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Thank you for reading my April newsletter.

Thanks to everyone’s hard work in recent months, we are continuing to move out of Alert Level 4 restrictions and seeing more parts of our economy and normal life return. As case rates continue to decline, and vaccinations continuing at pace, we’ve seen non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality return.

As we now start to complete the move into Alert Level 3, it’s vital we follow the rules in place to keep new cases to a minimum. Even if you’ve been vaccinated, please continue to follow the rules on meeting, socially distance and wear masks where needed, and we will continue to see further easements while keeping our community safe.

My team and I remain on hand to help with any queries you may have, about COVID-19 or otherwise. If you need some help with an issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the details at the bottom of this email.

Senedd Election Next Week

Polling day for the Senedd election is next Thursday 6th May.

Polls are open from 7am until 10pm. You can find your polling station here. If you have registered for a postal vote, received your ballot paper but have forgotten to return it by post, you can take it to your polling station to cast it.

The elections give you your opportunity to re-elect your Welsh Labour candidate Jenny Rathbone to the Senedd, helping to return Mark Drakeford as First Minister and a Welsh Labour Government focused on continuing to take Wales safely out of the pandemic through our very successful vaccination programme and rebuilding a better, safer, greener future for us all. So if you value it, please vote for it.

At a glance, these are some of the Welsh Labour manifesto pledges:

🏥 COVID recovery plan and the biggest ever catch-up programme in our NHS
✅ A guaranteed offer of a job or a place in education for everyone under 25
💷 Giving care workers the real living wage
❎ Abolishing single use plastics
🏗️ Creating thousands of new jobs in a low carbon house building revolution
🌳 Planting a National Forest for Wales

Also next Thursday you have the chance to re-elect Alun Michael as our Welsh Labour Police and Crime Commissioner. So please use all three of your votes for Welsh Labour.

COVID-19 Update

Latest on Case Rates and Vaccinations

Thanks to the sacrifices we've all made in recent months, the COVID-19 case rate in Wales is down to 11.3 cases per 100,000 people. At the end of December, this peaked at over 600 cases per 100,000.

On vaccinations, 2/3 Welsh adults have now had a first dose, and 1 in every 4 are now fully vaccinated with 2 doses. The vaccine rollout in Wales continues to lead the rest of the UK and is one of the fastest in the world. Cardiff is now vaccinating under 30’s – the speed of the rollout here has been nothing short of phenomenal – thank you so much to those working and volunteering to make this happen.

As Mark Drakeford has said, while case rates are low, as things open up, we should remember that COVID has not gone away completely - we all need to remain vigilant and stick to social distancing rules to keep infections down. Let's keep working hard together to #KeepWalesSafe.

Please also be vigilant for scams – the NHS will call you or write to you for an appointment. They will never charge you – these vaccines are free.

The Welsh Government are requesting that any suspicious texts are forwarded to 7726 and emails to report@phishing.gov.uk.


As always you can see the latest on the restrictions in force on the Welsh Government website here.

Lockdown Easing Continues

Over the last month we’ve seen parts of the Welsh economy gradually reopen after long months of closure. Non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality have now reopened, and from next week, gyms and leisure centres will open their doors once again and two households will be able to join together to form an extended household as Wales moves fully into Alert Level 3.

From May 17th, indoor hospitality and indoor attractions are set to reopen, as will all remaining indoor tourist accommodation.

You can get the latest information on these changes on the Welsh Government website here.

Vaccinations in Cardiff

If you’re in a priority group and not had your vaccination:

If you are in priority groups 1-9 and have not yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board are asking you to complete their ‘Leave Nobody Behind’ form.

Fill in your details here and they will be in touch to arrange your vaccination appointment.

Reserve List

If you live in Cardiff and are under 40, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board now have a reserve list for COVID-19 vaccinations. You can register your details below and the health board will contact you if there are any appointments available. Please note you would need to be able to attend a vaccination centre at short notice.
 

Lateral Flow Tests Available

If you can't work from home, you can now get free lateral flow test kits to check you're negative for COVID-19. These tests can be picked up at any local testing site between 8am-1pm (in Cardiff Central this is on Museum Avenue, off Park Place in town, and there's another at County Hall in the Bay).

You'll be given 2 packs of 7 tests to do from home whenever you need to, with results within 30 minutes of doing the test.

In Parliament

Tory Sleaze Continues

Boris Johnson and the Tories are now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation.

Every day sees fresh allegations -  the Prime Minister “fixing” tax breaks for his friends, refusing to publish the overdue register of Ministers’ Financial Interests, refusing to agree to a change in the rules under which the Indepdnent Adviser on Ministerial Interests can investigate and publish his findings; the Chancellor “pushing” the Treasury officials after texts from former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron to help out Lex Greensill; and the Health Secretary owning shares in a company that is delivering NHS services.

And Boris Johnson is still denying making the horrific remarks that he would rather see ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than introduce a third lockdown, despite, reportedly, people present at the time willing to swear on oath that he did. 

The Electoral Commission is formally investigating the financing of Boris Johnson’s renovations of his Downing Street flat as he continually refuses to divulge where the initial £58,000 payment came from. The Electoral Commission say they have reasonable grounds to believe that an offence or offences have occurred. The Government is still refusing topublish the long overdue Register of Ministerial Interests.

£2 billion worth of taxpayers’ money in the form of contracts has gone to Tory friends and donors during the pandemic through various public contracts. 

We all deserve, and are entitled to a Prime Minister who acts with honesty and integrity. These allegations speak to what kind of character Boris Johnson really is – and how he, and his Ministers, think they are above the rules that apply to everyone else.

Labour is demanding reform of the Lobbying Register rules to include in-house lobbyist. David Cameron’s conduct and the cross government access that financier Lex Greensill had perfectly illustrates the inadequacies of the current rules when you have ministers who lack integrity. 

A Labour Government would create an Integrity and Ethics Commission to restore transparency and accountability back into the heart of government, introduce a fairer framework for commercial lobbying, stamp out crony contracts while freeing up civil society to campaign.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:
European Super League

Another issue that has dominated this month in Parliament was the (now defeated) plan for a breakaway European Super League – consisting of 6 English Premier League clubs, with clubs from Spain and Italy.

As Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, I led Labour’s opposition to these plans. These plans were anti-competition, anti-football and I’m glad to have seen the clubs bow to the pressure from fans and pull-out of this ridiculous competition within 48 hours of it being announced.

You can watch my speech in response to the Government’s statement on the plans here.

In the aftermath, it was revealed that Boris Johnson had met one of the Chairmen of the break-away six clubs (Ed Woodward of Manchester United) in Downing Street prior to the announcement. It was reported that Ed Woodward understood by the time her left Downing Street that the Prime Minister was supportive of the Super League – in complete contrast to what he told the public. I have written to the Cabinet Secretary asking who was at the meeting, for disclosure of the meeting minutes and all the correspondence about arrangements for the meeting.

If Boris Johnson gave the European Super League his backing and then publicly turned on the plan then the public deserve a full, clear and immediate explanation and apology.

While the clubs have now pulled out of these plans, we cannot let this opportunity for reform of football pass us by. Labour has argued for more than a decade for significant changes in how football governance, ownership and finance operates in the UK and to give fans more control through representation and a voice in our clubs. Our last four election manifestos have included proposals and a commitment for reform. The Tories have done nothing to reform for 11 years and have now been embarrassed into launching a “fan-led review” of football. It remains to be seen whether this will produce the urgent reform we need implemented. We must seize this moment and ensure it’s a catalyst for real change.

I wrote for the Times with my suggestions for how the review should work and proposals to consider, which you can read here.

Online Harms: Criminal Sanctions for Tech Execs

More than two years have passed since the Government published their Online Harms White Paper and we're still waiting for action.

I wrote in The Times explaining why we need criminal sanctions in the new law when it finally arrives, to change the culture of social media - and how the Tories are currently too timid to act.

You can read my piece here.

'Amazon Amendment' Voted Down by the Tories

Our amendment to the Finance Bill would have prevented the biggest tech firms like Amazon from taking advantage of new tax breaks, as well as other big firms that do not support workers’ rights and the living wage.

Unfortunately, Tory MPs voted it down.

The Government should be improving the lives of thousands of workers who have helped so many people with deliveries throughout the pandemic, not giving a huge tax break to their bosses. This tells you all you need to know about their priorities.

Read more about this in LabourList here.

Domestic Abuse Bill

The spring lockdown saw cases of domestic abuse soaring (a 65% increase in calls to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline and a 700% increase in traffic to the website). A decade of cuts to police, Domestic Abuse services, Violence Against Women and Girls Services, the Crown Prosecution Service and legal aid have led to a shameful situation andwhere too many perpetrators are escaping justice.

Labour has pushed for changes to the Bill to make sure new legislation will change this. 

We pushed for serial domestic abusers or stalking perpetrators to be registered on a database and be subjected to supervision, monitoring and management. 

We wanted changes so that migrant victims of domestic abuse could report what was happening to them safely, without the fear of immigration control. And we wanted to lift the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rule to ensure all migrant victims of domestic abuse could access support services whilst they fled abuse. 

Again, Tory MP’s voted against these amendments.

Fire Safety Bill: Tory Broken Promises

Following the tragedy of Grenfell and despite repeated promises from Ministers that leaseholders would not bear the cost of fixing cladding problems they did not cause, innocent residents are facing lockdown in flammable buildings, colossal bills for repair work (in some cases, bankruptcy) and hundreds of pounds per month on interim safety measures such as ‘waking watch’. 

This week, the Fire Safety Bill was back in Parliament and the House of Lords voted to support an amendment that would put protections for leaseholders into law. It gave leaseholders a guarantee that building owners cannot pass on the costs of any remedial work in the time before the Government brings forward its promised legislation.

Labour led calls to secure further protections for leaseholders, to prevent costs on fire safety remediation costs being passed on. Tory MPs voted down these protections.

New Electric Buses for Cardiff

This month we had some really good news for public transport in our city as Cardiff Bus have placed an order for 36 of the latest battery-electric buses.

The 36 Yutong E12 zero-emission buses will be on our City’s roads from the end of 2021 - this is believed to be the biggest order outside of London to date.

Fire and Rehire

I met GMB Union members at British Gas Cardiff on the 43rd day of their industrial action against the disgraceful practice of fire and rehire which involves an employer sacking their employees if they refuse to accept worse pay, terms and conditions. An employee only gets to keep their job if they agree to have their contract terminated and then agree to be re-hired on these worse terms.

On the day I went to the picket line, British Gas engineers in Cardiff and around the UK had just been sacked for refusing to sign new contracts on worse terms and conditions that included a 15% pay cut.

This is no way to treat dedicated and loyal employees - some of whom have decades of service and included the first ever female British Gas engineer.

If this can happen to workers at British Gas, it can happen at other workplaces.

The Government has said that fire and rehire tactics are ‘unacceptable’ but refuse to do anything about it. Labour would outlaw it.

Save Guildford Crescent Petition

Thank you to everyone who signed my petition against the Guildford Crescent proposals. The petition has now closed for signatures and has been sent to the developers for consideration in their consultation process.

For now, we will wait to see the outcome of the consultation and then a formal planning application is likely to be made to Cardiff Council.

Once there is any news, or a formal application is lodged, I will share the details here and write to those of you who signed the petition outlining the next steps.

Delivering BeautyBanks Donations to Cardiff Foodbank

It was good to catch up with Cardiff Foodbank and drop off some kind donations of much needed shower gel, toothbrushes & toothpaste from charity Beauty Banks set up by Sali Hughes & Jo Jones.

Recent times have been very tough for many people - and the foodbank has been working flat out to ensure everyone across our city is fed.

If you’re able to help & donate to Cardiff Foodbank here’s how.

Education Maintenance Allowance: Open for Applications 

Applications are open now for the Education Maintenance Allowance for students in Wales. This is a £30 a week payment for 16-18-year-olds who want to continue their education.

EMA was scrapped by the Tories and Lib Dems in England but protected by our Welsh Labour Government. 20,000 Welsh students were helped by the payment last year.

For application details please click here.

Music Venue Trust Survey: Help the Return of Live Music

Music Venue Trust have launched their #ReviveLive campaign, which will provide venues with tools to support socially distanced events from 17 May, to build towards the full return of live music.

You can help by completing this short survey about your live music habits before Covid-19, and about your plans to return to live entertainment when things reopen.

Please click here to complete the survey.

Cricket Supporters' Association Survey

It’s no secret that I’m a huge cricket fan and each year, the Cricket Supporters’ Association runs a survey for all cricket fans (you don’t have to be a member of the Association) to get feedback on all aspects of cricket. So whether you play, listen, watch at Sophia Gardens or elsewhere or on television, please complete the survey and give your views.

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