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Ambulance response times in desperate need of improvement

Ambulance response times are in desperate need of improvement. Figures published for August show that just 58.8% of emergency responses to Category A (immediately life-threatening) calls arrived at the scene within 8 minutes. This is down from 61.7% in July 2015. The target is 65%.

After failing to meet its ‘urgent’ emergency 8 minute target for over 21 months, the Labour Government in Wales has announced that from October it will now classify fewer calls as needing an 8 minute response.

It’s hugely frustrating that Wales continues to have the slowest response times in the UK. The people of Wales deserve so much better than this

Once again we see a huge variance in performance. Quite frankly, it’s a disgrace that only 48.5% of life-threatening calls in Ceredigion were responded to within the 8 minute target.

NHS staff and paramedics work incredibly hard and do an extremely difficult job, which we are all thankful for, but they are being held back by the underperforming Labour Government in Wales.

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Irresponsible & illogical Tories exacerbate NHS staffing shortages

The Conservatives’ “irresponsible and illogical” immigration policies are stopping nurses coming to work in Wales and the Borders.

In August, I received a letter from the Communications Director of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, Adrian Osborne, explaining that their international recruitment programme faced delays. It stated:

“…we have not been successful in securing Certificates of Sponsorship from the Home Office to bring these nurses to our wards. This is because nursing is neither on the Shortage Occupation List nor do these posts secure enough points for them to be a priority for the Migration Advisory Committee.”

I wrote to the Home Secretary highlighting the importance of putting nursing on the Shortage Occupation List, yet the Immigration Minister defended the “the long term decision to train our workforce at home”.

The Conservative Government also plans to introduce a new pay threshold for migrants, which would mean that non-European Union workers will have to leave the UK after six years, if they are not earning at least £35,000. This would include many nurses.

The Tories’ irresponsible and illogical attitude to immigration is contributing to an NHS staffing crisis in Wales.

What kind of government wants to stop vitally needed nurses coming to work in our country? This is reckless in the extreme.

Of course we need to be training nurses in this country and we need a clear strategy to train our workforce for the future, but patients need support now, not in ten years’ time.

Without the Liberal Democrats in government, the Tories are unleashing mean-spirited policies that are damaging public services.

If we are to have safe nurse staffing levels on wards, which the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for, then at least in the short term we will need to recruit talent from both at home and abroad.

While the Labour Government in Wales has a huge amount to answer for with regards to failings in our health service, these problems are being exacerbated by the Tories. Patients in Mid Wales and beyond are being let down by both parties.

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Transparency is being eroded on Labour’s watch

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised the decision by Labour Ministers to stop publishing a log of decisions made by Cabinet Ministers.

The decision reports were a useful tool used by journalists, members of the public and opposition parties to scrutinize Welsh Government Ministers on the decisions they took.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams challenged Labour’s First Minister in the Senedd on the decision, following an urgent question submitted by her.

Welsh Lib Dems have committed that her party would request the same information under the Freedom of Information Act and publish it themselves, if the Welsh Government’s decision were not reversed.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams said:

“This has all the signs of an evasive Labour Government once again hiding from any sort of scrutiny. Labour say it’s a ‘streamlining of process’ – it’s clear to everyone else that this is just a streamlining of transparency.

“For the First Minister – a former Minister for Open Government himself – to defend his decision to scrap these reports is absolutely unacceptable. Transparency is a key tenet of open governance, and it’s transparency that’s being eroded on Labour’s watch.

“It shouldn’t matter whether hardly anyone accesses these webpages, or whether other Governments don’t do the same. If Labour’s First Minister was truly committed to the principle of transparency, he would not have taken this decision in the first place.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been leading the fight for more openness and transparency so people can properly hold government decision-making to account and ensure improvement in our public services.”

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First Minister refuses to endorse pro-enterprise policies for Wales

On Tuesday I urged the First Minister to support her party’s calls to scrap business rates for plant and machinery in Wales and to reduce the level of VAT that is levied on the tourism industry.

Speaking in First Minister’s Questions, I highlighted the Welsh Liberal Democrat proposal to scrap business rates for plant and machinery which would benefit the economy as businesses would no longer be penalised for investing further in Wales. Currently, if a company upgrades equipment then business rates are higher.

The Liberal Democrats are the only UK party to pledge to reduce VAT from 20% to 5% for tourist accommodation and attractions. This would make Wales more attractive as a holiday destination and would create jobs in the sector.

The First Minister repeatedly refused to endorse these pro-enterprise and pro-jobs policies.

Business, enterprise and entrepreneurialism will be the foundation of the Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Wales needs a government that is willing to take radical action to support our manufacturing industry – a vital sector for our economy.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party to have said we will completely scrap business rates on plant and machinery. This will make Wales an attractive place to invest and help secure jobs.

Over 128,000 people in Wales rely on the tourism industry for their employment. The Liberal Democrats would support this sector, create more jobs and continue to showcase the best of Wales.

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Renting Homes Bill an “attack on tenants’ rights

Labour’s Renting Homes Bill will dramatically weaken tenants’ rights.

Currently tenants must be offered a minimum of six months residency when they begin their contract. The Welsh Government’s bill would abolish this right, known as the ‘six month moratorium’. This will leave tenants in a weaker and less secure position.

There are also concerns about the provision for exclusion orders for those in supported accommodation, in that it could be in breach of human rights legislation.

Labour’s plans are an attack on tenants’ rights and are a disaster waiting to happen.

Removing the six month minimum tenancy rule will put tenants in a much more uncertain and unsecure position, especially given more vulnerable people will be housed in the private sector under this bill.

With fewer than half the houses that Wales needs being built, Labour’s failure to act is driving the dream of affordable housing out of reach of too many people.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party consistently talking about housing. We have the ambition and aspiration to tackle Wales’ housing crisis.

We will double the amount of affordable homes being built in Wales in the next Assembly term, while also putting forward solutions to help people achieve their dream of owning their first house.

Wales needs to get creative on housing. Labour’s poverty of ambition is in stark contrast to the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ innovative solutions to get us out of this housing crisis.

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Welsh Lib Dems attack “colossal waste of money” on Williams Commission

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have hit out at the Welsh Labour Government for wasting over £130,000 on the Williams Commission, the recommendations of which they’ve ignored.

A Freedom of Information request by the Welsh Liberal Democrats found that a total of £130,332.51 was spent on the Williams Commission, not including staff costs funded from core funds.

Labour Ministers have said that they will not take forward the Commission’s recommended map for combining local authorities, or many other recommendations by the Commission.

The news comes as the Assembly prepares to debate Stage 3 of the Local Government Bill, which the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be voting against unless the party’s crucial amendments to introduce a fairer voting system (STV) in local council elections are passed.

For Labour Ministers to spend over £130,000 to set up a Commission, only to then completely ignore its recommendations, is a colossal waste of money. Why go through the effort and expense of a full consultation if the response is just going to be ignored?

Labour Ministers have been stubborn on this issue from the outset – it’s their way or else. Sometimes they seem to forget that they failed to get a full mandate at the last election, and that they don’t have the right to rule like a majority Government with only half the seats.

Welsh Liberal Democrats are trying to give this Bill a purpose by introducing a much-needed change to the voting system for local council elections.

If Labour Ministers decide that protecting their dominance in County Halls is more important than voters being able to cast a fair vote at election time, the Welsh Lib Dems will have no choice but to vote down this Bill. I hope other parties will join us in doing so.

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