Monday, December 19, 2011

Concern about the safety of children’s services in Neath Port Talbot

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, has called on the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas to closely monitor children’s services in Neath Port Talbot following the publication of a highly critical inspection report.

Although the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales said that there had been improvements in the Council’s children and young people’s service, they identified a number of factors which they said ‘impact on the authority's ability to provide a safe, high quality responsive service.’

These factors include the loss of experienced practitioners, a continuing high turnover of staff, the reliance on agency staff, high case loads for social workers, an increase in the volume and complexity of referrals, and inconsistent case recording. The inspectorate concluded: ‘Taken together these factors pose a significant risk in respect of ensuring the welfare and safety of children in the authority.’

Mr Black said: “I am very concerned about this report and the picture it paints of the way that Neath Port Talbot Children’s Services operates. I have dealt with a constituent recently, whose experience of working with Neath Port Talbot’s Childrens’ Services raised many questions about how that section operates, its processes and the way that they manage risk. In fact I was so concerned that I met with the Deputy Minister to ask her to intervene. I know too that there have been a number of serious case reviews that also ask serious questions of the department.

“I will now be seeking assurances that there will be much closer monitoring of the weaknesses identified by this report and that a further inspection is held within the next 12 months so as to confirm improvements are continuing to be made. The Welsh Government must not rule out a direct intervention if things do not improve.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lull in new house building will hit first time buyers hard says Welsh Liberal Democrat

A drop in the number of new homes being started in Wales will keep prices at unaffordable levels and add to the problems of first time buyers, the Welsh Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson, Peter Black has said.

During April to June 2011, 1,205 new dwellings were started, down by 31 per cent on the same quarter in 2010 and down by 7 per cent on the number started during April to June 2009.

The low level of starts over recent years has resulted in a significant decrease in completions. Numbers remained low for the first half of 2011-12, with the July to September 2011 quarter seeing the lowest number of completions ever recorded during a quarter (quarterly data was first recorded in January to March 1974).

“Although there has been a very slight drop in house prices in Wales, this disappointing fall in both starts and completions will keep prices at unaffordable levels for many families, as demand continues to outstrip supply. It will add to the problems faced by first time buyers in getting onto the housing ladder,” said Mr. Black.

“The housing situation in Wales is desperate. The Welsh government has identified that there needs to be 14,200 new homes built each year of which 5,100 are affordable. Neither figure is being met. The number of new affordable homes in particular continues to drag along at about half what is needed.

“There must be urgent action to help first time buyers through this crisis in particular, with the introduction of a deposit guarantee scheme in Wales, along the lines of that introduced in England.

“We also need to urgently get on with the job of providing more affordable homes by actively using alternative funding methods such as bonds and building new homes at differing rent levels, so as to reflect the ability of potential tenants to pay. That would generate income streams that can then be used to increase the number of houses and flats that housing associations can build.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Statement by Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg

Support for Europe has always been a cornerstone of what our party stands for. Recent days have been tough for pro-Europeans in our country, but I am clear that it is in Britain’s national interest to remain at the heart of Europe.

As I have made clear since Friday, I am bitterly disappointed by the outcome of last weeks summit, which ended with the UK in a minority of one. There is now a real danger that over time the UK will be isolated and marginalised within the EU and as a consequence, our influence in the world will shrink. That is not good for jobs and growth; and will do nothing for struggling families across the country.

There is no doubt that we were in a difficult position because of the refusal to compromise from some member states and the eurosceptics in the Conservative Party. It was clear that some combination of guarantees on the operation of the single market, including in financial services, was necessary if we were going to ensure the safe passage of the package through Parliament. I regret the negotiations failed to arrive at a compromise, as I had hoped.

It is important that we now look to the future. That's why I, as a Liberal Democrat in this Coalition Government will do everything I can to make sure that this setback does not become a permanent divide. I am determined that we redouble our leadership on things like the single market, the environment, foreign policy, and defence - all the things that we need to do at a European level.

All my political life I have believed that Britain is stronger, better, greater when we lead and when we stand tall in Europe. Now, more than ever, we need a strong Liberal Democrat voice inside government making this case.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Statement about a child

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats make the following response to the recent press release by a far right political organisation:

It was established at a court hearing in Cardiff that an unauthorised act of removal of a minor took place in the United States, and that Councillor Keith Davies was unreasonably denied access to relevant files by officers of Neath Port Talbot county borough. Liberal Democrat members of the council made it clear that we dissociated ourselves from the council's actions then and subsequently. In view of the injunction which we understand still holds in relation to events in the United Kingdom, it would be irresponsible to go further. However, people should not be seduced into voting for a party, whose ethos is anything but democratic, which is flouting court orders and which is taking advantage of a hard case to its own ends.

Councillor Keith Davies and fellow Liberal Democrat council members remain ready to assist Linda Lewis at any time should she call on us to do so. Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats are committed to improvements in children's services in Neath Port Talbot.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

UK LibDem becomes ELDR leader

Congratulations to Sir Graham Watson, MEP for South-West England & Gibraltar, on being elected to the presidency of the European Liberal Democrat And Reform Party in the European Parliament.