EU funding must be used to improve the lives of those who need it most

Commenting on the recent announcement of EU funding awarded to Wales, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Time and time again Wales has qualified for this money, but successive Welsh Labour Governments have failed to use it to its fullest potential. I want to see this cash used to improve the lives of the individuals and communities who need it the most.

“This money has arrived at an ideal time to improve public transport infrastructure in the South Wales Valleys, tying in with the long awaited Metro project to connect communities and enable people to travel quickly and easily to places of employment such as Cardiff and Newport.

“I want this to be the last time Wales qualifies for this handout. We need to use this cash to boost our economic output to catch up with the rest of the UK and other successful growing economies.

“The Welsh Labour Government has already failed to bring the poorest parts of Wales in line with other areas. If Wales still qualifies in a few years’ time for the next round of funding after being given £2billion to sort out our economy then the Welsh Labour Government will have failed Wales once again.”

Welsh Government’s commitment to Museums is kick in the teeth for Cynon Valley Museum

The Welsh Government has unveiled a new strategy for museum provision in Wales, yet this will come too late for those who wanted to save The Cynon Valley museum from the cuts imposed by RCT’s Labour Council.

Eluned Parrott, Regional Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for the region said:

“While I welcome the Welsh Government finally recognising the importance of museums for our culture and our economy, it is too late to save the Cynon Valley Museum now.

“The Welsh Labour Government talk about how arts and culture are critical to drawing tourists to Wales and how they are the heart of what is important and unique about the Welsh offer in terms of tourism, but it’s only empty words if they cannot get their colleagues in our councils to act on that.

“What we are seeing is Labour in Cardiff saying one thing and Labour in RCT doing the exact opposite, without any thought for the long term implications for our area.”

Welsh Government must focus on long-term unemployed

Commenting on the publication today of the latest set of Jobs Growth Wales figures, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister said:

“It can’t be denied that there are a number of young people taking up these job placements, but when the Welsh Labour Government’s own study found that 73% of those young people would have found work anyway we have to question whether this money could be better spent.

“There is clear evidence that the Welsh Labour Government are targeting the wrong people with this scheme. There are currently 2,600 18-24 year olds in Wales who have been claiming unemployment benefit for over year, and Labour’s Jobs Growth Wales is doing nothing to help them. These young people need a helping hand. We would provide them with the skills and opportunity they need to get a job and get on in life.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats secured funding for an extra 5,000 apprenticeships for Wales in the face of huge Labour cuts. If the Welsh Labour Government actually took the time to address the problems facing Wales’s young workforce, they would see the need to target Jobs Growth Wales at building the skills base of our young people instead of an expensive politically-driven vanity project.”

Apprenticeships need to equip youngsters with skills for jobs

Following a key Assembly debate on apprenticeships in Wales this week, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister said:

“I am delighted that the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ budget agreement with the Welsh Government was able to secure funding for 5,000 new apprenticeship places.  Providing high-quality skills training is vital to boosting the Welsh economy and helping people to build careers and get on in life, and a highly skilled workforce is a key asset in attracting inward investment and jobs.

“Sadly, the fact remains that despite this new investment, there have been cuts to the Young Recruits programme and other work-based learning programmes, while other ineffective programmes such as Jobs Growth Wales have been protected.

“It sends absolutely the wrong message to employers and potential inward investors to prioritise a youth unemployment programme that provides no formal learning over all the programmes that do.”

M4 ‘Black Route’ would irreversibly damage Port of Newport

Speaking in a debate on Welsh Ports this week, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister reiterated her party’s opposition to the planned M4 relief road following evidence that it would significantly damage the port of Newport and thus the economy of Wales.               

Eluned Parrott AM said:

“The Welsh Government’s proposed route for a new M4 would involve the construction of a bridge over the River Usk, which would limit the size of ships which can dock there. A recent study showed that 58% of ships that entered the North Dock during the period 2004-2008 would not have been able to access it if the proposed bridge had been in place.

“The Welsh Labour Government will seriously undermine the credibility of this important port and significantly damage the economy should a new motorway be built through the Port of Newport.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats have long called for the proposed motorway to be scrapped. Here is yet another reason why it should be cancelled.”

Eluned Parrott Column – Pontypridd Observer – 22nd October 2014

I was extremely surprised to see that Labour-run RCT Council is bringing back their ill-fated proposals to cut nursery education in our area from full to part time.

I’m sure readers will remember the considerable local opposition to these plans when they were considered last year.  Indeed, so determined were local parents to defeat the plans that they took the Council to court over the issue and were successful in getting the Council’s decision deemed unlawful.

Yet it seems the Council hasn’t learned its lesson and appears determined to push forward with this proposal, no matter what local residents think about it.

Survey after survey comes to the conclusion that good quality early years education is vital to a child’s development.  During this period of a child’s life, they go through critical stages of their development, and consistent, high-quality early childhood education can have a long-lasting, beneficial effect on their overall development. Full time nursery provision is key to that particularly as parts of RCT suffer from a lack of childcare provision.

Labour in RCT need to start considering what is best for our children and what they need to do to improve the standard of education in our area.  Cutting nursery education from full to part-time certainly isn’t going to help.  Neither is the creation of ‘Super Schools’ in parts of the County, where 3 year olds could be taught on the same site as 18 year olds under the same Headteacher.

Also disappointing are proposals being considered by RCT Council to cut their Music Service, a service that has benefitted so many local children for years.

In 2010, the Welsh Government published a report which concluded that ‘Music makes an invaluable contribution to the well-being, learning and literacy of children and young people, and is vital to community cohesion’. Locally, over 3,500 children benefit from the Music Service which works across schools in some of Wales’ most deprived areas, delivering specialised music provision across the heart of our communities.  To see this service disbanded completely, particularly in an area considered to be the heart of the ‘Land of Song’ would be disgraceful.

There is no doubting the scale of cuts that are needed to balance the books at RCT Council, but priority must be given to protecting the most vulnerable in society and making sure our young people are given the best start in life.  The proposals emerging from County Hall don’t do that.

Rail figures show need for faster progress over Metro System

Commenting on today’s publications of the number of rail passengers which show that 39% of rail journeys in Wales either begin or end at Cardiff Stations, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister Eluned Parrott has renewed her calls for the Welsh Government to start work on the South Wales Metro Project.

Eluned Parrott said:

“The fact that four in ten rail journeys across Wales begin or end in Cardiff shows that there is a strong and increasing demand for rail travel, which will see overcrowding on many of our routes worsen still further. The challenge now for the Welsh Government and Arriva is to increase this number by adding extra carriages, routes and rail lines.

“The Welsh Government has announced its intention to improve public transport across South Wales through the creation of a Metro system by building new routes and through linking trains and buses together more effectively. We have not yet seen from the Government, however, confirmation of which proposals it intends to bring forward. We now need to see what kind of Metro system is going to be delivered, and for the detailed planning work, agreed in the Budget deal between the Welsh Government and the Welsh Liberal Democrats, to begin in earnest.”

Welsh Government should accept its M4 plans are doomed

Eluned Parrott AM has called on the Welsh Government to accept that its flawed proposals for the M4 are doomed.

The Welsh Government’s consultation on the M4 has been widely criticised for failing to look at other options and for not properly taking into account environmental concerns.

This week in the National Assembly, AMs will debate the Environment Committee’s report into the M4 the contents of which the Welsh Government failed to take into account before making its decision on the M4.

However, Eluned Parrott AM has accused Labour’s M4 plans of being based on a ‘false premise’ due to the fact they do not take into account the effect the proposed South Wales Metro would have in reducing the number of drivers.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for work on the South Wales Metro system to start immediately: something the party achieved in its budget agreement with the Welsh Government.

According to a Welsh Government commissioned report, the predicted usage figures for the core Metro area are around 40,000 daily journeys. This figure is not referenced in the Welsh Government’s consultation on the M4.

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

“The Welsh Labour Government is sticking its head in the sand over the M4. It is pretending all is fine and that it can plough on regardless. Yet we all know that’s not the case.

“Rarely do you ever see Labour backbenchers stand up to their Cabinet colleagues, but even they have spoken out on the M4. The chances of the Welsh Government ever getting a strong enough majority to force through its plans are slim to none.

“In budget negotiations, the Welsh Liberal Democrats agreed that no construction of the M4 relief road will start before the next Assembly elections and that a detailed Environmental Impact Study into the project will be commissioned. Therefore if the Welsh Government wants its preferred route for the M4 to be built, then it must survive a legal challenge, produce a convincing environmental assessment, win a majority at the next Assembly elections, convince its own Assembly Members of its merits, then face a public inquiry. It seems unlikely their proposals could survive such a process. It’s time the Welsh Government looked again at its plans and start working with other parties to reach a proper solution.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats also secured an agreement that commits the Welsh Labour Government to start detailed planning on the South Wales Metro system. To fit South Wales for the future we need to deliver a modern, clean and effective public transport system. If we get that right, we could take 40,000 cars off our roads everyday. We don’t need to waste a billion pounds of public money on this dinosaur road.”

108,680 in South Wales Central to get pensions rise thanks to Liberal Democrats

The basic state pensions will rise by at least £2.85 a week thanks to the Liberal Democrats triple lock. It means 108,680 pensioners across South Wales Central will benefit from an increase in their pension.  This includes 45,552 pensioners in Cardiff, 40,073 pensioners in Rhondda Cynon Taf and 23,055 pensioners in the Vale of Glamorgan.

This rise will bring the level of the state pension to at least £115.95 and will benefit millions of pensioners across the UK. This is £18.30 more, each week, than in 2010 when the Liberal Democrats entered government. This means pensioners on the full basic state pension are £950 a year better off than they were under Labour.

The triple lock, introduced by the Liberal Democrats delivers a pension rise of whichever is the greater of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%, meaning pensioners across South Wales Central will see more money in their pockets.

The Liberal Democrats campaigned for it in opposition, have delivered it in Government and have pledged to write it into law in the next Parliament.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“This is fantastic news and proof that the Liberal Democrats are delivering in government.

“Thanks to the triple lock commitment in our manifesto pensioners across the country have benefited from a substantial income boost this parliament.

“I am proud of this record of delivery and that we are the only party with a 2015 manifesto promise to write the triple lock into law.”

Commenting further, Eluned Parrott AM, Liberal Democrat AM for South Wales Central,  said:

“Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society, and that means treating pensioners with the respect that they deserve.

“The triple lock ensures that pensioners are guaranteed the security of a steady rise in their pensions, allowing them to plan for their future and giving them dignity in their retirement.

“We have ensured that pensioners are never again subjected to the indignity of the 75p rise they saw under Labour in the year 2000.”

Welsh unemployment figures are a concern

This week’s unemployment figures for Wales show an increasing gap in unemployment rates compared to the UK average.

Unemployment in Wales has fallen by just 0.1% in the last quarter compared to a fall of 0.4% across the UK as a whole.  Compared to this time last year, unemployment in Wales is down 1.5%, compared to 1.7% across the UK as a whole.

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

“Whilst unemployment in Wales has fallen yet again, it is continuing to fall at a much slower rate than the UK as a whole, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We must ask why 6.5% of our workforce is out of work and why other parts of the UK are continuing to recover faster.

“Thanks to the decisive action taken by Liberal Democrats in Westminster, the UK economy is growing and more people are in work. Under Labour, the Welsh economy is stagnating and we’re falling behind.

“The Welsh Labour Government should stop wasting money on inefficient schemes like Jobs Growth Wales and reinvest the money to tackle the issue of long-term unemployment that Wales faces, or risk leaving another generation behind.”