Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Labour government resists calls for NHS investigation

The first minister has dismissed calls for an inquiry into the running of the NHS in Wales.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams repeated her call for an all-party commission, saying: "Labour's-running of the NHS in Wales is nothing short of a national scandal."

She went on:  "it is the Labour-led Welsh Government’s fault that waiting times are increasing and they are not caused by devolution.

She said: “Nurses in Wales have more patients to care for than any other part of the UK. That is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats are campaigning to introduce safe staff nursing levels on our wards to ensure safe and compassionate care in all hospitals. NHS staff work tirelessly, but like patients, they are being failed by the Welsh Labour Government.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Welsh NHS waiting list

New figures reveal that nearly 1,400 patients waited more than a year for hospital treatment and that nine of them have been waiting for more than two years.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: “These figures are nothing short of a national disgrace. It is completely unacceptable that nearly 1,400 people are being forced to wait over a year for treatment.

“Month after month we see the Welsh Government’s 36 week target missed. However these figures show the problem is even worse than that. My concern is that the Welsh Labour Government seems entirely clueless on how to turn things around. Waiting lists are piling up and I see little sign of the situation improving.”

The Liberal Democrats have urged the Welsh Government to establish a commission to secure a historic and long-term plan for health and social care in Wales.

Kirsty Williams added: “A commission with cross-party, professional and patient representatives would be able to work together and deal with the strategic problems facing our NHS in Wales. By involving doctors, nurses and patients from the outset, we would ensure that the experiences of those using our frontline health services feed into the efforts to reform our NHS.

“Whether it is inadequate cancer care, poor ambulance response times or dire A&E waiting times, the Welsh Labour Government is failing to provide the health service that patients in Wales deserve.”

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Liberal Democrat social housing benefits policy

Liberal Democrat Party Headquarters has issued the following Q&A, following Andrew George MP's success in the House of Commons yesterday. His "Affordable Homes Bill" has cleared the major hurdle of a Second Reading, which means it can go on to detailed consideration in committee. Among other things, the Bill would practically abolish the iniquities of the coalition's Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy, the so-called Bedroom Tax. Mr George's Private Members Bill has the support of the Labour Opposition as well as the parliamentary Liberal Party.

Why are you doing this now?

We have been monitoring the introduction of the policy carefully. The results of the interim evaluation have now been published and they show some concerning findings such as that 57% of claimants reported cutting back on household essentials. We have protected the vulnerable so far but we now want to reform the policy to protect those people for the long term.

Why haven’t you implemented these changes in government?

We have protected vulnerable groups by providing hard cash for hard cases – £180m in Discretionary Housing Payments last year – not all of which has been spent by councils. We have been monitoring the introduction of the policy carefully and have recently received the interim results of the initial evaluation of the policy. These show that the policy has had an impact on disabled people who need a spare bedroom and we want to ensure that these people are exempted. We also want to ensure that those who have tried to downsize but have not been able to are not penalised. We will make the case to our coalition partners that the policy needs to be reformed.

The Tories don’t agree with you do they?

We will continue to make the case to our coalition partners that the policy needs to be reformed. If we do not reach agreement in this parliament we will commit to these reforms in our manifesto.

What about other groups who are affected (e.g. parents who don’t live with their children but have them to visit regularly)

There would still be a (more limited) pot of Discretionary Housing Payments available for hard cash to cover hard cases. It is already the case, however, that private sector tenants have to pay for a spare bedroom in this circumstance.

Not all disabled people will be covered by your policy?

We are exempting those disabled people who need a spare bedroom or those who live in specially adapted properties. Not all disabled people will need a spare bedroom. We will consult on the detailed guidance.

What about all the other housing benefit reforms? This change doesn’t go far enough.

Between 2000 and 2010 expenditure on Housing Benefit grew by around 50% in real terms. This is clearly unsustainable, particularly at a time when we need to reduce the deficit and build a stronger economy. That is why we have made reforms to the housing benefit system, but it is also why we are working to build more affordable homes. There are also still Discretionary Housing Payments available for vulnerable people.

You are penalising housing associations who can’t build more houses. That isn’t fair, and will mean that they have less funding to build more houses in future.

We recognise it is not fair for people to have a reduction in their housing benefit if they have tried to downsize but have not been offered an alternative property. We believe there needs to be a small incentive on housing associations and local authorities to offer people reasonable alternative accommodation, including encourage people to downsize in order to free up homes for those on housing waiting lists or those living in overcrowded accommodation. This will also be an incentive to look at ways some local authorities have tackled the problem. This includes opportunities to convert larger properties or to encourage house swaps or ‘rent a room’ schemes, which help to prevent homelessness, and encourage people to think about options for getting extra income.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fair funding for Wales

After many years, Welsh Liberal Democrats have now convinced the federal party (currently in coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster) that the unfairness of the Barnett formula (named after a Labour Treasury minister), under which funding for Wales and Scotland is calculated, should be addressed.

Party leader Kirsty Williams writes:

I am pleased to announce today that we have secured our party’s commitment to overhaul the unfair funding system for Wales.  

Going into the General Election, we will pledge that Wales will have fairer funding for the next parliament, which could mean hundreds of millions of pounds extra coming into Wales. 

As we all know, under successive Labour and Tory Governments,  Wales has been underfunded for years.  The last major piece of work on this, the Holtham report, concluded that Wales was losing £300m a year.  That simply is not fair. 
Not only do we recognise that Wales is underfunded, but unlike the Tories, Labour and Plaid, we will actually do something about it. 

This announcement is about Wales getting a fairer deal and we believe this is the quickest and easiest way forward for that to happen.

In Government, we have a proud record of delivery for Wales and we are now the only party that has made a firm commitment to more funding for Wales. 

Once again, the Liberal Democrats are showing that we are the only party in Westminster that will make a positive difference for the people of Wales.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A firm but fair immigration system

Clegg: I’m a believer in the benefits of well-managed immigration.

In a speech today, Nick Clegg set out the policy he expects the party to adopt at Federal Conference in Glasgow in October. A transcript of the speech is here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FTSE100 CEO pay falls again as Vince Cable makes an impact

The Manifest–MM&K Annual Survey of Executive Pay shows that the Shareholder Spring has clearly had an effect on remuneration committee thinking. This has been galvanized by regulatory intervention to reinforce investors actions…

The latest survey hows that top pay awards [for FTSE100 CEOs] have reduced for two consecutive years: by -7% in 2013 and -5% in 2012. The findings are from research and analysis of the latest annual reports of FTSE100 companies…

Regulatory intervention has had a galvanising effect. Vince Cable’s efforts and threats of further legislation have helped in the reduction in CEO pay.

We are grateful to Mark Pack for this.