- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Feature, Media
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In my last column I wrote about the peat renewal project underway at Lake Vyrnwy. This month the Welsh Government tripled its target for peatland restoration and promised further action to restore Wales’ wildlife. Fantastic news for our peaty habitats in the Cambrian Mountains and Brecon Beacons.
I also wrote about river pollution, and the Welsh Government’s £40 million pledge to tackle the problem. I followed this up in a recent Senedd debate, contrasting the controversial but necessary steps we have taken in Wales to deal with agricultural pollution with England’s catastrophic legacy of deregulation.
Regulations were introduced here last year, effectively making all of Wales a ‘Nitrate Vulnerable Zone’. Tough but necessary. The farming minister this week announced some changes to ensure the industry can comply, which farm leaders have welcomed.
Liz Truss, meanwhile, as environment Secretary in 2015, boasted of cutting 34,000 farm inspections. That effectively allowed farmers to dump waste into rivers, including the Wye valley, where research by Lancaster University found 3,000 tonnes of excess phosphorus, caused by agriculture, seeping into the valley’s waterways. She also cut £24 million from a government grant for environmental protection – including surveillance of water companies to prevent the dumping of raw sewage – and presided over a £235 million cut to the Environment Agency. From unregulated environmental cuts to unfunded tax cuts. Slashing red tape to crashing the economy. And if you disagree with tax cuts for the rich, picking the pockets of the poor and downgrading public services, you are part of the anti-growth coalition, apparently.
I suppose that includes the Welsh Labour Government, which is pulling every lever at its disposal to protect people from the cost-of-living crisis. Alongside the Scottish and Northern Irish administrations, Welsh ministers are calling on the UK Government for three immediate actions: an uplift of £25 to all means-tested benefits; the abolition of the benefit cap and the two-child limit; and an immediate benefit take-up campaign. Practical solutions that would ease the burden on households and prevent tens of thousands more people – and children – sliding into poverty. The Prime Minister is yet to respond.
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