THE CONSERVATIVES have called for Carwyn Jones’s replacement as Labour leader in Wales to be chosen sooner rather than later.
Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly, has raised fears of legislative inertia and lack of progress on key projects while uncertainty continues around the identity of Mr Jones’s successor.
Mr Davies has warned that Wales faces a period of ’rudderless leadership’ in Welsh Government, if the process to select Carwyn Jones’ replacement is allowed to drag on until December.
The Conservatives say that internal wrangling within Welsh Labour over the electoral system used to elect leaders could delay a contest by months, with some Labour members calling for the introduction of ‘one-member-one-vote’.
But Mr Davies is concerned that a ’vacuum at the heart of Welsh politics’ could have serious consequences for public services in Wales.
He said: “The First Minister’s decision to stand down has created an immediate vacuum at the heart of Welsh politics, and we now face a period of rudderless leadership whilst the Labour Party works out how to elect his replacement.
“They need to get a move on, for the sake of our public services and public confidence in devolution.
“Welsh NHS waiting lists are spiralling, we have a teacher recruitment crisis, and take-home pay is the lowest in any part of the UK.
“It is simply unacceptable for the country to be left in limbo until the end of the year.
“Frankly, the majority of the public are unconcerned by the mechanism used to determine Carwyn’s replacement, but we need to see a new First Minister with a mandate to take Wales forward in the coming weeks – not months.”
Mr Davies’ words were subsequently given more force when the outgoing First Minister refused to commit the Welsh Government to its preferred ‘Black Route’ for the M4 relief road.
Speaking in First Minister’s Questions, Carwyn Jones refused to back the route, despite his government having spent millions of pounds in preparatory work for its development – and having taken that route through to public consultation.
A number of routes have been proposed, but First Minister Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Government’s favoured option has always been the ‘black route’.
In May 2016 Carwyn Jones confirmed that the Welsh Government would not support the alternative – the ‘Blue Route’.
The First Minister said at the time: “One thing I will say is we wouldn’t support the blue route. There are a number of reasons for this.
“First of all, the blue route is dual carriageway, not a six-lane motorway, and that seems to me to defeat the whole object of a new road.”
Yet, when asked to reaffirm his government’s commitment to an M4 Relief Road, the First Minister refused – even claiming that he’d never publicly expressed a preference.
Speaking outside the Chamber, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives – Andrew RT Davies – said: “It looks like the M4 relief road is going to be the first casualty of Labour’s leadership contest.
“Despite spending millions of pounds preparing for the project – and despite having repeatedly backed the black route – the First Minister has now distanced himself from taking a decision.
“This is just the first major decision that will now be parked until a new leader is in place.
“This is why we need to see a swift resolution of the Labour leadership crisis, before the sense of inertia takes hold.
“On the current timetable, the new First Minister is unlikely to be in post before Christmas – just weeks before we leave the European Union, and several months after the public inquiry into the M4 relief road has reported.
“These decisions cannot simply be parked, and the Welsh public can’t be held to ransom because the Labour Party cannot agree on how to elect a new leader.
“That’s why we need to see a new First Minister with a mandate to take Wales forward in the coming weeks – not months.”
Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ shadow spokesperson on local government, Janet Finch-Saunders has drawn attention to the potential for the First Minister’s impending departure to leave other major reforms in limbo.
Ahead of a Conservative debate on local government in the Assembly on Wednesday (April, 25), Ms Finch-Saunders, warned that the uncertainty was having a negative impact on already creaking frontline services.
She said: “Just weeks ago the Welsh Government announced its third major set of proposals to reform local government in just a few years.
“They’ve spent considerable amounts of taxpayer money, and wasted several years discussing disruptive plans which have led to a sustained period of uncertainty for local authorities.
“With the First Minister’s impending resignation you have to wonder where the latest reincarnation of forced mergers is heading – after all, there’s no certainty that the same Local Government Secretary will even be in post under a new leader.
“What is clear is that the vast majority of Welsh councils are firmly against these disruptive and counter-productive plans.
“We all want to see the cost of politics reduced, but councils are already exploring collaboration on a regional level, and we would not back mergers without the consent of local residents and taxpayers.”
£1 billion deal for ‘Shared Rural Network’ to improve mobile coverage goes ahead
Ceredigion MP, Ben Lake says he is delighted that a scheme to extend mobile coverage in hard-to-reach rural areas making poor mobile phone coverage a thing of the past has been given the green light, thanks to a major new deal between the Government and UK mobile network operators.
The ‘Shared Rural Network’ will mean that high quality 4G coverage will be available for 95 percent of the UK by 2026 which means consumers will get good 4G signal wherever they live, work or travel. The new plans involves four operators (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) joining forces to create a new organisation to deliver the ‘Shared Rural Network’. Each will be able to make the maximum use out of existing and new phone masts by being able to host their own equipment on them allowing their customers to access a mobile signal. The scheme will cost more than £1billion made up of £530m from the mobile operators and a £500m investment from the Government.
Ben Lake MP, who was one of 78 cross-party MPs who wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport last year to ask for government support for the scheme, said:
“This is really good news for my constituents. Better mobile connectivity will make flexible working, access to education and leisure opportunities easier. It will boost regional economic growth and begin to close the digital divide that exists across the country. The mobile has become an essential tool for most of us. It will certainly come as a relief to many people living in my constituency who are frustrated by the persistent ‘not spots’ which prevent them from carrying out many tasks which other people take for granted”.
The ’Shared Rural Network’ will eliminate the substantial majority of the country’s partial not-spots with the added benefit of increasing competition for mobile services, especially in rural areas; deliver on the Government’s 95% coverage manifesto commitment to extend coverage across the country; improve road coverage by reaching a further 16,000 kilometres of roads; involve minimum environmental impact and reduce the need for duplicate infrastructure and ensure that the UK has one of, if not the best, mobile coverage in Europe.
The initiative, which is a world first, follows government proposals for an overhaul of planning rules and is part of the Prime Minister’s plan to level up the country with world-class digital infrastructure across the UK to make sure homes and businesses are better connected.
Elin Jones welcomes speed reduction, but says it should be even lower
Following a meeting and correspondence with the Welsh Government, Elin Jones AM has welcomed the confirmation of an initial reduction in the speed on the A487 between Bow Street and Aberystwyth.
This stretch of the A487 is particularly dangerous, and there were two fatal accidents there last year.
Ken Skates, the Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport, confirmed to Elin Jones via letter that the route between Waun Fawr to 300m beyond Dorglwyd Junction will be reduced to 50mph, with work taking place in the next financial year.
The reduction to 50mph has been initially welcomed by Elin Jones, however she has called for the speed limit to be reduced further to 40mph.
Elin Jones said:
“The need for a review of the safety on the A487 is clear, particularly following the two tragic accidents that took place last year. I was pleased to be able to discuss the issue directly with the Welsh Government Minister in Bow Street recently, and for him to see for himself why a speed reduction was needed.
“I’m also pleased that this has resulted in the safety and speed limit review concluding that a reduction was necessary.
“However, I and many constituents who regularly use this route feel that the speed limit could be reduced further to 40mph, which I will raise again with the Minister.
“I will also continue to call for upgrading safety at the Dorglwyd junction. There are also many areas on the A487 where safety can be improved, either with a speed limit reduction, or by providing cycle lanes and footpaths to remove pedestrians and cyclists from danger. I have called on the Welsh Government to consider all options.”
Cash boost for three community projects
A local mental health charity, a swimming club and a good cause engaging people with woodlands and nature, have all benefited from funding totaling £41,553 thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Welcoming the funding news Ceredigion MP Ben Lake said: “This is a fantastic funding boost that will benefit three local charities and good causes, supporting their valuable work.”
Run by locals for locals, Mind Aberystwyth has been providing support and guidance to people with mental health issues in and around the Ceredigion community for 15 years. It received £19,553, from Postcode Local Trust – a grant giving trust, awarding funding raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery – to expand its weekly woodland wellbeing group to include a gardening group.
Aberystwyth and District Amateur Swimming Club, which provides competitive swimming and lessons to children and young adults from different backgrounds, got a grant of £2,000, from Postcode Community Trust, to help train volunteer coaches and poolside helpers.
Connecting people and woodlands for wellbeing and training, charity Tir Coed, received £20,000, from People’s Postcode Trust, for its training programme, covering land management, carpentry, health and safety, ecology and more.
Mr Lake continued: “From allowing children to continue to enjoy swimming and the benefits of exercise, to supporting physical and mental wellbeing, to enabling skills development, this funding will impact so many different areas of community life in Ceredigion for the better. Thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for making a positive difference on such a large scale.”
Katherine Sellar, Community Programmes Advisor at People’s Postcode Lottery added: “It’s not just players that win with People’s Postcode Lottery – charities do too.
“Thanks to players, more than £40,000 has been given to three local good causes, supporting their work across a number of mental and physical wellbeing projects.”
Last year, more than £8 million raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery was distributed to grassroots projects across Britain.
The next opportunity for local charities and good causes to apply for funding will be in August 2020. Funding is available through three trusts, with each supporting projects focused on different themes. Those interested in local funding opportunities can find out more by visiting the trusts’ websites:
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