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2,442 people waiting over 12 hours in A&E

In March 2,443 people spent over 12 hours in A&E, despite the Welsh Government’s target to ‘eradicate’ 12 hour waits.

A&E targets continue to be missed with figures published today showing that nearly 18% of patients waited over four hours in A&E. The Welsh Government’s target is for 95% of patients to spend less than 4 hours in A&E departments.

It’s absolutely appalling that in March over two thousand people waited over 12 hours in A&E.

This highlights how badly the Welsh Labour Government is letting down patients. Welsh Labour Ministers should hang their heads in shame.

I am increasingly concerned about the stress NHS staff are being put under. They work tremendously hard and it must be hugely demoralising seeing these figures published each month.

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Jobs Growth Wales renewal a “huge mistake”

The decision to continue funding Jobs Growth Wales without any changes to the scheme to incorporate skills development is “nothing short of absurd”.

The Welsh Government have announced a continuation of the scheme using EU funds of £25 million from the European Social Fund for a further three years. During the current financial year the Welsh Government will spend £9.3 million on the programme together with EU funds of £8.3 million.

In September 2014, a Welsh Government report found that 73% of those on Jobs Growth Wales placements would have found work without the Government scheme. It also noted significant failings to target those young people most in need of help to find work, particularly in Communities First areas. Participants on the scheme were also shown to be trapped in low wages, earning only 67% of the average for their age group whilst on the scheme, and only 76% of the average for their age group after they finish.

The Welsh Labour Government need to stop wasting money on this ineffective scheme and invest in apprenticeships and training, which will actually give young people professional skills and help them get on in life. The Welsh Lib Dems want to see an apprenticeship revolution in Wales because we need to invest in the future of our young workforce.

I’ve been utterly baffled as to why Welsh Labour Ministers have heralded Jobs Growth Wales as a success when their own evaluation shows the scheme has serious failings. The fact that the Welsh Labour Government has renewed this scheme seemingly without making any changes is nothing short of absurd.

“Labour’s own evaluation report said that this scheme locked young people into lower than average wages, and that 73% would’ve found work without it. Today’s unemployment figures show that Wales is lagging behind the rest of the UK, and that anything they have resembling an economic strategy isn’t working.

Warning sign after warning sign has been sent the Welsh Labour Government’s way, but their Ministers seem completely unwilling to pull their heads out of the sand and admit they’re getting it wrong. We need to be investing in skills and infrastructure to create a sustainable recovery from which everyone can benefit, not throwing money at inefficient vanity projects that produce good statistics but don’t actually work.

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Welsh economy still lagging behind rest of UK

Economic statistics released this week show that the Welsh economy is lagging behind the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Labour Force Survey estimates for the 3 months up to March 2015 show a fall of 0.4 percentage points in the Welsh employment rate compared to the same period a year earlier (currently at 69.4%), compared to a rise of 1.0 percentage points in the UK rate (to 73.5%).

The Welsh unemployment rate has also decreased at a slower rate than the UK average, down 0.1 percentage points in Wales compared to a 1.2 percentage point drop across the UK.

Every part of the UK should be reaping the benefits of economic growth, yet under Labour the Welsh economy is lagging behind the rest of the UK. Today’s figures continue a worrying trend that we’ve seen for some months now.

The simple fact is that the Welsh Labour Government has nothing in the way of a long-term economic strategy, no joined-up plan on how to create jobs and invest in infrastructure. This lack of vision and co-ordinated action is hurting the Welsh economy and the pockets of working people across Wales.

Welsh Labour Ministers should stop throwing money at ineffective schemes like Jobs Growth Wales, which locked young people into low wages and didn’t give them any qualifications, and seriously develop the skill base of our workforce to build a sustainable economic recovery here in Wales.

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Environment Bill must go further to tackle climate change and protect nature in Wales

The Welsh Labour Government’s Environment (Wales) Bill shows that they lack ambition to protect our environment. They need to show greater commitment to tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity in Wales.

The targets in this Bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions are unambitious and simply don’t go far enough. The Welsh Liberal Democrats support a new legally-binding target for the UK to be zero carbon by 2050 and the Welsh Government should match this ambition, so that Wales can play its part in helping to safeguard our environment.

Protection of biodiversity is vital not only to tackling climate change, but also to ensure that future generations can enjoy the diverse wildlife and countryside that we enjoy today. Sadly the Welsh Government failed in its aim to halt the decline of biodiversity by 2010; in fact a recent report by Oxfam found that Wales has superseded proposed ‘safe’ boundaries by 55% in terms of biodiversity loss.

It is vital that this Bill includes ambitious targets on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a new long term statutory biodiversity target to reflect Wales’ international biodiversity commitments and work in tandem with the proposed climate change targets.

The Welsh Labour Government also needs to show a stronger commitment to moving towards a decarbonisation of the power and other energy sectors, as well as improving energy efficiency across Wales. The Welsh Liberal Democrats want to end the dependence on carbon and want to move towards a Zero Carbon Wales.

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Parties must unite to stop Tory plans to scrap Human Rights Act

Parties in Wales must unite to fight Tory plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, Kirsty Williams has said.

Speaking in the National Assembly, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, asked the First Minister what assessment his Government has made of the potential impact on Wales’ devolution settlement if there were changes to the legislation that protects human rights.

She said:

“The new Tory Government wants to put us in the same category as Kazakhstan in terms of how we view human rights.

“Liberal Democrats stopped the Tories scrapping the Human Rights act and we are determined to keep fighting these plans. All parties in Wales need to work together so that the Tories cannot take away the hard-won human rights of British people.

“Lawyers have warned that the devolution settlement would have to be completely re-written if the Tories scrap this important legislation. However, I don’t believe the Tories have bothered to consider that for even a second.

“Europe’s human rights laws were designed by British lawyers to reflect British values of justice, tolerance and decency. The Tories now want to throw all that good work away.”

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Time for Tories to come clean on fair funding

Following his reappointment as Welsh Secretary, Stephen Crabb must come clean on his party’s position on fair funding for Wales.

On St David’s Day the Coalition Government announced that it would introduce a minimum funding ‘floor’ for Wales. However the Conservatives’ UK manifesto makes clear that a ‘floor’ would only be introduced “once the Welsh Government called a referendum on Income Tax powers in the next Parliament”. Last week David Cameron failed to say whether Wales would receive a ‘funding floor’ if it rejects tax varying powers in a referendum.

It’s time the Tories are honest about fair funding. The first thing Stephen Crabb must do is come clean on whether his party will give Wales fair funding with no strings attached.

I’m concerned that with the Tories in Government on their own, there will now be no appetite to ensure Wales gets a fair deal.

It’s all very well the Tories in Wales saying their Welsh manifesto pledges fair funding, but the idea that their Welsh manifesto trumps the UK version is nothing short of absurd.

Wales must receive fair funding – no ifs, no buts. With the Liberal Democrats in Government, the Coalition promised to deliver a fair deal for Wales with no strings attached; the Tories must now stick to this agreement.

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