All posts by Kristine Ming

World War Two pilot recalls being shot down

To mark the RAF’s centenary, 95-year-old John Martin, from Cardigan, recalls flying with Bomber Command.

Many World War Two raids returned with planes missing – with 55,573 men dying.

On just his third night-time raid, his Lancaster bomber was shot down near Berlin.

Four crew were killed. He and two others managed to parachute to safety.

He was captured and remained a prisoner until the end of the war.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-43147700

Devolution offer in bid to break Brexit law deadlock

David Lidington

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David Lidington said he hoped the devolved administrations would engage with the proposal “constructively”

A “considerable offer” has been tabled by the UK government in a bid to break the deadlock with the Welsh Government over a key Brexit law.

It would see most powers in devolved areas, which currently run at an EU-level, head from Brussels to Cardiff.

It comes ahead of a meeting of UK, Welsh and Scottish ministers on Thursday.

But the Welsh Government said the UK government’s publication of the proposals was “unhelpful”.

Sources from both sides have told BBC Wales that they were not expecting an agreement to be reached on Thursday, but that progress was being made.

  • Brexit bill talks ongoing, says Davis
  • ‘Assault on devolution’
  • Brexit row QA

If passed by Parliament, the EU Withdrawal Bill will place EU law on the UK statute book after Brexit.

Both devolved administrations have accused UK ministers of a “power-grab” over the legislation, in a dispute over the return of powers in devolved areas from Brussels after Brexit.

Image copyright
PA

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Under the proposals more powers from the EU would come to the assembly

As the bill stands, powers that are in devolved areas but operated at an EU-level would return to the UK government, which would then, in turn, decide which powers go to Cardiff and Edinburgh.

Under the new proposals, the majority of these powers would head directly to the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament.

However, some would be kept in Westminster, a measure the UK government has said was needed to “protect our vital UK internal market”.

In February, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said he was “more optimistic” a deal could be reached.

Since then, UK, Welsh and Scottish government officials have been working behind the scenes in an attempt to find a compromise.

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First Minister Carwyn Jones has accused the UK government of a “power grab”

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Mr Lidington said: “The proposal that we have put on the table is a considerable offer that I hope the devolved administrations will engage with constructively.”

He added: “All sides agree certain areas will require common frameworks – and it’s therefore imperative that we don’t make life more difficult for businesses and families across the UK as we manage the process of bringing new powers back from the EU.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We will go to the… meeting intent on protecting the devolution settlement and engaging in meaningful talks, despite the unhelpful approach of the UK government.”

BBC Wales also understands that the Welsh Government is in a position to introduce a so-called Continuity Bill designed to protect Welsh powers to the assembly in the coming weeks.

AMs have already unanimously backed a Plaid Cymru motion to introduce a Continuity Bill.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-43146619

University lecturers begin strike over pension deadlock

Samuel Veal

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Cardiff history student Samuel Veal believes students should be “academically compensated” for lost time during strikes

Up to 60,000 students at Welsh universities could be affected by a staff walk out in a dispute about the UK’s biggest pension scheme.

It follows a ballot of 2,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) at Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Bangor universities.

The strike is the first of 14 days of industrial action over four weeks.

Employers’ group Universities UK (UUK) said the pension scheme changes were essential because of its deficit.

More than 4,300 people have signed a petition calling for Cardiff University to compensate students for missed lectures, but the university has said the impact on learning would be “minimum”.

Cardiff student Samuel Veal, who started the petition, said he feared students would be left without support and unable to answer key questions in exams later this year due to the lost classes.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) is the UK’s largest in terms of assets with £60bn worth, four times the size of the British Steel Pension Scheme.

Staff are angry at plans to change scheme – arguing they could end up with a less favourable pension pot when they retire.

Image copyright
Colin Smith/Geograph

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Staff at 61 universities around the UK voted in favour of industrial action, including Cardiff University and three other Welsh institutions

WHAT IS THE ROW ABOUT?

At present, the staff are in a scheme that mixes what are called defined benefits and defined contribution pensions.

All those earning up to £55,000 a year see pension contributions from that pay put into a defined benefits pot. That guarantees a fixed pension pay-out when they finally finish work.

For those who earn over £55,000, pension contributions go into the defined contributions pot.

This pot is more volatile – as the amount of pension you get back will depend on the money markets on the day you retire.

The proposed changes would see all payments placed in the defined contributions pot in the future.

The striking academics say this puts them and their pension cash at risk.

Without the changes being proposed, USS said it would have a £7.5bn deficit.

This only affects what happens with future funds from April this year as all previous savings are legally protected.

The UCU’s members include lecturers and other “academic-related” staff such as researchers and librarians.

UCU and UUK blame each other for the deadlock, which it is feared could drag out into the exam period if not resolved.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “While UCU is working hard to resolve the dispute if we can, what we have from Universities UK is obfuscation and delay.”

A spokesman for Universities UK said the proposed changes would make USS secure and sustainable.

He said: “University staff will still have a valuable pension scheme, with employer contributions of 18% of salary, double the private sector average… UUK remains at the negotiating table, but so far UCU has refused to engage on how best to address the funding challenges facing USS.”

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UCU

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Strike action is planned for 14 days over four weeks

The USS scheme is only used by older universities such as Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Bangor, and some staff at the University of Wales office in Cardiff.

Swansea University staff are also in the USS but their ballot did not meet the minimum 50% turnout required by the Trade Union Act 2016.

Universities set up after 1992, many of which evolved from polytechnics, use the Teachers Pension Scheme which is state funded, whereas the USS is funded by member universities and the staff.

University responses:

Bangor University said it was keen for a rapid negotiated settlement to the dispute, and was doing everything it could to reduce any possible impact by the strike but the university remained open.

Aberystwyth University said its focus was on “safeguarding students’ learning experience”, and that UUK was leading negotiations and it respected the right of individual members of staff to go on strike.

A Cardiff University spokesman said it was doing everything possible to ensure there is minimal impact on teaching and learning.

Strike dates

  • 22-23 and 26-28 February
  • 5-8 and 12-16 March

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-43144080

Porthmadog primary school hawk to deter seagulls

The hawkImage copyright
Gwynedd council

A falcon and a hawk are being used to tackle nuisance seagulls near a primary school in Gwynedd.

The birds will be flown above Eifion Wyn primary school in Porthmadog in a bid to “drive the seagulls out of town”.

Gwynedd council said nesting gulls had been diving down on to the school yard.

Head teacher Carys Jones said it has been “quite terrifying” for pupils, especially younger children.

The falcon and hawk will also be flown over the nearby Glaslyn Leisure Centre.

Image copyright
Gwynedd council

Council cabinet member councillor Dafydd Meurig said: “With gulls a protected species, the options available to address the problem are limited.

“However, after considering the situation, we came to the conclusion that the best way forward was to recruit the services of natural specialists to deal with the nuisance gulls.”

Ms Jones added: “As well moving the gulls on, we have been able to use the experience so that the pupils are able to learn more and meet the birds of prey that will be keeping the gulls away.”

Gwynedd council is not the first to deploy birds of prey to deter seagulls as Swansea council has used specially trained hawks to keep them away from the city’s market roof.

And “Angry Birds” balloons were used to scare off seagulls in Rhyl, Denbighshire.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-43132486

Cuts to Welsh libraries see paid staff fall by 20%

Media captionJulie Barton, of Beddau library, said professional librarians were needed to help libraries survive

Services at Welsh public libraries are declining as the number of paid staff falls, figures have shown.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) figures reveal full-time paid staff fell from 1,112 in 2012-13 to 890 in 2016-17 – a 20% drop.

Meanwhile, the number of volunteers increased 13-fold, from 93 to 1,288.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said councils were finding “innovative ways” of keeping services in a climate of cuts.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said the overall budget cut to Welsh libraries in the last decade had been less than that in England – 18% compared to 25%.

But there had been a “catch-up” on austerity in the Welsh library sector in recent years, he said.

“What we see is, the libraries are open and they are managing to try and be at the heart of their communities,” Mr Whiteman said.

“But, on the whole, probably the type of advice that [people] can get there and what’s on offer declines.”

Mr Whiteman added that volunteers brought a “huge amount” to libraries and many would have shut without them.

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Beddau Library was saved by a community group four years ago

There were about 155 professionally qualified library staff in Wales in 2016-17, with the latest CIPFA figures suggesting some 290 library points remain open.

Beddau library, in Rhondda Cynon Taff, was saved by a community group after it was closed by the council four years ago.

Trustee chairwoman Julie Barton said having trained staff alongside volunteers was vital for a library’s survival.

The CIPFA figures also showed there was a £3.9m drop in the overall spend in Welsh libraries last year, with Mr Whiteman suggesting a “whole clutch of libraries” could go if cuts continue at the current pace.

The Welsh Local Government Association said “continual budget cuts” from central government meant councils had to consider “different and innovative” new ways to deliver services, including working with communities to keep libraries open.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-43130957

North Wales Police record 50 livestock attack dogs shot

Media captionFarmer Gareth Wyn Jones said shooting dogs was “not nice” but necessary to protect livestock

More than 50 dogs have been shot for attacking livestock in north Wales in the past four years, a report has revealed.

A study by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) showed North Wales Police recorded 449 cases of livestock worrying and attacks between 2013-2017.

It is calling for greater powers to obtain DNA from dogs suspected of committing attacks.

The UK government’s animal welfare minister will consider recommendations.

Currently, dog owners are not required to report if their dog attacks any livestock and they are not treated as recordable crimes on police systems.

As part of the NPCC report, North Wales Police led a six-month trial last year aimed at improving the recording of these attacks, which involved four other forces – Devon and Cornwall, Sussex, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire.

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@NWPRuralCrime/Twitter

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The report has highlighted the challenges police forces face supporting farmers to deal with livestock attacks

The study found North Wales Police recorded 648 livestock were killed and 376 were injured between 2013-17.

It led to 52 dogs being shot – the highest number of the five forces. The second highest was North Yorkshire Police, which logged 16 shot dogs.

Hertfordshire Constabulary recorded just one incident.

In total, there were 1,705 cases of livestock worrying – dogs attacking or chasing animals – logged in the five force areas.

But Rob Taylor, who heads North Wales Police’s rural crime team, said the true number of attacks could be much higher.

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Rob Taylor says sentencing powers do not reflect the loss to the farmer

“Unless the owner of the dog admits it or the dog is seen attacking livestock, it’s very difficult to get a conviction,” he said.

“The problem has been the farming community and the public have not had the confidence to report it.”

He emphasised these attacks could not only have a “traumatic” affect on farmers but could impact on their livelihood.

Dyfed-Powys Police has spoken out in support of the report, saying it would “benefit both the victims of these offences and the officers investigating them”.

Ch Con David Jones, NPCC lead for wildlife and rural crime, said: “We need the powers to tackle this problem effectively and an overhaul of the outdated and sometimes ineffective rules surrounding livestock worrying.”

Lord Gardiner, minister for animal welfare, said: “The report makes a number of recommendations and proposals for improvements to the legislation which I will be looking at closely.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-43130956

Two-thirds of offenders ‘victimised’ in Parc juvenile unit

Parc PrisonImage copyright
Geograph/Kenneth Rees

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The young offender unit can hold up to 60 boys aged under 18

Nearly two-thirds of boys at a juvenile unit have been victimised by fellow offenders, an inspection has found.

But Parc Young Persons’ Unit in Bridgend has been praised for “turning around” behavioural standards of offenders after a critical 2017 report.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said it had made “significant improvement”.

Janet Wallsgrove, G4S director for Parc, said the report “recognised the considerable work done to address the shortfalls” from the last inspection.

The report said 44% of offenders at the juvenile unit run by security firm G4S said they had been victimised by staff, while 63% of the 43 boys said they had been victimised – twice the average – and 37% said they had been hit, kicked or assaulted.

The watchdog said although violence was falling, it remained “too high” and Parc should “address poor perceptions of safety and victimisation”.

The report, following a visit in October 2017, said the unit had introduced initiatives to “address these concerns” and the inspector recommended it should survey boys at Parc, their families, carers and visitors about bullying concerns “to reduce the number of incidents”.

Peter Clarke, HM chief inspector of prisons, welcomed work by the management to “turn around” standards.

“At our last visit we were disappointed to see some deterioration, with the institution becoming less safe and less respectful,” he said.

“At this inspection, however, it was clear to us that, with good leadership and a re-energised staff group, deterioration had been arrested and indeed quite significant improvement was evident.”

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Geograph/Jaggery

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Usk is a small 19th Century category C prison that specialises in delivering sex offender treatment programmes

The inspector also praised “fundamentally successful” prisons at Usk and Prescoed in Monmouthshire.

The report said Usk – which housed 274 men, nearly all of whom were sex offenders – and Prescoed open prison, which housed 252 men, were safe with very little violence and the most vulnerable men were “generally well cared for”.

But the report said black and minority ethnic men were less positive about “staff-prisoner relationships” and in HMP Usk, most men lived in overcrowded cells.

It added “offender management arrangements” at the prison were weak and offender supervisors, responsible for working with prisoners, did not actively support all men.

“Overall, Usk and Prescoed remained successful institutions,” said Mr Clarke.

“Nevertheless, deficiencies previously identified in offender management work were still evident, and this aspect of work, in particular, needed renewed attention.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-43119708

Drink price law could lead addicts to drugs, says charity

Homeless man in tunnelImage copyright
Getty Images

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A charity has warned that a minimum price on alcohol could lead some to illegal drugs

Putting up the cost of alcohol could lead some homeless people to cheap and illegal drugs, a charity has warned.

Welsh ministers are planning to set a minimum price for alcohol sales as they believe tackling excessive drinking could save a life a week and mean 1,400 fewer hospital admissions a year.

But Richard Edwards of the Huggard Centre fears new policy “may simply change one addiction for another”.

However, the Welsh Government said the risk was considered low.

Evidence given by South Wales Police to an assembly health committee inquiry into the proposed new law noted that illegal synthetic psychoactive drugs like Spice can be bought for between £5 and £10 a gram.

  • Minimum alcohol price law unveiled
  • Proposals ‘could hit poor’
  • Wales tops study’s binge drinking stats

Staff at the Huggard Centre, a Cardiff-based homelessness charity, is concerned that the law change currently being considered by the Welsh Assembly could affect “Wales’ most vulnerable people”.

‘Desperate’

“Minimum alcohol pricing may have a positive overall impact on health, and may reduce alcohol related crime across Wales,” said chief executive Mr Edwards.

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How a litre of vodka could compare to the cost of illegal drugs (Source for drug prices: South Wales Police’s evidence to the assembly health committee)

“But for some of Wales’ most vulnerable people, who are already struggling with an alcohol addiction, it may push them towards cheap and readily available illegal drugs.”

He said a minimum price for alcohol would mean some living on the streets would need to find extra money to meet their addiction.

“Raising pricing alone, for legal drugs such as alcohol, may simply change one addiction for another and condemn people to a more entrenched and desperate life on the streets,” he added.

Image copyright
EPA

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Spice was one of the drugs listed by South Wales Police

Although the Welsh Government has not yet decided what the price will be, under a 50p-a-unit formula, a typical litre of vodka, for example, would have to cost more than £20.

If the proposed legislation passes, the new scheme could come into force by the summer of 2019.

‘Little evidence’

The Welsh Government said that the “risk of consumers switching to illegal drugs or new psychoactive substances as a result of an increase in the minimum price of alcohol is considered low”.

A spokesman said: “An illegal or untested substance is clearly qualitatively different to the legal consumption of alcohol and there is little evidence of the extent of such behaviour.

“However, we understand there are concerns and this is something we are exploring further with Welsh Government’s Advisory panel on Substance Misuse, who have agreed to look into this issue.”

“Minimum unit pricing is not intended to work in isolation; it will form part of, and complement, our wider Substance Misuse Strategy,” the spokesman added.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-43114417

Child sex offences: 15% rise concerning

A child looking at a laptop screenImage copyright
Getty Images

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Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were the most common sites used by offenders

Online groomers are becoming a significant problem, NSPCC Cymru has said, after it highlighted “extremely concerning” child sex offences figures.

The charity said the number of offences reported by Welsh police forces rose by 15% in the last year.

Just over a quarter of the 2,694 offences – 764 – were flagged up as having an online element.

The Welsh Government said protecting children from all forms of abuse was a priority.

Despite the rise, the NSPCC believes the figures suggest police are making “real progress” in how they investigate sex offences against children.

Factors for the increase include forces improving recording methods and victims feeling more confident in coming forward.

Image copyright
Getty Images

South Wales Police (976) saw the highest number of child sex offences recorded followed by North Wales Police (754), Dyfed-Powys Police (620) and Gwent Police (314).

Across the UK, police forces recorded a 15% rise after figures were obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru, said: “This dramatic rise in recorded crimes is extremely concerning and shows just how extensive child sexual abuse is.

“It’s important that children recognise they are being abused and can speak out to stop the abuse.”

He said it was crucial every child who endured abuse was able to get “timely, thorough help” to rebuild their lives.

Analysis by India Pollock, BBC Wales social affairs correspondent

One thing the NSPCC is keen to stress is that the increase in figures does not necessarily mean child sexual abuse is more prevalent now than ever before.

High profile cases – the sentencing of Barry Bennell and Matthew Falder in the past 24 hours for example – show more people are now coming forward to report abuse.

Historical child sexual offences must also be considered – Dyfed-Powys Police is currently investigating abuse on Caldey Island in the 1970s and 80s while a trial is ongoing as part of Operation Almond – an investigation into abuse at two children’s homes in Carmarthenshire.

Also, a new offence of sexual communication with a child was introduced last year, meaning those who groom children through mobile phones and social media can now face up to two years in prison.

However, some say that we are still not learning the lessons of previous cases and more needs to be done to prevent abuse.

While more people are coming forward, there will still be many cases where abuse goes unreported which means these figures could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Hwb: Staying safe online

The charity called for the Welsh Government to build on its child sexual exploitation action plan, launched in 2016, and urged a child sexual abuse strategy that includes all forms.

A Welsh Government spokesman said protecting children from all forms of abuse was clearly reflected in the legislation and policy it had already introduced.

“We will also be working with the safeguarding boards and partners in the third sector to develop a new awareness raising campaign on child sex abuse,” he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-43114072

Rungano Nyoni ‘outstanding debut’ Bafta for I Am Not A Witch

Media captionRungano Nyoni and Emily Morgan thanked Ffilm Cymru for their support

A film about an African witch camp by a Welsh-Zambian director has won a Bafta for outstanding debut.

Rungano Nyoni’s feature I Am Not A Witch tells the story of an eight-year-old Zambian girl accused of being a witch.

The director, who was brought up in Cardiff from the age of eight, accepted the prize alongside producer Emily Morgan.

She appeared to be shocked to have won, saying: “We’re not prepared.”

After thanking her husband, mother and niece, she said: “I’m now pulling things from the air. Erm, who else? Oh, and the cast and the crew, thank you.”

Nyoni spent a month at a witch camp in Ghana to research the film.

For the film, she decided the idea of introducing a little girl accused of being a witch into the group of old women in her story, would see them re-thinking their lives.

The low-budget feature was made with funding from organisations including Ffilm Cymru and the BFI, and it was the first Zambian film to be shown at the Cannes film festival.

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The film was based on real-life witch camps or villages in countries such as Ghana

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-43108107