£250m deal will help safeguard our post offices – Eluned Parrott AM

A crucial lifeline has been thrown to post offices in across South Wales thanks to a major Government contract.

The deal, unveiled by Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb, offers support to disabled people and the elderly while also helping to protect the future of the post office network.

It guarantees until 2022 the future of the Post Office Card Account system which ensures people without a bank account can receive benefits and tax credits.

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

“This is fantastic news for the local post offices in South Wales. Liberal Democrats know how vital local post offices are for elderly and vulnerable people who can’t access their benefits, pension or tax credits any other way.

“I have fought to keep local post offices at the heart of this community and I am delighted this deal means their future is now more secure.”

Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP said:

“I am very pleased we have secured this new contract, which provides good value to the taxpayer, ensures the continuation of a valuable service for pensioners and benefit claimants, and helps safeguard the future of the Post Office network.

“Although most people have a bank account, there are certain groups for whom this is not viable and, for them, the Post Office Card Account provides an important lifeline.”

Liberal Democrat Minister for Postal Affairs Jo Swinson MP said:

“This announcement builds on the strength of a Post Office network that is reaping the benefits of modernisation. The Government has committed £2bn to protect and modernise the network, to ensure that the millions of customers using the Post Office every week continue to be able to access key services.

“With nearly 12 000 branches, the Post Office network has an unparalleled reach up and down the country. Today’s good news also recognises the important social and economic role that subpostmasters play in local communities across the UK, bringing important revenue and footfall to Post Offices and helping to protect their long term future.”

Wales lags behind UK new unemployment stats show

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

Statistics published by ONS show that compared to last year the Welsh unemployment rate dropped by just 0.3%, compared to 1.3% in Northern Ireland, 1.6% in Scotland and the South West, 2% in the West Midlands and 2.3% in London. 

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“We’ve seen and continue to see a fall in Welsh unemployment, which is welcome, but we have the slowest growth rate of the whole of the UK, year on year.

“We need to find out why the unemployment rate is falling six times faster in the West Midlands and four times faster in Scotland for example.

“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 unambitious and badly targeted.

“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 are not being repeated here in Wales thanks to over a decade of poor economic management by the Welsh Labour Government.”

Now is the time for action rather than words over Cardiff Airport

Welsh Liberal Democrats challenge Welsh Government to establish American link following success of NATO

 

Responding to a statement from the Welsh Government about the successful running of the recent NATO Summit and the advantages it brought to Wales, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Barack Obama in his speech encouraged Americans to visit Wales and see first hand our ‘Extraordinary beauty, [our] wonderful people and [our] great hospitality.’ Our own First Minister said that the value of this, along with TV coverage of Wales in America is ‘incalculable’. Now is the time to cash in on that success and publicity, and the Welsh Government must make sure that Wales stays on the map.

“A lasting legacy of the summit would be increased tourism and business development here in Wales and the obvious starting point for that would be the establishment of more long haul routes from Cardiff Airport.

“A Transatlantic route would benefit both passengers from Wales and America and the economic benefit to Wales from leisure and business passengers from North America could be huge. Bristol Airport is operating, without any Transatlantic flights, at near full capacity so Cardiff Airport is well placed to attract any new route.

“The Welsh Government has spent a lot of time talking about Cardiff Airport and a lot of money improving it lately and what we need now is action, rather than words.

“The Welsh Government needs to step up to the challenge and establishing new long haul routes from Cardiff and North America is an obvious starting point, especially given the success of the NATO summit and the extensive coverage it generated in America.

“Visit Wales needs to work with Cardiff Airport and the airline industry to ensure any new route is viable and well-advertised.”

Eluned Parrot AM helps Welsh Water urge customers to wrap up warm this winter

Eluned supporting Welsh Water's 'Wrap Up Wales' campaign

Eluned supporting Welsh Water’s ‘Wrap Up Wales’ campaign

  • ‘Wrap Up Wales’ campaign highlights need to protect water pipes to prevent the inconvenience and expense of frozen or burst pipes
  • 3,500 calls a day made to insurers at height of 2010 cold spell for burst pipe damage with repair costs averaging up to £7,000
  • Less than half of water customers have taken steps to avoid frozen pipes
  • Properties left empty are also at risk so make sure they are protected

With the winter now here, Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott is supporting Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s ‘Wrap Up Wales’ campaign which urges customers to make sure that the water pipes in their homes are protected to avoid the disruption and expense frozen pipes can cause. The company is urging people to spend a few moments to protect their pipes from bursting and causing damage that can run into thousands of pounds.

The problem is usually linked to pipes that are exposed to very low temperatures, such as those in garages and outhouses.  These expand when it freezes, causing a burst when they thaw and a repair is then urgently needed.

Recent research by Consumer Council for Water found that only 46 per cent of water customers took steps to avoid frozen pipes.  It also found that people aged 24 to 35 are most at risk of not being properly prepared.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), severe cold weather experienced during the winter of 2010 saw around 3,500 calls a day being made to insurers to report frozen pipes at its peak.  The average repair cost for damage caused by these bursts in that period averaged up to £7,000.

Problems with pipes in homes are the responsibility of the home owner or landlord so it’s worth taking time to check they are well insulated.  The advice is also relevant to any type of property which might be left empty for a period of time over the Christmas or winter period.

Eluned Parrott AM said: “I’d like to remind people living in locally to take note of the advice in Welsh Water’s campaign and make sure they don’t get caught out by pipes freezing in their homes or businesses this winter.

“Frozen pipes which burst can cause unnecessary inconvenience and expense however this can be easily avoided by taking a few moments to check and protect the pipes.”

Welsh Water’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Perry said: “If you’re planning to visit family or friends and your home will be empty over the winter you need to be sure that exposed water pipes are wrapped in insulation to protect them. Otherwise they could burst and you won’t know until you return home.

“If you are unfortunate enough to experience frozen pipes then make sure you don’t leave taps open and unattended.  As the pipes thaw, the water will likely start to flow which could lead to baths and sinks overflowing if you are not around.

“Our message is help us Wrap up Wales and take action now to prevent a problem that can cause  a tremendous amount of inconvenience and expense – at the time of the year when you’d least want to face it.”

More information on how to prevent pipes freezing can be found on the company’s website www.dwrcymru.com   There is also an opportunity to apply for one of the 1,000 free lagging kits we are giving away.

Diane McCrea, chair of the Consumer Council for Water’s Wales Committee, said: “We know from our research that young people are most at risk of not taking steps to protect water pipes from freezing temperatures. But the consequences of not taking action can be devastating.”

“Even if you live in a rented property it’s important to check the pipes have been lagged because a burst pipe could end up ruining your possessions and wrecking your Christmas and New Year celebrations.”

Minister casts doubt on combined authority

The Welsh Labour Government’s Minister for Public Services, Leighton Andrews has this week cast doubt on the proposed “Combined Authority” which was to be made up of ten authorities in South East Wales, to deal with major issues such as transport and planning.

In answering a question from Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott, the Minister called into question the proposal less than 24 hours after they were first made public.

Eluned Parrott said:

“The Welsh Labour Government’s plans for local government reorganisation are in complete disarray with Leighton Andrews publicly talking down the actions of individual councils and the WLGA.

“Whatever happens in terms of mergers between our councils, South Wales urgently needs a proper transport authority to deliver integrated commuter services across the region, through the South Wales Metro.

“The Minister seemed angry today when quizzed on the issue and hinted that he would oppose the plans by ten of Wales’s local authorities in the South East of Wales to work together to oversee issues like transport.

“South Wales needs clear leadership on projects like the Metro which are vital to building a stronger economy across South Wales.  We cannot allow the Welsh Labour Government’s poor handling of the issue to put that at risk.”

Welsh Government must proactively market Wales to ensure tourism continues to grow

Commenting on the growth of the tourism sector in Wales following the publication of new figures today, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister has urged the Welsh Government to proactively market Wales to ensure the sector continues to grow.

“Visits and overnight stays in Wales for both businesses and pleasure are up, but the Welsh Government mustn’t be complacent.

“Wales has so much to offer, yet we struggle to sell it to the rest of the UK and the wider world. We need a proactive marketing plan to attract new visitors. Cardiff is only two hours away from London by train but how many European and American tourists visit us?

“Mid and North Wales is equally easily accessible for leisure tourism and contains some of the most stunning countryside you’ll ever see. But the tourists don’t come because they don’t know about it.

“The Welsh Labour Government can’t afford to sit back, we need to market ourselves to a new generation of visitors to see what Wales has to offer.”

Wales leading the way, but still has a long way to go economic stats show

The Welsh economy has grown faster than any other part of the UK, but still has a long way to go new figures released today show.

Statistics published by ONS show that between 2012 and 2013 Wales saw a 3.4% increase in GVA per head, the fastest growth out of all the nations and regions of the UK.

Since 2010, GVA per head has grown by 8.4% in Wales more than other UK regions, bar London.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“These figures show that the tough action taken by Liberal Democrats in the UK Government is succeeding in building a stronger economy.

“Lib Dem action in creating over 2 million apprentices and cutting National Insurance contributions for young workers has not only helped tackle youth unemployment, but has also provided support for the small businesses that are the backbone of the Welsh economy.

“What is clear is that even though we’re heading in the right direction, Wales still lags behind England thanks to over a decade of poor economic management by Labour. The Labour Party’s past record shows that they just can’t be trusted to build a stronger economy, and our economic recovery would be at risk in the hands of Ed Miliband.”

A further £4m of taxpayers’ money to be spent on ‘pointless’ air link

A Freedom of Information Request has revealed that the new North-South air link will cost taxpayers £3.94 million pounds over a period of four years.

Links Air are being awarded their second contract tomorrow (Wednesday 10th) with Welsh taxpayers subsidising every seat on every flight by almost £50.

Publicly funded flights have been running since 2007 at an estimated cost of £9m.  The previous contract with Citywing and Links Air ended in December but the Welsh Government has now renewed their contact.

The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee said it has significant concerns about the service.

The Welsh Government are spending £3.94million over the next four years, subsidising a 19 seated plane which flies four times a day from Anglesey to Cardiff.  The service has seen passenger numbers fall by 43% over the past few years.

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

 ”It beggars belief that the Welsh Labour Government continues to throw £3,700 a day of taxpayers’ money at these flights.  This is despite falling passenger numbers and little evidence of any economic benefit.

 ”The Welsh Liberal Democrats would scrap this wasteful and polluting subsidy and instead concentrate on improving rail links.  Many of Wales’ railways remain woefully inadequate, with train carriages overflowing and packed to the rafters and in some cases unfit for purpose.  With that in mind, it is completely unacceptable that the Welsh Labour Government still remains dedicated to this pointless service.

 ”Passenger numbers have dropped rapidly with there being a 43% drop since their peak.  It is time to end this costly debacle before even more public money is poured into a service that is both economically and environmentally unsustainable.”

Eluned Parrott AM and Jenny Willott MP visit businesses in Roath for Small Business Saturday

Eluned Parrott, AM and Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central visited several businesses along Wellfield Road in Roath to mark Small Business Saturday.    

They spoke to businesses including Central Pharmacy, Jonathan David, Home Zone, The Coffi House and Errol Willy. Topics such as VAT, business rates, parking and the economic recovery came up during the visits.

Jenny Willott MP said,

“It’s great to get out and talk to local people to find out what issues affect small and medium sized independent businesses in Cardiff, specifically in the area of Wellfield Road. Parking is a major issue and, after having spoken to some of the local business owners, I’m going to talk to Cardiff Council about how we might resolve the problem in a way that keeps businesses and local residents happy.

“Having been a Business Minister in Westminster, I appreciate how important small businesses are to the local economy, in terms of providing services and jobs. It was fantastic to meet some of the brilliant people who give Wellfield Road its distinct sense of character and personality.”

Eluned Parrott AM added,

“As Shadow Economy and Business Minister at the Assembly, I found today’s trip both informative and fascinating. In Cardiff Central we are lucky to have so many independent shops and cafes on places like Wellfield Road. I enjoyed discussing issues both local and national and will be taking some forward in conjunction with Jenny. I was particularly interested to discuss issues around business rates since it was announced in the Autumn Statement that they are to be devolved to the Assembly, and I’m hoping that something can be done to make business rates fairer for small and medium sized local businesses.

“Both Jenny and I hope that all independent local retailers have a great festive season and encourage everyone to support them not just on Small Business Saturday, tomorrow, but all the way through to Christmas and beyond.”

‘Let’s hope Minister hasn’t bitten off more than she can chew’ – Eluned Parrott

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have offered their support to the establishment of a not-for-profit firm to run Welsh train services, although have warned the Minister that she might be ‘biting off more than she can chew’.

The Transport Minister Edwina Hart confirmed today that she was setting up a not-for-profit subsidiary of the Welsh Government, initially to advise on electrification, the rail franchise, and plans for the South Wales Metro network. She added that the not-for-profit firm could run Welsh train services from 2018.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats are supportive in principle of the establishment of a not-for-profit firm. However, the Welsh Government must have a clear idea of how this would actually work in practice.

“Let us be in no doubt that these proposals would be extremely difficult to achieve. The Scottish Government decided against a publicly owned company as there were too many hurdles facing them, so eventually awarded the Scottish rail franchise to a private company. Edwina Hart may well have bitten off more than she can chew by attempting something similar.

“Alongside technical issues such as likely having to amend the Railways Act, there are also issues with the timetable for these proposals. The Minister is already running out of time to get this sorted by the time the franchise needs renewing in 2018.

“Current arrangements for rail franchising mean that UK public sector bodies are unable to bid for contracts; this seems particularly anomalous since publicly owned operators from other countries are able to bid for contracts in the UK. Public bodies, including local authorities or groups of local authorities, should be able participate in the commercial tendering process.”