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Welsh Secretary welcomes rise in start-up loans

The Welsh Secretary has welcomed a 30% increase in the number of people in Wales receiving UK Government money to start their own businesses. The figures show that the Start-Up Loans Company lent almost £4.5 million to 712 entrepreneurs in the last year.

Stephen Crabb welcomed the news:

Since 2010, we have seen 26,000 new businesses Wales. Schemes such as Start up Loans provide budding entrepreneurs across Wales with the tools they need to turn their ideas into living, breathing businesses.

Our long term economic plan is all about supporting small businesses, backing aspiration and encouraging more young people to follow their dreams. I am thrilled to see this happening all across Wales and hope more young people apply to the scheme and get the chance to start their own businesses.

– Stephen Crabb MP, Secretary of State for Wales

Law change needed to guarantee more nurses on wards says Welsh Lib Dem leader

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams says all other attempts have failed to guarantee minimum numbers of nurses on wards. She's trying to introduce a new law which would force health chiefs to guarantee staffing levels.

Giving evidence to the Assembly's Health Committee, Kirsty Williams told AMs that some health boards continue to fail to do so despite strong guidelines and targets.

NHS £40 million extra "is panic measure" say Tories

The Welsh Conservatives have described the extra £40 million to help with winter pressures on the NHS as a panic measure by the Welsh Government. They've contrasted today's announcement with how an extra £300 million was allocated in England last November, on top of £400 million previously announced.

This is a last minute panic measure after queues of ambulances outside hospitals and A&E nurses working in conditions that are more stressful than on the frontline in the Iraq War. The UK Government announced additional money months ago to allow the English NHS to plan for winter pressures, in contrast to this eleventh hour decision by Labour at the height of winter.

– Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar AM

Welsh NHS gets extra £40 million for winter pressures

The Welsh Government is giving the NHS an extra £40 million to help it cope with winter pressures on the service. It's equivalent to the £700 million that the UK Government has given to NHS England. The announcement follows a period of sustained pressure over the Christmas and New Year period.

  • GP out-of-hour services had their busiest festive period ever
  • The Welsh Ambulance Service experienced unprecedented demand
  • Hospital emergency departments reported an increase in patients with acute conditions, complex needs and dependency.

This additional investment in our health service will help our NHS deal with the significant pressures the service is facing – pressures that are being experienced across the UK as a result of increased demand from an influx of sick patients. Winter is a very busy period for our health, social care and social services – but our urgent and emergency care services, in particular, are seeing significant extra demand on their services.

I want to thank staff who are working tirelessly, often in difficult situations, to ensure that those people who have needed urgent and emergency care have received high-quality treatment and services and have been treated with care and compassion.

– Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM

Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething has appealed to the public to consider whether they need to go to A&E when they are injured or unwell. He said people should ask themselves if another local health service can help or if they can look after themselves with advice from NHS Direct.

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Hagues move to £2.5 million Montgomeryshire mansion

The Hagues will move to Ffion's native Montgomeryshire after Williams stands down as a Yorkshire MP. Credit: PA

Cabinet minister William Hague and his wife Ffion have bought a Montgomeryshire mansion as their new home after he stands down as an MP at the General Election. Cyfronydd Hall near Welshpool was on the market for £2.5 million. The nineteenth century building was a girls' school for many years but has been restored by the previous owners.

With three stories (plus cellars), the mansion has 10 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. It was sold with 12.7 acres of grounds and "spectacular panoramic views over the rolling countryside of the majestic Banwy valley". Buyers were warned, however, that the restoration of a one-acre walled garden "is a project waiting to happen".

Cyfronydd Hall is set in 12.7 acres Credit: Wikimedia

Ffion Hague's family roots are in Montgomeryshire. she met her husband when she was working at the Welsh Office and he became Secretary of State. The couple are both published authors and are expected to pursue their writing careers after William Hague steps down as MP for Richmond in Yorkshire and leaves David Cameron's cabinet, where he's been Foreign Secretary and now Leader of the House of Commons.

Over recent years Cyfronydd Hall has been beautifully restored, and it's great news for the area that it is now the family home of William and Ffion Hague, two people whom I expect to become acclaimed authors. I believe they will feel very much at home in our beautiful old county.

– Glyn Davies, Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire
  1. Adrian Masters

TV debates risk sidelining Wales warns Plaid leader

Leanne Wood says Westminster leaders should debate in Wales

Plaid Cymru's leader is warning that TV election debate plans could mean that 'the people of Wales [are] sidelined.' Leanne Wood's comments follow the news that Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have said they're prepared to debate each other without David Cameron.

Number Ten sources have suggested the Prime Minister would consider a 5-party debate but that would still exclude Plaid Cymru and the SNP. The Plaid leader Leanne Wood has written to the other parties saying that if they remain excluded, the Westminster party leaders should take part in a debate held in Wales. She said:

At the moment there is a danger that people in Wales will be sidelined by the television debates. If the debates take place without Plaid Cymru and the SNP, then it is clear that the discussions will be dominated by England only matters, and devolved issued will not be taken into consideration.

People in Wales have a right to scrutinise the parties that could have an impact on their lives after the election. With the prospect of a hung Parliament becoming ever more likely, it is very possible that Plaid Cymru will hold the balance of power.

The people of Wales should have the opportunity to hold Plaid Cymru to account.

For this reason it is important that the leaders come to Wales and hold a debate here in Wales. Welsh voters should be given the chance to properly scrutinise the parties that will represent them after the UK general election.

– Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru leader
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