Friday, February 25, 2011
Mr. Black was responding to news that in 2008 Wales had a GDP of just 85% of the EU average, down from 86.9% in 2007. The performance in West Wales and the Valleys had slipped from 73.4% to just 71%, and East Wales had gone down from 110.3% to 108%. Wales was the only UK region to see an area fall below 75% of the average GDP. In contrast, the UK average stood at 116.7%, up from 115% in 2007.
“Under Labour and latterly Plaid Cymru, Wales’ economic performance has fallen back in comparison to the rest of the United Kingdom,” said Mr. Black. “We started off as one of the poorest parts of the UK and we are now firmly entrenched in that position. That is a woeful record. We are now on a par with areas like Yugozapaden in Bulgaria.
“Labour and Plaid Cymru have spent millions of pounds of European money without making any impact on that situation. They have failed to invest in new industries and new skills that will attract high quality jobs to Wales. It is important that they put this right as soon as possible.
“Welsh Liberal Democrats have suggested one solution, which is a innovation fund to kickstart research and help to transform it into new businesses. Such a model is already working successfully on a smaller scale with the University of Wales. If we do not start to grow the private sector then Wales will remain at the bottom of the league in terms of its economic performance.”
Monday, February 21, 2011
At the Spending Review in October, the Coalition Government turned the temporary increase in the Cold Weather Payments by the last Labour government into a permanent increase. The payments of £25 per week are triggered when temperatures at local weather stations dip below an average of zero degrees over a week.
Around 300,000 people in Wales have received at least one payment during winter 2010-2011, totalling around £30 million of financial assistance to the elderly.
Kirsty Williams AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:
“The Liberal Democrats in government in the UK are totally committed to helping the most vulnerable in Wales and cold weather payments are just one example of the steps they are taking to make sure people can cope with the weather conditions we saw a few months back. This is money well spent in Wales.
“We are committed to helping those who cannot help themselves during difficult times and that is why I am proud that our commitment during the election last year to restore the link between earnings and pensions is now UK government policy. Pensioners are getting a fair increase in their pension.
“Also, from April onwards, thousands of workers across Wales will see more of their hard earned money stay in their take-home salary as Liberal Democrat policy of increasing the personal allowance for income tax to help lower and middle income earners will kick-in. We are changing the tax system to make it fairer by lifting the poorest workers out of Income Tax altogether and cutting taxes for most people.”
Friday, February 18, 2011
“It is encouraging that Westminster is now taking a leaf out of Wales' book and legislating for fixed term parliaments. This modest reform is long overdue. It is not right that in an election, one of the contestants gets to fire the starting pistol.
“Whether Westminster chose four or five year fixed terms, there would be an issue with clashes with Assembly elections and indeed with Scottish and European and other elections.
“The Deputy Prime Minister has sensibly suggested a debate about elections timings and stressed the final decision is for Wales to take. We in the Assembly now need to have that debate in a grown up fashion.
“Instead the Labour-Plaid First Minister's response is petulant and childish. He is refusing to engage, refusing to debate. He would do Wales a great service if he stopped throwing his toys out of the pram and began to act as a First Minister."
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Kirsty Williams said:
“A ‘yes’ vote will make our law-making more efficient, it will save money and it will make it crystal clear where responsibility for decision making lies.
“Of course not everyone agrees with every policy pursued by the current Government, least of all me. The Welsh people will have their say on government policies in the Assembly elections in May. But whoever wins that election, we need to take this opportunity to improve our law making system.
“Many voters will receive their ballot papers in the next few days. I would strongly urge them to use their vote, to vote ‘yes’ and to do so straight away. A ballot paper that sits on the mantelpiece will never be counted!”
Sunday, February 13, 2011
NB - NPT Homes, the mutual organisation set up to take ownership of and manage council housing in Neath Port Talbot, appointed Linda Whittaker, the former Director of Housing at the Welsh Assembly Government as chief executive in July 2010. Her salary was not published. Ms Whittaker is also a member of the board of RCT Homes, the equivalent body in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
“This budget does nothing to help the pupils of Wales or get the Welsh economy back on track.
“A few weeks before the budget was announced, the Labour leader called on all parties to ‘work constructively’ and ‘behave responsibly’ for the benefit of giving Wales a good budget. The Welsh Liberal Democrats suggested detailed and costed plans to help pupils from poorer backgrounds but they have been wilfully ignored by the Labour-Plaid government.
“Our schools and pupils desperately need investment as two respected reports recently criticised the poor standard of our education system.
“Wales deserves better than this, the budget should prioritise the two areas that can make a real difference to the Welsh economy now and in the future; education and jobs. This is the way that we will ensure growth in the Welsh economy and provide the high skilled jobs that we need.”
By now, all voters in Aberavon and Neath constituencies should have received their polling cards for the referendum which takes place on March 3rd and a booklet which explains what the vote is about. Welsh Liberal Democrats support a "Yes" vote and have issued their own guide including the answers to Frequently Asked Questions:
On the 3rd of March the people of Wales will have a referendum on the powers that the National Assembly for Wales holds. Whilst the referendum will not widen the areas in which Wales can make laws, it will make it possible for Wales to make laws in those areas without the permission of Westminster.
At the moment every time Wales wants to make a new law it needs to seek permission from Westminster (A Legislative Competence Order). It then needs to make the actual law (An Assembly Measure). This takes time and money. The process is slow and complicated.
Wales is strong enough to make its own laws, A Yes vote will help take Wales forward by speeding up the system of decision making.
1. If Wales votes yes will the Assembly get more powers?
The National Assembly has responsibility to develop policy and deliver services in specific areas, including health, education, economic development, housing, the environment, transport and culture. A Yes vote will simply take out the need to ask permission from Westminster to make laws. It does not expand the areas over which Wales can make laws.
2. Will a Yes vote cost more?
No. An independent Commission headed by the UK’s former Ambassador to the UN, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, looked at the cost of a Yes vote and concluded it would cost no more than is currently being spent. The current process of asking permission costs money; from lawyers to civil servants. We believe we can do without this level of spending.
3. Will it lead to more taxes?
No. The Assembly has no powers to increase or reduce taxes, and the referendum will not change this.
4. Will it mean more politicians?
No. The number of Assembly members will remain at 60. The number of Welsh MPs will remain at 40.
5. Will it mean less work for MPs?
Wales will still need a strong team of Members of Parliament because there are policy areas that have not been devolved to Wales, such as taxation, benefits, law and order, foreign and defence policy.
6. Will it mean a pay rise for AMs?
Assembly Members’ have volunteered to freeze their pay for the next four years. All future decisions on pay will be decided by an independent panel, not by politicians.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
The Labour-Plaid Government last week announced plans to amend the proposed Local Government Measure. The plans would give ministers sweeping powers to merge or amalgamate councils with minimum debate and consultation and virtually no scrutiny.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Local Government, Veronica German AM, said: “The Labour-Plaid government wants the powers to allow a reorganisation of local government by Ministerial decree with minimal consultation with the communities affected and next to no scrutiny and debate in the National Assembly. These proposals have been brought forward very late in the day and after the Stage One evidence and scrutiny has finished.
“Ministers seem to be indicating that it is only in relation to Anglesey and Gwynedd that they will use these powers, in which case they should be honest about what they see as the issue in Anglesey and bring forward specific proposals to address them.
“The proposals make a laughing stock of the Labour-Plaid commitment to local government and to the Assembly. Such behavior is a dreadful advert for devolution and plays into the hands of No campaigners who would prefer powers to rest in London.”
Commenting Peter Black AM for South Wales West, Welsh Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, said: "These proposals show breath taking arrogance from the Labour-Plaid administration and total contempt for the communities of Wales. It is totally unacceptable for Labour to use their huge majority in the Assembly to railroad through proposals of this type for which they have no mandate. Neither Plaid Cymru nor Labour put these proposals in their manifesto, nor did they form part of their coalition agreement.
“Once these powers have been passed to the Minister, it will be very difficult to win them back. This Minister and future Ministers will have enormous powers to reorganise local government and the delivery of vital services without involving the communities affected.
“It is the job of Welsh Liberal Democrats to be the effective voice of all our communities in Wales. We will be using all the procedures available to us within the rules of the Assembly to block these proposals and ensure that they do not reach the statute book.
“Welsh Liberal Democrats are proposing a series of amendments all of which seek to improve the measure by extending consultation and limiting ministerial power. Taken individually, they would improve the proposals but we are clear that the Labour-Plaid government must withdraw these proposals and think again.”
The EU already allows the US, Australia and Canada to oblige airlines departing from the EU to pass over these Passenger Name Records (PNR). This new system would only apply to flights arriving from or departing to somewhere outside the EU, with a review after 2 years to decide whether it should apply to intra-EU flights.
Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford said:
"The Liberal EU home affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has done a good job in tightening up the proposed safeguards over the first proposal in 2007, such as strict limits on storage of data, protection against sensitive 'profiling' and redress for complaints.
"But MEPs will still need to subject this to detailed scrutiny. We must not accept 'mission creep' whereby police and border authorities can use the data too widely, for instance in investigation of crimes which are not the most serious.
"Why should the US be allowed to apply laxer privacy safeguards to the information of EU citizens flying the Atlantic than Europe will to Americans' data, which is what current proposals amount to?"
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Research from Social Housing magazine show that the amount paid to Chief Executives per unit of social housing stock varies from £11.41 per unit to £61.71. Welsh ‘traditional’ chief executives also receive the highest rate of pay per unit compared to their Scottish, English and Northern Irish counterparts at £26.54 per unit.
“I was surprised to read that the amount of pay a Housing Association Chief Executive receives can vary so greatly” said Mr Black. “It seems unfair that one Chief Executive can receive as much as £61 for every unit they manage, when others receive just over £10. There is also a lack of consistency for salary as a percentage of turnover.
“Some Chief Executives have considerable responsibility, yet there seems to be no correlation between how much responsibility a Chief Executive has and their pay. I have written to the Deputy Minister to urge her to look into how the regulation of Housing Associations ensures that pay at the highest level reflects responsibility and the number of units managed.