15/01/2014 The Wales Report


15/01/2014

Huw Edwards returns with the Wales Report. As local authorities across Wales face unprecedented cuts to their budgets - what does the future hold for public services in Wales?


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Tonight on the Wales report. Local authorities are trying to balance

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the books. Budgets are being cut but should the the biggest count be in

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the number of we'll shall councils? The clean-up continues after the

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storms that batter the Welsh coastline but who will be picking up

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the Bill and Sir Martin Evans says it is time to promote more interest

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in science. Stay with us for the Wales Report. Good evening, welcome

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back to the Wales Report, where we consider issues that affect the

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people of Wales and question some of those making the decisions. On

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tonight's programme: Welsh local authorities are facing record budget

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cuts. They're counting the cash available for services such as

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refuse collections, libraries, and leisure centres. They're trying to

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balance their books but some possible answers are service cuts,

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job losses and a possible rise in council tax. A commission appointed

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by the Welsh Government on the future delivery of public services

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is about to report its findings. And the question is now being asked

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openly, instead of focusing on the budgets on 22 individual councils -

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should we be talking about a radical reshaping of Welsh local government?

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Helen Callaghan reports. Communities in uproar have become a

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common sight, as people battle to save the services they cherish from

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council cuts. But in an effort to minimise public

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anger, and get them onside, local authorities have been reaching out

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to people, through public consultation on an unprecedented

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scale. Good evening. I'm the Chief Executive fted Council. The

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residents of Monmouthshire have been invited here to this school to share

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their views with Council bosses about proposed cuts to services,

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deliver them differently and put up council tax. We are here today with

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some proposals we want to discuss with you. However we still have a

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big journey yet. They want the public to steer them in the right

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direction. Are you prepared to go even higher on a council tax rise,

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or do you want us to look for more cuts to balance the budget? But what

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one person feels is important, another does not. And agreement is

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extremely hard to achieve. We all should be helping each other, not

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one certain section should be cut. There are going to be cuts, clearly.

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What are some of the openingses? Are there any real options? But there is

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one harsh truth that everyone in this room understands. Monmouthshire

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county council has it make more than ?20 million worth of savings over

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the next four years and the council is not alone.

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Wales '22 local authorities are embroiled in a number crunching

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nightmare. It's estimated that selectively they'll be faced with a

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short fall of nearly 460 million and that 20,000 council jobs will go in

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Wales in the next five years. I witnessed the gloomy realities

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confronting councils first hand when we filmed councillors and officials

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debating Monmouthshire's proposed spending plans We still have a gap

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of over ?1 million. It is disappointing after so much

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consultation and scrutiny and work by officers that we still have a

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budget funding gap at this stage, only weeks before we have to

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announce what our final budget proposals are. Monmouthshire and the

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other local authorities across Wales have until early March to get their

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spending plans for the next financial year signed off. The Wales

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Report has been speaking to all of our councils to get a better idea of

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which services are under threat. Across Wales, councils are

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predicting a collective cut of ?30 million to social care budge etsds.

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19 day centres may close. 35 public libraries could shut. . Some areas

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may see a 2,000% increase to fees for leisure services. This is just a

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small fraction of what we can expect to be hit. With some communities

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also facing council tax hikes of up to 5%.

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Local Government finances and those behind the book-balancing are under

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the spotlight, like never before and council leaders, like Peter Fox are

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feeling the strain. It really hurts when you have been

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working hard for your communities and you have to try to deliver the

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tough messages about how you are going to have to change things,

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which may affect some people. I hope people understand that what we are

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trying to do, is find the very best way forward in their interests.

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But the impending assault on services, has sparked fierce attacks

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against local councils. CHANTS OF SHAME ON YOU And there are calls for

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a radical overhaul of how many there are. Last Government a commission

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was set up to review the way devolved public services are run and

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it suggest improvements. Its findings are due to be published

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later this month and it is widely believed it'll recommend radically

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reducing the number of local authorities we have here in Wales.

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For now, most council bosses are keeping their thoughts on this

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controversial issue private. But some did take to the Wales Report

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anonymously. Three council leaders told me they support a reduction of

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the 22 local authorities we now have. But four are against it.

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The Welsh Government has ruled out reorganisation, before the #2 2016

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Assembly elections. Bsh 2016. But while any shake-up could be some

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years away, there are calls for decisions to be made quickly. If

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there is going to be a reorganisation and it is put off

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into the future, leaving councils then to languish on death row for

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the next five or six years would be a huge problem. So if they are going

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to do t I think the feeling across local government, is to get on with

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it. And talk of reorganisation is seen by some as badly-timed and

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inappropriate. It is not the panacea to the probss that local authorities

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are facing in Wales. -- to the problems. We must not take our eye

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off the ball. We need to preserve and keep pushing forward and

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preserve in good, high-quality services. I don't want a distraction

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from that. It's estimated that reorganisation would cost ?200

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million and lead to 15,000 council job losses. While that would be a

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tortuous process, some feel it could be a force for good. Michael Tricky

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is Director of Wales Public Services, #20e 25, an independent

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think-tank based at Cardiff Business School, conducting research into the

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long-term future of public service delivery. A lot of this depends on

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how you approach T if you approach it neglectively and defensively,

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what you will get is negative and defensive results. But I think that

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- I sense across local Government in Wales and elsewhere, that there is a

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real sense of the challenge, the scale of the challenge ahead, the

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scale of change that they need and perhaps the sense of the opportunity

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that local Government and organisations, a fresh start, fresh

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beginnings, working towards new horizons, that could be very

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stimulating and exciting. REPORTER: So, by working with the community --

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So by working with the community heapfully this is a which to

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sustain... But here at this public meeting, people aren't working about

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reorganisations and whether there are too many councils, they are

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concerned about council tax and the fate of services they depend on

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Everyone pays council tax. If they start charging for the library,

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youngsters will not use T they'll not have that access. It is a scary

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situation. Everyone has financial difficulties at home and are worried

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about jobs and different things. But while communities have come out in

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force to fight for their local services, it is unclear whether they

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would take to the streets if it was their entire council facing

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extinction. Well that was Helen Callaghan

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reporting. Joining me is Jeff Jones, former leader of Bridgend council

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and now a leader government consultant. This Williams

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commission, what are you expecting? We are expecting they will redues

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the number of authorities be down to about is 1 is the rumour T could be

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less or slightly more. -- down to about 11 is the rumour. What do you

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think? I would go smaller. The production of the prop is the easy

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bit. The bit we should be discussing is what we expect the new local

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Government sows tomb to deliver and what is the ideal type of authority

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to deliver that system. We are not debating this. That's the danger.

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The previous Tory organisations were driven by the Conservatives on

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political expediency. They wanted to destroy Labour local government in

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Wales, they weren't interested in what happened afterwards because

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they haven't got a big political hold. The big time this time is we

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have an Assembly controlled by the Labour Party and a local Government

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controlled by the Labour Party. So there is real politics in this. It

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isn't just staff who will lose their jobs at the WLGA. It is councillors

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who will lose their position. We have the politics to look at and the

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costs. There will be huge costs upfront. Even if, in the long-term

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there are savings, those savings might not come about until year, 6 -

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year 6 or 7. From day #1, if you have 11 authorities, then 11 senior

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management teams will go and they'll in the go without a load of money to

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compensate the fact of losing their jobs. You mention the Labour

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dimension which is central to some of this. Is the political will

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there, from the First Minister and colleagues to drive through this

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kind of radical change? They make the rhetoric. They have all said

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nobody supports the present structure. But the contributors was

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entirely right. The worst thing to happen is on Monday is for everyone

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to say - thank you, Sir Paul and the commission, we'll look at it and

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next year we are still looking at T the result will be a disaster for

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the local Government. They are getting on with the cuts. The morale

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will go right to the floor. What worries me is that delivery goes out

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the window. What is forego then about is the actual person who needs

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the service. -- forgotten about. We are all aware of those Deaners,

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ultimately, though, Jeff, are you of the view that the present system of

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22 authorities in he Wales is not fit for purpose. It doesn't make

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sense in this post-devolution age? It has never made sense. This is a

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big step we need to discuss and talk about and not be carried away next

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week by a report that has been held up. We could produce it. This

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morning I wrote down my idea of Wales, four or five authorities, I

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did it in five seconds. It is easy. The hard bit is the politics and

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implementation of what comes out. In five years are we going to see a

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different structure of local government in Wales? Possibly if the

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politicians in the Bay have the will. Their past record suggests

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they push things over, or to use another Welsh phrase, they try to

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kick for touch rather than score the try. In this one the ball is in

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their hands. Do they wanted to do it? If they do, they have to say

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within a short period - we are implementing the Williams'

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commission, we are going to find the money for it and set up elections

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for the shadow authorities as soon as possible, otherwise as Steve

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Thomas says - authorities on death row will not deliver the services

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all of us want. Jeff, good of you to come in. And local authority budgets

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have come under even greater pressure in the past month, as

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councils assess the cost of storm damage caused by the high tides and

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gale-force winds that have battered the Welsh coastline. This winter has

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seen some of the worst weather Wales has suffered in over 20 years -

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storms have caused millions of pounds worth of damage. Some roads

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in Pembrokeshire were damaged, including the route along Amroth

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seafront, which was partially washed away. Aberystwyth was perhaps the

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worst- hit area, with extensive damage to the famous Victorian

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seafront and promendade. With current cost estimates rising to

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millions, the question is where the money is going to come from.

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Ceredigion Council's Deputy Leader, Ray Quant, had this plea for the

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Welsh Government. What we will actually be looking for now is

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support from the Welsh Government for the actual rest tors of putting

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it back to where it was but in actual fact what we should be

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looking for, at this moment in time, is not necessary just to have

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restoration but to be making improvements. The Welsh Secretary,

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David Jones, has said that we're unlikely to see any additional funds

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from the Treasury, or from the EU, to help with clean-up costs. And the

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Chair of the Assembly's Environment and Sustainability Committee, Lord

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Elis Thomas, is calling for a more coherent approach to managing the

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coastline. Part of the review now, a stat statutory be be responsibility

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for Natural Resources Wales and for Welsh Government to deliver, that

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review must look at the whole area in the round. Afterall we are a

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country with massive coastline. If we look at the risk threat to our

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population, about 225,000 of the residents of Wales are at some sort

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of risk, one way or another, through flooding. And, therefore, this must

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be a priority for any government. O Joining me now is the Minister for

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Natural Resources, Labour's Alun Davies. Thank you for coming in.

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Have you worked out where the money is coming from to help people who

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have suffered so much damage? At the moment we are looking at assessing

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what the damage is. We know there is superficial damage. We know there is

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damage that is to be cleared up and cleaned up and that work is ongoing,

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but then there is the more substantial structural damage we

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need to look at, damage to the infrastructure. At the moment we are

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assessing where we are with different local authorities. We have

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spoken to all the local authorities dealing with these issues, and we

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will be in a position in the next week or so, to take decisions on

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those matters, where we need to make short-term investment and where we

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need to make repairs and then, where we need to focus hard on the long

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term. So where Ceredigion are saying - we are looking to the Welsh

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Government for help, you will be providing that. I met Ceredigion

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when I was there after the storms. Our officials have been working

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together since then and we are putting to the an assessment of with

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Ceredigion is and we will then be looking at how we provide the

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support. I think they did a marvellous job of responding to this

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and the council there have worked extremely hard in responding to what

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was an extraordinary emergency on that weekend. What we have got to do

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now, is to ensure we work together to rebuild the Prom, to clear up the

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damage that has been done immediately, but we also need to

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look at the long term. One of the conversations I had with Ceredigion

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was about long-term sea defences for Aberystwyth and the town itself.

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What you have done there is underline the scale of the ambition,

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but that does have bidgetry implications as well. When you are

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look ing looking at sea defences and looking at responding to the

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challenge of climate change, that's a lot of money. It is. I'm wondering

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again is the Welsh Government in a position to do that? Your own

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department has its own share of budget cuts, ?20 million-plus, so

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you will not be able to foot this bill. I'm proect itting the flood

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defences of my budget. I'm looking at protecting nearly one quarter of

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a billion pounds of investment in Wales during the lifetime of this

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Assembly term and we'll continue with that investment. I want to look

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at how we can bring in new investment. We are talking to the UK

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Government on a regular basis, most days at the moment, about how we can

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work together on this. We are also looking towards Europe to see if we

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can put together an application for additional support, through European

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funding streams. How hopeful are you there? We are putting together that

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at the moment and we are looking at the assessments of where we are,

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what the total dimensions of the damage has been and what structural

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repairs we will need it make. When we understand all of that, we will

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be in a better position to make a fuller statement on it. I will do

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so. But, also, I have asked for a review of the coastal defences of

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Wales in tow tality following the storms in December -- in totality. I

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want to understand where our weaknesses are and where we need it

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make emergency repairs and where we need to make more investment for the

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future. I will pick up on that for a second. I was surprised to he soot

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Welsh Secretary, David Jones, saying that no official request foreextra

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funding help had come to his department from you -- no official

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request for extra funding. Was that true? I was surprised to

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see the Welsh Secretary saying that. I would be surprise surprised, I

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would want to see him talking about how we can work together to help.

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Have you asked him? We are not yet in the position to make that formal

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bit d bid if you like. We are talking to them every day. We are

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talking to departments in London. We have a good relationship with the UK

:17:45.:17:50.

Government. I don't understand why the Secretary of State doesn't

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understand or appreciate that. But he is right to say that know formal

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bid has gone in But the context and conversations are taking place.

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That's really important. We have a relationship with DEFRA in London

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where we talk most day abouts how we deal with the different situations.

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When would you be in a position to put a bid in? I would expect to be

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able to look at the dimensions of the problems we are facing this week

:18:16.:18:22.

and respond to it next week. Co-ordinating the approach. Lord el

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WLord Elis Thomas making it's point it needs to be more coherent, if you

:18:27.:18:31.

look at the Welsh coastline and the increasing problems with climate

:18:32.:18:35.

change, do you agree with him or do you think there should be one body

:18:36.:18:39.

responsible for managing the approach to koeslines? Agree with

:18:40.:18:44.

him we have seen a change in patterns, as a direct be consequence

:18:45.:18:48.

of climate change and we need to adapt to an action plan in Wales

:18:49.:18:52.

which takes into account the change in weather patterns aes a result of

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climate change. I agree with that. We do have adaptation plans in

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place. One of the purposes of the review that NRW are carrying out for

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me at the moment is tolike at o how strong those processes, those

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systems are. -- to to look at how strong. If we need to strengthen

:19:10.:19:12.

them, we will do so. At the moment we have a number of bodies

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responsible for defences in different places, mainly NRW in

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local government but obviously to product infrastructure in companies

:19:22.:19:23.

such as the railways. We need to look at how all that is working. At

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the moment for many parts of our coast, we are quite well-protected

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but we need to lack at where we are vulnerable. We need to search out

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for weaknesses and identify those weaknesses and then we need to

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identify how we will ensure that coastal communities across the bhoel

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face of Wales are protected. -- whole face. I do not want to walk

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along and through a community like I did last week in Aberystwyth and see

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the damage done to a major settlement along our coastline.

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Everybody living in near our coast deserves and needs protection. This

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Government will not let them down. Wales's disappointing performance,

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to put it mildly, in the latest international education rankings -

:20:08.:20:10.

known as PISA - has been the subject of much concern over recent weeks,

:20:11.:20:13.

with standards slipping across the board. The worst showing was in

:20:14.:20:17.

science. Wales dropped 6 places and one of our most distinguished

:20:18.:20:20.

scientists is now calling for more to be done to promote interest in

:20:21.:20:24.

science in school and beyond. Sir Martin Evans, who won the Nobel

:20:25.:20:27.

Prize in 2007 for his pioneering work on stem-cell research, says

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that people should be far more aware of the great work being done in

:20:31.:20:32.

Wales. I have been interested in science

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throughout my life. I have been fortunate enough to be able to carry

:20:50.:20:53.

out a scientific career and that has been my life.

:20:54.:21:00.

I do think that scienceville a fundamental importance to everyone.

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It is a base skill these days. You know, in the last century, I

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suppose, well certainly over our lifetimes, there have been amazing

:21:13.:21:18.

discoveries in biology, in medicine, astronomy, and of course, huge

:21:19.:21:22.

technological developments, all of which are based on physical

:21:23.:21:28.

understanding. I think they would be terribly undersold if we don't give

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people the opportunity to understand what it is all about. I think we

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should teach scientific understanding, so anybody in society

:21:40.:21:45.

can have an idea of what it is all about. Part of that is understanding

:21:46.:21:52.

how science answers questions. How we can use experiments to test

:21:53.:21:58.

different hypothesis. Different ways of looking at it. Is this one right

:21:59.:22:02.

other that one right? We don't know, we will find out. I think that's so

:22:03.:22:07.

different from just emotional imagination. But imagination is

:22:08.:22:13.

hugely important. Many people don't realise that

:22:14.:22:17.

emergency emergenciation, lateral thinking, looking atp things from a

:22:18.:22:22.

different way, is essential for scientific advance. The essence of

:22:23.:22:26.

being a human, is being able to be there to interact, to imagine, and

:22:27.:22:30.

of course, scientificically, it is the imagination that's allowed all

:22:31.:22:35.

the advances. I don't want to see that stamped out from any child at

:22:36.:22:42.

all. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government is very concerned, quite

:22:43.:22:47.

rightly, with the levels of numeracy and literacy coming out of our

:22:48.:22:51.

schools, therefore, they are lacking at changing the curriculum,

:22:52.:22:56.

particularly at Key Stage 2, that's the upper stage of the primary

:22:57.:23:01.

school, to really concentrate on English and maths, basically. That's

:23:02.:23:06.

fine. But, at that stage, too, there was a continuation going on of

:23:07.:23:13.

starting people on science. It's been very good. And it would be a

:23:14.:23:19.

disaster for us, if that were dropped. If you drop t you will then

:23:20.:23:25.

drop a whole segment of our education and you will be putting

:23:26.:23:29.

people in a position where they may find it more difficult to pick it

:23:30.:23:35.

up. Science is a way of thinking. A very useful way of thinking to look

:23:36.:23:41.

at and understand problems and to understand where we are. I think it

:23:42.:23:45.

should be everybody's privilege to be able to understand where they are

:23:46.:23:53.

in the world. Plenty of food for thout for Sir

:23:54.:24:03.

Martin Essex. Joining me is Wendy Sadler, directedor of Science Made

:24:04.:24:07.

Simple, an initiative to encourage schoolchildren to participate in

:24:08.:24:13.

science and Professor Karen Holford, the Pro Vice Chancellor of Cardiff

:24:14.:24:17.

University college of physical science. Why are we not engaging

:24:18.:24:22.

children? Science is something children are curious about.

:24:23.:24:24.

Something seems to happen between primary and secondary school which

:24:25.:24:28.

makes them switch off. We are putting demands on teachers and they

:24:29.:24:31.

are not getting time to explore perhaps the fun and practical side

:24:32.:24:37.

of science. When we go into schools we take lots of experiments and take

:24:38.:24:44.

perhaps things that children are already excited about, music, and

:24:45.:24:51.

medicine. Teachers are saying they don't get time. They don't get time

:24:52.:24:56.

or not allowed to? I think it is because they are trying to get

:24:57.:24:59.

through so many things that are not tested there is not the free reign.

:25:00.:25:02.

Perhaps some of it comes down to teachers not having confidence in

:25:03.:25:06.

science. We know there is a problem with recruiting teachers,

:25:07.:25:10.

particularly with a physical science background. To my find, if a student

:25:11.:25:13.

doesn't see a teacher passionate about the subject talking, then

:25:14.:25:17.

they'll lose that love. I think a teacher can only teach effectively

:25:18.:25:20.

if they love the subject. Universities are all Ben couraging

:25:21.:25:23.

enthusiasm and interest and passion. So, would it be fair for me to say

:25:24.:25:28.

to you, are our universities turning out graduates who have that

:25:29.:25:33.

necessary enthusiasm that they can pass on to pupils Absolutely.

:25:34.:25:37.

Science is perceived as being a hard subject. I think that's one of the

:25:38.:25:40.

things we have to dispel that myth, about it being a hard subject. It is

:25:41.:25:43.

hard to subject any subject at university but it is possible and

:25:44.:25:47.

you know people should rise to the challenge. Viewers will be struck

:25:48.:25:51.

that I'm interviewing two women about science. But, I think it is

:25:52.:25:56.

fair to say, there has been a kind of gender perception problem about

:25:57.:25:58.

science in the past as well, which is in many cases, it has been seen

:25:59.:26:02.

as something of interest to men, mostly. Again, what is being done to

:26:03.:26:06.

challenge those perceptions A lot of good work being done, organisations

:26:07.:26:12.

like Women in Science and Engineers and Engineering Scheme for Wales and

:26:13.:26:16.

others are doing good work. One of the things from my point of view is

:26:17.:26:18.

reaching the parents. Parents, believe it or not, have a huge

:26:19.:26:22.

influence on their children and children do go to parents for

:26:23.:26:25.

advice. If a parent is a little nervous about their daughter

:26:26.:26:28.

becoming an engineer, as my parents were, you know, that daughter is

:26:29.:26:32.

going to have to fight hard to find out the information and it is always

:26:33.:26:35.

going to be a challenge. I think parents have a huge part to play.

:26:36.:26:39.

Also, society has a huge part to play in saying - this is a role

:26:40.:26:42.

model, a woman who is a successful engineer, scientist, and is enjoying

:26:43.:26:48.

her job. We were talking about the PISA results which clearly in school

:26:49.:26:53.

terms have are been disappointing and science saw the biggest drop of

:26:54.:26:56.

all. Yes, people will accept there is curriculum and time pressure, but

:26:57.:27:00.

there must be a question as well about the quality of teaching in

:27:01.:27:03.

some of our schools where science is concerned, do we acknowledge that? I

:27:04.:27:06.

think it is not necessarily only that. There are many schemes that we

:27:07.:27:10.

have looked at across the UK that aren't being matched in Wales,

:27:11.:27:12.

particularly for teachers who have to teach physics but don't have have

:27:13.:27:20.

a background in physics. The Institute Institute of Physics has

:27:21.:27:24.

done work in England and ask the land but not matched yet in Wales.

:27:25.:27:27.

There is a question about the support teachers get. I don't think

:27:28.:27:32.

they are given time to follow their skills. You won't find a teacher who

:27:33.:27:36.

is in it for a ride. They want to do their job well. They need support.

:27:37.:27:41.

Final point. Sir Martin clearly is a global star, someone who has

:27:42.:27:44.

achieved remarkable things and the Nobel Prize recognise that is but he

:27:45.:27:48.

makes the point, modestlily, about people in Wales not being awhich are

:27:49.:27:53.

of the work that has been done -- modestly, about people in Wales not

:27:54.:27:56.

being aware of the work he has done. I bet people in Wales don't know

:27:57.:28:00.

about the work he has done. What can we do to market that? We need to be

:28:01.:28:07.

bolder and more confident in promoting ourselves. In the past we

:28:08.:28:10.

have thought - people should know this. But they don't. We have to

:28:11.:28:14.

shout about our successes. Yesterday the top UK 100 scientists pass

:28:15.:28:20.

published. We have two from Cardiff University. And 40 of them were

:28:21.:28:22.

women. Great news on which to end on. Thank

:28:23.:28:27.

you both for coming in. Thank you very much.

:28:28.:28:30.

That's it for this week's programme. We will be back next Wednesday. In

:28:31.:28:34.

the meantime you can get in touch with us by e-mail: And we are on

:28:35.:28:36.

Twitter: Thank you for watching and good

:28:37.:28:42.

night.

:28:43.:28:48.

Huw Edwards returns with the Wales Report. As local authorities across Wales face unprecedented cuts to their budgets - what does the future hold for public services in Wales? And Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir Martin Evans outlines the importance of the sciences to Welsh schoolchildren.


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