No final relief road contract awarded thanks to Welsh Lib Dems

No final construction contract for the planned M4 relief road has been awarded thanks to the Welsh Liberal Democrats, the party has said today.

Following the news that the ‘Early Contractor Involvement’ contract has been awarded to undertake statutory development and environmental work, the Welsh Lib Dems reiterated the agreement in their budget deal with the Welsh Government that no final design work would be carried out nor full contracts awarded before the end of this Assembly term.

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

“Welsh Liberal Democrats have said from the start that the proposed ‘Black Route’ is completely unnecessary. Our proposed alternative for a relief road is less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and academically recommended. The reduce costs would allow us to invest in public transport, reducing congestion by taking cars off the road.

“It’s for all these reasons that we ensured no final construction contracts would be awarded this side of the Assembly election, meaning the entire project can still be scrapped by the next Welsh Government. This latest announcement doesn’t change that.”

Commenting on the rejection of a judicial review application regarding the M4 decision, Eluned Parrott AM added:

“Today’s outcome doesn’t change the fact that by not taking into account the effect investment in public transport would have on congestion around Newport, the Welsh Labour Government’s consultation was botched.

“With opposition to this botched plan growing by the day and virtually no prospect of a Labour majority at the next election, the sooner Welsh Labour Ministers realise this road isn’t going to happen, the better for all involved.”

AM calls for rethink on redesigned BBC News site

Following the redesign of the BBC News website this week which saw a link to the Welsh page disappear from the front page and main header, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, has called on the BBC to amend its main navigation list to give Wales a higher prominence.

Eluned Parrott said:

“It is deeply disappointing that the BBC have relegated Wales to the second tier in this way, just to serve a new design.

Since the advent of devolution across the UK, the BBC has played a crucial role in ensuring people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are able to easily access news about our own public services, and not just those of England. This Anglo-centric redesign undermines much of that work.

“In an age when the public are becoming more disengaged with politics and as devolution and the public’s understanding of it still growing, the BBC as a public broadcaster should do more to promote Wales and Welsh News.

“We all know that Welsh news often doesn’t get the prominence that it should; therefore the BBC should be doing more to promote it, not less.

“I’m calling on the BBC to reintroduce the Wales tab on their website as a priority.”

Enhanced monitoring of Cardiff & Vale University Health Board is concerning, but not surprising

Following the announcement today that intervention arrangements currently in place for Cardiff & Vale University Health Board are being escalated, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central said:

“This decision is concerning but not surprising. On a regular basis, as an Assembly Member I hear concerns from residents about the level of care they receive from the NHS locally.

“Whether it’s concerns about waiting times, the transfer times that patients have to endure from ambulance to hospital ward or the unscheduled care received in hospitals such as Llandough, the picture painted is one of an NHS struggling to cope.

“Cardiff & Vale UHB’s leadership needs to seriously look at how it addresses the concerns raised with a view to bringing noticeable improvements in the level of care local patients receive.”

Welsh Government has questions to answer regarding growing economic inactivity

The Welsh economic inactivity rate has risen over the last year 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 last year Welsh economic inactivity has grown and under almost every measure Wales is underperforming when compared to England and the United Kingdom as a whole.  

Across the UK as a whole there are 102,000 fewer unemployed people compared to the last quarter.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Wales has the second highest rate of economic inactivity in the UK with the rate of economic inactivity having grown over the last twelve months.

“Unemployment continues to fall, which is of course welcome, but Wales seems to be stagnating. The question that is asked every month is why is Wales still underperforming after 15 years of a Labour government?

“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 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.”

Eluned Parrott Column – Pontypridd Observer – 11th March 2015

Welsh Lib Dem colleagues in RCT, including local Councillor Mike Powell, joined campaigners fighting to save services at the Royal Glamorgan hospital in a protest at the Assembly last week.

I have written before about the anger that local residents feel at the way they will be impacted by the plans for hospital reconfiguration across Wales.

As many of you will know, the recent South Wales Programme will remove services including neo natal and consultant led maternity from the Royal Glamorgan. However no definite plans have yet come forward which is very worrying for staff and expectant mothers.

Residents have every right to know where they will be expected to receive the specialist treatment and care that units, such as the neo natal unit provide and I will be raising the issue with the Health Minister so that residents can find out exactly where they stand.

Health is very much in the forefront of politics as we approach the Westminster General Election. The Liberal Democrats are proposing to increase funding for the NHS so that, in Wales, it will get an extra £450 million a year by 2020 to meet the increasing demand on the service.

In Wales, our nurses have to care for more patients than elsewhere in the UK and that is why the Welsh Liberal Democrat are campaigning for more nurses to relieve the burden on overstretched staff and to enable them to spend the time with patients that they need.

Of course in Wales, it is Labour that has presided over the NHS for the last 16 years and their record is quite frankly shameful with the worst ambulance response rates in the UK, longer waiting times for vital treatments and unequal access to the medications they need.

But it is also in the care of patients that it is failing. Last week in the Assembly Chamber I raised the issue of a patient referred to the emergency medical admissions department at Llandough Hospital. They were referred for heart related symptoms, but had to sit on a plastic chair for six and a half hours before being put on a trolley for the night in a cubicle.

The South Wales programme suggests changing the A&E Unit at Llantrisant to a similar medical emergency admissions department which, based on the evidence elsewhere, gives me grave concerns.

Welsh Government accused of dithering over Valleys Line Electrification

The Welsh Labour Government has still not instructed Network Rail to start work on the Valleys Line Electrification project, despite an agreement over funding being reached in November.

In a meeting with Welsh Lib Dem AM Eluned Parrott, Network Rail confirmed that they have not been given the go-ahead to start work on Valleys Lines Electrification. This is despite the funding disagreement between the Welsh Government and UK Government being resolved in November.

The project has reportedly been frozen on the second stage of Network Rail’s 8-stage “GRIP” planning process now for two years. This is causing concern within the rail industry, because the Valleys Lines Electrification project is expected to be a complicated engineering job.

The Welsh Government’s Outline Business Case for the project made it clear that, to ensure savings are made, work on the Valleys Line Electrification programme must happen at the same time as work on the Great Western Main Line. Work on Main Line bridges has now reached Wales, but Valleys Lines Electrification still has not properly started.

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

“As always, it is dither and delay from this languid Welsh Labour Government. Given the fanfare that greeted the announcement that funding issues had been resolved, it is astonishing that Network Rail officials are still waiting on the go-ahead from the Welsh Government five months later.

“While there has been much aspirational talk in recent months about the South Wales Metro and the potential for new electric trains, these things simply aren’t possible unless the infrastructure work gets moving. After all, you can’t run an electric train if you haven’t electrified the track.

“Commuters in South-East Wales want to know when they are going to see improvements to the overcrowding issues that blight their journeys every day.

“The unseemly wrangling between the Welsh Government and the UK Government over who should fund the project led to the whole project being put on hold a year ago – but despite those issues being resolved back in November, on hold it stays to this day.

“The Welsh Government has the money and the power to get on with the job, so when will the go-ahead for detailed planning work be given?

“Years of underinvestment from both Labour and Conservative governments over the last fifty years have led to Wales being one of the only countries in Europe without a single mile of electrified track. The Coalition Government has put that right with the electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and the funding to electrify the Valleys Lines too.

“Work on that main line electrification project is already progressing, as people living along the route will have seen. To deliver the Valleys Lines electrification at the cost set out in the Welsh Government’s Business Case it must happen at the same time. If the Welsh Government doesn’t give the order to go ahead soon, I’m worried that the whole project could be put at risk.”

£775,000 investment in Cardiff and the Vale College is good news

AM for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott has today welcomed the news that Cardiff and The Vale College is set to receive £775,000 to promote digital platforms and manage its relationships with students, parents and employers through the Government’s “invest to save” programme.

The announcement has confirmed that £0.775 million is being allocated to Cardiff and the Vale College. This project will streamline back office processes and improve the way in which the college relates to its stakeholders. This is the first project of its kind in Wales and, as well as improving the standards of service which the college can offer, it is estimated that the cash benefits which the project will generate will be £750,000 per year within five years time.

Commenting, Eluned Parrot said:

“This money is a welcome boost to the already fantastic facilities offered by Cardiff and The Vale College locally. These projects will go a long way to improving the student experience and satisfaction as well as being designed to save money in the long run, meaning that more money can be directed, where it is needed, towards students and their courses.”

Assembly Member welcomes over £1.6m investment in local health board

AM for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott has welcomed the news that Cwm Taf Health Board will receive an extra £1.6 million through the Government’s “invest to save” programme.

This week’s announcement has confirmed that £1.6 million is being allocated to Cwm Taf University Health Board to support a number of new and innovative approaches which will improve patient care and efficiency.

The projects which Cwm Taf plan to implement include the provision of acute therapists, improvements for the care and rehabilitation of stroke patients and the use of mobile technology to improve working in the community. From this investment it is expected that savings of £2.3 million per year will be made within five years.

Commenting, Eluned Parrot said:

“This money is a welcome boost to health services across Rhonda Cynon Taf. These projects will go a long way to improving patient care locally as well as being designed to save money in the long run, meaning that more money can be directed, where it is needed, at front line services.”

Eluned Parrott AM has called on the Welsh Government to immediately start work on establishing a Welsh Development Bank

Establishing a development bank for businesses has been recommended in this week’s third and final report by economist Professor Dylan Jones-Evans on behalf of the Welsh Government.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for the establishment of such a bank. The Welsh Liberal Democrats would:

  • create a branch of the Welsh Development Bank dedicated to engagement outside Wales – it would provide support with Welsh companies exporting, and engage with companies overseas and draw inward investment;
  • the WDB would have an arms-length relationship with the government, but would be accountable to the Assembly and open to public scrutiny in the way that many in house Welsh Government teams, such as Enterprise Zone boards are not;
  • task the WDB with developing a strategy to take advantage of SME relocation within the UK, to encourage more businesses to relocate to Wales;
  • create a Small Business Export department sitting within the WDB to focus on helping SMEs to find the best way to export.

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister said:

“I am pleased the report published this week echoes our calls on the need of a Welsh Development Bank.

“A Welsh Development Bank would help small and medium-sized businesses across Wales gain access to additional funds to help them start up or expand.

“Our plans for a Welsh Development Bank would be able to provide capital, guarantees and equity to infrastructure projects in order to develop Wales’ vital physical and digital infrastructure.  The Welsh Lib Dems would also ensure that a Welsh Development Bank has a strong environmental focus.

“This bank would be open to public scrutiny and be accountable to the Assembly. Too many Welsh Government projects are hidden behind closed doors and their activities and spending remain largely secret.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, especially in rural areas, but they get very little useful support from the Welsh Labour Government.  It is time for the Welsh Government to start work immediately to establish this vital support.”

Welsh commuters will pay the price if Welsh Government fails to tackle overcrowding

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott has this week asked the Welsh Government for a plan of action to tackle overcrowding on our trains now and in the future.

Eluned Parrott said:

“Overcrowding on commuter trains across Wales is a huge frustration for passengers, with packed services and people being left behind on platforms every morning.

“We desperately need more trains, but if the government doesn’t get its act together it will only get worse as our towns and cities grow.

“Yesterday, Carwyn Jones gave no indication on what has been done to date or when commuters will find out what the Welsh Government is planning to do.

“Time is running out.  The electrification of the Valleys Network is due to begin soon, and new equality laws that come into force on 1 January 2020 will mean that many of the pacer trains we use will become illegal overnight as they can’t be made accessible for disabled people.  It takes up to five years to specify and build new trains, so if we don’t act soon not only won’t we have new trains, we won’t even have the old ones any more. Anyone who commutes by train in Wales will know how disastrous that would be.

“It’s plainly clear that the Welsh Government doesn’t have a clue what it plans to do and I fear Welsh passengers will pay the price for it.”