THE Farmers’ Union of Wales has today launched its Manifesto ahead of the 2022 Welsh Local Government elections which will take place on 5th May.
The Manifesto sets out the Union’s key asks and calls on incoming Councillors and Local Authorities in regards to; local procurement, county council farm holdings, EU replacement funds, local housing, sustainable tourism, carbon offsetting and afforestation, digital connectivity and trading standards.
Speaking after the launch, FUW President Glyn Roberts said:
“As all corners of society recover from recent and ongoing global events, Local Authorities will have a big part to play in ensuring that all policies work for Wales’ local communities, economies, society and cultures – although the increasing burden on Local Authorities alongside cuts to annual budget allocations must not be underestimated.
While there remains a great deal of pressure on Local Authorities to maintain and improve local areas and services, one of the biggest lessons global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing Russian war on Ukraine has taught us is the importance of maintaining our food security.”
Mr Roberts said that the FUW continues to be clear that Wales’ family farms lie at the centre of our rural economy, culture and landscape, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of businesses involved in the Welsh food supply industry, and making innumerable other contributions to the well-being of Welsh and UK residents – benefits central to which is the production of food, our most precious commodity alongside water.
“As such, there is progress to be made in terms of bolstering and in many cases reconnecting the sustainable and environmentally friendly food produced in Wales with our local communities and public sectors in order to maintain and increase our food security, reduce our reliance on imported products and work towards reaching net zero,” said Mr Roberts.
The Manifesto makes it clear that Local Authorities have a central role to play in doing this in terms of their procurement policies, while the many other functions they undertake play a central role in meeting environmental objectives while protecting local communities, employment, society and cultures.
“We are therefore calling upon the next local Councillors to instigate procurement policies which encourage the creation of new companies in order to bring benefits to local employment, and retain and invest in County County holdings to enable tenants and Local Authorities to become net zero by using complimentative initiatives”
The Manifesto also highlights the role that Councils play in interpreting planning rules such that large scale developments such as afforestation meet objectives that benefit local economies, communities and culture, and ensure the focus across all levels of government is based on reducing carbon emissions first and foremost, as opposed to carbon offsetting.
“Given their central role in terms of processing planning applications to accommodate new legislation, and their legal obligations regarding ensuring their own agricultural holdings meet the requirements of that legislation, the Manifesto also asks Local Authorities to lobby the Welsh Government and Senedd to ensure that the current review of the Water Resources Regulations 2021 results in proportionate and affordable legislation for farmers and authorities alike.”
Addressing the issue of EU replacement funds such as the Shared Prosperity Fund, the Manifesto calls for Local Authorities to work together with the UK Government, Welsh Government and other Local Authorities, regardless of political differences, to administer such funding in efficient and effective ways to support Welsh communities with maximum effect.
In terms of the contentious issue of second homes, the Manifesto highlights the importance of Local Authorities securing the longevity of the communities they serve by applying higher council tax premiums to second homes.
“It is also essential that authorities ensure that the spending of such additional revenue is more transparent and ring fenced for alleviating the impacts of second homes and short-term holiday lets, enabling local people to reside in their local areas,” said Mr Roberts.
The FUW is also calling on Local Authorities to work closely with local police forces and the Welsh Government to ensure adequate rural policing and improved education to promote the Countryside Code; work with internet service providers to ensure that all premises have access to part or full fibre technology; and work with the Welsh Local Government Association to ensure a uniform approach to on-farm inspections which is efficient and effective.
“To this end, and in terms of all the other issues addressed in our Manifesto, we are committed to continuing to work with County Councillors and representatives of each of the twenty-two Local Authorities in Wales to ensure that the role of agriculture, food production and family farms in our communities is reflected at every level of decision making,” added Mr Roberts.
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