More needs to be done to support access to allotments and community gardens

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Labour Government to do more to make it easier for local people to gain access to allotments and community gardens.

Following a statement made in the National Assembly this week by the Welsh Government, the Welsh Liberal Democrats urged Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant to require Housing Associations, when working on new developments, to make provision for community growing areas.

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

“Allotments and community gardens are one way in which residents can have access to a piece of land which they can work and cultivate. In this way, they are an important means of promoting greater understanding and appreciation of food production.

“The Welsh Government should require Housing Associations, when working on new developments, to make provision for community growing areas. In addition, with plans to further increase the supply of new homes under Cardiff’s LDP, work needs to be done now to ensure allotment sites are identified and available for the residents of the thousands of proposed new developments in the north and west of the city.

“In Cardiff, there are already 769 people on the waiting list for allotments, with 25% of these expected to wait between 3 and 6 years for a plot. Unless work is done now, this figure will only rise further.”

Welsh Lib Dem response to today’s M4 debate

Speaking during a debate in the Assembly regarding the on-going congestion issues around Newport, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister has reiterated her party’s opposition to a new M4 through the Gwent levels and wants to see any major capital spend spent on new trains for the whole of Wales.

Eluned Parrott AM said:

“I remain firmly opposed to Welsh Labour’s plans for a billion pound motorway through the Gwent levels and believe that the Welsh Government should work together with Newport Council to make improvements to the A48 and A4810 which would bring immediate relief to the area’s road network.

“I am also of the view that any improvements to the road network need to be planned in conjunction with improvements to public transport giving people easy and convenient access. We’ve had lots of warm words from the Welsh Labour Government over the planned South Wales Metro, but as yet we’ve seen very little action.

“Last year through our Welsh budget agreement the Welsh Lib Dems ensured that soon trains will run directly from Newport to Ebbw Vale, something which should have happened years ago. It is direct measures like this which can help take the pressure off our struggling roads.

“Thanks to investment from the UK Government the rail network across South Wales will soon be electrified. The UK Government have signed a deal with Hitachi who are currently building new trains for services to London. But our local trains are the responsibility of the Welsh Government which has yet to give a commitment to new trains.

“We need a clear plan for the South Wales Metro and all of Wales’ rail services to help create the modern, sustainable infrastructure Wales so badly needs.”

Appalling ambulance response times in South Wales Central need urgent investigation

Eluned Parrott AM, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, has called for the Welsh Labour Government to urgently investigate the appalling ambulance response times in South Wales Central. Statistics released today have shown that in December, each County in the region failed to meet the Welsh Government’s target of 65% of urgent calls being responded to within 8 minutes.

The all Wales average was 42.6%, but locally, performance was even below that with:

  • Only 29.9% of responses in RCT arriving within time;
  • Only 37.2% of responses in Cardiff arriving within time; and
  • Only 39.6% of responses in the Vale of Glamorgan arriving within time.

Eluned Parrott AM commented:

“The figures released today have shown that ambulance response rates in December were significantly lower than any month in 2014. Indeed, in some cases they were 35% lower than those experienced in December 2013.

“The situation in RCT is one of the worst performances in Wales and for less than one in three ambulances there to arrive within time is inexcusable.

“Local residents are not getting the ambulance service they deserve at critical times in their lives. Fifteen years of a Welsh Labour Government has led to major failings with our Health Service – inadequate cancer care, poor ambulance response times and dire A&E waiting times. Labour’s poverty of ambition has held Wales back for far too long.

“What is needed is an urgent investigation to find out why the figures are so bad and what changes to procedures or additional resources are needed to match the rising demand for ambulance services.”

Welsh Government needs to refocus its efforts regarding job creation

Following the publication of yesterday’s Jobs Growth Wales (JGW) statistics Eluned Parrott has called on the Welsh Government to do more to help young people earn a decent wage.

A report published last year by the Welsh Government reported that many young on the JGW programme are stuck on low wages not only during their placement but also afterwards and that the placements are largely in menial roles.

Eluned Parrott said:

“The Welsh Labour Government’s own findings show that people on this scheme earn a lot less than average, and even after completing the scheme they only earn 76% of what other young people earn.

“The evidence suggests that Jobs Growth Wales traps people in low wages, and that has an adverse effect on the whole economy.

“In London, Labour talk about better paid jobs for young people, but in Wales their actions are very different. If you want to help young people build a career and a life, you must give them the skills they need to thrive, not trap them in low skilled jobs.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats want to see the millions spent on this project spent on proper apprenticeship schemes and proper training.

“Apprenticeship teach young people skills and a trade. Jobs Growth Wales simply gives people a poorly paid work placement for six months with a bit of ad hoc training thrown in at the discretion of the employer.”

Food Waste shambles threatens state of city’s streets

Eluned Parrott AM has used questions in the National Assembly to raise concerns regarding Cardiff Council’s failing waste collection and recycling system, following complaints from residents about the lack of food waste bags available across the city.

Cardiff Council’s own HQ, County Hall, hasn’t stocked the bags since last year and many other stockists including libraries, leisure centres and corner shops have run out.  Additionally, household recycling centres in the city will not recycle food waste.

Eluned Parrott AM said:

“The shambles surrounding food waste recycling in Cardiff could have long-term implications if it isn’t tackled immediately.

“If residents aren’t able to properly recycle their food waste, it is inevitable that they will put food into their general household waste.  In areas of Cardiff that don’t have wheelie bins, this attracts vermin, which rip the bags to get at the contents and spread foul food waste across our city’s streets.

“The reputation of Cardiff as an attractive place to live, work and visit – and therefore its ability to attract the day-visitors, tourists and investors who bring jobs – is seriously threatened by our council’s continued failure to get to grips with the state of our streets.

“If people are unable to recycle their food waste because of the failures of their council, they will get out of the habit and the damage will be done.  I’ve had many complaints from tourism businesses in Cardiff who are dismayed by the impact our dirty streets are having on their business.

“Given the Labour-run Cardiff Council is falling short of its recycling targets and risking costing local taxpayers a lot of money in fines, it should be doing everything in its power to encourage residents to recycle.

“It is a crying shame to see our beautiful capital city covered in litter like this.  I’ve asked the Minister for Natural Resources in the Welsh Government to investigate these failings and I’m grateful that he has agreed to do so.”

Call for festival to celebrate 100 years of Roald Dahl

With 2016 marking the centenary of the birth of Roald Dahl, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott, has called for the Welsh Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Cardiff Council to work together to commemorate the event, and create a lasting legacy to his work.

In the Assembly Chamber today, Eluned Parrott called on the Welsh Government to urgently consider the matter and provide government funding as they did for the Dylan Thomas Centenary in 2014.

Eluned Parrott AM said:

“For me, Roald Dahl is the greatest of all children’s authors. Millions of children and adults have grown up with iconic characters like Matilda, the BFG and Willy Wonka, yet few know of his connection to Cardiff and Wales.

“Roald Dahl was born, and spent his early formative years in Cardiff yet little has been done to celebrate and recognise this fact. The creation of an annual Roald Dahl Festival has the potential to bring many thousands of overseas visitors to Cardiff and inspire a new generation of young readers.

“In addition, I believe there’s the potential for a permanent visitor centre celebrating his life and work which will act not only as a tourist attraction, but could be used as a vital learning resource for the children of Wales.

“We have the opportunity to use the centenary of his birth to create a lasting legacy that has the potential to not only deliver educational and cultural benefits, but also provide a potential massive boost for the Welsh tourism industry and hence our economy.  I hope that the Welsh Government and Cardiff Council can work together effectively to do one of our most famous sons proud.”

Wales still lagging behind rest of UK – New unemployment stats show

The Welsh unemployment rate is reducing at a slower rate than any other UK region new figures released today show.

Statistics published by ONS show that compared to last year the Welsh unemployment rate dropped by just 0.1%, compared to 0.8% in Scotland, 1.5% in Northern Ireland, 1.6% in the North East of England and 1.8% in the West Midlands. 

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“With the Liberal Democrats in Government, we continue to see unemployment fall across the UK.

“While this is welcome, here in Wales we continue to have the slowest growth rate of the whole of the UK, year on year.  The Welsh Labour Government needs to redouble its efforts to reduce unemployment in Wales, especially for the long term unemployed.  Its job creation schemes remain badly targeted and lack ambition.

“We have seen some progress, and that is obviously good news for those who’ve recently found a job.  But we still need to address the fundamental problems in our economy. We need to find out why the unemployment rate is falling significantly faster just over the border in the West Midlands for example.

“What is clear is that even though we’re heading in the right direction by reducing unemployment, the leaps forward made elsewhere in the UK under the Coalition Government are not being repeated here in Wales due to the poor economic management by the Labour Party in Wales over the last decade or so.”

Assembly Member attacks Cardiff Council’s handling of Windsor Bridge Closure

Eluned Parrott AM has this week criticised Cardiff Council over their handling of the closure of Windsor Road Bridge which links Splott to Adamsdown following complaints from residents.

Last week the 102 year old structure was closed to traffic for rebuilding work by Network Rail after the structure reached the end of its lifespan. Reconstruction work will take around 14 months.

After raising the issue in First Minister’s Questions in the Assembly, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for South Wales Central said:

“The rebuilding of Windsor Road Bridge is vital and it was perhaps inevitable that there would be some disruption.  However motorists have been left baffled by diversion signs that are small, infrequent and unclear, and in some cases direct you over the closed bridge.

“I’ve written to Cardiff Council demanding that better diversionary signage be installed around the city and for the immediate removal of those signs which are still directing traffic towards the city centre over the closed bridge.

“Over the next few years a number of road bridges over railway lines in South Wales may have to be closed to allow those lines to be electrified, and more disruption will occur.  I’m calling on Cardiff Council to immediately begin a review into their handling of the this bridge closure so that local people don’t have to suffer this kind of chaos again.”

Eluned Parrott and Jenny Willott welcome plans for Community Referendum over Rhydypennau Library

Local politicians Eluned Parrott AM and Jenny Willott MP have welcomed the decision of a packed public meeting to start the ball rolling on holding a local referendum on Cardiff’s Labour Council’s proposal to close Rhydypennau Library.

The decision to hold a formal ‘calling’ meeting was taken on Monday at a meeting organised by local community activists and Cyncoed councillors, Kate Lloyd and David Rees, attended by more than 200 people.

Jenny Willott, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central said:

“Rhydypennau Library is an important part of the Cyncoed community. Many of those who use the library are older, carers, have small children or can be isolated. The more vulnerable individuals in our community would be unable to travel into the City Centre or to other libraries.  This closure would hit those most isolated and vulnerable in our communities the hardest, many of whom see their local library as a lifeline.

“Many parents and grandparents use this library with young children to help encourage their reading, and again, many would find it difficult to travel into the city centre.

“Rhydypennau Library is one of the most popular and heavily used branch libraries in Cardiff.  To close this would be massive blow to the local community and it sends the wrong message about how much we value access to information and to learning in our city.”

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for South Wales Central added:

“Cardiff’s Labour Council have suggested that to save their library, the community will have to step in, but there is a limit to what we should expect the public to do to run council services.  Asking members of the public to take on the legal and financial responsibility for a public building is a huge undertaking, and not one to be taken on lightly.

“There are successful community-run libraries elsewhere in the UK, but in most cases it is simply that the running – and the funding – has passed from a County Council to a Town or Community Council. Without that kind of underpinning, which we can’t provide here in Cyncoed, I fear that the long term future of Rhydypennau Library would still be very fragile.

“Cardiff Council has a statutory duty to provide a library service to its residents and by threatening to close this library they are letting down local residents, who are quite rightly outraged.”

A 2,100 name petition opposing the closure was handed to the ruling Labour group last week.

AM welcomes progress in fight to save music education in Wales

The Welsh Government’s Minister for Education has agreed to establish a working group to look at the future of music education and how it is funded after pressure from Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott.

Eluned Parrott, the Welsh Lib Dem AM for South Wales Central said:

“This is a good starting point in the fight to protect music education in Wales, I just hope it will be in time to prevent further damage being done. In places like RCT the Labour party is planning to make swingeing cuts to music services and parents and students have rightly been outraged.

“I am pleased that the Welsh Government is now stepping in to form a working group to find practical ways to deliver music education to children, but time is of the essence and we must work quickly.

“We need to ensure that this working group produces a clear national strategy to secure the future of music education, something against which the success of any new projects can be measured in a meaningful way. and I will make representations to the working group calling them to do so

“Wales was the first country in the world to have a National Youth Orchestra and has a proud history of teaching children music, yet councils up and down Wales are denying our poorest children the chance to learn through music. Cuts of this kind would never be considered to science or sports lessons, yet music is always first to bear the burden despite the clear educational benefits of music education.

“Every child should have the chance to learn a musical instrument in school regardless of their ability to pay, and I hope the work of this group will enable the next generation of children to do so.”

The working group is due to report back to the Education Minister in April this year.