Buy new trains with new powers instead of M4 – Eluned Parrott

The Welsh Lib Dems are urging the Welsh Government to use its newly devolved powers around rail franchising to plan for the future with a Welsh Rolling Stock Strategy, investing in new train carriages and ensuring the future growth of our rail services.

Around 73% of the existing fleet of carriages will be unable to operate after 2020 due to electrification, franchise renewal and EU accessibility legislation coming into force. The Welsh Lib Dems want the Welsh Government to put plans in place now to ensure this is done smoothly and efficiently.

The call comes as the Welsh Labour Government reveal in answer to Eluned Parrott AM that, despite spending large amounts of time calling for rail franchise powers to be devolved, they have spent no time working on plans to use those powers.

Eluned Parrott AM says that Welsh borrowing powers, combined with European Union investment and future franchise agreements, could be used to invest in new carriages instead of wasting the money on the M4 relief road.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Train users across Wales know all too well just how old, creaking and overcrowded our trains are right now. Just last month a train door was ripped from its hinges as it entered a tunnel. It’s no wonder that so many get in their cars instead of taking public transport.

“No longer can Welsh Labour Ministers pass the buck on rail services, as the buck now stops with them. It’s shocking to find out that the Welsh Labour Government hasn’t spent any time figuring out what to do with the powers that they’ve been so desperate to be given. These new rail powers are a golden opportunity to improve our train services, and without a Strategy in place right now that opportunity could be lost.

“It makes sense for the Welsh Government to invest in its own rolling stock. Not only would it be cheaper for any future Government-owned franchise to have its own carriages, these carriages could be leased to any private company running Welsh rail services in the future to recoup costs for the Welsh public purse.

“Nowhere in the Welsh Labour Government’s decision-making over the M4 relief road did they take into account the potential impact of expanding public transport instead. Labour may be ignoring the benefits, but I’m absolutely convinced by the case for investing in our railways instead of building an expensive and unneeded road.”

Eluned Parrott AM calls for National Music Education Strategy

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott has urged the Welsh Government to create a Welsh Music Education Strategy.

Eluned Parrott challenged the Welsh Education Minister in the Assembly Chamber as Rhondda Cynon Taff Council are holding a consultation on cutting their schools’ music service in favour of a privatised service.

There are fears that cuts to music services could also place the National Youth Orchestra of Wales under threat, if the county music education system falls apart.

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

 “Wales was the first country in the world to have a National Youth Orchestra and has a proud history of teaching children music, yet councils up and down Wales are denying our poorest children the chance to learn through music. Cuts of this kind would never be considered to science or sports lessons, yet music is always first to bear the burden despite the clear educational benefits of music education.

“Projects such as the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Venezuela have shown just how much of a difference that learning a musical instrument can make to a young person’s life. It teaches them teamwork, gives them a sense of personal achievement and builds the confidence to use these skills in other settings.  El Sistema, as it is known in Venezuela, has been widely recognised by UNESCO and others for having rescued some of the most deprived children in that society from a life of misery on the streets.

 “A National Music Education Strategy would end the postcode lottery of instrument lessons in schools, and ensure that music doesn’t become the preserve of the privileged few. Music is such a deeply-felt part of our national psyche in Wales, but I fear that the bands, orchestras and choirs that we know and love will simply die out if we don’t continue to teach our children the value of music.  The Welsh Labour Government needs to stop ducking and diving on this issue and create a national Strategy.”

Eluned Parrott Column – Pontypridd Observer – 19th November 2014

Once again, I return to the issue of our local health service for my column this week.

Cwm Taf University Health Board have just announced their decision to remove the out of hours GP service from Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda and Ysbyty Cwm Cynon and centralise it at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Talbot Green and Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil.

This decision is very worrying for many local residents who will now have to travel further for vital primary care services.

And this comes on the back of other recent decisions that will make consultant-led maternity and neonatal care, inpatient children’s services and A&E more difficult to access locally.

You don’t need me to remind you how inadequate many of our local transport links are and decisions like these do nothing to enhance the quality of life of our citizens.

What is baffling is that this decision flies in the face of a recent statement by Labour’s Deputy Minister who said “Our aim is to improve access to and the quality of primary care, enabling more people to be treated and cared for closer to their homes.”

Once again we‘ve seen some shocking figures that continue to highlight the fact that our ambulance response times are amongst the lowest in Wales.

In September, only 46.6% of Category A emergency calls were responded to within the target time of 8 minutes.  Add to that the fact that 1 in 10 people then have to wait more than 4 hours in A&E, and we see a local health service that is struggling to cope.

This is in no way a reflection of the hard work and professionalism of the staff in the NHS, rather a sad indictment of the way that Labour in Wales has mismanaged our health service over the last 15 years.

Welsh Labour has let the NHS down. Although we spend more per head on the NHS than England, we suffer worse results: longer waiting times, slower ambulance response times and lower standards of treatment. And no more evident is this disparity than here in RCT.

What is worse is that life expectancy can vary by nearly 20 years, depending on where in Wales you live.

We face many challenges with our health service in the years ahead with increasing demand and an aging population.

Making health services less accessible is not the answer – working with our communities and moving resources into preventing ill health is.

Eluned Parrott signs for Men United v Prostate Cancer

Eluned, with fellow Assembly Members William Powell and Peter Black, supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign: Men United v Prostate Cancer.

Eluned, with fellow Assembly Members William Powell and Peter Black, supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign: Men United v Prostate Cancer.

South Wales Central Lib Dem AM Eluned Parrott is the latest signing to Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign, Men United v Prostate Cancer, a unique team which seeks to unite people across the UK against the common enemy of prostate cancer.

Research for Prostate Cancer UK shows that nearly 650,000 people in Wales know someone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer but nearly six in ten (56%) people in Wales say they don’t feel personally informed about the disease.

Each year almost as many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer as women are diagnosed with breast cancer but research in to the disease has historically been badly underfunded, leaving tests and treatments trailing behind other common cancers. In addition the quality and availability of treatment can vary across the UK. Men United v Prostate Cancer, the brainchild of Britain’s foremost male health charity – Prostate Cancer UK – is about fighting this apathy and neglect which surrounds the disease.

Eluned Parrott will be joining tens of thousands who have already signed up including comedian Bill Bailey, Welsh Olympic legend Colin Jackson and national treasure Sir Michael Parkinson.

Eluned Parrott said: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, affecting many in my region covering Cardiff, RCT and The Vale. If we are going to beat this killer we need as many people as possible to sign for Men United. By uniting together and taking action for men’s health, we can bring about real change. I’m proud to able to show my support to the campaign and I urge everyone to get on board. It’s easy – just search Men United online and you’re in! Prostate cancer is a massive opponent but I firmly believe that with the right team we can beat it!”

Samantha Fairclough, Services Manager for Wales at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Survival rates for men with prostate cancer lag behind those in the rest of the UK and too often the services men need are out of reach. We know from the Welsh Government’s Cancer Patient Experience Survey that things are getting better for men in Wales but we still lag behind other parts of the UK. That is why Prostate Cancer UK is here to support men in Wales and we call on the people who can make change to join us in leading change. It is great to have Eluned on board.”

Campaign to scrap the tolls comes to the Assembly

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on all parties in the National Assembly to support the Liberal Democrat policy of scrapping the Severn Bridge tolls when the bridges come back into public ownership.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on all parties in the National Assembly to support the Liberal Democrat policy of scrapping the Severn Bridge tolls when the bridges come back into public ownership.


The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on all parties in the National Assembly to support the Liberal Democrat policy of scrapping the Severn Bridge tolls when the bridges come back into public ownership.

The Severn Crossings are currently managed by a private concessionaire.  The concession will end when a revenue target collected from tolls is reached. Current forecasts are that the concession will end in 2018.  Once the tolls are transferred into public ownership and debts are repaid, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap the tolls completely.

Scrapping the tolls will be a manifesto commitment in the up and coming General Election.

The Severn Bridge tolls are the most expensive in the UK. It now costs £6.40 for a car to cross the bridge, £12.80 for a van, and £19.20 for a coach or lorry.

A debate on scrapping the tolls will be held in the National Assembly today (Wednesday 11th November).

Eluned Parrott, Assembly Member for South Wales Central, said:

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party who will scrap the unfair Severn Bridge tolls.  We are holding a debate this week on this issue to allow other parties to state their position.  It will not be long before the bridges come back into public ownership, so it is time other parties started taking what happens next seriously.

“Scrapping the tolls would help rebalance the economy and drive growth in a part of the country that is typically deprived. It is a fact that the tolls have been a barrier to the Welsh economy.

“By scrapping the tolls, the Liberal Democrats would be boosting the South Wales economy by around £107 million a year.”

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

“First impressions do matter and if the lasting impression for many of Wales’ visitors is a less than positive one, then we should be doing all we can to address this.

“Motorway tolls are not prevalent across the United Kingdom. So why on earth should people be forced to pay a tax to enter Wales?

“Not only would scrapping the tolls boost Wales’ economy, but it would save the average commuter around £1,535 a year.  This policy is an important step along the way to helping build a stronger economy, and also a fairer society.”


Welsh unemployment figures remain a concern

Today’s unemployment figures for Wales show a slight increase in Welsh unemployment and the historical gap in unemployment rates compared to the UK average remains.

Unemployment across Wales rose in the last month by 4,000 whilst the UK as a whole saw a fall.  Compared to this time last year, unemployment in Wales is down 1.1%, compared to 1.7% across the UK as a whole.

The Welsh Workforce has grown from 1,457,000 to 1,472,000, but the unemployment rate has grown too from 94,000 (6.5% of the workforce) to 98,000 (6.6%).

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

“For months, the Welsh economy under Labour has been beginning to stagnate. The last few months has seen Welsh unemployment fall at a slower rate than the rest of the UK, but we’ve now seen the number of Welsh people out of work actually increase. It’s obviously good news that the size of the workforce has grown, but that doesn’t hide the fact that there are more people looking for work in Wales today than there were a month ago.

“Labour’s mismanagement of the Welsh economy is in stark contrast to the Liberal Democrats’ actions in the UK Government. Thanks to the Lib Dems, there are record numbers in work across the UK and our economy is growing, but once again we see Wales lagging behind the UK as a whole, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We must ask why 6.6% of our workforce is out of work and why other parts of the UK are continuing to grow and recover faster.

“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.”

Anglesey air link extension a mistake

Following the announcement that the Welsh Government has extended the North-South air link service until 2018, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister Eluned Parrott said:

“Extending this costly North-South air link is yet another mistake by the Welsh Labour Government. Labour Ministers have poured millions into this wasteful and polluting subsidy, with little to no gain for people in North Wales.

“As our railways remain woefully inadequate, with train carriages packed to the rafters and in some cases unfit for purpose, surely this should be the Welsh Government’s transport priority? Rail links are far more effective and cost efficient than an air link, which time and again has been proven to be a waste of public subsidy.”

Buying property along ‘black route’ could have prejudiced M4 decision – Eluned Parrott

Following revelations by the Week In, Week Out programme that the Welsh Government has purchased property as far ago as 2005 in preparation for the M4 ‘black route’, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have warned that the final route decision could have been prejudiced.

The programme has revealed that land bought as long ago as 2005 has not been declared surplus to requirements and sold off – as is Government policy.

Eluned Parrott’s urgent question on this issue has been accepted for debate today by the Presiding Officer.

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

“The fact that land bought by the Welsh Labour Government as early as 2005 was never declared  surplus to requirements, and therefore sold off, clearly shows that the ‘black route’ was never off the table – despite assertions in 2009 that the project had been shelved.

“But Plaid Cymru are equally guilty here, as it was one of their ministers while in Coalition with Labour who seemingly continued this land purchasing programme, and failed to sell these assets off when the project was supposed to have been cancelled. Plaid Cymru’s current opposition to the ‘black route’ is in stark contrast to the actions of their former leader, who behind the scenes seemingly helped pave the way for it to become a reality.

“With every week that passes, new evidence seems to emerge that this road was a done deal – regardless of the views and concerns of the people of Wales. Members of the public will be rightly outraged that the consultation process has been nothing more than a sham all along, and that their views were never going to be listened to.

“With a judicial review, a public enquiry and many other obstacles to overcome, the Welsh Labour Government should just accept that their road is nothing but a pipe dream.”

New calls for rolling stock strategy as services show the strain

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have renewed their calls for a national train rolling stock strategy following a weekend marked by train cancellations and overcrowding on the Welsh network.

Speaking in the Assembly, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Recently several services run by Arriva Trains Wales as part of the Wales and Borders Franchise have either been cancelled or had their capacity cut as train carriages are deployed elsewhere on the network due to failing rolling stock.

“The trains that Arriva use are old and there are no immediate plans to replace any of them, so the reliability issues surrounding them are only going to get worse.

“As Arriva don’t own any of their trains and any new funding for the leasing of rolling stock needs to come from the Welsh Government, it is time they accepted their role in the running of railways in Wales and came up with a plan to ensure that passengers in Wales get the trains they deserve now, not just in five years time following electrification.”

AM presses Minister over Rhoose Library fight

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott has today quizzed Welsh Government Minister and Vale of Glamorgan AM Jane Hutt over her government’s approach to library closures across Wales, following a meeting with the Save Rhoose Library Action Group.

Eluned Parrott AM challenged the Welsh Government to provide a response to the recommendations of its own “Expert Review of Libraries in Wales” ahead of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s decision on the future libraries across the county.

Eluned Parrott AM said:

“There are several interesting recommendations which could help local authorities plan better ways to support a full library service even in challenging times.  For example, one of the report’s key recommendation’s was to encourage councils to investigate opportunities for collaborative working and bringing together several council information and advice services on one site.

“Rhoose is a growing community, and if the developments planned in the Council’s local development plan go ahead, will need more services for its increased population, not fewer. Investing in Rhoose Library and securing its future would allow the Vale Council to build a hub for that community, tackle digital exclusion and provide support services for local people.

“Campaigners across the Vale want to see the Welsh Government’s response to this report before the Vale Council’s consultation closes as these short-sighted plans fly in the face of the recommendations in the Welsh Government-authorised report.

“I know how strongly local people feel and how much we all value the Library as a facility.  I also know that this is a campaign that simply isn’t going to go away.”