Live updates

Bid to cut premature deaths

Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/PA Images

A new programme is being launched today to reduce the number of people in some of Wales’ most deprived communities from dying prematurely from heart disease and cancer.

Average life expectancy for men in Wales is 78.2 (2010-12) but life expectancy for men living in Blaenau Gwent is just 75.7 years – one of the five lowest in England and Wales.

Heart disease and cancer share many factors, like poor diet, little exercise, smoking and excess alcohol intake.

The Welsh Government says, in the first phase of the Living Well Living Longer programme, targeted support will be provided to people with the need by identifying those at the greatest risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The health check will include simple questions about lifestyle and family history. People will be offered a blood pressure, pulse and cholesterol check to assess their risk of developing heart disease over the next 10 years.

Advice about diet and exercise, including, where appropriate, referral to exercise schemes or support from local smoking cessation services, will be offered.

Despite overall improvements in life expectancy, more needs to be done to address the unacceptable inequalities in health outcomes between Wales’ most and least deprived communities.

Much can be done through actions to tackle health inequalities at source – such as improving diet, doing more exercise, stop smoking and drinking alcohol responsibly.

– Vaughan Gethin AM, Deputy Health Minister.


Public inquiry into Circuit of Wales plans

A public inquiry will be held in June, to consider plans for a £280m racing track in Blaenau Gwent.

The Planning Inspectorate says the planning inquiry will start on 24 June, with its inspector writing a recommendation over whether the development should go ahead.

Developers hope to bring top-level motor racing to Ebbw Vale. Credit: Heads of the Valleys Development Company

Developers say the track will create thousands of jobs, and bring 750,000 visitors to the area each year - but there has been controversy over environmental concerns.

Says Kate Ashbrook, from the Open Spaces Society, said: ‘We objected most strongly to this ugly and intrusive development on a substantial area of common land. We are pleased that, in the light of the objections, the Planning Inspectorate has resolved that there should be a public inquiry."

Operation Jasmine families made review possible - MP

Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith has campaigned on behalf of the families of those alleged to have suffered abuse and neglect. He's welcomed the announcement of an independent review.

When I met the families affected by the collapse of Operation Jasmine in March, two things were clear. They wanted answers and they wanted justice.

Without the bold decision by the First Minister today, these families would have been let down by the system.

Their pain and guilt over what happened to their loved ones deserved a response, and I cannot welcome this response enough.

From the first time I saw the disturbing images of wickedness at these care homes, I knew it was a story that needed to be told and for real lessons to be learned from it.

In the months since, I have been campaigning hard in Parliament to change care home laws, while working with the Deputy Minister for Social Services and Older People’s Commissioner to secure an inquiry - always with their story at the forefront of my mind.

But it is the tireless work by these families that has made this possible today. We will no longer have to talk about 12,000 tonnes of evidence lying locked in a warehouse, or a criminal case lying on file.

Instead we will have a review that will tell the public the full story, and hopefully spare generations to come from tragic stories such as this.

– Nick Smith MP, Blaenau Gwent

Race-track boss: 'We are confident in the plans'

The company behind the plans for the 'Circuit of Wales' race-track say they will work with the Welsh Government to overcome any concerns about the development.

We are very confident in the outline planning application we have submitted and are delighted that we received the unanimous backing of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council in today’s vote. The Welsh Government has asked for more time to look at the project and we’re happy to continue engaging with them and all stakeholders to ensure we address, as much as possible, the specific concerns they have.

– Michael Carrick, Chief Executive of Heads of the Valleys Development Company.


Valleys' £280m racetrack decision put on-hold

Blaenau Gwent Council was today asked not to give planning consent to the racetrack.

Planning approval for the 'Circuit of Wales' racetrack north of Ebbw Vale was stopped in its tracks today.

The Welsh Government stepped in to ask Blaenau Gwent Council not to give the plans the green light as ministers want to look at the plans in more detail.

"The holding direction provides the Welsh Ministers with more time within which to consider whether or not the application should be called in for their own determination," said a government spokesman.

"The Welsh Ministers have been asked to call-in the application and those requests are still under consideration. The holding direction provides the Welsh Ministers with more time within which to consider whether or not the application should be called in for their own determination."

The holding direction prevents the council from granting planning permission but doesn't stop the council from continuing to process the application.

Welsh lottery winner loses out on £1m

The £1m winner lived in Blaenau Gwent but failed to claim the prize.

A mystery would-be millionaire missed out on a lottery jackpot in one of Wales most hard-up areas today. The ticket holder stood to pocket £1m after their numbers came-up in one of the country's deprivation blackspots.

But the winner from Blaenau Gwent failed to come forward for six months after hitting the jackpot. And now they've lost the lot with their "life-changing" prize going back into the National Lottery pot.

A Camelot spokesman said: "Unfortunately, I can confirm that the ticket-holder did not come forward within the deadline to claim their prize. Sadly they have now missed out on this substantial amount of money."

The unclaimed ticket sparked a "whowonnit" mystery in the former steelworks andmining area. The ticket holder won big on New Year's Day matching up the code on theMillionaire's raffle.

Had the winner come forward they would be one of the richest people in the area as the average gross weekly earnings is around £342 - below the Welsh average of £415.50.

Welsh Government: 'Very concerned' over Blaenau Gwent school standards

The Welsh Government says it's concerned about the slow change of pace to improving education standards in Blaenau Gwent. The council's education services were placed in 'special measures' in 2011.

Today a report by the education inspectorate Estyn says standards are still 'unsatisfactory'.

We are very concerned by Estyn's findings. Performance at the local authority continues to be unsatisfactory and disappointing. The Minister will make a statement to Assembly Members to outline the actions we will be taking with regard to Blaenau Gwent.

"The Minister will meet the Commissioner on Monday. We know she has serious concerns about the pace of change in the local authority and we will discuss the best way forward

– Welsh Government spokesperson
Load more updates