Cardiff Council needs to get its act together over City Centre cleansing

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott, has criticised Cardiff Council for its lacklustre approach to cleansing in the City Centre.

On Sunday, Cardiff hosted the Cardiff Half Marathon with 22,000 runners taking part and thousands more lining the route.

Yet runners and spectators were greeted with filthy streets, strewn with litter and rubbish.

Eluned Parrott said:

“The approach to cleaning our City Centre really isn’t good enough. Cardiff has an enviable reputation for successfully hosting major events yet it risks putting that in jeopardy if we continue to have filthy streets.

“To have so much rubbish on the streets ahead of a major sporting event, which was being broadcast to millions, is not good enough.”

“In addition, it is unfair on businesses in our City Centre who pay their business rates and are entitled to receive a basic level of service, such as clean streets, from the Council.

“With thousands of visitors in Cardiff for the World Cup, it is important that they get the basics right and they need to quickly get their act together on this issue.”

Urgent action needed over depressing export figures

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott, has criticised the Labour Welsh Government over worrying export figures released this week.

The value of exports for Wales for the four quarters up to Quarter 2 in 2015 fell by £1,7 billion compared with the previous year – a fall of almost 12%.

Eluned Parrott said:

“These export figures are extremely depressing. Add to this the recent unemployment figures which showed that Wales was the only part of the UK to see a rise in unemployment, and this clearly demonstrates the fragility of the Welsh economy.

“If other regions of the UK such as the South West (+6%), London (5.5%) and the North East (+3.9%) can show a growth in exports, then why can’t we?”

“It is clear that the Welsh Government is lacking a clear economic strategy and this is having a knock on effect on the economy of Wales as a whole.”

“We have many Welsh companies producing goods of the highest quality – what we are lacking is a Government that is willing to help them.”

Welsh Government should accept its M4 plans are doomed

It’s time the Welsh Government accepted its plans for the M4 relief road are doomed, Eluned Parrott AM has said today.

This follows the news that yet another Labour Assembly Member has criticised the Welsh Government’s plans.

Last year the Welsh Liberal Democrats secured an agreement with the Welsh Government that “no construction of an M4 relief road would start before the next Assembly elections.”

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister said:

“The Labour Government in Wales is sticking its head in the sand over the M4. It is pretending all is fine, yet we all know that’s not the case.

“The chances of the Welsh Government ever getting a strong enough majority to force through its plans are slim to none.  It’s time the Government accepted this.

“In budget negotiations, the Welsh Liberal Democrats used our influence to ensure 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.

“Our proposed alternative for a relief road is less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and academically recommended. The reduced 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”.

Eluned Parrott Column – Pontypridd Observer – 7th October 2015

As part of my role as an Assembly member, I chair the Cross Party Group on Community Transport.

Community Transport is primarily a door-to-door service, specifically designed for people who find it very difficult or impossible to get on or off ordinary buses or even to get to the nearest bus stop. It helps the elderly, the disabled and others who have mobility issues, often in vehicles that have been adapted for their needs.

It is used to take people out shopping, to events and, increasingly, to appointments at GP surgeries and hospitals.

For many communities, Community Transport is a lifeline but like so many other not-for-profit organisations, it is an area that is struggling to cope with increasing demand and reducing budgets.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to join a local Community Transport operator to see for myself the service they provide for local residents.

I joined Accessible Caring Transport in Mountain Ash, on a regular journey they make taking elderly residents out to get their weekly shopping. It was clear how valued a service this is and how isolated some of the people I met would be without it.

However, Community Transport providers have been facing increasing problems as a result of the Labour Welsh Government’s decision to cut the amount it pays for older persons’ concessionary fares. Whilst the commercial bus operators can absorb most of this cut from the profits they make from other passengers, the not-for-profit Community Transport operators can’t. As a result, services are at risk of stopping altogether unless other sources of funding can be found.

I took the opportunity to raise this issue with the Minister for Transport last week and specifically asked her to look at ways to help these operators.

One way is to make it easier for Community Transport operators to bid for business from local councils and health boards. Another way would be to allow Community Transport operators to bid for the contracts for replacement rail services – something that’s a real opportunity with the electrification of the Valleys lines and the Great Western main line. At the moment, they are prevented for doing this work as they aren’t allowed to do work for a commercial organisation. However, if the Welsh Government commissioned the work directly, it could be a real possibility. The Minister has agreed to look into my suggestion and I hope common sense will prevail.

Eastern Bay Link an opportunity to sort out congestion in Adamsdown & Splott

With work about to start soon on the Eastern Bay Link Road, Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for a joined up approach to be taken between the Welsh Government and Cardiff Council in order to tackle traffic congestion in Adamsdown & Splott.

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

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats secured the funding for the Eastern Bay Link road in order to take traffic off local roads in Cardiff City Centre.

“Many drivers use the streets of Adamsdown & Splott as a rat-run to avoid congestion along Newport Road and through to Cardiff Bay.

“The Eastern Bay Link Road presents an opportunity to turn those congested residential streets back over to people and make them more attractive for walking and cycling as well as better places to live.

“Discussions are needed between the Welsh Government and Cardiff Council to ensure that in parallel with the Eastern Bay Link Road there is a plan to create a more pleasant environment for the people who live in these suburban areas.”

Adamsdown’s Liberal Democrat Councillor, Nigel Howells echoed Eluned’s call. He said:

“Congestion through Adamsdown has increased markedly over the last few years. This hasn’t been helped by the closure of the Windsor Road Bridge, nor will it by the imminent work on the bridges on Beresford Road and Splott Road.

“Local residents have suffered with unnecessary congestion for far too long. I hope that all those involved will give serious consideration to creating schemes to make Adamsdown a better and safer place to live.”

Don’t neglect residential areas during World Cup say Lib Dems

Eluned Parrott with local campaigners Gwilym Owen and Cadan ap Tomos survey the rubbish on Fitzhamon Embankment.

Eluned Parrott with local campaigners Gwilym Owen and Cadan ap Tomos survey the rubbish on Fitzhamon Embankment.

Liberal Democrats in Cardiff have called on Cardiff Council to commit to keeping the residential areas of Cardiff clean during the World Cup.

Whilst a lot of attention is being given to keep Cardiff City Centre clean, many of the residential areas of Cardiff are being neglected.

With games already underway at the Millennium Stadium, residential streets such as Fitzhamon Embankment in Riverside are strewn with litter.

Gwilym Owen, Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate in the forthcoming Riverside By-election said:

“With most hotels full during the World Cup, many visitors are staying further from the City Centre in Bed & Breakfast accommodation or with friends. What impression does it give of the Capital City of Wales if they then have to walk through litter strewn streets on their way to the stadium.”

This call was echoed by Paul Shone, owner of the Ty Rosa boutique guest house in Grangetown.

He said: “Cardiff is a fantastic city but is being let down by the Council’s cleansing regime. Whilst nearly all of our visitors think Cardiff is a superb tourist destination, nearly every negative comment we get is about the amount of dumped rubbish on the streets. With so many visitors in the city over the next few weeks, it’s important this is sorted out.”

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central added:

“Over the next few weeks, Cardiff will once again be showcased to the world. I hope all the attention will be on scintillating rugby at the Millennium Stadium coupled with our famous Welsh welcome, rather than on our dirty streets.

“Residents pay their Council Tax for basic services like clean streets. They have the right to expect this service all year round and I hope this won’t be neglected over the next few weeks.”

We must slash VAT on hotels and tourist attractions

VAT on small hotels and holiday attractions should be drastically slashed to boost tourism, the Liberal Democrats said today.

The party would reduce the tax from 20 per cent to just 5 per cent to further help the industry.

This is part of a Liberal Democrat plan to make the UK more attractive as a holiday direction and create a jobs revolution in the sector.

It means the UK would follow the lead of 25 of 28 EU member states who have cut VAT on tourist accommodation and attractions.

The issue was proposed by the Welsh Liberal Democrats at the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference and was passed by members.

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

“Local hotels, B&Bs and our holiday hotspots are the backbone of our economy and they need more help and support.

“Tourism accounts for 10 per cent of our economy and employs three million people, with nearly half of those jobs taken up by young people.

“But we have some of the higher VAT laws in Europe, with the vast majority of EU countries having already lowered the tax on the industry.

“If we want to boost tourism, create more jobs and continue to showcase the best of Britain, it’s time we gave the sector a helping hand.”

Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments and Chairman of the British Hospitality Association, added:

“This decision by the Liberal Democrats is a reflection of the growing support for our campaign. The World Economic Forum places Britain in 140th place for price competitiveness for tourism out of 141 countries and the reduction in the VAT rate to 5%, as agreed by the Liberal Democrat conference, would increase employment and raise extra revenues for the Government.”

Increased passenger numbers welcomed but airport concerns need to be resolved

Commenting on the news that passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport increased by 10% during June to August, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister Eluned Parrott said:

“This news is to be welcomed but it does come from a very low base. Whilst 422,172 passengers passed through Cardiff Airport during the peak summer months, over 3 million did the same at Edinburgh Airport.

“Bristol Airport had its busiest month ever in August, with over 768,000 passing through its terminal. And there’s no reason why Cardiff Airport shouldn’t be achieving similar figures.

“2015 has so far been a year of mixed fortunes for our airport with the loss of flights from CityJet and Links Air and clearly more needs to be done to attract a wider range of airlines to make the airport more sustainable.

“The recent increase in flights by Flybe is a step in the right direction, but the situation isn’t helped by suggestions that the Welsh Government may have breached state aid rules in getting those flights here.

“These concerns need to be resolved as a matter of urgency before they become a barrier to attracting more airlines to Cardiff Airport.”

Value of apprenticeships not recognised by Labour Ministers

Labour Ministers in Cardiff Bay are failing to truly recognise the benefits of apprenticeships to the Welsh economy, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have said.

A report by the National Training Federation Wales entitled The Value of Apprenticeships to Wales notes that there is a “£74 return for every £1 invested compared to a £57 return for every £1 invested for the average degree”.

Despite this, Labour Ministers have chosen to cut funding to apprenticeship schemes in recent budgets, instead favouring less effective work experience schemes like Jobs Growth Wales. A Welsh Government evaluation of Jobs Growth Wales found that 73% of participants would have found a job without the help of the scheme.

In their budget deal with the Welsh Government, the Welsh Liberal Democrats secured funding for an extra 5,000 apprenticeship starts in 2015/16 and 2016/17 in the face of cuts by Labour Minsters.

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

“The evidence that apprenticeships provide a huge boost to our economy and the apprentice is clear – it’s why Liberal Democrats put so much emphasis on doubling the number of apprenticeships while in Government.

“This report provides a compelling case for boosting investment in Welsh apprenticeships. Why then was it left to the Welsh Liberal Democrats to mitigate Labour’s cuts to Welsh apprenticeship funding?

“Instead of boosting investment in apprenticeships which have a proven positive effect on the economy, Labour Ministers would rather plough money into the ineffective Jobs Growth Wales, despite the fact that most participants would have found a job without it.

“The inability for Labour Ministers to recognise the benefits of apprenticeships to the Welsh economy, and prioritise them accordingly, is shocking. We need a proper economic vision for Wales from our Government – sadly Labour is falling way short of the mark.”

Wales the only part of the UK to show a yearly increase in unemployment.

Wales is the only part of the UK to show an increase in unemployment since last year, a report published today shows.

Statistics published by the ONS show that unemployment in Wales increased by 4,000 since the last quarter.

And whilst total unemployment in the UK is down 198,000 since last year, in Wales it is actually up by 2,000.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott AM said:

“Clearly there something systematically wrong with the way we are doing things in Wales. If both the North West of England and the West Midlands can reduce unemployment by 44,000 in a year, then why can’t we?

“There’s clearly something fundamentally wrong with the way we are managing our economy, and the blame for that rests squarely with the Welsh Labour Government.

“Month after month we are presented with depressing statistics that show Wales continues to lag behind the rest of the UK, yet nothing seems to be done.

“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 and there is very little in the way of help or advice for older workers to retrain and reskill if they find themselves unemployed.”