Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Welsh Government agrees to publish spending over 25k

Following pressure from the Welsh Liberal Democrats, the Welsh Government has announced for the first time that they will publish details of all government expenditure over £25,000. In a response to a written question from Kirsty Williams, the Minister for Finance confirmed they now intend to publish payment details over £25k.

For months, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, has been challenging the First Minister to follow the example of the Scottish Executive and the UK Government and publish all expenditure over £25k. She raised the issue with him in First Minister’s Questions on the 23rd November 2010 and wrote to him subsequently on 26th November 2010.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats were the only party to commit to publishing all expenditure over £25k in the Welsh election.

During the election, Kirsty Williams said, “The first step of any government serious about cutting waste would be to publish all items of expenditure over £25k.”

Today, she added:

“I am glad that, following pressure from the Welsh Liberal Democrats, the Welsh Government has finally announced their intention to publish all expenditure over £25k. Putting this information in the public domain will mean that politicians and the public can all play their role in rooting out waste and inefficiency. Frankly, I am amazed that the government took so long to agree to this relatively modest measure.

“The government now needs to announce a timetable and methodology for publishing this information as soon as possible.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

William Powell backs revision of TAN 8

William Powell, the Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for Mid & West Wales, attended the "March to Cardiff" rally on the steps of the Senedd, addressing the rally and speaking to individual protestors.

He said: “Welsh Liberal Democrats are clear that we need to work much harder to reduce our energy consumption and find cleaner and more sustainable ways of generating electricity. But whilst Wales must reduce our over reliance on fossil fuels, this cannot be at the expense of our countryside.

“The hub and transmission power lines that are currently threatening Mid Wales are poorly conceived and the electricity companies need to go back to the drawing board.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats are clear that we want to see greater investment in offshore tidal and wind resources, where developments do not affect populations, and promote small scale community renewable energy schemes, rather than large scale projects.

“Unlike the Conservatives who made no commitment whatsoever in their Manifesto on Tan 8, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to a revision of TAN 8 to ensure that it does not put so much pressure on rural mid Wales and that community organisations benefit directly from the money generated by new wind developments.

“We have seen jobs lost as a result of the economic downturn, but the green energy industry is expanding. Many skilled young people are finding work in this new hi-tech sector. So we mustn’t reject wind energy entirely but with careful planning and open debate that takes into account the views of all parties and individuals, I strongly believe we can meet the need for more sustainable energy in a way that is sensitive to local communities.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Government takes action over ‘vulture funds’

Legislation to make permanent The Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act 2010 was passed in the House of Commons last Monday. The legislation will stop creditors, including so-called “Vulture Funds”, from using the UK courts to extract harsh and inequitable payments from poor countries for debts that the companies may in some cases have bought for a fraction of the cost.

The Act could save poor countries an estimated £145m over six years.

The original Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act 2010 was passed in April 2010, temporarily restricting the actions of “Vulture Funds” in the UK. This act had a sunset clause meaning that it was due to expire on 7 June. To prevent Vulture Funds returning to the UK, the Government has passed legislation to make the law permanent.

Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said of this:

Today the Government has acted to stop the unjust actions of a few unscrupulous companies having a huge impact upon the futures of some of the poorest countries in the world.

This act will make sure that Vulture Funds will never again be able to exploit the poorest countries in the world within the UK’s courts.

Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee on International Affairs, Martin Horwood said:

It will save poor countries nearly £150m over the coming years by preventing ‘vulture funds’ from using the UK courts to sue poor countries for the full repayment of debts that they have bought cheaply.

Vulture funds are effectively wiping out the benefits which international debt relief was supposed to bring the poorest countries in the world.

The Liberal Democrats have long fought on this issue and that is why I’m delighted that the UK is achieving a world first by making this law permanent. This shows the Coalition has a real commitment to helping the poorest countries with this unfair and crippling debt.

I urge the Government to continue the fight against these vulture funds and ensure that the members of the G8 follow suit at their meeting later this month.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kirsty Williams responds to announcement of minority Labour government

Responding to the announcement that Carwyn Jones will seek to form a minority Labour government, Kirsty Williams, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

“Labour are the largest party and with half the seats in the Assembly, I expected Carwyn Jones to form an administration. I have already spoken to Carwyn and offered my congratulations.

“The stability in government that Carwyn Jones seeks will only be possible if parties work together, put aside their differences and seek to find consensus, and that means give and take from all parties.

“The priority of the Welsh Liberal Democrats now will be to work to advance the policies that we have fought this election on. It is clear that Wales is suffering from a weak economy and serious failings in our schools and NHS. Where Labour proposes serious answers to these problems, they will have our support.

“It is also clear to me that the people of Wales will not be well served without the opposition parties actively holding the government to account and scrutinising its decisions. So we will judge each issue on its merits, afraid neither to support the government nor to oppose it, where we judge that to be in the best interests of the people of Wales.

“As the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru enter a period of introspection, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be the strong, responsible voice of constructive opposition that Wales needs.”

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Labour and Plaid Cymru have turned waste and inefficiency into an art form

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today set out the steps they would take to cut down waste in the Welsh Government. Throughout the election, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have run a waste watchers campaign, exposing a different example of the waste and inefficiency of Labour and Plaid Cymru in government on each day of the campaign.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party to have published a costed manifesto which sets out clear spending priorities. In addition the Welsh Liberal Democrats will take the following action to root out Government waste so that the money we do spend makes a real difference:

· Publish each item of expenditure over £25,000, as in Scotland and Westminster.

· Reduce the number of Council grants to reduce administration costs.

· Reduce bureaucracy for schools and phasing out the many prescriptive ring-fenced grants.

· Scrap the General Teaching Council and invest the money in a Quality Teaching Programme.

· Reduce the burden on colleges by reducing auditing, inspection and data collection.

· Crack down on the 1 billion pounds of waste in the NHS by establishing an Office for Health Spending to monitor rigorously budgets and hold trusts accountable.

· Develop a Welsh ‘locum bank’ to save money on hiring locums from agencies and making it easier for the health service to fill temporary gaps in provision.

· Ensure that hospitals are seen as the last resort. We will prioritise investment in community facilities to ensure that people get better treatment and at a lower cost.

· Scrap the subsidy for the Ieuan Air North-South airlink.

· Streamline inspection of farms by co-ordinating and minimising the number of visits.

Kirsty Williams, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

“When every family, charity and business is making every pound stretch that little bit further, Wales needs a government that does the same. Instead, Labour and Plaid Cymru have turned waste and inefficiency into an art form.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently exposed real examples of waste in opposition. The UK Government’s NHS McKinsey report cost them £46k but Labour and Plaid in Wales paid £500k for theirs. They’ve wasted £8 million pounds subsidising the Ieuan Air North South Air Link. They ran up £500, 000 of wasted expenditure on International Business Wales credit cards.

“Today, we set out what we would do to cut down on waste. The first step of any government serious about cutting waste would be to publish all items of expenditure over £25k. They do it in Westminster and in Scotland. Only Labour and Plaid in Wales have refused to take even this small step to cutting waste.”

Monday, May 02, 2011

LibDem manifesto successes

Independent research has shown that three-quarters of the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto is being enacted as government policy, Mark Pack reports.

Investment in public transport essential for our economy

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have highlighted their commitment to investing in public transport to help drive the economic recovery.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are outlining plans to:

· Create up to eight Joint Transport Authorities, responsible for all local transport.

· Re-regulate buses to so that all parts of our communities are properly served.

· Improve the accessibility and safety available of rail stations.

· Establish the feasibility of introducing a Wales-wide Oystercard.

· Invest in rail transport by, renegotiating the Arriva Trains Wales contract to improve train frequency and quality, beginning to electrify the Valleys Lines and re-opening closed stations.

· Retain free bus travel for the elderly.

· Scrap the subsidy for the Ieuan Air North-South airlink.

· Work to develop a reciprocal agreement for using Welsh bus passes in England.

· Require new Joint Transport Authorities to plan for Community Transport and implement three-year budgeting for community transport schemes.

Rob Speht, the Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Swansea West said:

“The Labour-Plaid government It has wasted £8 million of our money subsidising the 'Ieuan Air' north-south airlink, but has failed to invest sufficiently in sustainable rail and bus transport.

“Only the Welsh Liberal Democrats will scrap this tax payer subsidised pollution and instead prioritise rail and bus travel.

“We will protect free bus travel for pensioners but we also understand that free bus travel only helps if there is a decent bus service. So we will re-regulate the buses to ensure that new transport authorities can plan a proper services across Wales, including in the rural and poorere areas whcih are so let down at the moment.”

Peter Black, the Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for South Wales West said:

“Getting public transport right is a critical part of ensuring that Wales grows successfully.

“It’s great news that journey times to Swansea will be shortened by 20 minutes after the announcement of the electrification of the Great Western Mainline. We’ll continue to press for electrification to Swansea because of the other advantages that it brings.”

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will re-negotiate the Arriva Trains contract to ensure that we invest in re-opening new stations and electrifying the Valleys lines and make existing stations more accesible and safe.”