£31m of threatened cuts to university budgets have been avoided, it was announced today, following negotiations between the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Government.
The Welsh Lib Dems had made clear that it could not support such severe cuts to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales as proposed by the Welsh Government in the Draft Budget 2016-17.
The Welsh Lib Dems worked with the Government to mitigate the effect of a proposed cut of £41m to the Higher Education sector. The deal sees £21m being put back into the HEFCW budget, and an additional £10m allocated to supporting part-time learning and high quality research.
Eluned Parrott, Lib Dem Assembly Member for South Wales Central commented:
“I am delighted by the announcement today. It brings to an end weeks of uncertainty, and ensures that the Welsh Government’s original damaging plans for our universities have been avoided.
“While Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives chose to bleat from the side-lines, they walked away from negotiations and walked away from any influence more than a year ago. It was the Welsh Lib Dems who stayed at the table and worked with the government to protect universities, their students and staff.
“Our priorities in the budget were clear; on the side of pupils, apprentices, and students, and today we have delivered for all of them.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott has hit out at Plaid’s education spokesperson for implying that vocational education was inferior to higher education during a party press conference.
Simon Thomas told journalists on this week that Labour’s proposed cuts to higher education would leave Wales with “glorified polytechnics”, implying that polytechnics were inferior to higher education institutions.
Eluned Parrott AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Candidate for Cardiff Central and South Wales Central AM, said:
“Simon Thomas’s attitude towards what were polytechnics is absolutely appalling. It’s entirely typical of the stigma attached to vocational and professional education, and demonstrates just why so many young people are put off taking such a route into work.
“Any promises Plaid make in terms of apprenticeships will be viewed in the light of their education spokesperson’s belief that vocational education is somehow inferior.
“In contrast, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have always valued apprenticeships and further education. We will put them front and centre of our plan to revitalize the Welsh economy, ensuring our young people have the skills they need to get on in life.”
Responding to his claims that any reversal of higher education cuts would be down to a Plaid Cymru campaign, Eluned added:
“Let’s be absolutely clear: respite for the university sector has been achieved through the hard work of Welsh Lib Dem AMs, getting round the table and negotiating with Ministers.
“Plaid walked away from negotiations and walked away from any influence more than a year ago. They preferred sniping on the sidelines
There is no excuse for the Labour Government’s continued failure to support Wales’ steel industry, Eluned Parrott AM said at her party’s recent conference.
Eluned argued that Wales needs to see an end to the “kind of chocolate box politics which offers a shiny new name for the same hackneyed old ideas”, which is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for a “new direction, a long term, internationalist economy plan.”
Eluned Parrott AM, Assembly Candidate for Cardiff Central and the party’s Shadow Economy Minister said:
“17 years since the Welsh Assembly was founded is the Welsh economy in a better place? No. There’s been 17 years of managed inertia. In the good years whilst the rest of the UK economy grew, Wales was left behind. In the bad years, Wales has been hit hardest by recession.
“It makes me furious to watch a government that has at times just scratched around for someone else to blame.
“On Steel I have watched the warning signs of this industry in trouble not for months but for years. I have stood up in the chamber and asked the minister to do something about it; to cut business rates on heavy machinery, to demand the highest standards in our procurement policy, to make sure that no grey market imports are ever used in our government’s contracts. This isn’t abstract – this is to protect livelihoods and communities, and I’ve heard back time after time is, ‘we’ll think about it’. And no, I know that the Labour Government can’t do everything. But since when was that an excuse to do nothing?
“To properly close that wealth gap, and close it for good, we need a plan. To build sustainable growth through resolving our structural problems.
“We need to end the kind of chocolate box politics which offers a shiny new name for the same hackneyed old ideas.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats call for a new direction: a long term, internationalist, economic plan which fixes the foundations, brings balanced growth to our economy, and allows our deeply rooted industries and enterprises to grow and develop.
“There is only one party that is on the side of small businesses. One party on the side of entrepreneurs. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party that have the policies which will build sustainable growth, across Wales. Our communities cannot afford 5 more years of Labour inertia.”
Businesses across RCT have been experiencing tough economic challenges over the last few years, with many others facing exceptional circumstances that are out of their control.
One way local Councils can help them out is through the Business Rate Hardship Relief Fund, which can be used to ease the burden that business rates can have.
Last week I highlighted the disparity across Wales in the support that local businesses get from their local council in this way.
I’m sure that you won’t be surprised to hear that here in RCT, our council has the worst record in Wales in granting business rate relief. In the last 3 years, it has rejected all of the applications it received.
In contrast, neighbouring Powys granted relief to all its applications, giving 46 local businesses much needed help.
With many shops in our high streets struggling, it really is staggering that local authorities like RCT are not using all of the tools at their disposal to encourage economic growth and support business.
The Welsh Government needs to be looking into why RCT are choosing not to support its struggling businesses and I’ve called for an urgent review of the way the scheme operates so that viable local businesses aren’t lost when they hit an unforeseen bump in the road.
My thoughts this week are also with those people in RCT, and their families, who are facing an uncertain future following the announcement of more than a thousand job losses at Tata steel plants including those at Port Talbot, Llanwern and Trostre.
This really is dreadful news and it is paramount that workers are supported in looking for future employment and offered training where needed.
It is clear that the dumping of cheap Chinese steel is one of the biggest causes of this crisis and the UK Government needs to be doing more to tackle this major problem. The UK Government must also show more willing and initiative in helping the industry with its high energy costs.
However, it’s not good enough for the Welsh Government just to sit back and blame everything on Westminster. Scrapping business rates on plant and machinery of course won’t solve all of the steel industry’s problems, but it’s a tool at Labour’s disposal that it has so far failed to use. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party to have said we will completely scrap business rates on plant and machinery to support our steel industry.
Responding to media reports that Welsh Government Ministers were told Cardiff airport was worth £20m-£30m, months before the Welsh government bought it for £52m, Eluned Parrott AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy and Transport Minister, said:
“This is another huge blow to the Labour Government’s already tattered economic reputation.
“Almost on a daily basis we are hearing of how Labour Ministers are playing fast and loose with public money. Why on earth was the Labour Government so content to pay £30 million over the odds for the airport?
“Labour Ministers need to come forward and explain their decision to the public.”
Cardiff’s Liberal Democrat councillors will vote against the Labour council’s “out-of-touch” Local Development Plan at Thursday’s council meeting, the party has confirmed.
Local residents have expressed outrage at the LDP, which will see over 45,000 new homes built in the city with little allowance for the extra infrastructure required by the new homes and their residents.
Cardiff Lib Dems have repeatedly called for the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to lead a regional approach to housebuilding, ensuring new homes can be built while the city’s green spaces are protected for residents and visitors alike.
Llandaff and Danescourt Cllr Gareth Aubrey, Cardiff Liberal Democrats’ Transport and Planning spokesperson, said:
“The plan Labour has presented shows just how out-of-touch they are with local residents’ concerns, and the needs of the city as it grows and develops.
“Lib Dem Councillors cannot support an LDP which foists thousands of houses on our city with no regard of adding extra capacity to our gridlocked roads, our near-overflowing sewers and our over-subscribed schools.
“Given Labour seem either unwilling or unable to solve these major problems facing our city, we will be voting against their plan on Thursday.”
Eluned Parrott AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Candidate for Cardiff Central, added:
“Cardiff is crying out for leadership, and a vision for sustainable and realistic development that benefits our whole city. Under Labour, local residents are getting nothing of the sort.
“We need an approach to development which gives our families homes to live in, but also provides them with the schools, parks, shops and transport they need to live their lives.
“Liberal Democrats have a vision that achieves this goal, through protecting some of our most vital green spaces as green belt and working with neighbouring authorities to achieve enough homes for our families.
“It’s such a shame that Labour seems unwilling to build an open, welcoming and pleasant city for our residents and visitors.”
Following reports that a company that provides meals for asylum seekers in Cardiff has said it will drop demands for them to wear wristbands as a condition for receiving food, Eluned Parrott AM has called for clarity on why the practice was happening in the first place.
Eluned Parrott has tabled an Urgent Question on the issue in the National Assembly.
Eluned Parrott AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Cardiff Central, said:
“I was appalled to learn that people were forced to wear wristbands in order to be able to access food. If the reports are true that this practice is to stop, then this is welcome news.
“However, we need to be told who’s decision it was to dish these wristbands out.
“Lynx House have apparently claimed it was a Home Office directive. If that is the case then the Home Office must reverse this decision. It would also indicate this is happening across the UK, so it is more than just an isolated incident.
“Of course it is sensible for asylum seekers to carry some form of identification. However, many of these desperate people have risked their lives to flee the most appalling conditions and it is completely inappropriate to make their lives even more difficult by singling them out in this way.”
Cuts are expected to fall on Oldwell Court Alzheimer’s Day Centre soon, as Cardiff Council consults on cuts to their budget. Information was released by the Alzheimer’s society who have started a petition on Change.org.
The Council’s Community and Adult Services Scrutiny Committee met to discuss the matter this week, where the Alzheimer’s Society gave evidence.
Eluned Parrott AM, Regional Assembly Member for South Wales Central commented:
“Every day the Alzheimer’s Society deliver a great service at Oldwell Court, a day centre for people with dementia and their families. 65 patients are supported there and there’s a waiting list of even more people who need help. The centre provides a safe and welcoming environment, and gives carers much needed respite. Oldwell Court is an essential part of treating Alzheimer’s here in Cardiff.
“Sadly their funding is in jeopardy. Labour-run Cardiff Council is considering cutting their funding, and that would lead to this centre closing. The council are saying that the most severely affected patients will get support in Ely, but this important local service will be lost.
“We need Cardiff Council to reconsider their approach to this critical community day centre, and keep it open.”
New figures published by the Welsh Liberal Democrats today reveal the huge disparity across Wales in the support offered to businesses suffering from a temporary crisis in exceptional circumstances.
Business Rate Hardship Relief is intended to assist a business recover from a temporary crisis, financial or otherwise, as a result of exceptional circumstances.
Freedom of Information Requests submitted by the Welsh Liberal Democrats reveal that since 2013 as few as 52% of applications to councils for Hardship Relief were granted, with three Local Authorities, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Pembrokeshire, and Ynys Môn, rejecting 100% of the applications they received.
Carmarthenshire rejected the most: of 67 applications only 12 were approved.
Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister stated:
“Whilst Welsh high streets are struggling, many local authorities are not using all of the tools at their disposal to encourage economic growth and support business.
“The hardship relief scheme for Business Rates is a lifeline for small businesses if unforeseen events hit their trade. However there is a huge disparity between the number of grants across Wales with some councils granting 100% of the applications they receive and others granting none at all.
“13 of Wales’ 22 local authorities didn’t grant any relief in 2015, while 7 local authorities haven’t made a single relief grant in the last three years. The fact that the number of applications varies so drastically from one authority to another also suggests that some councils are failing to tell their business community that this help exists.
“The Welsh Government needs to be looking into why some councils are choosing not to support struggling businesses. I’ve called for the Welsh Government to review the Hardship Relief scheme as a matter of urgency, so that viable local businesses aren’t lost when they hit an unforeseen bump in the road.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the UK and Welsh Governments to be more pro-active in supporting Wales’ steel industry.
Commenting on the news that more than a thousand job losses are expected to be announced at Tata steel plants, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister, said:
“This is the latest in devastating news for our steel industry and my thoughts are with the steelworkers and their families who have been affected by this week’s announcement. It is paramount that workers are supported in looking for future employment and offered training where needed.
“It is clear that the dumping of cheap Chinese steel is one of the biggest causes of this crisis and the UK Government needs to be doing more to tackle this major problem. The UK Government must also show more willing and initiative in helping the industry with its high energy costs.
“However, it’s not good enough for the Welsh Government just to sit back and blame everything on Westminster. Scrapping business rates on plant and machinery of course won’t solve all of the steel industry’s problems, but it’s a tool at Labour’s disposal that it has so far failed to use. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party to have said we will completely scrap business rates on plant and machinery to support our steel industry.”