was part of a series of visits in south Wales to mark St David’s Day.

Away from their race, the pair toured the centre’s sports hall and swimming pool, and met children from the local Tywyn Primary School, who were taking part in various indoor sports.

Seven-year-old Rafael Vazquez, from Swansea, presented the couple with a set of Welsh leotards for their children.

His mother Jo Vazquez said: “It was wonderful to meet them. They are so genuine people and have a real interest in the community, children and sport.

“They said how interested they were in keeping leisure centres open, especially swimming, as it is such a key skill for life.”

William and Kate also visited a therapy garden in Pontyclun, where the princess planted a Sweet William – prompting a laugh from her husband.

The Princess of Wales pats a dog during a visit to Brynawel Rehabilitation Centre near the town of Pontyclun, Mid Glamorgan, to hear about the work they do to support those struggling with the effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Picture date: Tuesday February 28, 2023.
The prince and princess met a great dane on their visit to a therapy garden in Pontyclun

They also met a therapy dog, seven-year-old Great Dane, Ragnar, with William commenting on the dog’s “big ears”, while Kate said: “He must be very popular.”

Kate was presented with a bunch of daffodils by two-year-old Cora Phillips, with her mother Michelle Phillips, from Llanharan, saying: “Oh my goodness, I did not expect that in a million years.”

Turning to her daughter, she said: “We just met a princess. We’re never going to forget that.”

Welsh primary school pupil dies after contracting invasive Strep A | UK News

A child from a Welsh primary school has died after contracting an invasive form of Strep A.

The pupil who died attended Victoria Primary School in Penarth, located in the south of Wales, four miles from Cardiff.

Public Health Wales’ communicable disease control consultant, Dr Ardiana Gjini, confirmed the death on Thursday.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and all those affected,” the doctor said.

“Public Health Wales cannot comment on individual cases, and we ask that the privacy of the family is respected.”

Public Health Wales are now working with the primary school to raise awareness of the infection, which according to the NHS usually causes “mild illness like sore throats and skin infections”.

Individuals should familiarise themselves with symptoms such as fever, sore throat, severe muscle aches and redness at the site of a wound.

Invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS or Strep A) can cause severe illness “when the bacteria get into parts of the body that are usually free from bacteria such as the lungs, blood or muscles”.

An electron microscope image of Group A Streptococcus. Pic: AP
An electron microscope image of Group A Streptococcus. Pic: AP

“This can happen when you are already ill or are on treatments, such as some cancer treatments, that affect your immune system. Two of the most severe types of invasive disease are necrotising fasciitis and toxic shock syndrome,” according to the NHS.

The news comes shortly after a similar incident, where a six-year-old in year 1 at a school in Surrey died after an outbreak of iGAS. It is not suggested that the two incidents are connected in any way.

Although the case at Victoria Primary School is not suggested as an outbreak, parents have been reminded to consider nasal flu vaccine for their children where appropriate.

The NHS adds that those at an increase risk of Strep A include people who are in close contact with someone who has the disease, are over the age of 65, or individuals who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

Most people who come into contact with the bacteria remain well and symptom-free.