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Liberal Democrats to create a Veterans Commissioner

The Liberal Democrats will create the post of a Veterans Commissioner to help ensure that veterans get the support they will need, the party has announced today.

Roger Williams has said the party will ‘serve those who have served’ by working with armed forces charities and homelessness charities to ensure veterans do not fall between the gaps in services and get the help they need to get back on their feet.

The purpose of creating a Veterans Commissioner is to improve co-ordination and prioritisation for veterans across government departments.

Roger Williams, Parliamentary candidate in Brecon and Radnorshire, said:

“We ask our armed forces to put their lives on the line for our country. Therefore it is only right that as a country we support them for life, whether they remain in the armed services or after they leave.

“The Liberal Democrats want to serve those who have served and ensure they get the right help.

“Veteran groups continue to experience difficulty in having their voices heard: there is a lack of co-ordination across ministerial departments in addressing, for example, the myriad outstanding welfare issues. We will change that.

“We will improve co-ordination and prioritisation for veterans across government by creating a post of Veterans Commissioner. The purpose of this commissioner would be to knock heads together in the Department of Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Defence and all other departments to get veterans the help they need.”

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Apprenticeship plan welcome, but must be open to alL

Welsh Lib Dems believe apprenticeships are an important way for people of all ages to learn new skills whilst earning a wage too.

Sadly we’ve seen massive cuts to the number of apprentices in Wales by the Welsh Labour Government, which has made training and learning new skills difficult, with apprenticeships currently only available to those aged under 25. We need to make sure that some of these new apprenticeships are ear marked for older adults who want to train and retrain, and we need to invest in other, more flexible further education opportunities for those who want to develop their skills part-time whilst also working.

In England the Liberal Democrats have helped create and fill more than two million apprenticeships, while under Labour the number in Wales has steadily fallen.

I am pleased that the Welsh Government has now set in place plans to reverse this fall, but they still need to ensure that apprenticeships are accessible and seen as an attractive option for people of all ages. We are calling on the Welsh Government to establish a schools liaison programme to promote the benefits of an apprenticeship to school leavers as a credible alternative to university which is often seen as the only choice for school leavers today.

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Jane Dodds demands apology over cross-border care comment

Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt should apologise for his inflammatory comments on cross-border healthcare last year, Welsh Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds has said.

During a row over the NHS in October 2014, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams wrote to Mr Hunt over comments regarding the number of people from Wales using health facilities in England, which she said had made many people in mid Wales feel unwelcome at English hospitals. Mr Hunt did not bother to respond to the letter.

The Health Secretary yesterday visited Newtown to discuss the issue of cross-border healthcare with local campaigners.

Jane Dodds, the Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Montgomeryshire, said:

“It’s appalling that some Tory MPs have described Welsh cross-border patients as ‘refugees’.

“Jeremy Hunt has the cheek to visit mid Wales and talk about cross-border healthcare, yet he’s failed to apologise for making the people of Montgomeryshire feel unwelcome to use English hospitals – even when they are perfectly entitled to do so. In fact, it is his abrasive comments and his treatment of our NHS as a political football that is putting strain on cross-border health services.

“Welsh Lib Dems have always held the Welsh Labour Government to account for their NHS failings, but have always done so by putting patients and staff first. We would welcome positive action to improve waiting times for patients from mid Wales in Shrewsbury, Telford and Gobowen for example, where some people have been waiting nearly a year for treatment.

“The Tories’ attitude towards our NHS is letting patients down and demoralising hardworking staff. I think the first thing they’d want to hear from Mr Hunt today is an apology.”

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Clegg accuses Tories of wanting to take £1bn out of Welsh economy

Figures show that over £1bn would have been taken out of the Welsh economy had the Liberal Democrats not stopped the Tory’s plans for regional pay.

As Chancellor, George Osborne asked pay review bodies to look at the case for ending national pay deals in the public sector so that public sector salaries were brought down to the level of the private sector in each region. However, Liberal Democrat Ministers fought against these plans and ensured they weren’t taken forward.

This comes on the same day that Nick Clegg has said the Liberal Democrats in Government would issue guidance to public sector pay review bodies to ensure pay increases at least in line with inflation in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

Under the Tories’ plans, approximately 370,000 public sector workers in Wales would have seen their pay reduced. The pay differential between public and private is £3,750. This means around 370,000 workers would have their pay reduced by £3,750, if the Tories had implemented their plans for regional pay.

Slashing public sector salaries by this much would have taken around £1.4 billion out of the Welsh economy.

Speaking on a visit to Montgomeryshire, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said:

“The Tories wanted to pay people less just because they work in Wales – we stopped them.

“Without the Liberal Democrats in government, the Tories would have taken over a billion pounds out of the Welsh economy with public sector workers having their wages slashed.

“Regional pay fails the economic test and it also fails the fairness test. It would only serve to further engrain regional inequalities and that is why we fought to stop it.

“Let’s not forget that Labour’s hands are dirty on this issue. They introduced regional pay by bringing it into our courts system. We made sure the coalition didn’t repeat Labour’s mistakes.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats played a key role in stopping regional pay. They led the campaign from the beginning and deserve credit for standing up for the people of Wales.

“The way to build a stronger economy and fairer society, where everyone has opportunity to get on in life, is not to punish public sector workers outside of London and the south east.”

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Welsh Lib Dems set out ‘Countryside Charter’ to boost rural economy

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today set out a package of measures to help rural areas thrive.

Our party’s ‘Countryside Charter’ will create thousands of new jobs and ensure people living in rural areas have access to the facilities they need to prosper.

The Charter includes measures to improve high speed internet provision in rural areas, keep local services open and secure the future of the farming industry.

The Countryside Charter includes plans to:

• Close the gap between urban and rural areas in high speed broadband and internet provision
• Give rural firms the transport infrastructure they need to grow and compete in global markets
• Secure the future of the farming industry
• Fight to secure the long-term future of Welsh Young Farmers’ Clubs
• Keep essential local services and facilities open
• Boost rural tourism
• Help rural businesses grow and expand by continuing to improve the planning system
• Prioritise rural housing
• Help young people in rural areas develop their skills
• Support our fishing communities

Rural areas play a large part in Britain’s economy with the rural economy worth £210bn. The Welsh Liberal Democrats want to unlock this potential so rural areas can thrive.

In order to prosper, rural areas need good local services, appropriate infrastructure and more housing.

It is vitally important that all parts of Wales, urban and rural, benefit from the economic recovery. For that to happen, Wales needs an economic plan which recognises the specific challenges and opportunities in rural areas.

Only the Welsh Liberal Democrats will create a stronger economy and fairer society where everyone and every part of the UK can reach its full potential.

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University faces official probe over information request delay

The University of South Wales is facing an official investigation over its refusal to share information about its plans to close the Caerleon campus.

Campaigner Paul Halliday asked the university for the papers that informed their decision to close the campus.

The university took 77 working days to respond with a refusal to share the information Mr Halliday had requested.

Now the Information Commissioner is investigating both the 77-day delay and the failure to provide information that Mr Halliday describes as in the public interest, in relation to the closure of the campus.

Mr Halliday, who is the Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Newport East, said:

“Requests under the Freedom of Information Act have to receive a reply within 20 working days. The fact that it took 77 working days to come up with a negative response makes me think they are trying to hide something.

“The recent announcement about the loss of 6,000 students across Coleg Gwent, specifically in the part time and adult learning arena has made the fight for Caerleon more pressing.

“Newport is slowly losing its educational opportunities and once they are lost it will be hard to get them back.

“An estimated £15m to £20m will be lost each year to the region’s economy, much of it removed to Cardiff.

“The university said over capacity was an issue but is building a new facility in Cardiff to deal with the additional students moving there from Caerleon.

“The university needs to provide the document the decision to close Caerleon was based on so that we can know if the decision was based on accurate information or not.

“I am disappointed that the elected Labour politicians who are supposed to represent Newport have done nothing to try and save these jobs. They are allowing the University to make plans to strip its Caerleon assets without a fight. This is in contrast to the Welsh Lib Dems who’ve fought tooth and nail to save Caerleon campus.

“Labour should be fighting Newport’s corner but have chosen to remain silent.”

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