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Welsh Government has questions to answer regarding growing economic inactivity

The Welsh economic inactivity rate has risen over the last year in sharp contrast to other parts of the UK where it has fallen new figures released this week show.

Statistics published by ONS show that compared to last year Welsh economic inactivity has grown and under almost every measure Wales is underperforming when compared to England and the United Kingdom as a whole.

Across the UK as a whole there are 102,000 fewer unemployed people compared to the last quarter.

Wales has the second highest rate of economic inactivity in the UK with the rate of economic inactivity having grown over the last twelve months.

Unemployment continues to fall, which is of course welcome, but Wales seems to be stagnating. The question that is asked every month is why is Wales still underperforming after 15 years of a Labour government?

The Welsh Labour Government needs to redouble its efforts to reduce unemployment in Wales, especially for the long term unemployed. Its job creation schemes remain badly targeted and lack ambition.

The progress made in England under the Coalition Government is not being repeated here in Wales due to poor economic management by the Labour Party in Wales over the last decade or so.

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Swansea tidal lagoon reports are ‘good news’

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have welcomed the unveiling of plans for the world’s first tidal lagoon based in Swansea in the Budget.

The UK government has announced that it is entering formal negotiations on funding a £1bn project to produce electricity from turbines in Swansea Bay.

The Tidal Lagoon Power company will be offered the chance to discuss subsidies for the project. This opening of negotiations on the contract (a ‘Contract for Difference’) is seen as a win for the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey MP, who has been a keen supporter of the lagoon.

Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, said:

“This is fantastic news for anyone who believes in green energy. The Liberal Democrats remain the only major party that puts tackling climate change at our heart.

“In the Coalition Government, our Energy and Climate Change Minister, Ed Davey, has worked to make sure the environment stays at the top of the agenda, even though it isn’t a priority for the Conservatives.

“As well as supplying our own green ‘homegrown’ electricity, this announcement also helps reduce our reliance on importing energy from potentially volatile parts of the world including Russia and the Middle East.”

Peter Black, Assembly Member for South Wales West, said:

“This lagoon has the potential to bring a massive economic boost for Swansea and surrounding areas.

“It is expected that the project could produce a huge number of local jobs and could well generate millions of pounds in the region.

“Liberal Democrats in Government have a proud record on renewable energy. Renewable electricity generation and investment have both more than doubled since 2010, and for example we are the world leader in offshore wind.”

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Liberal Democrats priorities delivered for Wales

The influence of Liberal Democrats in Government is clear following today’s UK Government Budget, with numerous measures to help people in Wales get on in life.

The flagship Lib Dem policy of raising the Income Tax threshold has been extended again this year, meaning 1.22 million low and middle income earners in Wales will have received a £900 tax cut compared to 2010, and 167,000 Welsh workers will no longer pay any Income Tax at all.

Also announced is:

  • Reducing tolls on the Severn Bridge for vans and small buses to the same level as ordinary cars, when the bridges return to public ownership
  • A new Help to Buy ISA, which gives individuals saving to buy a home a 25% bonus up to £3,000, which could help over 45,000 people in Wales buy their first home over the next 5 years
  • The next step in the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon scheme, which could bring thousands of jobs to south Wales
  • Plans for a City Deal for the Cardiff City Region, following pressure from the Welsh Liberal Democrats

This Budget shows just what Lib Dems in Government have been able to achieve for the people of Wales: creating opportunity for everyone by building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Yet again, we’re delivering further on our flagship Income Tax cut – straight from the front page of our manifesto into the pockets of millions of low and middle income workers. Lib Dem action in Government to help with the cost of living will see 1.22 million Welsh workers getting a £900 tax cut.

Lib Dems in Government are helping savers, particularly those looking to buy a new house. Combined with the stamp duty reforms we announced last Autumn, the new Help to Buy ISA will help many families onto the property ladder with their first home.

City Deals are a Liberal Democrat policy that give city regions the powers and investment they need to kick start their economies. The potential for such a deal for Cardiff is immense and I am delighted we are making progress on it.

This is the first time the UK Government has recognised the detrimental impact these tolls have on jobs and businesses across south Wales, and I very much welcome that. Liberal Democrat ministers have been pushing hard for this important first step, and it would not be happening without Lib Dems in Government. This will, in particular, help small businesses, which are the lifeblood of the Welsh economy.

But Liberal Democrats would go much further, and if in Government after the election we would scrap the tolls completely once the bridges return to public ownership in 2018. Removing this foot on the windpipe of the Welsh economy would save commuters over £1000 and inject millions into our economy.

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Welsh Lib Dems would radically reform Flying Start support for poorest families

Welsh Liberal Democrats will radically reform support available to poorer families in Wales by ensuring provision is based on need rather than where a family lives.

The Welsh Government’s ‘Flying Start’ programme is aimed to support families with children below the age of four. To qualify for support from the scheme, a family must live in a ‘targeted area’. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will reform the system so that it is available to all families who are in need of support, rather than simply those who live within closely defined postcode areas.

The core elements of the programme are drawn from a range of options that have been shown to influence positive outcomes for children and their families. These include: part-time childcare for 2-3 year olds, an enhanced health visiting service, access to parenting programmes and early language development.

The programme has targeted areas according to measures of relative disadvantage including the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD), free school meals and the proportion of children under four in households receiving income related benefits.

Opportunity shouldn’t be a postcode lottery. The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe there needs to be a consistent approach and common criteria across Wales to access the Flying Start scheme. Access to support from the scheme should be based on need rather than geographical entitlement.

It is simply wrong that a family in great need living just yards outside a Flying Start area or in rural isolation can’t access the same enhanced health visiting scheme or parenting support programmes.

The objective of Flying Start is something we can all agree on, but it hasn’t provided the desired results. Reports consistently show that Wales’ poorest children are being left behind their peers even at a young age with nearly half of three-year-olds in Wales failing to achieve the expected level of development for their age.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently shown we are the party that will always fight for increased support for the poorest in our society. Our flagship policy, the Welsh Pupil Premium, ensures all children on free school meals across Wales get the extra support they need no matter where they live. That is the kind of ambition we want to see for Flying Start, creating opportunity for everyone in a fairer society.

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Kirsty Williams speech to Liberal Democrats Conference March 2015

Start at 19:46 minutes in

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Jenny Willott welcomes announced rise in Minimum Wage

Welsh Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott has welcomed today’s announcement that the National Minimum Wage will increase by 3% to a new rate of £6.70 per hour, effective from October 2015.

This is the largest real-terms increase in the Minimum Wage since 2008, and over 1.4 million of Britain’s lowest paid workers are set to benefit. Approximately 73,000 people in Wales will benefit.

The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have also announced that the National Minimum Wage for apprentices will increase by 57p an hour to £3.30. This is the largest ever
increase in the National Minimum Wage for apprentices and will halve the gap with the National Minimum Wage rate for 16 to 17 year olds, which will be £3.87 an hour from October 2015. The Government will also launch a consultation with businesses on the future of the National Minimum Wage rate for apprentices.

Jenny Willott, the Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, said:

“It’s been no secret that Vince Cable and Liberal Democrat Ministers have been pushing hard for an increase in the Minimum Wage. I’m therefore pleased we have managed to secure this increase.

“I’m particularly delighted to see the 20% rise in the minimum wage for apprentices. The Liberal Democrats have overseen a huge increase in apprenticeships, which are helping to create a stronger economy and opportunities for young people. This announcement will widen access so that more young people will be able to become an apprentice and benefit from the opportunities they offer.

“This announcement will benefit around 73,000 people in Wales, including around 8,600 people in Cardiff. This, alongside the fact that Liberal Democrats have cut taxes by over £800 for low and middle come earners, means we are helping people with their cost of living.”

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