Vital that local residents have their say over new M4

The Welsh Government has announced a series of public information exhibitions this autumn over its controversial plans for an M4 relief road around Newport.

Eluned Parrott AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister, said:

“This is a controversial project, which could cost over £1 billion and it is vital that the public have their say. I am pleased that there are consultation events across South Wales and not just in Newport and would urge local residents to go and view the proposals and to have their say.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats are firmly opposed to this new motorway on both economic and environmental grounds. We think there are far better ways to improve the traffic flow on the M4; firstly by improving local roads so that local traffic is not drawn onto the motorway for short journeys and secondly by improving the public transport network. The South Wales Metro as well as basic improvements such as creating a direct rail link from Newport to Ebbw Vale and creating a rail station in the east of Cardiff, half way between Newport and Cardiff, will go a long way to reducing the area’s reliance on cars.

“I would encourage members of the public to visit the exhibition and to have their say.”

Cardiff Lib Dems lead the fight to reopen Roath Library

Eluned Parrott AM with Cllr Nigel Howells, campaigning to get Roath Library repaired and re-opened

Eluned Parrott AM with Cllr Nigel Howells, campaigning to get Roath Library repaired and re-opened

Cardiff’s Liberal Democrats will use a motion at today’s Cardiff Council meeting to argue that Roath Library could be reopened if there was the political will to do so.

The motion calls for money received from developments in Adamsdown, totalling £238,494, to be used as the basis for carrying out necessary repairs to the library. It could then re-open without further delay.

Roath Library sits at the heart of one of the most deprived areas of Cardiff. It was closed temporarily in November 2014 when the boiler failed, but has remained closed ever since, following damage caused by a leak in the roof.

Eluned Parrott AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, said:

“Well over a thousand people have now signed petitions calling on Cardiff Council to repair and re-open Roath Library.

“I know how much local residents value their library and I know how angry residents are at the fact that their library may never re-open.

“Just five months ago, the Council promised to keep all its branch libraries open for the remainder of this Council term.

“It is only right and fair that this applies to Roath Library as well.”

Cllr Nigel Howells, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Adamsdown, added:

“I’m proposing this motion because the money to fund these repairs can be found if the political will is there.

“Our community is one of the most deprived in Cardiff and the library is so much more than a place where people go to borrow books. For many, it is a place where they go to improve their life-chances.

“The money from developments in the area should be used to improve existing facilities.

“It is scandalous that this money hasn’t already been considered for use on the library.”

Farcical air link must be scrapped

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have restated their calls to scrap the Cardiff-Anglesey air link following another report criticizing the service.

The Welsh Assembly Public Accounts Committee report raises a number of concerns about the air link, including a discrepancy in passenger numbers between figures provided by the Welsh Government and the Civil Aviation Authority.

The report notes that “it is difficult to adequately assess the value-for-money of the air service” due to a lack of available information. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently called for the service to be scrapped and the money reinvested in other public transport services.

Eluned Parrott AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister, said:

“Today we see yet another report highlighting just how much of a farce the Anglesey air link is.

“Labour Ministers have poured millions into subsidizing this wasteful and polluting service, with little to no gain for people in North Wales. Passenger numbers are 35% lower now than at their peak in 2008, yet money is still spent on this service instead of improving our woeful rail and bus networks.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have always been clear: we would scrap the £3,700-a-day subsidy of this pointless air link, and reinvest the money to improve bus and train services for the people of Wales.”

Welsh Lib Dem Young Person’s bus scheme to be launched in September

The Welsh Liberal Democrats’ Young Person’s Concessionary Bus Fare scheme will be launched in September 2015, it has been announced today.

From September, 16, 17 and 18 year olds will receive a one-third discount on all of their journeys by bus, including the TrawsCymru network of longer-distance services.

In September 2014 the Welsh Liberal Democrats agreed to allow the Welsh Government’s annual budget to pass in exchange for funding for a range of key Welsh Liberal Democrat policies, including almost £15m for a Young Person’s Concessionary Bus Fare scheme.  The scheme will be available to 110,000 16-18 year olds.

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Transport said:

“Affordable public transport is key to enabling young people to access work, education, training and apprenticeships.  That is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats have fought for a national concessionary scheme for young people aged 16-18, to help those struggling with the cost of transport.

“We used our influence in the National Assembly to ensure young people will have their very own bus pass.  Because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, people aged 16-18 will now have the help they need to travel to allow them to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.

“Once again we have shown that a vote for the Welsh Liberal Democrats is a vote for Welsh Liberal Democrat polices to be put into practice.

“As always, we see today a Welsh Labour Government trying to claim credit for a policy they have been forced to implement.  Let us be in no doubt, this excellent scheme is only becoming a reality because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.”

Chair of Liberal Youth Wales, Sam Bennett, added:

“Liberal Youth Wales have been campaigning for fairer fares for young people on public transport and I am delighted that as a result of our influence in budget negotiations, young people across Wales will now benefit from reduced fares when travelling by bus.”

Fresh concerns over rail electrification

New trains being introduced to Wales in 2017 could actually deliver slower travel times for passengers, Eluned Parrott AM has said today.

New hybrid trains which are able to run using both electric and diesel power are arriving in the UK from Japan for testing and are due to enter service from 2017 at a rate of one a fortnight. These brand new trains will enter service on the Great Western Mainline connecting Cardiff and Swansea with London.  The long serving InterCity 125s will be transferred to Scotland in a deal already struck between the Department for Transport and ScotRail.

However the new hybrid trains, whilst capable of running on diesel, are according to insider sources not capable of matching the InterCity Trains speed and performance under diesel over long distances meaning the two hours five minutes it currently takes to get from Cardiff to London is likely to be longer should these trains be introduced before electrification is completed.

Speaking Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Transport said:

“We could find ourselves in a ridiculous situation where passengers in South Wales get brand new trains which take longer to get to London than the forty year old trains that are currently being used. It is vital that we get clarification on what is happening.

“The timetable for trains will be thrown into chaos and journey times will increase. There is also a serious chance that this will cost both the taxpayer and passengers huge amounts extra because these new trains are not designed for long diesel runs at speed and the trains maintenance costs as well as projected fuel costs will be higher than previously budgeted. The Tory Government are leaving South Wales in chaos as its electrification programme falls apart.

“The electrification of the rail network in South Wales is much needed and long overdue but if these new trains are put into service before electrification is finished passengers will have their journey times extended before they get reduced, complicating timetables and pushing passengers away from rail travel.

“Since the Liberal Democrats have left office, this whole project has turned into a farce.  People have a right to know what is happening.  I have written to The Department for Transport asking for urgent clarification of this issue.”

Welsh Government’s transport plans based on money that doesn’t yet exist

The Welsh Labour Government’s transport plans are based on money that doesn’t yet exist, Eluned Parrott AM has said today.

The new Transport Plan, published this week, reveals that the Welsh Government needs to find three quarters of the capital funding for its transport projects by 2019/20.

The document reveals that there will be a huge fall in Welsh Government capital spending on transport after the next Assembly elections despite major plans for roads and rail investment.  This means the plans are heavily reliant on outside resources such as from European Union structural funds.

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister said:

“This document reveals that there is a giant black hole in the finances of the Welsh Labour Government’s transport plans.  Assumptions are being made that other funding will be found, but that is by no means secure.

“It’s disappointing to see such a huge reduction in the Welsh Labour Government’s commitment to transport. This once again highlights that the Government has a real weak spot when it comes to public transport.  Wales can’t afford for major infrastructure improvements, such as the valley lines electrification, to be booted into the long grass while the Welsh Government scrabbles around for the money.

“Again, we see the Transport Minister getting her priorities completely wrong.  It’s absurd to be spending over a billion pounds on the M4 relief road, especially when she is having to reduce spending elsewhere.

“The Welsh Lib Dems used our influence to halt work on the M4 relief road because we remain determined to ensure that investment is put towards public transport.”

Welsh Labour Government misses apprenticeship targets

A new report published by the Welsh Government has shown that they have missed several of their key targets for their flagship ‘Pathways to Apprenticeship’ scheme.

By their own admission their key target of getting ‘75% of learners into an apprenticeship’ was ‘not achieved by a large margin’ as just 35% of learners progressed onto their flagship scheme in 2012/13.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“This report will be a serious embarrassment for the Welsh Government, as it essentially demonstrates that the Pathways to Apprenticeship scheme is not actually providing a pathway to an apprenticeship for the vast majority of learners.

“Whilst other positive outcomes will always be welcome, the scheme was designed with a particular aim in mind.  Alarm bells should have been ringing within the Government when they realised they were nowhere near hitting their key target of getting three quarters of learners into an apprenticeship.

“Significantly, if we look at the reasons why the scheme failed to place those learners in an apprenticeship, 32% said that there simply wasn’t one open to them.

“At the same time that the Welsh Labour Government was pouring funding into the Pathways programme, it was axing thousands of the very apprenticeship places the participants were supposed to be aiming for.  By failing to co-ordinate programmes effectively, it made the failure of Pathways to Apprenticeships inevitable.

“We’ve seen major criticism of Jobs Growth Wales, with Welsh Government reports showing it wasted funding by helping those who would find a job anyway, now we see evidence of the Welsh Government failing to follow through with help for those who do need training and employment opportunities the most.

“After 16 years it is about time this Labour Government redoubled its efforts to help young people.  Its job creation schemes remain badly targeted and lack ambition.”

Eluned Parrott Column – Pontypridd Observer – 15th July 2015

I have been contacted by many residents over the last few months, voicing their anger over the proposed reorganisation of Rhondda and Tonyrefail schools. And whilst these proposals might not affect many in the Pontypridd area, they could be a sign of things to come here.

Following the consultation, which saw a huge number of objections, the Labour-run Cabinet of RCT Council has decided to press ahead with plans and once again has ignored the views of parents, teachers, pupils and school governors.

One of my biggest concerns is the proposal to remove sixth forms from some schools and not others. Surely this will result in inequality within the education system in RCT.

Removing sixth forms could also discourage pupils from choosing to pursue further education, particularly if their options to study further are limited. Having a sixth form gives younger pupils something to aspire to and further education becomes a natural progression, something that is particularly important in a deprived area such as the Rhondda where improving education and skill levels can really boost our young people’s life chances.

Another major concern is around the creation of ‘through schools’, catering for children from aged 3 through to 16 or 19. I fail to comprehend how the wellbeing of a child will be improved in a school that caters for some 1500 pupils. Surely the welcoming and caring ethos that is currently found at smaller schools will be lost.

I share the view of parents that our local schools are the heart of our communities. Reorganisations such as this will lead to the loss of the link between communities, parents and their local school.  This, in turn will have a detrimental knock-on impact on combined efforts to raise aspirations, and build the home/school partnerships that have been a notable feature of Welsh Government education policy.  Schemes designed to work with parents to help them support their child’s learning would be seriously undermined if the parents were unable to access them.

I also share the concerns of parents that transport issues haven’t been properly thought through. Despite verbal assurances that free transport would be provided as part of reorganisation it would seem that this may no longer be the case for those over the age of 16, with proposals to charge post 16 learners for their transport needs. RCT is currently consulting residents on this and I would urge you to take part in the consultation, which ends on the 28th July. You can do so online at http://www.rctcbc.gov.uk/en/councildemocracy/consultations/currentconsultation/hometoschooltransportconsultation.aspx or please contact me if you’d like specific details.

Eluned Parrott AM shows commitment to improving support for people with dementia and their carers

Eluned Parrott AM joins Sue Phelps, Director of Alzheimer’s Society in Wales, to highlight the hidden cost of dementia in Wales

Eluned Parrott AM joins Sue Phelps, Director of Alzheimer’s Society in Wales, to highlight the hidden cost of dementia in Wales

South Wales Central’s Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Eluned Parrott attended the launch of a new report by Alzheimer’s Society, The hidden cost of dementia in Wales to show her commitment to improving care and support for people living with dementia and their carers.

Eluned Parrott joined Sue Phelps, Director of Alzheimer’s Society in Wales and at the National Assembly for Wales to mark the report’s release, which is the first of its kind to provide a financial breakdown of the cost of dementia to society in Wales.

The hidden cost of dementia in Wales report reveals that in 2013 the total cost of dementia in Wales was £1.4 billion, an average cost of £31,300 per person per year.

The report found that people with dementia, carers and their families currently shoulder around two-thirds of the cost themselves. This amounts to £298 million for private care social care, and equivalent to £622 million in providing unpaid care to people with dementia.

Sue Phelps, Director of Alzheimer’s Society in Wales said:

“There are 45,000 people living with dementia in Wales and dementia is a challenge that cannot be overlooked. Costs of dementia will continue to rise unless we have a system that better supports both people with dementia and their carers.

“We are delighted that Eluned Parrott has shown her commitment towards supporting people across Wales with dementia.

“We need continued commitment and investment to ensure that we deliver the improvements in care and research that people with dementia and their loved ones deserve.  It is important that we do not lose the momentum that has built up over the previous years. This report highlights the need for an appropriately resourced national dementia strategy that prioritises person-centred, integrated care. I hope that we can call upon the support of people like Eluned Parrott in our bid for this to become a reality in the next Assembly term.”

Eluned Parrott AM attended the drop-in session held for Assembly Members at the National Assembly for Wales to discuss the findings of the report.

Eluned Parrott added:

“I’ve attended today to hear more about the findings of the report and to show my support for to people living with dementia and their carers in my constituency in South Wales Central. With a growing number of people living with dementia, it’s becoming of increasing importance that we find a way of working in collaboration to meet the challenge dementia presents.”

 

Rise in Welsh Unemployment shows fragile state of recovery

The Welsh unemployment rate has risen by 8,000 over the last quarter, new figures released today show, accounting for more than 50% of the UK’s new jobseekers.

Statistics published by ONS show that over the last quarter there are an extra 15,000 unemployed people across the UK as a whole, with over half of them in Wales.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Once again Wales is lagging behind.

“This Labour Government has serious answers to give about why our unemployment figures are still consistently dragging down the UK totals. Labour have been running the Welsh Government for 16 years now and this really shouldn’t be happening.

“We need to address the fundamental problems in our economy. We need to find out why the unemployment rate is rising significantly faster here than over the border? Why has Wales found itself with 8,000 extra unemployed people when the UK wide figure is 15,000?

“Our recovery is fragile and yesterday’s news of MacWhirter going into administration with the loss of 52 skilled jobs in Cardiff highlights the fragile nature of our economy.

“There is often very little help for older workers to retrain and reskill if they find themselves unemployed in situations like this, and the recent swingeing cuts to adult education in Wales will only exacerbate the situation. The Welsh Government urgently needs to produce a specific plan for tackling unemployment for older workers.

“Sadly the Conservative Government’s budget which will hit the young will only further weaken our economy. We are about to see under 25s demotivated from working, whilst under huge financial pressure with the ending of housing benefits and maintenance grants for poorer students.

“Wales is now caught in a pincer movement between one government that doesn’t care and another government that doesn’t work.”