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AMs asked to approve Welsh tax collection

Laws that will pave the way for the Welsh Government collecting its own taxes and enabling councils to merge into larger local authorities have been announced in the Senedd. The First Minister set out the legislative programme, the principal laws that AMs will be asked to during the next 12 months.

The Welsh Government says its planning bill will "simplify rather than frustrate" development. A public health bill won't be introduced until next summer but could now include minimum pricing for alcohol, following the recent Supreme Court judgement on the extent of the Assembly's powers.

When I announced this Government’s ambitious five year legislative programme I set out our plans to address many of the issues the people of Wales care deeply about, such as improving public services despite the difficult financial situation.

We are now halfway through the programme, and while we have already achieved many of our goals, the ten bills I am announcing today continue our commitment, with legislation that will really make a difference to the people of Wales.

This legislative programme also sees us take action on two major areas of reform, putting in place the measures needed for local authority mergers and entering a new phase of the devolution story by preparing for our new tax-raising powers.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

The 10 bills announced today are:

  • *Planning Bill *to reform and simplify the current planning system
  • *Qualifications Bill *to establish an independent body for the regulation and quality assurance of non-degree level qualifications
  • Additional Learning Needs Bill will be the sixth and final education bill of this Assembly
  • Local Government Bill** will prepare the ground for reforming local authorities in Wales through a series of mergers**
  • *Renting Homes Bill *to provide a new legal relationship between landlords and tenants
  • Social Services Regulation & Inspection Bill to raise the quality of care and support
  • *Environment Bill *for the sustainable management of natural resources
  • Heritage Bill** to improve protection of listed buildings and ancient monuments**
  • Public Health Bill -a consultation on its contents has just closed
  • Tax Collection & Management Bill will create a tax system

Simple changes needed to tackle preventable deaths

The college says that it recognises the key role healthcare professionals have to play in tackling child deaths, but that broader issues are a contributing factor to most avoidable mortalities.

Every family has the right to high quality healthcare and support, regardless of postcode or income. However it's clear from current figures that Wales is falling short of this and at the cost of hundreds of children's lives.

We know there has already been a lot of good work around child mortality in Wales but what we need now is for the Welsh Government to utilise its devolved powers by making simple yet effective policy changes to tackle the most preventable deaths.

We call on the Welsh Government to stop, listen and implement these recommendations or I fear the gap between rich and poor will widen and children's health will suffer further.

– Dr Mair Parry, Officer for Wales, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

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Growing poverty gap affecting child health, doctors say

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report warns that the growing poverty gap in the UK is affecting child health with children from deprived areas in Wales almost twice as likely to die as those from a less deprived area.

The report makes a number of recommendations where the Welsh Government and devolved powers could help children in Wales 'survive and thrive.'

These include:

  • developing targeted awareness campaigns to support safe sleeping and the dangers of smoking during pregnancy
  • prioritising universal access to health visiting services across Wales
  • ensuring all schools in Wales have procedures to support pupils with medical conditions.

Doctors call for action over 'avoidable' child deaths

Almost two thirds of children who die in Wales are under the age of one, according to the report Credit: Â Jochen Luebke/PA archive

Paediatricians in Wales are calling on the Welsh Government to introduce a series of public health measures to help reduce the number of avoidable child deaths.

A new report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found that 61 per cent of children who die in Wales are under the age of one.

The report - 'Why Children Die' - says that Wales is the worst performing country in the UK and calls for more to be done to develop awareness campaigns promoting safe sleeping and the dangers of smoking during pregnancy.

For older children, the report cites injuries and poor management of medical conditions as contributing to preventable mortality in childhood.

First Minister's hand-written apology to Opposition leader

Carwyn Jones says he's sent a hand-written note of apology to the Opposition Leader after their angry exchanges in the Senedd last week. The First Minister had questioned Andrew RT Davies' absence from a meeting between Welsh political leaders and Prince Charles.

He apologised in the chamber after Mr Davies said he'd been ill himself and caring for his mother-in-law following a stroke. But Carwyn Jones told his monthly press conference that he followed up that apology with a personal note which the Conservative leader had 'graciously accepted.'

Plans to make more land available for allotments

Plans to make more land available for allotments - in the hope of improving skills, mental and physical health, and regenerating local communities - have been put forward by the Welsh Government.

Proposals published in a Green Paper today include introducing a right for local authorities, community councils and community groups to register and use unused public land for community-grown food.

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on plans to boost the provision of allotment space. Credit: PA

Natural Resources, Culture and Sport Minister John Griffiths said: "People growing food for themselves and their families is a special pastime for many in Wales. It has recently become more popular than ever and many local authorities are struggling to meet demand for allotments."

"Making more land available is therefore vital in meeting this demand and in contributing to boosting physical, mental and emotional wellbeing."

"Opportunities for people to enjoy growing and gardening also have a part to play in tackling the limitations of poverty, empowering and regenerating communities and improving quality of life."

The Welsh Government is holding a public consultation on the proposals until 6 October.

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More funding will see 'investment' in town centres

The Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Carl Sargeant, has today made a further £5 million of funding available to improve and support town centres in Wales.

The funding will see more 'investment and improvement' in town centres across the country, encouraging more sustainable uses for empty shops in high streets.

This further Welsh Government regeneration funding means that all parts of Wales can now look forward to seeing investment and improvement.

Empty and under-utilised properties are a blight on our town centres and communities and I've been clear that tackling this issue is a priority for me and for the Welsh Government.

We are already making excellent progress in meeting our ambitious target of bringing 5,000 empty properties back into use during this term of Government.

– Carl Sargeant AM, Minister for Housing and Regeneration

£5 million to help improve town centres

The scheme will target reducing the number of empty shops on high streets. Credit: PA

A total of £5 million of funding will be given to help improve town centres across the country as part of a new scheme by the Welsh Government.

The funding will support places not already benefiting from the Welsh Government's regeneration schemes and will target reducing the number of empty shops in high streets.

The scheme will see the money shared equally between four local authorities, with Ceredigion, Powys, Pembrokeshire and Monmouthshire each receiving a loan of £1,250,000.

Ministers criticised over Facebook use

Welsh Government ministers and their staff spend more time on Facebook, than any other website.

That's according to information obtained by Conservative Assembly Member Antoinette Sandbach's office.

The First Minister says social media helps with the Government's communication Credit: PA Images

Labour Ministers and civil servants also spend more time on travel review website TripAdvisor and online retailer Amazon than on the Welsh Government’s own website.

Amongst the other most visited websites are Ebay, Rightmove, Next, Argos and LinkedIn.

Ms Sandbach said:

“These revelations give an astonishing insight into life in the Labour-run Welsh Government, which is rife, apparently, with people chatting on Facebook.

“While everyone is entitled to a lunch break, there are questions as to why Ebay, Argos, Next and Rightmove feature so prominently in the list of most visited websites by Welsh Government staff."

The First Minister published the top 25 most visited websites by the Welsh Government from 4 April to 3 July 2014.

He says social media sites are a core part of its approach to communicating on Welsh Government business:

"Using the internet helps enhance digital skills more generally, and in addition to access for work purposes, Welsh Government policies allow staff to make use of the internet during hours that they are not working.

"Access is provided to social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which are a core part of our approach to communicating and engaging on Welsh Government business."

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