2. Business Statement and Announcement

– in the Senedd at 2:34 pm on 20 February 2024.

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Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 2:34, 20 February 2024

(Translated)

The next item will be the business statement and announcement. The Trefnydd to make that statement, Lesley Griffiths

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:35, 20 February 2024

Diolch, Llywydd. There is one change to today's agenda. The statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services on special measures at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, one year on, has been brought forward from next week to today. Draft business for the next three weeks is set out in the business statement and announcement, which can be found amongst the meeting papers, available to Members electronically.

Photo of Darren Millar Darren Millar Conservative

Trefnydd, can I call for a statement from the relevant Minister on Welsh Government support for public conveniences, please? We know how important public conveniences are. Access to loos is really important, particularly for older people and people who might have some sort of disability, and, indeed, people who might need to use them as a changing room or as a baby-changing facility. But, unfortunately, the facts are that over half of our public conveniences have closed since the 2010s, and, unfortunately, even though we had an opportunity to address this issue with the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 that we passed as a Senedd a number of years ago, there still isn't a legal obligation on local authorities to ensure that they have a sufficient network of public conveniences; they're simply required to report on what they have.

So, can I call for a statement from the Deputy Minister with responsibility for public health, to ensure that this is an issue that the Welsh Government shines a spotlight onto? And in that statement, can we have an understanding as to whether the Welsh Government could pick this issue up again and put some statutory obligations in place on local authorities, to make sure that there are minimum access requirements? Thank you.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:36, 20 February 2024

Thank you. I think the Member raises a very important point, for the reasons he highlighted. Whilst of course it is a matter for local authorities where public toilets are placed, and obviously funded, I think it's really important that the work continues that I know many local authorities have done to ensure that, where there are public toilets—whether that be in a shop or a restaurant—they're able to be used in the absence of toilets that, as you say, have been closed, unfortunately, mainly due to budget pressures.

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru 2:37, 20 February 2024

(Translated)

Trefnydd, I'd like to ask for two statement, please. First, you'll be aware, I'm sure, that we've all had a number of e-mails from members of unions in the National Library of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru, conveying concerns about cuts, but specifically in terms of the safety of the national collections. I'd like to ask for a statement from the Deputy Minister, outlining how she is ensuring the safety of these collections in the face of these cuts.

Also, could we have a statement from the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, updating us on the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 and what's happening following the review? A number of councils are consulting in terms of changes to their school transport provision, which is a cause of concern for a number of parents and pupils. Naturally, we need clarity in terms of what's happening with the travel Measure, and I'd be grateful if the Government could outline a timetable in order to progress this work.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:38, 20 February 2024

Thank you. In relation to your first request, I know the Deputy Minister is currently working with the library to ensure what you set out, and I know her officials are also in discussions. I will certainly ask the Deputy Minister for Climate Change to bring forward a written statement in relation to the learner travel Measure.

Photo of Paul Davies Paul Davies Conservative

Trefnydd, can I request a statement from the climate change Minister regarding the effectiveness of Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government's position on the management of landfill sites in Wales? There is an ongoing issue in my constituency at Withyhedge landfill site, where, over the last few months, residents have had to endure severe odours coming from it. I've contacted Natural Resources Wales, asking them to look into the matter with urgency, and to take enforcement action against Resources Management UK Ltd, who own the site. Unfortunately, residents are continuing to suffer as a result of these terrible odours, and they are understandably very angry, upset and dismayed. Given the huge impact on their lives, residents are now calling for this company's licence to be withdrawn. The people who own the company and operate the site already have direct access to Government Ministers, and have even donated money to one of them. And so, this should already be on the Government's radar, and I hope that there will be some intervention to support the residents who are affected by this awful problem.

I'm sure you'd agree with me that this is totally unacceptable, and so, therefore, I'd be grateful if a statement could be forthcoming as quickly as possible, to provide some support to the communities affected, and ensure that Natural Resources Wales is being effective in undertaking its regulatory and enforcement duties.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:39, 20 February 2024

I'm unclear as to whether you've had a response from Natural Resources Wales, but I would think that that's the most important thing at the moment. Perhaps you could write to the Minister for Climate Change, who can ensure that you do get a response as a matter of urgency.

Photo of Llyr Gruffydd Llyr Gruffydd Plaid Cymru 2:40, 20 February 2024

Storm Babet, of course, struck back in October, and Conwy County Borough Council, amongst others, were left with huge clean-up costs—in Conwy's case, up to £1.5 million or £1.4 million. Now, whilst the council has notified the Welsh Government that they'll be seeking support through the emergency financial assistance scheme, or EFAS, to give its acronym, there is, of course, a threshold of just over £0.5 million that the authority themselves have to meet initially. However, the council—and it's not unique to Conwy, other councils are facing this dilemma as well—are still awaiting confirmation from the Welsh Government, and the finance Minister in particular, as to whether you will open EFAS for applications from local authorities. If it isn't opened, of course, then the whole £1.4 million cost will fall on the shoulders of Conwy council, increasing their forecast overspend and adding significant risk to their budget for next year and the council's ongoing resilience. So, can we have from the finance Minister a statement, giving urgent clarity to local authorities as to whether and, if so, when she will open EFAS for applications?

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:41, 20 February 2024

Thank you. Well, the Welsh Government does have a very strong record of supporting our local authorities, when, unfortunately, flooding has occurred. I know that the Minister for Finance and Local Government is aware of the request. She's currently considering it, and will inform the local authorities once a decision has been taken in the very near future. 

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat

Good afternoon, Minister. I'd like to request a statement from the Minister for Climate Change, please, regarding building and fire safety, because the suffering for many residents in high-rise buildings goes on, particularly in light of the recently announced Redrow and Barratt merger. It's been 12 months now since the Welsh Government and developers' contract was signed, and, sadly, remediation payments are painfully slow. A merger of this magnitude, with an expected £90 million in cost savings, may absorb substantial management focus and further delay remediation efforts.

Additionally, given the special governance measures put in place for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and the concerning statements from the Welsh Government about the service's failures to learn the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire, residents deserve renewed confirmation, as soon as possible, that building safety continues to be prioritised through this transitional period. So, I wonder if we could have a statement from the Minister on how the Welsh Government plans to ensure that fire safety still remains a top priority for those residents. Diolch yn fawr iawn. 

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:42, 20 February 2024

Thank you. Well, in respect of the developers' obligations, there's no need to amend or enter a new contract with the developers as a result of the merger that you referred to. The definition of 'participant developer group company' was sufficiently wide, when it was brought forward a year ago, to capture the changes that have been brought about by a merger. And I know the Minister for Climate Change's officials will continue to meet with representatives of the developers concerned in the coming weeks to discuss any practical impacts.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative 2:43, 20 February 2024

I would like to call for a statement from the Minister for Health and Social Services this afternoon on the availability of hydrotherapy treatment within Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. The Minister has outlined previously that the health board can use local community resources, but I have heard from patients who have received a referral that there are often delays and a lack of community resources available, with many in need of reinvestment. The closest hydrotherapy pool for my constituents is in Bangor, and the hydrotherapy pool at the Glan Clwyd Hospital was closed back in 2014, with no plans, as far as I am aware, to open a new hydrotherapy facility. The use of hydrotherapy is highly effective in alleviating pain for those suffering from rheumatism and a plethora of orthopaedic and musculoskeletal conditions. Therefore, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy are effective in reducing pressure on other NHS services.

Could the Trefnydd outline whether the Welsh Government has assessed or, at least, considered the possibility of opening a new hydrotherapy pool within the physiotherapy department at Glan Clwyd Hospital? And what is the Minister doing to improve the relationship between the health board and community resources, to ensure that when a referral is made the patient does actually receive the treatment they need? 

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:44, 20 February 2024

Thank you. Well, the issue you raise is not a matter for the Minister for Health and Social Services. It's absolutely a matter for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. So, I'd urge you to write to the chair.

Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

May I ask for two statements, please? First, a statement by the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language on how we can enforce the place name regulations for Wales. In the light of opening the new bridge over the Dyfi river, new signs have been placed referring to Aberdyfi with the old spelling. However, the old spelling has long since vanished, and, according to the standardised Welsh place names, Aberdyfi with the original spelling is the standardised spelling. So, how has the Government been able to place a new sign that is incorrect? So, I wonder if we can have a statement from the Minister as to how he intends to ensure that standardised place names in Wales are respected.

Secondly, can we have an oral statement in this Chamber on the announcement by the health Minister last week on education and training for professional healthcare workers? The written statement raises a number of questions. It talks of funding, yes, but how many placements for students will this mean, how many people will be funded, how many people were consulted on this statement, and who did the Minister consult with? So, there are a number of questions arising from this, and I'd be grateful for the opportunity of an oral statement here in order to raise those issues directly with the Minister. Thank you.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:46, 20 February 2024

Thank you. In relation to your first request, I would suggest that you write directly to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language about the point you raised about the sign that has been installed in relation to Aberdyfi. 

With regard to the second request, the Minister for Health and Social Services, every year, announces funding for professional training. It's done on an annual basis, and the written statement clearly set out what would be expected, what would be brought forward and the funding, and I presume that will be worked up as we go through the year. If you have anything specific, again, the Minister is in her place and is asking for you to write to her directly. 

Photo of Laura Anne Jones Laura Anne Jones Conservative

Business Minister, I'd like to request a statement from the education Minister. Since 2011, the number of teachers of the deaf has fallen by 20 per cent—one in five teachers. It is expected that, in the next 10 years, one in three teachers will retire. If no further action is taken, it will get to a point where there are no teachers of the deaf left here in Wales. So, deaf children will be left unsupported and we will have another preventable crisis in education on our hands. I would like to hear what the education Minister is doing, in the form of a statement, please, to encourage more teachers to take on that extra two years of training to become teachers of the deaf. As I'm sure you'll agree, business Minister, all children, including those with hearing impairments, should be able to enjoy the same standard of education as everybody else. Thank you.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:47, 20 February 2024

Yes, I would absolutely agree with your final point. The point you raise, really, is part of the workforce planning that the education sector here in Wales undertakes. 

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

Thank you. I'd like to—. Is this—?

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

This is the business statement. 

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 2:48, 20 February 2024

This is the business statement, Janet Finch-Saunders, the second item on the agenda.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

I don't think you're ready to ask your question. 

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

I am ready. I've got it here, my contribution.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

So, why didn't you ask it? Why were you consulting with your fellow Member to ask her what was happening? Ask your question.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

Okay. I'd like to just raise a concern about the way that Arriva Bus Wales have completely cut off a village in my constituency, the ward being Penrhyn-side. They did it without warning, leaving about 450 or 500 people completely, now, feeling that they're in social isolation. It's a very steep village on the side of Nant-y-gamar mountain. Frankly, I've written to the Minister, but I would like a statement, because this isn't just happening in my constituency or in this area, and they're just literally pulling the service without any consultation with elected members, without any consultation with residents and affected travellers. So, it is something that I feel really passionately about.

Photo of Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths Labour 2:49, 20 February 2024

Thank you. This is a matter for Arriva. It's not a matter for the Deputy Minister, and I suggest you write to the chief executive of Arriva.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

I thank the Trefnydd.