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Welsh Government must focus on long-term unemployed

The latest set of Jobs Growth Wales figures raise a number of questions.

It can’t be denied that there are a number of young people taking up these job placements, but when the Welsh Labour Government’s own study found that 73% of those young people would have found work anyway we have to question whether this money could be better spent.

There is clear evidence that the Welsh Labour Government are targeting the wrong people with this scheme. There are currently 2,600 18-24 year olds in Wales who have been claiming unemployment benefit for over year, and Labour’s Jobs Growth Wales is doing nothing to help them. These young people need a helping hand. We would provide them with the skills and opportunity they need to get a job and get on in life.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats secured funding for an extra 5,000 apprenticeships for Wales in the face of huge Labour cuts. If the Welsh Labour Government actually took the time to address the problems facing Wales’s young workforce, they would see the need to target Jobs Growth Wales at building the skills base of our young people instead of an expensive politically-driven vanity project.

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Wales is now speaking with one voice” on devolution

Since before the Scottish referendum, the Welsh Lib Dems have been calling for Wales to “speak with one voice” to ensure the Welsh voice is not marginalized in future devolution discussions.

Following my call for the Welsh parties to come together and agree a common blueprint on devolution, I met with the other three Welsh party leaders to agree a joint motion, which was debated and passed last week.

For the first time, all four parties have come together to agree a common platform for the future of devolution.

Wales is now speaking with one voice. All four parties must now make sure that voice is heard by Westminster as discussions over our constitutional settlement continue.

Liberal Democrats are working hard, both in Cardiff and Westminster, to ensure that Wales is getting the powers it needs to deliver for its people – powers over tax, energy projects, policing and much more. This united voice from Cardiff Bay will help Liberal Democrats in Government bring power closer to the people of Wales.

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M4 ‘Black Route’ would irreversibly damage Port of Newport

There is now strong evidence that the planned M4 relief road will significantly damage the port of Newport and thus the economy of Wales.

The Welsh Government’s proposed route for a new M4 would involve the construction of a bridge over the River Usk, which would limit the size of ships which can dock there. A recent study showed that 58% of ships that entered the North Dock during the period 2004-2008 would not have been able to access it if the proposed bridge been in place.

The Welsh Labour Government will seriously undermine the credibility of this important port and significantly damage the economy should a new motorway be built through the Port of Newport.

Welsh Liberal Democrats have long called for the proposed motorway to be scrapped. Here is yet another reason why it should be cancelled.

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Concern at low broadband take up

I have raised my concern in Parliament that despite the huge investment into the roll out of broadband infrastructure across the UK, many people are left in the dark about how to take-up this service.

The UK is investing a huge amount into this technology, around £490 per taxpayer, however it seems that use of it is not properly being taken up across the UK, with take up in Wales at around 17%.

Whilst roll out of the broadband technology is proceeding across the country, the take up of this is poor, particularly in Wales. It is clear that the message is not getting across, and either the Minister or BT themselves need to work on promoting this.

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Powys patients must not be drawn into the war of words between Labour and Tories

I have written to the UK Government Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, following comments he made in Parliament last week about cross border care. Mr Hunt said that Welsh patients create “huge pressure” on English hospitals.

I have never been afraid to criticise the Welsh Labour Government for its handling of our NHS. However, the words Mr Hunt used were inflammatory, incorrect and dangerous. For many of my constituents their nearest District General hospital will be in England so it is only fair and right that they go there for treatment.

I am very concerned that the ministers words could lead to Welsh patients not feeling welcome in English hospitals and so they might not go. This could be, potentially, very dangerous. In fact, Welsh patients attending the County Hospital in Hereford helps maintain the services there by contributing significantly to the critical mass of patients needed to sustain a hospital of The County’s size.

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Apprenticeships need to equip youngsters with skills for jobs

I am delighted that the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ budget agreement with the Welsh Government was able to secure funding for 5,000 new apprenticeship places. Providing high-quality skills training is vital to boosting the Welsh economy and helping people to build careers and get on in life, and a highly skilled workforce is a key asset in attracting inward investment and jobs.

Sadly, the fact remains that despite this new investment, there have been cuts to the Young Recruits programme and other work-based learning programmes, while other ineffective programmes such as Jobs Growth Wales have been protected.

A Welsh Government-commissioned study found that 73% of those on Jobs Growth Wales placements would have found work without the Government scheme.

The report also noted that some employers highlighted that the young people they had recruited had low basic literacy and numeracy skills. This later point is despite the Welsh Government insisting that the scheme is for “Job Ready Youngsters”

It sends absolutely the wrong message to employers and potential inward investors to prioritise a youth unemployment programme that provides no formal learning over all the programmes that do.

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