Eluned Parrott Column – Pontypridd Observer – 30th July 2014

Last week’s economic growth figures were another welcome sign that our economy is now moving in the right direction.

According to official figures, the UK economy grew by 0.8% over the last quarter, taking it back to the same level it was before the banking crisis in 2008 and the economic mess that Labour left the country in.

This is welcome news not just for the country as a whole, but also for the thousands of people in Rhondda Cynon Taf who have been feeling the effects locally.

Of course this recovery wouldn’t be happening without the Liberal Democrats in Government and it certainly wouldn’t be happening as fairly. It is the Liberal Democrats who have delivered an £800 tax cut to help millions of people weather the storm and who have plans to increase this to £1,200 after the next General Election.

I will continue to work hard over the next few years to ensure that everyone benefits from our economic recovery.

And that’s where we need the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to really focus its efforts with proper, joined up thinking to ensure our communities have the skills and training to be able to take up the jobs that will no doubt be generated as part of this recovery.

Our region needs to be competing with other ambitious cities and regions in the UK.  That’s why it was disappointing to learn that Wales has failed to bid for money as part of the UK Government’s “City Deal”.  Glasgow was recently awarded £500 million to boost its local economy and infrastructure.  Just imagine what half a billion pounds could do to our region.  It could be used to help fund the South Wales Metro, creating better links throughout the region.  It could also be used to provide research funds for our universities or to bring in jobs and apprenticeships in the short term which would set our local economy in good stead for the longer term as well.

But as with so many things like the Welsh Health Service or our Education System, the Welsh Labour Government has taken its eye off the ball and as a result, we risk losing out to other parts of the UK.

It has been a tough few years for everyone, but with employment at record levels and real growth in the economy starting to be felt in Wales the future is starting to look far more promising.  But we need the Government in Cardiff Bay to be more proactive in making sure that Wales competes at the highest level.

UK economy is back on track

Commenting on GDP figures published today showing that the UK’s economy is now 0.2% ahead of the level it was before the 2008 financial crash, Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for the Economy, said:

“When the Liberal Democrats helped form the Coalition Government, our number one objective was to get our economy back on track. Now, because of the Liberal Democrats, the UK economy is the fastest growing in the western world.

“No-one can deny that the Coalition Government inherited a complete disaster of an economy.  The Liberal Democrats recognised that tough decisions had to be made to fix our economy and to cut the UK’s mammoth deficit, but we also appreciate that this must be done in a fair way. That is why, for instance, we have ensured that over 150,000 of the lowest paid workers in Wales will no longer pay a single penny of Income Tax.

“Our economy is on the right track, but of course that is no excuse for complacency.  There is still a long way to go and the Liberal Democrats will continue to work to build an even stronger economy and ensure the UK’s dramatic growth continues.”

Local anger as Council scales back on leisure facilities for Splott & Adamsdown

Eluned with Cllr Nigel Howells accepting a petition from Splott Campaigner Bablin Molik

Eluned with Cllr Nigel Howells accepting a petition from Splott Campaigner Bablin Molik

Local residents have reacted with anger at new plans unveiled by Labour-run Cardiff Council that could see a decrease in the amount of leisure facilities in Splott and Adamsdown.

Originally the Council had promised to build a new state-of-the-art Community Hub in Splott Park that would have included a new swimming pool and increased leisure services.

But now they appear to be cutting back on their plans, with a smaller building with less leisure facilities.

A petition has been set up by local residents to keep the existing facilities as they are and the first tranche of this, containing over 500 signatures, was presented today to South Wales Central Assembly Member Eluned Parrott and Adamsdown Councillor Nigel Howells.

Eluned Parrott said: “Local residents are rightly feeling betrayed by their Council.  Splott and Adamsdown are some of the most deprived areas in Cardiff and deserve decent leisure facilities for local residents.

“Unless the Council intend to deliver what was originally promised for the area then I will be backing residents in their demand to keep the STAR Leisure Centre open and to re-open Splott Swimming Pool.”

Cllr Nigel Howells, who presented the first part of the petition formally at a meeting of Cardiff Council today added: “Many Adamsdown residents were disappointed that the STAR would be closing but had been reassured that a new Community Hub, based at Splott Park, would provide better facilities albeit with further to travel.

“I understand their anger at these scaled down plans and will be backing them in their campaign to keep the STAR open.”

Work on local bridges will cause gridlock for South Cardiff Residents

Eluned Parrott, the Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales Central has expressed grave concern at how proposed work on four bridges crossing the main Cardiff to London railway line will cause gridlock for local residents.

The work being proposed includes:

  • The demolition and rebuilding of the Windsor Road bridge, a project lasting 18 months starting in December 2014
  • The demolition and replacement of the Beresford Road bridge, a project lasting 4 months starting in June 2015
  • The demolition of the pedestrian footbridge at Kames Place (The Black Bridge), a project lasting 4 months starting in November 2015
  • The demolition and replacement of the Splott Road bridge, a project lasting 4 months starting in May 2016

Whilst the work to replace the Windsor Road bridge is essential along with the subsequent replacement of the other three bridges prior to the railway line’s electrification, the timing of all this work has the potential to cause chaos for local residents.

The way the timing of the work currently stands, two of the four entrances into Splott from the north of the city will be unavailable for 4 months next year.

Eluned Parrott said:

“The demolition and replacement of Windsor Road bridge has the potential to cause complete traffic chaos as this road is a main artery through Cardiff.  This point was emphasised when the Butetown Tunnel was closed last week and more traffic was pushed through the already congested city.

“The worry is that more and more commuters will use the already heavily used residential streets of Splott to get from Cardiff Bay to the City Centre.

“The Council has failed to highlight this potential traffic gridlock to its residents.  It needs to urgently undertake a campaign to inform residents on both sides of the railway line of what is being proposed, and consider a proper traffic management plan to ensure that the lives of local residents isn’t turned into misery.

“In addition, restrictions need to be made as to during what hours of the day this construction work can be undertaken so that it doesn’t unduly impact on the quality of life of local residents.”

Boost for Welsh aerospace industry welcomed

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have welcomed the announcement today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that £154 million will be invested in aerospace research projects, benefiting companies in Wales.

Nick Clegg made the announcement during a visit to Farnborough International Airshow on Thursday, with the aim to keep the UK as a world leader in aerospace innovation.

The money will be used for four specific projects in areas the UK excels in – wings, engines, aircraft structures and radio communications – with companies in Wales such as Airbus and Triumph Actuation and Motor Control Systems set to benefit.

The funding is part of a £2 billion pound Government and industry investment in researching and development for the next generation of quieter, faster and more environmentally friendly planes (The Aerospace Technology Institute).

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

“This announcement is a huge boost for the Welsh aerospace industry. This extra cash will not only create and safeguard many jobs, but represents a big investment in the North Wales economy.

“By working in partnership with business, the Liberal Democrats in Government are building a stronger, more balanced economy for the people of Wales.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“The UK’s aerospace industry is going from strength to strength and helping our economic recovery. We are the number one aerospace industry in Europe and second only to the United States globally.

“I want to ensure the UK remains at the cutting edge of aerospace innovation, which is why I am pleased to announce that we are investing £154 million for research to explore new technologies like the 3D printing of plane parts and creating lighter, greener aircraft.”

Details of the announcement

The funding announced today includes £30m joint funding from government and industry which has been awarded to projects following an open competition. £19m of this is public funding, run by Technology Strategy Board on behalf of the Aerospace Technology Institute.  The £30m joint industry/government funding supports 11 projects covering a broad spectrum of aerospace technology research benefitting companies of all sizes, including many SMEs. Having open competitions like this makes the ATI accessible to a wide range of potential companies and projects – supporting innovation throughout the supply chain and spanning the breadth of the UK.

This will support research involving companies in Wales such as Airbus and Triumph Actuation and Motor Control Systems UK Ltd in Deeside, Flintshire.

Welsh Lib Dems call for a review of Park Home Sales Commission

Welsh Liberal Democrats have today launched a plea to the Welsh Government for a review of the commission charged on sales of Park Homes by site owners.

Currently site owners are free to charge up to 10% commission on private sales, despite not being part of the selling process, to the seller. Many Park Home residents are unaware of the ability of their site owner to do this and many are not told about the selling up fee when they originally buy it.

Eluned Parrott AM held (Wednesday) a debate in the National Assembly on this important issue.

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

“The charge of up to 10% commission of sales is unfair and unjust. Site owners have next to no role in sales and simply charge departing residents a fee. What’s more, some residents report  that they were not made aware of the ability of site owners to charge this until it’s too late.

“I am calling on the government to see if the maximum charge of 10% is fair and reasonable, which I strongly fear it isn’t.

“As a bare minimum I want a commitment from the Welsh Government to use its power and influence to ensure that residents and prospective residents are made aware that there is likely to be a substantial sales fee on top of any fees paid to Estate Agents if and when they sell up.

“Park Homes can be a great place to live and generate millions of pounds for the economy, but  a  fairer balance for residents needs to be found. I believe the Welsh Government can and should play a major part in this.”

Roger Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire added:

“I wholeheartedly support Eluned Parrott AM for South Wales Central in her campaign to reduce the commission of 10% charged by park home site owners. Their role in the transaction is very minimal and seems unfair to the park home owners, who often pensioners on fixed income. Recently, park home owners in England presented a petition to No 10 Downing Street to ask for a review of this unfair charge. I believe that this matter could be reviewed across England and Wales so that park home owners get fairness.”

M4 plans a “huge mistake”

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Economy Minister Eluned Parrott has slammed today’s announcement that the ‘black route’ will be followed for the new M4 development.

The statement today by Economy Minister claims that no reasons were provided during the consultation process objecting to the ‘black route’. This ignores environmental concerns raised during the consultation process by Friends of the Earth, the RSPB and Sustrans, and economic concerns raised by the Federation of Small Businesses, as well as the submission by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats prefer the ‘blue route’, which is the redevelopment of the A48 Southern Distributor Road and A4810 Steelworks Access Road. This route was not consulted upon by the Welsh Government in this latest consultation.

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

“This decision is a huge mistake, and completely flies in the face of the environmental and economic issues that have been raised by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and many other organisations throughout this process.

“The consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham. The Minister’s claim that there were no reasons why the ‘black route’ could not be adopted completely ignores evidence provided to her by the RSPB, Sustrans and the Federation of Small Businesses.

“There are still huge questions surrounding the economic benefit of this development. Investing the Welsh Government’s entire borrowing powers into one single road leaves no money left for other transport projects like the South Wales Metro, which can provide much greater economic benefit for the whole area.

“Our proposed alternatives are far less expensive, less likely to damage vast swathes of our environment and are academically recommended. It’s shocking that the Welsh Labour Minister is remaining blinkered, ignoring these credible proposals and ploughing ahead regardless.”

Eluned Parrott welcomes continued fall in Welsh unemployment

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott has today welcomed the drop in unemployment of 6,000 people across Wales.

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat shadow Economy Minister said:

“This is yet more good news for Wales and the UK. It is showing that the UK Government is on the right track in repairing Britain’s economy and equipping it for the future.  Because of the work of the Liberal Democrats in Government, our economy is one of the fastest-growing in the developed world.  However, we recognise that there is still a long way to go.

“Hopefully the stronger economy will help young people find sustainable and meaningful employment, especially those graduating this month.

“Last week we learnt that the Welsh Auditor General has serious concerns about the Welsh Labour Government’s approach to helping 19-24 year olds gain employment.  The Welsh Government needs to be ambitious in tackling the problem of youth unemployment once and for all.”

First Minister dismisses calls for extra rolling stock for Valley’s Network

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott has today asked Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Government to acquire surplus train carriages from the North West of England to alleviate overcrowding problems on the Valleys Lines Network.

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Minister said:

“Electrification projects in the North-West of England, such as the line between Manchester and Liverpool are soon to be completed, and this will free up spare diesel trains. Welsh Lib Dems believe that some of these trains could be rented by the Welsh Government as a short term solution to the overcrowding which regularly happens on commuter routes in and out of Cardiff.

“Carwyn Jones responded without any firm commitment to actively get his government to even investigate the possibility of renting extra trains.

“Rail Electrification will not only speed up journeys in South Wales, it will give us the option to get newer, longer trains with more seats, which are desperately needed as our economy grows. But what South Wales needs urgently are more carriages at peak times, and for that to happen the Welsh Government needs to step in and act and act fast.

“We need an urgent short term solution to this problem.”

Over £23m paid out by Cwm Taf due to ‘clinical negligence’

It has been revealed that over £23 million has been handed out by Cwm Taf Health Board to patients and their relatives due to ‘clinical negligence’ since 2011.

In the National Assembly, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have raised the issue of pay-outs by the NHS due to poor care.  The Health Minister responded saying he would write revealing further details.  His letter revealed:

In 2011-12 Cwm Taf HB paid out £4,333,093

  • In 2012-13 Cwm Taf HB paid out £7,293,607
  • In 2013-14 Cwm Taf HB paid out £11,815,580

In total, since 2011-12, the NHS in Wales has paid out £171m.

‘Clinical negligence’ is the process by which a patient takes his medical attendants to a civil court for compensation.

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

“£23 million is an eye watering amount of money for a health board to be handing out due to mistakes made.  It is particularly disappointing that this huge amount of money will no longer be available to fund frontline care.

“Obviously, those who received the payments did so properly and it is right that they are compensated for harm done to themselves or their family, but it is disturbing nevertheless that the payments needed to be made in the first place.  The Welsh Labour Government needs to look at the root causes triggering these payouts.

“Of course NHS staff work incredibly hard and generally do a terrific job.  But when mistakes are made, it’s essential that lessons are learnt.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to hold this Welsh Labour Government to account so that all patients get the treatment they deserve.”