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New lane to be opened on busy M4 intersection

Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

A new lane on the M4 will be officially opened today by Transport Minister Edwina Hart.

The lane at junction 32 will aim to improve traffic flow and safety on the busy intersection of the M4 in Cardiff.

A new dedicated lane for the A470 northbound at M4 junction 32 westbound, has been built in the hope of improving congestion around the Welsh capital and south Wales.

A dedicated lane for the A4232 southbound at M4 junction 33 westbound is under construction.

This is a very busy part of the road network in Cardiff which provides important economic links for south east Wales. The new lanes will greatly ease congestion at these two busy intersections, improving journey times and safety.

The Welsh Government is investing in the road network throughout Wales to improve access to jobs and services and strengthen our economy.

– Edwina Hart AM, Transport Minister

Funding cuts to halve apprenticeships opportunities

The cuts will result in 49 per cent fewer apprentices in Wales in the next year. Credit: PA

Cuts to the Welsh Government's flagship apprenticeship programme will halve the number of apprentices across the country in the next year, according to the National Training Federation for Wales.

A study carried out by the organisation also revealed that £10.7 million has been cut from next year's apprenticeship budget and that there has been a 32 per cent drop in opportunities for learners aged 16-24.

We have been open about the scale of the financial challenges we face. By 2015-16, the Welsh budget will be 10% lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11.

However reductions in the funding for Apprenticeships are not across the board. We will direct our funding towards Apprenticeships for those aged 16-24 as well as to Higher Level Apprenticeships and Traineeships.

We will continue to do all we can to provide opportunities for young people via our Apprenticeship Matching Service and via our network of Training Providers.

We will also continue to encourage our employers to invest in apprenticeships as part of their own workforce development plans

– Welsh Government spokesperson


Student 'hardship' fund reinstated for 2014-15

A £2m student 'hardship' fund has been reinstated for this academic year by the Welsh Government, after plans to scrap it proved highly controversial.

The Financial Contingency Fund aims to help students who can't access higher education due to financial difficulties, or experience financial problems while at university.

We have listened to stakeholders, and we have decided to reinstate the Fund for this year only.

I think it is appropriate that from academic year 2015-16 universities should establish their own discretionary hardship funds, and we will be discussing options with students and institutions.

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister
The 'hardship' fund will be reinstated for one year only. Credit: PA

The National Union of Students Wales has been campaigning to save the fund, after it was announced it would be withdrawn last month.

It today welcomed the Welsh Government's decision to protect the fund, which it says provides students in need with support averaging £400.

This hardship fund has been a vital lifeline of support for students, and the decision to scrap it just weeks before the start of the academic term risked leaving many in dire financial straits.

The strength of feeling since last month’s announcement, particularly from those who could not have stayed the course without it, shows why hardship funds are vital and must be protected, not just next year, but in the long term too if we are to have a fair and sustainable higher education system in Wales.

– Beth Button, NUS Wales President

Your views: Should people be fined for smoking in cars with children?

Under news plans unveiled today by the Welsh Government, people in Wales could face an on-the-spot £50 fine if they are caught smoking in a car carrying children.

The move is aimed to protect the health of children and young people from exposure to second-hand smoke. Credit: ITV Wales News

We want to hear what you think of these proposed fines. You can get in touch with us in the following ways:


Ambulance figures: 'Ongoing improvement' needed

The Health Minister "expects to see ongoing improvement" in ambulance response times, the Welsh Government said today.

We welcome the improvement the Welsh Ambulance Service has made, with 58.3% of emergency responses to the most immediate life-threatening calls arriving at the scene in eight minutes, up from 53% in June.

There has also been an increase in demand over the previous month, with a 7% rise in the number of emergency calls with more than 38,000 for July.

However, the service needs to continue to build on this improvement in response times. The Health Minister expects to see ongoing improvement, with targets being achieved month on month.

The ambulance fleet continues to be upgraded with Welsh Government investment, with a further £4m announced today and additional funding for the recruitment of more than 100 frontline staff. It is now for the Welsh Ambulance Service to improve its performance.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

'Improved service' vow as ambulance targets missed

The Welsh Ambulance Service says funding for new ambulances will help continue to improve service quality and patient care.

It comes as figures released today reveal Welsh ambulances have again missed their target response times.

For emergency responses to immediately life-threatening ambulance calls, 58.3% arrived at the scene within eight minutes – up from 53.0% in June but below the target of 65%.

Not only will the new vehicles improve the comfort and safety of our patients but also the working conditions for our staff.

Regularly replacing ageing vehicles ensures our fleet remains modern, reliable and fit-for-purpose.

The investment will allow us to continue to improve the quality of our services for the people of Wales and enhance patient care.

– Heather Ransom, Head of Resource for the Welsh Ambulance Service

Welsh ambulances get £4 million upgrade

The Welsh Ambulance Service is to get over 40 new vehicles as part of a major upgrade, the Welsh Government has announced.

The service will receive £4 million to buy 41 new fuel-efficient vehicles, including emergency ambulances and specialist rapid response vehicles.

There are currently 736 vehicles covering more than 8,000 square miles across Wales.

The Government claims the new ambulances will contain the latest equipment to ensure patients are treated in the best clinical environments possible.

Latest figures reveal the demands placed on the ambulance service with 35,570 emergency calls during June 2014.

They also show that immediately life-threatening incidents, which needed an emergency ambulance response, have increased by 30% over the last five years.

The demands placed on the ambulance service in Wales every day of the year are significant.

This is why we are continuing to invest in the ambulance fleet to make sure modern, reliable vehicles are available to respond to sick and injured patients.

This new funding will help provide high-quality clinical services, improve the comfort and care to patients and offer a much better working environment for ambulance service staff.

– Professor Mark Drakeford, Health Minister
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