Welsh Government has serious questions over latest unemployment figures

The Welsh unemployment rate has risen over the last quarter in sharp contrast to other parts of the UK where it has fallen new figures released today show.

Statistics published by ONS show that compared to the last quarter the Welsh unemployment rate has risen by 0.1% meaning an extra 2,000 are out of work, while many other parts of the UK have seen large falls.

Across the UK as a whole there are 97,000 fewer unemployed people.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Unemployment in many parts of the UK is down yet again but in Wales we seem to be stagnating with an extra 2,000 people unemployed this month. Hopefully this is a one off, but the question that is asked every month is why is the unemployment rate in Wales still falling at a much slower rate than the rest of the UK?

“Why is it that in Northern Ireland unemployment is down by 3,000, in Scotland it is down by 15,000, and the whole of England is down by 81,000 yet in Wales we are going in the opposite direction?

“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.

“The progress made in the England under the Coalition Government is not being repeated here in Wales due to poor economic management by the Labour Party in Wales over the last decade or so.”

Music service survives, but teachers bear the brunt of cuts

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Eluned Parrott has said that questions must be answered over RCT Council’s last minute u-turn on its music service. In a cabinet meeting held today the proposal to end the service entirely to cut £474,000 was withdrawn in favour of a new proposal that was tabled in the meeting. The new proposal will save around £400,000, with the bulk of the savings being achieved through cuts to the salary budget.

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for South Wales Central, which includes RCT, Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Local campaigners fought hard to protect music education for the children of RCT but while the proposal to cut the service entirely has rightly been thrown out, questions have to be asked about what the new proposals will mean for staff, pupils, parents and schools.

“The proposal that has now been adopted is at first glance similar to one that was originally offered to the Cabinet in its options paper, but was not part of the consultation process. This means that local people have had no opportunity to scrutinise it in detail and offer their comments. This is wrong.

“While I welcome the fact that the music service should now survive in some form, I am deeply concerned that hard-working teachers will bear the brunt of these cuts and the public have had no opportunity to have their voices heard.

“Campaigners will rightly wonder if they have been conned, with the Labour Council having consulted on one proposal and then voted on an entirely different one. This kind of behaviour is a sham, not the open transparent government we have a right to expect.”

Labour promise one thing and do another over nursery cuts

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Eluned Parrott has attacked Labour after it voted to halve nursery provision for 3-year-olds in Rhondda Cynon Taf just 24 hours after Ed Miliband promised more nursery places should Labour win the general election. Eluned Parrott, AM for South Wales Central, said:

“Yesterday the MP for Pontypridd was proudly talking about giving three and four year olds extra childcare at nursery schools, yet today councillors from his own party have voted to halve childcare provision in his own constituency.

“Why should anyone believe what Labour say, when they promise something on Wednesday and decide to cut it on a Thursday?

“Labour are promising everything to everyone in Wales yet their local councillors are actively cutting nursery places. It’s clear the wheels are falling off their campaign bus.

“In Westminster, Liberal Democrats are delivering a fairer society by increasing the amount of childcare provision in England. We are providing 15 hours of free childcare for 40% of 2 year olds and 15 hours for every 3 and 4 year old before they start school. Our action is in stark contrast to Labour’s empty rhetoric.”

Liberal Democrats welcome Cardiff Capital Region Plan

Liberal Democrats have today welcomed the publication of the Cardiff Capital Region Plan, including options to drastically improve the area’s transport network.

Eluned Parrott AM said:

“These plans show what the region is capable of and it is great to see some forward thinking in terms of improving the public transport network.

“What we need now however is a firm timetable for this work and an indication of where the money will come from.

“In the draft plans there are ambitious proposals for new rail stations, yet there is neither a timetable nor any indication of where funding will come from.

“The public as well as businesses need to see a firm timetable on when they can expect new rail stations and lines to be open.

“We have part of the vision for the Cardiff Capital Region that we need, but we now need to make sure that our city region has a solid statutory basis so it can draw down funding and powers like the City Deal agreed for Glasgow last year.

“The ball is in the Welsh Government’s court in terms of funding now, the research has been done, the maps have been prepared, it is now up to the Welsh Labour Government to help make this a reality.”

Welsh Liberal Democrats welcome Coalition plans to introduce Wi-Fi on Welsh trains

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister has welcomed the announcement of a £50million investment from the UK Government to roll out Wi-Fi on trains from 2017. Arriva Trains Wales carriages will benefit from this investment.

Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Welsh railways are seeing record investment from the UK Government. We are about to get an electrified rail network in South Wales as well as the new carriages that come with it.

“It is now up to the Welsh Government to ensure that every train in Wales is equipped to provide Wi-Fi, free of charge, to passengers. By the end of the decade Wales will have benefited from hundreds of new train carriages thanks to the electrification investment from Westminster and we need to ensure that travellers expectations meets the reality.

“This key investment from Liberal Democrats in Government will be useful to commuters, business travellers and tourists alike, and will help bring our rail network into the 21st Century.”

Eluned Parrott Column – Pontypridd Observer – 11th February 2015

It is that time of the year when Councils throughout the Country set their budget for the coming financial year.

In RCT, the Labour Cabinet have announced a set of proposals which would increase the level of council tax by 3.8%, whilst at the same time making cuts to many front line services.

This rise is almost 8 times the rate of inflation, and many residents are quite rightly asking what are they getting for their money – as every year they are expected to pay more yet get less in return.

This rise will take the average Band D Council Tax payable to £1,295, one of the highest rates in Wales.  Of course, on top of this is a further £199 charge from the Police & Crime Commissioner to pay for policing in South Wales.

What is surprising is the fact that this rate is so much more than residents pay in neighbouring Councils.

In Cardiff, Band D Council Tax is currently £274 less than in RCT whilst in the Vale of Glamorgan, it is £219 less.

The Council must explain to its residents why this is the case as in many instances, the service residents receive is no better, if not worse, than those across the Council’s border.

We have already seen a whole raft of cuts to services over the last few years including cuts to meals on wheels; closure of libraries and day centres; cuts to youth provision; and the closure of the Paddling Pool at Ynysangharad Park.

On top of this, parents are anxiously awaiting the Council’s response to the consultation they have undertaken on their proposals to cut nursery provision and the school music service.

Most residents appreciate the scale of the funding problem that local councils face. Yet what they don’t appreciate is consultation that isn’t meaningful. I hope that Labour in RCT listen carefully to what residents have said in their responses about how the services they rely on can be delivered more efficiently, without the need of being cut altogether.

Like my Welsh Lib Dem colleagues in RCT, I believe that there is still a substantial amount of money to be found in the layers of Senior Management at County Hall and attention should be paid to addressing that first, before cutting valuable local services.

Cardiff City Deal would revitalise our economy – Eluned Parrott

A City Deal for Cardiff and the Valleys would be a golden opportunity to rejuvenate the south Wales economy, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have said today.

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott and Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott have led calls for a City Deal for Cardiff. They have proactively held meetings with the UK Government to discuss how a City Deal for the Cardiff City Region could work.

The Coalition Government has already invested billions of pounds in City Deals – a Liberal Democrat policy – across England and Scotland, with Glasgow and the Clyde Valley recently receiving £1.13bn from the UK and Scottish Governments to boost its economy. Local authorities are required to work together to bid for such a Deal.

In November 2014 after the matter was raised by Eluned Parrott AM, it was reported that the Leader of Cardiff Council said it was too early to say when a City Deal bid to the UK Government could be submitted. Since then, no further public comments on this matter have been made by either Cardiff Council or the Welsh Government.

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

“City Deals are a Liberal Democrat policy that gives city regions the powers and investment they need to kick start their economies.

“The potential for such a deal for Cardiff and its City Region is immense. Millions of pounds could be ploughed straight into our creaking transport infrastructure, improving rail links into and across our city. We could complete the A4232 up to the motorway, pulling traffic off our residential streets to encourage walking and cycling, and finally see plans for a modern transport hub around Central Square come to fruition.

“Extra investment could build new business accommodation, making Cardiff a hub for developing sectors and creating thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships both in the city and across neighbouring areas. This is a chance to bring high-skilled jobs to our city, while revitalising some of Cardiff’s more deprived areas.

“Too often Cardiff has missed out where other UK cities have been forging ahead. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for a Cardiff City Deal for a long time now, but Cardiff’s Labour-run council has failed to bid for City Deal funding from the UK Government while cities such as Glasgow are benefiting from £1bn in funding for their ambitious plans. Not for the first time, Labour and their poverty of ambition for our economy have been caught asleep at the wheel.”

Wales must remain a frack free zone

The Welsh Liberal Democrats this week reiterated their stance against fracking, calling on the Welsh Government to issue a new Technical Advice Note to set out the environmental and health standards expected of fracking operations, enabling local planning authorities to reject applications for fracking unless it is proven safe to do so.

Welsh Liberal Democrats are also calling for the implementation of the Silk Commission’s recommendations for energy devolution and for licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction to be devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. This would give Wales the powers to deliver on the Welsh Liberal Democrat’s ambitious targets for making Wales a net exporter of renewable energy, thus ensuring that energy supply in Wales produces zero net greenhouse gases.

Commenting on this issue, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central said:

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats policy on fracking has been very clear for a number of years. The environmental and health risks of fracking cannot be ignored, and the scientific evidence to show that fracking is safe simply does not exist. Furthermore, it seems likely that shale gas extraction would increase both short and long-term greenhouse gas emission rates and, in the context of climate change, this makes it unjustifiable.

“With the number of test drilling sites already approved in the Vale of Glamorgan and RCT, it is important that the Welsh Government is proactive on this issue. There are serious potential risks to the environment and public health and for this reason, we are determined that Wales should remain a frack free zone.”

Vale left in limbo by Government reorganisation

Responding to a question on local government reorganisation in South Wales an Assembly Member has accused the Labour Government of leaving The Vale of Glamorgan and its residents in Limbo.

Eluned Parrott AM asked the Minister for Public Services, Labour’s Leighton Andrews, about the future of the Vale post any local government reorganisation.

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for South Wales Central, which covers the Vale, said:

“The Labour Government has freely admitted that Cardiff Council can survive on its own with a current population of 330,000, yet at the same time has blocked plans by the Vale Council to merge with Bridgend, saying it would prefer Bridgend to merge with Neath Port Talbot Council.

“Where does this leave the Vale? It isn’t allowed to look west to Bridgend and it has been confirmed that Cardiff’s ambition to stand alone is perfectly viable.

“The longer this question is left unanswered the more uncertainty will be created.  Ultimately, the people of the Vale of Glamorgan want to know who is going to be running their services now and in the future.

“We were told by the Welsh Labour Government that local government reorganisation was the key to delivering modern services across Wales more efficiently.  At a time when budgets are stretched and many services are at risk, this is the time for strong leadership from Labour in Cardiff Bay.”

Cost of botched management restructure could have saved Cardiff’s libraries

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central has today criticised Cardiff Council for an appalling waste of taxpayers’ money in respect of its recent senior management restructure.

In 2012, Cardiff Council embarked on a restructure that not only added over £1.1 million to the Council’s salary bill, but which cost the Council £679,000 on the recruitment process, including severance payments.

Yet just over two years later, the Council is embarking on another restructure, this time reducing the number of senior managers.

Eluned Parrott said:

“Whilst I welcome the cut to the number of Fat Cats at County Hall, this botched management restructure has been an appalling waste of taxpayers’ money.

“At a time when services are being cut, the Council can ill afford such mistakes. The money that has been wasted on the recruitment process alone could have been used to secure the future of the seven libraries in Cardiff that are under threat.

“Many much loved services and facilities are under threat, and residents have every right to be angry when they see so much money being spent on management, yet very little being delivered in return.”