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Connecting Wales to the future: different views from two governments

Arguments continue over the cost of electrifying the Swansea to London rail line Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Both UK and Welsh Governments will set out the sort of transport and other big projects they think would benefit Wales in the future. In a speech in Cardiff, the Welsh Secretary David Jones will list his 'key priorities for infrastructure development with a view to boosting the Welsh economy.'

At the same conference, the Welsh Finance Minister Jane Hutt will say that the Welsh Government's investment in infrastructure has reached almost £3bn since it launched a new plan in 2012.

The UK Government still holds the purse strings of course which is why Jane Hutt will make much of the fact that some of that £3bn has been raised without Westminster's help, from 'innovative finance schemes.'

The two governments share control of infrastructure, with ministers in Cardiff responsible for roads, bridges, tunnels and water supply and Whitehall in overall charge of rail, power supplies, aviation and shipping.

So will they present competing visions of the future or plans that are complimentary and co-operative?

The precedents aren't hopeful. Ministers from the two governments continue to argue over paying the cost of electrifying the main rail line from Swansea to London and the Valleys Lines.

The UK Government insists that the Welsh Government agreed to share some of the bill. The First Minister has repeatedly said that since rail isn't devolved the whole cost should be borne by the government at the other end of the M4.

And the M4 itself, or improving the section around Newport, is another infrastructure project where there's controversy and disagreement about funding and what form it should take. Fasten your seatbelts.


People 'tipped into debt simply by having a bill to pay'

Victoria Winckler from think tank the Bevan Foundation says it is "really worrying" how many people in Wales are in too much debt.

She said: "There is a problem at the bottom of the scale, where people simply don't have enough to make ends meet, and they can be tipped over into financial difficulty through no fault of their own, such as the birth of a child or having a bill to pay."

One in six people in Wales 'in too much debt'

400,000 people in Wales - around one in six of the population - are in too much debt, according to a new report.

The report was commissioned by the Welsh Government and delivered by the Public Policy Institute for Wales.

The Welsh Government says low income is strongly linked with indebtedness and financial exclusion - where people cannot access lower-cost borrowing and resort to payday lenders or loan sharks.

We know that one in six people are being over burdened by debt, which is too many.

While there are many factors which cause people to go into poverty we believe that the impact of the UK Government's welfare reform is too deep, too fast and changes to the benefits system, including the bedroom tax, is contributing to the poverty problems faced by individuals, families and communities in Wales.

Credit unions offer a real, community based alternative to traditional banks and payday lenders.

– Jeff Cuthbert, Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister

Welsh Govt: Tackling poverty is a 'key priority'

The charity, Age Cymru, warns that around 50,000 pensioners in Wales lives in 'severe' poverty. The group is calling on the Welsh Government to do more to support older people across the country.

Tackling poverty remains a key priority for the Welsh Government and I am committed to taking forward a number of programmes that lift people out of poverty or stop the risk of them falling into it.

Examples of our work include appointing an Older People's Commissioner to champion older people's rights, announcing further grant funding of £1million for front-line advice services and fully-funding our free local bus travel service for older or disabled people. There are 725,000 bus passes in circulation, demonstrating the success and popularity of the scheme.

However, we recognise that it is important to identify new opportunities to reduce poverty and improve the lives of those living in the poorest parts of Wales

– Jeff Cuthbert AM, Welsh Government Minister for Tackling Poverty


Charity calls for action over pensioner poverty

Older people's charity, Age Cymru, has warned almost 50,000 pensioners in Wales live in 'severe' poverty.

Research by the charity found that 84,000 older people in Wales live in poverty. Credit: PA

Graeme Francis, from Age Cymru, said: "All older people should have an adequate standard of living.

"No-one should be faced with a calamitous reduction in their standard of living when they retire or be resigned to a life where they are forced to choose between basic essentials in order to make ends meet."

The charity says more needs to be done to help support older people in Wales.

Wales bucking UK trend as salaries rise sharply

The number of public sector jobs in Wales is lifting average salaries Credit: PA

Average salaries in Wales rose by 14 per cent over the last year, bucking the UK trend.

Research found the average salary in Wales now stands at £28,912.

It found that Wales has retained the highest proportion of public sector jobs, which make up 27.7 per cent of the workforce, despite sweeping cuts to the public sector across the UK since the recession.

The UK average for advertised salaries fell £1,800 in the 12 months to March, a drop of 5.3 per cent.

Salaries have stagnated most in areas like London, where widespread cuts in the public sector have been replaced by significant growth in lower paid, private sector roles.

Creme egg 'thank you' offer: Your views

A Welsh housing association responsible for more than 6,000 homes has been criticised for offering a free chocolate egg to tenants who've struggled to make rent payments following changes to their benefits.

You've been sharing your views on this story:

I would have found this absolutely insulting and patronising considering the 60p cost involved.The costs of meetings to decide this, the logistics of buying, packing and delivering these not to mention wages of those involved must have far outweighed the costs of the egg; I am sure the tenants would have preferred all that money to have been offered as a small discount off future rent - that would have been my choice!

– Sian Jones via email

Well they do say chocolate makes everything better!! A cream egg definitely makes up for having to pay a tax!

– Tracy on Twitter

Tenants affected by 'Bedroom Tax' offered a Creme Egg? Not sure this counts as adequate compensation!

– Anna Gearyon on Twitter
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