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First Minister advocates holidaying in Wales, fairer council tax and council leaders answerable to press and tax payers

IN the first of his press briefings since being re-elected as First Minister, Mark Drakeford  began by setting out the public health situation in Wales.

He said that the situation continued to be positive and that the overall rate was less than 10 cases per 100,000 of the population. Mr Drakeford said that the positivity rate was below 1% and the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 was at its lowest level since the start of pandemic over 15 months ago.

“Today just three people with Coronavirus were in critical care in Welsh hospitals,” he said.

Full of positives: First Minister Mark Drakeford

The First Minister gave information, which suggested that the NHS is returning to more normal levels of activity for the time of year.

He also paused  and said he wanted to remember ‘all of those who have lost a loved one to this awful virus and for whom the future will never be the same’.

The First Minister presented slides, which highlighted the easement of restrictions to alert level 2.

Mr Drakeford announced that from Monday, there would be lifting of  further restrictions, including reopening indoor hospitality and if conditions allowed, further restrictions will lift on 7 June.

Speaking about the success of the vaccination programme he said: “Over this weekend we will reach the 2 million first dose milestone in Wales. This is A truly incredible achievement  in the six months since the first Covid vaccine became available.”

He said that the success was all down to NHS and military staff and the fantastic response to vaccination claiming that we have the best vaccination rates in the whole of the world.

The First Minister also highlighted the concerns over the Indian Variant. He said: “This pandemic continues to be full of unpleasant twists and turns. We are closely monitoring the Indian Variant.”

He warned that the Indian Variant spreads easily from person to person and that it may travel even faster. He said that the Welsh Government were as always following the latest scientific advice.

Concluding his opening address the First Minister urged people to holiday in Wales.

If ever there was a year to holiday at home and to enjoy everything that the wonders of Wales has to offer then this surely is the year to do just that.

Answering our questions on whether what the Welsh Government was giving in one hand was being taken away by councils in the other hand by way of rises in council tax and council precepts the First Minister said: “One of the reasons councils need to raise funds is to help them and the things that they do to tackle poverty. All of those services are local authority provided services”

He also said that one of the real priorities of the next term will be to make council tax fairer here in Wales. He said that the fairness of the system is not as the government would like it to be and that he would use all of the research Welsh Government carried out in the last five years to make practical ways for paying for these services fairer.

When asked if the CEO’s of local authorities should place themselves in the front line, exposed to the press and tax payers for them to be able to ask questions he said: “I don’t think it is the CEO’s that should be out there on the front line answering questions so much as leaders of councils and people who were elected. In the end those are the people who have to be answerable for the decisions that are made at local authority and town council level just as I have to be answerable for the things that Welsh Government does.  Our new legislation will place new duties on council leaders to make sure they are available to their local populations and answerable for the decisions they make on their behalf.

Watch the full briefing here: First Minister May 14.







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