Monday, March 26, 2012

Families hit by sharp rise in bus fares for children

Responding to the report in the Western Mail that families struggling to make ends meet will be hit by a sharp rise in child bus fares next week, Eluned Parrott AM, Liberal Democrat shadow transport minister, said the Welsh Labour Government should evaluate access to public transport. Its transport priorities were “completely skewed”. She added: “We are now reaching the point where it will be cheaper for a family to get a taxi to the local shops, rather than get a bus. It is a scandal the Welsh Government is happy to subsidise North-South flights to the tune of £1.6m a year, while at the same time it punishes the most vulnerable in our society by scaling back on bus subsidies.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Neath Port Talbot's university campus in doubt

There is worrying news for the predicted high-tech developments in the west of the county borough in that the business plan for Swansea University's second campus has not yet been presented.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM welcomes decision on bovine TB

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, has welcomed the decision by Environment Minister. John Griffiths to abandon the previous Government’s cull of badgers in north Pembrokeshire and parts of Ceredigion and pursue a vaccination programme instead.

“This decision is very much in line with the available scientific evidence, including the peer-reviewed paper prepared by the Independent Science Group (ISG) on the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial that was released in July 2010,” said Mr. Black.

That paper concluded that “reductions in cattle TB incidence achieved by repeated badger culling were not sustained in the long term after culling ended and did not offset the financial costs of culling. These results, combined with evaluation of alternative culling methods, suggest that badger culling is unlikely to contribute effectively to the control of cattle TB in Britain."

“Given the divisions and acrimony generated by the previous cull decision and the legal problems associated with this course of action, a vaccination programme was the best way forward as part of efforts to control this disease. Not only is it scientifically sound but it also prevents the unnecessary slaughter of badgers, which are a protected species.”

“At last we are getting a commonsense approach to this problem.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Assembly Member visits Swansea Remploy factory to show support for fight against closure

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black has visited the Remploy factory in Swansea and addressed workers so as to express his support for their fight to keep it open.

Mr. Black arranged the visit after the UK Government announced plans to close seven of the nine Remploy factories in Wales just over a week ago. He was also the joint author of a motion passed unanimously by Swansea Council last night pledging their support for the factory and agreeing to lobby for its retention.

Commenting on the visit, Mr. Black said: “When I toured the factory this morning I was shocked by the process of managed decline that has taken place there over the last five or six years. Although, the announcement of the proposed closure was a shock, it seems that successive Governments have been preparing for it for some time.

“It was explained to me that essential machinery was not being replaced or updated, that modernisation plans had been put on hold and that vacancies had not been filled for some time. As a result workers were under pressure to fulfil all their work commitments.

“I am also concerned about what will happen to the existing contracts and to new contracts that have been signed recently. These factories are not short of work. They are working to full capacity. Management need to explain whether these existing contracts will be switched to the remaining factories and also if workers will be transferred with them.

“What is clear is that there are many questions still to be answered about the Government’s proposals. We need those answers now if we are to have any chance of saving jobs.”

Councillor Frank Little, secretary of Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats added: "While Remploy Furniture's base in Neath Port Talbot is not on the latest list of closures, one has to fear for its future if so many local manufacturing facilities are to be closed."

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Remploy factory closures are wrong wa y forward says Assembly Member

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, has condemned the proposed closure of Remploy factories as ill-advised and inappropriate.

Mr. Black has met with campaigners against closures recently and is working closely with them to fight cuts to the subsidy that has led to this closure announcement.

"This is not the first time that Remploy factories locally have faced this threat," said Mr. Black. "The previous Labour Government put forward similar proposals in 2007 and of course closed the Ystradgynlais factory some years before that. They were wrong then and the Government is wrong now.

"It is right that more than 1500 people have been helped by Remploy into supported employment across Wales, however not all disabled people are able to take up that option. The factories provide an important source of employment that enable those with disabilities to work and retain their dignity whilst doing so. Inevitably, their closure will causemany more people to become dependent on benefits and a cost to the government in excess of the current Remploy subsidy. That is not acceptable.

"The Government have chosen the wrong path on this issue and I will do all I can to support workers in the Remploy factories and oppose this closures."

Monday, March 05, 2012

Cut back on bureaucracy and allow local authorities greater freedom to deliver public services – Peter Black

Welsh Liberal Democrats at the Spring Conference 2012 in Cardiff have voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion calling for more freedom for Local Authorities.

Welsh Liberal Democrats have long believed that public services are better delivered when they are managed by the appropriate level of government. In contrast to the Labour-led Welsh administration Liberal Democrats think that when it comes to local services, Local Authorities should have greater control. Councils should be able to protect local interests and services without unnecessary restrictions and interference from the Welsh Government.

Peter Black, Shadow Minister for Local Government, commented:

“Current bureaucracy imposed by the Labour Welsh Government is hampering hard-working councillors across Wales in their attempts to deliver change for their communities. Under Labour’s watch local services have been eroded and often withdrawn.

“Despite spending restrictions and many needless bureaucratic requirements enforced on Local Authorities by the Welsh Government, Liberal Democrat run councils have still been able to provide excellent and efficiently run public services while maintaining low council tax increases.

“In the Welsh Liberal Democrat run council of Swansea, a cut of 20% in special responsibility allowances paid to councillors has saved the council £1million over the last eight years. This has allowed the council to freeze tax for 2012/13. Under Labour the average yearly council tax rise was a hefty 7.6% compared to the Liberal Democrat administration’s modest average increase of 3.4% per annum. That constitutes a saving of more than £3,100 for families living in an average Band D property in Swansea and it’s the same story across many over Welsh Liberal Democrat run councils. In Cardiff the average annual increase in council tax has been just 2.7% compared to 11% a year under the previous Labour administration.

“The Welsh Government needs to cut back on bureaucracy and allow Local Authorities greater freedom to deliver public services efficiently.”

Welsh Liberal Democrats have also called for the implementation of single transferable vote for local elections which will provide a fairer democratic system than first-past-the-post.

Unlike the Labour Welsh Government, who recently announced that elections on Anglesey would be postponed for a year despite calls for democratic renewal of the council in May, Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in fair and democratically accountable government.

Mr Black added:

“There is no convincing reason to delay Council elections on Anglesey until May 2013 when, in the interests of democracy, it would be appropriate to hold elections along with the rest of the country in May 2012.

“If there is any Council in need of democratic renewal, it is Ynys Mon. Despite huge cuts proposed by the Commissioners, currently running the council, their budget will not be subject to democratic approval despite it having far reaching consequences.

“Unlike Labour, a Liberal Democrat Welsh Government would have allowed elections to go ahead on Anglesey this May.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to fair and accountable democracy in a way that other parties are not. Our policy for electoral change at a local authority level represents a fairer system of government which amplifies the voice of the electorate.”

Friday, March 02, 2012

Westminster MP takes up cause of park home residents

Further to our post of February 17th, I now learn that Annette Brooke, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole has been pressing David Cameron and the Minister for Housing and Local Government in England, Grant Shapps, for action on park homes and has received a sympathetic hearing.

Wales should be able to act more expeditiously on this matter than the Whitehall machine, but in any case it has to be stressed that whatever Westminster decides in this area has no effect here. This is a delegated matter. Accordingly, I repeat our support for Peter Black's Park Homes Measure and call for anyone with evidence of difficulties in park home residence to contact Peter at

- Frank Little

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Liberals in Europe taking real steps to boost small business

by Fiona Hall MEP*

On Thursday and Friday this week, heads of governments from all EU Member States – including David Cameron – will come to Brussels for the Spring European Council which is dedicated to promoting competitiveness and economic growth.

Liberals & Democrats in the European Parliament (ALDE) are stepping up to the challenge by turning the usual Council rhetoric on the ‘need to stimulate economic growth’ into a concrete plan of action and measures that will help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) create and safeguard local jobs. With SMEs making up to 99% of all businesses in the EU, providing two-thirds of all private sector jobs and creating six in every ten new jobs, we must do all we can to free their potential and help them grow and do business across Europe. We need to remove red tape and improve access to finance and to the single market.

Lib Dem MEPs are already working hard in the European Parliament to do just that. For example, my colleague Sharon Bowles is currently pushing to ring fence a certain proportion of a banks’ regulatory capital specifically for loans to SMEs, as part of her work on the Capital Requirements Directive. In the Energy Efficiency Directive, which I am negotiating on behalf of the ALDE Group at the moment, MEPs want to exempt SMEs from costly energy audits and instead provide them with advice on how they can benefit from saving energy.

But Lib Dem MEPs will also bring the campaign to the UK, surveying local employers, business organisations and union representatives in each region to learn about their specific needs and give them a strong voice across the EU. We have also started an ALDE4SME blog where MEPs will report back on their efforts and interactions with SMEs in different countries.

Business organisations from across the EU have already endorsed our initiative.

If you want to help get this campaign off the ground across the UK, why not spread the word on twitter and Facebook? Help us put SMEs and local jobs at the top of the political agenda in the UK and in Brussels!

* Fiona Hall is Leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Delegation in the European Parliament. We are grateful to Liberal Democrat Voice for this article