A CONSERVATIVE claim that the Welsh Government had refused to take part in a ‘race audit’ with the UK Government was given brutally short shrift by the First Minister at questions in the Senedd.
On Tuesday (Oct 10), the mainstream broadcast media were full of the UK Government’s announcement of the result of its ‘Race Disparity Audit’ and comment on its outcome.
The analysis helps to understand and assess differences between ethnic groups, and to identify those public services where disparities are diminishing and those where work is needed to develop effective strategies to reduce disparities between ethnic groups.
And what the audit revealed was a predictable disparity between White and Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) experience of services such as housing, education, and health. It also revealed a far less anticipated huge variation between BAME experiences depending on region and significant regional variations within individual ethnic groups.
The Audit shows a complex picture and Damian Green, First Secretary of State, commented: ”Although there are many areas where the gaps between groups have narrowed significantly, there is still a way to go before we have a country that works for everyone regardless of their ethnicity. [The report] also challenges us all to show leadership, take accountability and identify where we need to do things differently.”
The Conservative Party in Wales, however, went on to the attack.
A press release from the Conservatives claimed the Welsh Government had refused to take part in the Audit and that refusal was ‘yet another example of the Labour Party putting party politics ahead of the good of hardworking families across Wales’.
The same release went on to provide a statement from Mohammed Ashgar, the Conservative regional AM for South East Wales.
Mr Ashgar was reported to have remarked: “People who have lived with discrimination don’t need a government audit to make them aware of the scale of the challenge. However, this audit will bring significant issues into the open and means that there is nowhere for the government or our public services to hide.
“The United Kingdom is one of the most tolerant countries in the world but this audit will undoubtedly shine a light into areas as a nation where we can improve – building on Theresa May’s pledge to build a country that works for everyone, regardless of their background.
“I would implore the Welsh Government to either conduct its own audit or reconsider its refusal to take part in the UK Government’s report – it’s the least people and communities across Wales deserve.”
At First Minister’s Questions, a question on the subject was posed by Angela Burns, who repeated the line adopted in the Conservative press release about the Welsh Government’s purported refusal to take part in the Audit.
Mrs Burns then went one step further, asking the First Minister: “Is your reluctance in releasing the data because you haven’t got it, or is it simply that you won’t get it?”
Continuing to observe: “And the reason why this is so important is because that data would help us to identify areas of poverty in black and minority ethnic communities, where we might actually be able to take some action and make some differences to those people’s lives.”
Dismissing the Conservative claim as ‘wholly untrue’, he continued: “Scotland has refused to co-operate; we have not.”
The First Minister proceeded to provide a blow-by-blow account of the Welsh Government’s extensive engagement with the UK Government’s Race Disparity Audit Unit (RDAU), which he explained came to a head when The UK Government team asked the Welsh Government to fund and resource data analysis of information it had requested for its own purposes.
With the deadline for the audit fast approaching, Carwyn Jones mordantly observed: “RDAU acknowledged the lateness of that request.
“We made it clear that we didn’t have the resources to support that work at that time, and expressed concern about being asked to undertake such a large exercise before the launch date in July. At that point, we were informed that the Scottish Government had decided not to engage with the project.
“On May 26, RDAU responded to a letter from us with a provisional list of data that would be on the website. On June 2, again we agreed to continue working with the unit, by providing advice on the Welsh data sources, and providing data sets for the RDAU to analyse.
On October 4, a third meeting between officials and RDAU took place. They gave us a glimpse of the content of the website, but did not provide us with a copy of the 45-page report.”
Rounding on the claims of a refusal to participate, Carwyn Jones concluded by remarking: “Perhaps it shows the shambles at the heart of the UK Government that they cannot tell Wales and Scotland apart.”
It is also arguable that the exchange demonstrates the danger of relying on partisan briefings before asking questions of a well-prepared Carwyn Jones.
Elin Jones raises Fibre Ceredigion’s connectivity with Openreach
ELIN JONES AM has attended an Openreach drop in session in the National Assembly of Wales to raise concerns about the lack of Fibre in areas of Ceredigion.
Elin Jones met with Openreach’s Partnership director in Wales, Connie Dixon, and Catherine Colloms, Director of Corporate Affairs. Elin also met with Openreach engineers and was shown the process undertaken in order to install fibres in people’s homes and businesses.
Elin Jones said:
“There are still many homes and businesses in Ceredigion that need to be connected to superfast Broadband. Many are in rural locations, but there are also whole villages and, in most cases, homes that are just at the end of the line and have fallen out of scope.
“More needs to be done to ensure that access to Superfast Broadband for premises across Ceredigion is equally available. I hope to meet with Openreach in the near future in Ceredigion in order to assess the challenges that they face in installing Fibre, but also for them to see the need in our communities for superfast.”
Connie Dixon, Openreach Partnership Director for Wales, said:
“We’re already working closely with the Welsh Government to bring fibre broadband to Wales and as a result of this partnership nearly 95 per cent of the country can access superfast broadband today. But we also know there’s more to do and we’re working hard to reach those properties that currently can’t access fibre broadband.
“We’re also committed to future-proofing the network with full fibre technology but in order to build a new full fibre network for Wales we’ll need the support from our public sector partners.
“It won’t be quick or easy, but action to reduce red tape and remove barriers will speed things up. Full fibre will open up huge possibilities for the Welsh economy and help answer long terms challenges like energy use, climate change and sustainable rural communities.”
Plaid candiate votes to fight for police devolution
AHEAD of the general election on 12 December 2019, Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru candidate for Ceredigion has outlined a commitment to continue to fight for the devolution of policing to Wales.
Between 2010 and 2018, the number of police officers in Wales fell by 9% – with rural Wales particularly hit due to the unfair funding formula used by the UK Government.
Plaid Cymru have announced that they will create a new £50m crime prevention fund to recruit 1,600 extra police officers through the devolution of policing. The proposals would see a greater police presence locally, and helping to root officers in their communities, rather than being stretched over large geographical areas with little resources.
Earlier this year a Welsh Government-appointed commission said Wales should have full control of its justice system, including powers to run policing – with further studies suggesting Wales’ four forces would be in line for £25m extra from the UK government if policing was devolved.
Ben Lake said: “Time after time, police budgets have been cut by the UK Government, meaning far fewer officers are available to police forces in Wales. Welsh forces and rural areas have been hit harder than those in the rest of the UK, due to an unfair Home Office funding formula.”
“Since my election in 2017, I have seen firsthand the detrimental impact this funding arrangement is having on Welsh police forces and communities, something I was glad to raise in Parliament.”
“We cannot expect a one size fits all approach police funding to work effectively across the whole of the UK, and as such, it is imperative that the criteria for the central Government grant are revised to reflect the demands and unique challenges faced by rural forces in areas such as Ceredigion.”
“It remains unacceptable that Wales is the only nation in the UK without powers over policing and justice, especially given the clear financial dividend that devolution would bring about.”
Conservative Candidate for Ceredigion, welcomed Lord Nick Bourne back to Aberystwyth
THIS week, Lord Nick Bourne of Aberystwyth, visited the University town to meet with Amanda Jenner, the Conservative Candidate for Ceredigion in the forthcoming General Election. Lord Bourne joined with members of the Aberystwyth University Conservative Society to support Amanda with her General Election campaign to be the next MP for Ceredigion.
Coincidently, Amanda Jenner and Lord Bourne have taken similar paths – both Aberystwyth University Law Graduates who have gone on to work in the Education sector before turning to politics.
Lord Bourne, until recently, was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Wales Office and was heavily involved with the Mid Wales Growth Deal.
Commenting on the Growth Deal, Lord Bourne said,
“One very important thing that we have been spending a lot of time on as a Government, is to ensure we get money into Mid and West Wales, including Ceredigion, particularly to motivate businesses here.”
“I personally hope that this extends to projects involving Aberystwyth University – who are already doing tremendous work, led by Elizabeth Treasure the Vice-chancellor, to ensure we have prosperity and sustainability.”
Amanda Jenner added,
“From speaking with businesses in Ceredigion, I can see that there are some fantastic opportunities here, including in the tourism and education sectors. If elected as your MP, I would be a strong voice in Westminster, fighting to ensure that the Growth Deal stays on track and that we get the levels of funding needed for the proposals put forward by the partners of the Growth Deal.”
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