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Superfast access is 'significant leap forward'

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said:

"It's brilliant news that more than 100,000 Welsh homes and businesses are already gaining real social and commercial advantages as a result of the nationwide rollout.

"The contribution that the Governments' delivery of superfast broadband by 2017 will make to the economic growth of the nation cannot be underestimated."

Wales Secretary David Jones said:

"Today's announcement marks a significant leap forward in our efforts to ensure Wales has a broadband network fit for the digital age.

"Thanks to the investment made into Wales' digital infrastructure by this Government, we are well on our way to achieving a truly remarkable transformation in broadband provision in Wales."

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Access to superfast broadband for 100,000 homes

The nationwide scheme aims to deliver high-speed internet to 690,000 homes Credit: PA

More than 100,000 Welsh homes and businesses can now get access to high speed internet as a result of the UK Government's roll-out of superfast broadband.

It has invested £57m in the Superfast Cymru project which is on track to deliver superfast broadband to 96% of homes and businesses in Wales by the end of 2015.

The Welsh Government is contributing £58m to the project.

Communities already benefitting from access to faster broadband speeds in Wales include Blaenau Ffestiniog, Criccieth and Llanberis in the north, and Brynmawr, Clydach and Rhiwderin in the south.

Superfast broadband will enable a whole album to be downloaded in less than 30 seconds and a feature length HD movie in less than 10 minutes.

It will also help small businesses to grow and save valuable time by being able to make greater use of things like online ordering, doing more by email and accessing more services online.

UK Govt: 'big improvement' in Work Programme

The UK Government says there has been "a really big improvement in performance" from its Work Programme, but Employment Minister Esther McVey will meet her counterpart at the Welsh Government soon, to "ensure jobseekers in Wales have access to the same range of help available to those in England."

There has been a really big improvement in performance from when the Work Programme began in 2011 and we are committed to making sure providers in Wales continue to improve the service they give to jobseekers.

Providers get paid on the results they achieve, so it's in everyone's interest to help as many people into work as possible.

I will soon be meeting with Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology from the Welsh Government - I want us to work together to ensure jobseekers in Wales have access to the same range of help available to those in England.

– Esther McVey MP, Minister for Employment

MPs: 'Lack of flexibility' behind work scheme problems

The Welsh Affairs Committee chair, Monmouth MP David Davies, says a "lack of flexibility" and the creation of "artificial barriers" between different programmes set up to get people into work are to blame for a lack of success.

The key issue here seems to be that there is a lack of flexibility in and between the various programmes set up to get people into work, and that this lack of flexibility appears to be more marked in Wales.

It is obviously a matter of concern to us that the success rates in Wales are the lowest in Great Britain.

The Work programme is designed to help particularly people facing multiple barriers to entering or re-entering the workplace, people who have been already out of work for two years.

The last thing we need in this situation is bureaucracy getting in the way of people simply being able to do what is most effective.

The fact that different programmes are funded differently or run by different organisations should not be "visible" or create barriers at the point of delivery.

The point is to get people in to work, for all the benefits that brings both to them and to the public purse.

That must be the sole focus and these artificial barriers must be removed.

– David Davies MP, Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee

1 in 9 people on Work Programme found sustained work

Only one in nine people in Wales who joined the UK Government's Work Programme scheme in its first two years found sustained employment.

  • 69,960 people in Wales were referred by Jobcentre Plus onto the Work Programme during its first 25 months
  • 7,550 people completed 13 or 26 weeks of sustained employment - the Government's targets
  • That is a rate of 10.8 per cent - the lowest in Britain

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Work Programme is least successful in Wales

The programme helps people in long-term unemployment back into work. Credit: PA

The UK Government's Work Programme - which aims to help people in long-term unemployment back into work - is least successful in Wales.

That's according to a report by the Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee.

The Department of Work and Pensions say it's committed to making sure providers in Wales continue to improve the service.

Governments at loggerheads over Wales funding

The Welsh and UK Governments are at loggerheads over extra funding for Wales. The row centres on whether or not the Welsh Government is getting extra money as a result of the controversial HS2 rail project in England.

The Treasury's been denying that Wales is getting a share of that money. The Welsh Government insists that it has.

VIDEO: Finance Minister Jane Hutt AM

Welsh Govt calls again for decision over tax powers

Wales' Finance Minister has called on the UK Government to "clear the political blockages delaying the devolution of vital tax varying and borrowing powers to Wales." She claims it would allow the Welsh Government to move ahead with plans for a relief road around for the M4 at Newport.

Jane Hutt is making the call exactly a year to the day since the Welsh and UK Governments agreed a deal to progress reform to how Wales is funded.

The Welsh Government wants to progress with major infrastructure improvements. Credit: David Jones/PA

The Welsh Government needs the UK Government to devolve the borrowing and tax varying powers recommended by the Silk Commission before it can progress with major infrastructure improvements, including the South Wales Metro and proposals to build an M4 relief road in Newport.

The UK Government had committed to deliver a response to the Silk Commission's recommendations to part one of their work in the spring but, they've launched a consultation on one recommendation - to devolve stamp duty.

Wales left off list of rural areas for fuel duty cut

Wales has been left off a list of rural areas where motorists could benefit from a 5p-per-litre fuel duty cut.

The UK Government has applied to the European Commission to vary the duty rates in seven Scottish and three English towns.

It wants to extend a scheme which currently operates for the Scottish islands, and the Isles of Scilly.

The idea is to reduce prices in rural areas, where they are typically higher because of the costs of transporting fuel.

10 rural areas have been chosen in England and Scotland - but none in Wales. Credit: PA

Petrol stations in the remote areas selected would have to register with HM Revenue & Customs to claim 5p per litre relief on unleaded petrol and diesel, a saving which they then have to pass on to customers.

It could increase the number of people across the UK benefiting from the scheme to 120,000.

Four Welsh counties - Anglesey, Gwynedd, Powys and Monmouthshire - were originally considered for the scheme - but none have been included on the Government's submission.

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