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“UK economy is back on track”

GDP figures published last week show that the UK’s economy is now 0.2% ahead of the level it was before the 2008 financial crash.

When the Liberal Democrats helped form the Coalition Government, our number one objective was to get our economy back on track. Now, because of the Liberal Democrats, the UK economy is the fastest growing in the western world.

No-one can deny that the Coalition Government inherited a complete disaster of an economy. The Liberal Democrats recognised that tough decisions had to be made to fix our economy and to cut the UK’s mammoth deficit, but we also appreciate that this must be done in a fair way. That is why, for instance, we have ensured that over 150,000 of the lowest paid workers in Wales will no longer pay a single penny of Income Tax.

Our economy is on the right track, but of course that is no excuse for complacency. There is still a long way to go and the Liberal Democrats will continue to work to build an even stronger economy and ensure the UK’s dramatic growth continues.

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Labour fail to bid for resources for Welsh Cities

The Western Mail reports that the Cabinet Office have confirmed that no applications from Wales have been received for the type of “city deal” which has resulted in the UK Government offering up to £500m to boost the infrastructure and economy of Glasgow.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg earlier this month announced the funding for Glasgow, which is expected to create 28,000 new jobs by 2035 and generate around £1.75bn of economic activity annually. Other city deals have been agreed with English cities but Cabinet Office minister Greg Clark said: “The Deputy Prime Minister has received no representations from Welsh cities about city deals.”

Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, said: “City deals are a Liberal Democrat policy where we are giving cities the powers they need to help kick start their economies. Labour’s failure to even enquire for a city deal for Cardiff is a disaster.

“We are in direct competition with cities such as Bristol who are benefiting from extra powers by modernising its infrastructure and creating more jobs. That Cardiff has missed the boat thanks to the complacency of its Labour council and the Welsh Labour Government beggars belief.

“I want Cardiff to continue to be a thriving, competitive city – but this inaction from Labour is putting that at risk. Just imagine what £500m of additional funding could mean for Cardiff.”

South Wales Central Lib Dem AM Eluned Parrott added: “I’m appalled that yet again, the people of Wales have been let down because the Welsh Labour Government has taken its eye off the ball.

“A city deal could have a transformative effect on Cardiff and its city region; it could help to fund the South Wales Metro, provide research funds for our universities and bring construction jobs and apprenticeships in the short term, while setting our economy in good stead for the longer term as well.

“But it isn’t just Cardiff that could benefit; delivering the South Wales Metro would have been a shot in the arm for Newport, the Valleys and our wider City Region, and we should have been applying for City Deals for Swansea Bay and Deeside too.”

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Decision not to publish background paper on M4 is ‘outrageous’

The BBC report that the Welsh Government have taken the decision not to publish decision not to publish a document on the conclusions of a consultation on the planned M4 relief road.

They say that Ministers approved the paper last week before announcing they backed plans for the new road, south of Newport. Cabinet agendas and papers normally appear on the Welsh government website six weeks after each cabinet meeting.

They add that the Welsh government decision not to publish the paper appeared on its website earlier this week:

The statement said: “The minister for economy, science and transport has been asked to agree a paper on conclusions of the M4 Corridor around Newport Consultation and the Proposed Way Forward for the meeting of the Cabinet on 14 July 2014.

“The agenda, minutes and papers of the meeting are due to be published in the week commencing 25 August 2014 and will be available on the Welsh government internet site.

“The contents of this paper are considered exempt from being disclosed and, as such, this paper will not be published with the respective minutes of the meeting”.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Transport spokeswoman Eluned Parrott said the decision not to publish the document was “outrageous”.

“Again this evasive Welsh Labour government shuns transparency, the consultation process appears to have been nothing more than a sham,” she said.

Ms Parrott claimed Mrs Hart had “ignored” evidence put forward in the consultation.

“Blowing one billion pounds and investing the Welsh government’s entire borrowing powers on a single road is not the behaviour of a responsible government.

“There are cheaper and more effective options on the table but the Welsh Labour Government refuses to acknowledge them,” she added.

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UK Government could reconsider lock on Welsh tax powers

David Cornock reports on the debate in the House of Lords on the Wales Bill in which Liberal Democrats Minister, Jenny Randerson told peers that the UK government could reconsider its plans to give the Welsh government income tax powers if Scotland gets more control over income tax there:

Lady Randerson, speaking during a debate on the Wales Bill which transfers more powers to Cardiff, acknowledged there was opposition to the so-called lockstep that would prevent the Welsh government from being able to vary income tax rates separately. Under the coalition’s plans, any rise or cut in the top rate would have to be matched by a similar change in other income tax rates.

She said: “The government recognises that there are arguments for and against the lockstep mechanism but we continue to believe that the approach set out in the Bill is appropriate for Wales.

Given the porous border with England – nearly half the Welsh population and 10 per cent of the English population live within 25 miles of the border – the changes to individual income tax rates in Wales could potentially have wider effects than similar changes in Scotland.

“It would not therefore be logical to provide more flexible rate-setting powers in Wales than in Scotland. The government has therefore decided that the lockstep is the best system for encouraging the Welsh government to grow the overall tax base in Wales whilst safeguarding against the risks of damaging cross-border tax competition and increased tax avoidance.”

But Lady Randerson said the government recognised that even a clear “no” vote in the Scottish independence referendum in September may lead to further income tax devolution to Scotland. All three main UK parties have proposed giving Scotland more control of income tax.

She added: “The government remains open to re-visiting the arrangements for income tax devolution in Wales as any changes are brought forward in Scotland but there are differences between Wales and Scotland particularly in the nature of their borders with England.”

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Welsh Lib Dems would scrap subsidy for North-South air service

The publication of the Public Accounts Committee’s report on the subsidised air service between Cardiff and Anglesey, Aled Roberts is damning.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats would scrap this wasteful and polluting subsidy. This costly venture does little to address the real problems of public transport links between North and South.

People in North Wales have gained little from this service. The evidence given to the committee raised serious questions with regard to the value for money this subsidy provides. There is also the issue that passenger numbers have fallen by 43% since their peak in 2009.

Rail links are far more important for my region than this service. Any public money should be spent on improving rail links between the North and Cardiff.

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‘Health Minister burying his head in the sand over deeply worrying critical care report’

A report into critical care in the Welsh NHS, from June, published earlier this week by the health minister states that:

• Wales has the lowest critical care capacity in Europe

• There is an immediate need for an additional 73 beds in Wales

• The number of critical care beds in Wales has declined since 1999

• Most Welsh critical care units routinely run at above the recommended 75 per cent bed occupancy rate

• Demand for critical care is expected to rise by five per cent per year on average, although the demography of Wales means this might be higher for an ageing population with high rates of chronic illness.

The annual report called ‘An assessment of unmet need for critical care in Wales’ by the All-Wales Implementation Group for the Delivery Plan for the Critically Ill, recommends that in Wales “a need for an additional 73 beds in Wales immediately, rising to a total of 295 additional beds in ten years time to accommodate the expected increase in need for critical care.”

In the Health Ministers response he avoided to committing to open any more new beds in Welsh hospitals.

It is incredibly sad that after fifteen years of Labour running the health service in Wales we have the lowest number of critical care beds per person in Europe. In 1999 the then health minister was warned there was a problem with capacity and since then we have gone backwards.

I am deeply concerned with the minister’s response to the report which gives no commitment to actually increase the capacity with new beds, only to use the existing beds better. Of course we should use the existing beds better, but that will not solve the fundamental problem.

With demand for critical care set to rise year on year, Labour need to stop burying their heads in the sand and deal with an issue that has existed in the Welsh NHS for over a decade.”

Once again we are seeing how the Welsh NHS is being left behind the rest of the UK due to the failings of the Welsh Labour Government.

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