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Education report is another damning indictment of Welsh Labour’s policies

The latest report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is another damning indictment of Welsh Labour’s fifteen-year failure to get to grips with education in Wales.

The messages contained in the report follow an already well-established pattern, and once again we find school leadership, teacher training, assessment, and the lack of a long-term vision highlighted as concerns.

There are simply too many new initiatives being deployed, and before those reforms have time to “bed in” they are being replaced with something new.

Welsh Government must stop trying to come up with a variety of quick fixes and have the political courage to take one sound and sustainable plan then see it through to completion.

The recruitment, training and retention of excellent teachers is an essential part of that plan.

There must be a clear understanding between politicians, education professionals and parents with regard to the way forward now, and even though improvements might take some years to deliver the Welsh Government must resist the urge to meddle.

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Liberal Youth Wales calls for focus on Mental Health Provision

IRCymru (Liberal Youth Wales) has called for more focus on mental health provision in Wales to tackle lengthy waiting lists, ensure more support for students returning to education and create greater parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

Welsh Liberal Democrats supported a motion tabled by the youth wing of the party at their Spring Conference. The motion calls for action to improve access to mental health services to reduce waiting times, a national framework to ensure continuity of treatment for young people transitioning from adolescent to adult services and a programme of mental health support in the workplace.

Commenting, Chair of Liberal Youth Wales, Sam Bennett, said:

“Liberal Youth Wales put forward this motion to shine a light on the need for improvements to mental health services in Wales, which is a very important issue for us.

“In particular we are calling for a national framework to ensure continuity of treatment for young people. Too often people can get lost when transitioning between adolescent and adult services, which can mean the individual re-engages with services several years later when they have become much more unwell. There are also issues for young people who may face problems with continuation of treatment when they re-locate to study at college or university.

“It is unacceptable that the treatment of mental health in Wales continues to let patients down. We are putting forward strong proposals to help end the discrimination in terms of access to mental health services and treatment and give people the freedom, choice and dignity that they deserve.”

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, added:

“I am very pleased that improving mental health provision in Wales has been given such a focus during our conference, from the motion by our youth wing to discussions on the need for mental health ‘places of safety’. Too often the choice for patients is limited to community treatment or inpatient wards. It is time to review mental health services to ensure people can access the most suitable treatment and we must bring an end to the escalating waiting lists, which cause so much distress and anxiety for patients and their families.”

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Unanimous backing for bold Welsh Lib Dem energy policy

Welsh Liberal Democrats have given unanimous backing for a bold and comprehensive energy policy at their Spring Conference in Newport. The policy ‘Powering Wales’ Future’ is ambitious for Wales, with a target to produce enough renewable and low-carbon energy to cover Wales’ needs and provide export potential by 2050.

The policy paper contains a presumption in favour of small scale community renewables and more support for community energy co-operatives. It calls for communities across Wales to gain greater benefits from energy investments in their areas by expanding the community benefit funds to a regional basis.

Economic benefits would be maximised by working with developers and educational institutions, to expand supply chains and centres of excellence for the next generation of engineers and apprentices. A new Technical Advice Note would also direct planning authorities to reject applications for fracking operations unless strict environmental and health standards are met.

I am delighted that our bold and comprehensive energy policy has now been endorsed by the wider party after a lively debate at Conference. ‘Powering Wales’ Future’ contains ambitious proposals for Wales to generate enough energy for our own needs through renewable and low carbon sources by 2050, and with scope for export potential.

Regrettably, decades of under investment have left the Welsh and UK generation network years behind our European counterparts, so it is time for radical changes to the way we deliver energy.

For too long now our energy generation has been corporate heavy, focused on extracting the resource and giving little back to our communities. Our energy policy would change this, with proposals for planning reforms to enable more small scale community renewables and support for community energy co-operatives.

I also welcome the recent launch of the Community Benefit Register, which is a critical milestone in ensuring that those communities most impacted upon by renewable energy developments are the first to see realistic and tangible benefits.

Our energy proposals give us wide scope to develop the kind of low carbon, mixed grid approach we need. Equally, we need to be aware that it is in the next 10 years where the decisions will have to be made to ‘keep the lights on’ in 2050.

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Nationalists should stop seeking further rifts in the UK family

Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, made the positive case for the UK family when he addressed the Welsh Liberal Democrats at their spring conference in Newport last Saturday

He also challenged the SNP to stop seeking other rifts in the UK following the Deputy First Minister’s recent speech in Wales where she “lectured people there on why they should usher Scotland towards the UK’s exit door.”

Mr Carmichael said:

“Scottish Nationalists like to attack UK government ministers when they speak in Scotland, accusing them of “flying in and out”.

Despite the fact that those ministers are from one of Scotland’s two governments.

For the Scottish Nationalists, consistency of argument is no virtue.

And so Nicola Sturgeon dropped in on Wales – for which she is decidedly not a government minister – to lecture people there on why they should usher Scotland towards the UK’s exit door.

Her assertion was that Wales could benefit financially within the UK from Scotland’s departure from it.

This is hard to square with her other assertion – contradicted by her own Scottish Government figures, published days earlier – that Scotland is a net contributor to the UK coffers.

And it begs the question why she believes that the answer to Scotland’s problems is independence, while the answer to Wales’ problems is to stay within the UK and hope to extract more money from it.

Regardless, what is staggering is the sight of Scotland’s Deputy First Minister travelling the length of the country in an attempt to stir up hostility to Scotland’s place in the UK family.

Our view of the UK is inclusive and positive.

We believe that our family is stronger together.

That by virtue of our size, we can pool resources and share risks.

Celebrating in the good times, helping one another out in the bad times.

The Nationalists appear to take the opposite view.

That it’s every nation for itself.

That the relationship between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom should be used to create friction as a means to Scotland becoming independent.

This is a cynical and narrow-minded approach

Wales and Scotland have a great deal in common: our Celtic background, our social history, and indeed our political tendencies

To play one against the other is wrong

As we head towards referendum day, I hope that the Nationalists will resist the temptation to go further down this route and seek other rifts in the UK family.

Because that family is strong, positive and better together.”

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Welsh Lib Dems call for creation of a Welsh National Cyber College

Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for the creation of a virtual Welsh National Cyber College at their Spring Conference in Newport at the weekend, to help improve flexibility for learners and create greater parity of esteem between vocational and academic education.

In a motion on the ‘Future for Further Education’, Welsh Liberal Democrats discussed the importance of further education and the need for more flexible approaches to learning. The motion called for the creation of a Welsh National Cyber College, to commission, develop and accredit digital and online further education courses to help improve flexibility for learners.

Further education plays a key role in bringing new skills to our adult workforce, helping individuals to reach their full potential and helping to build a stronger economy.

The further education sector in Wales has many outstanding achievements in delivering academic and vocational education in Wales. However, we must ensure that it has the flexibility and operational freedom to respond to local and national challenges, to adapt to the needs of learners and allow them to learn flexibly and dip in and out of education.

A virtual Welsh National Cyber College would work with and through existing colleges in supporting online further education provision in Wales. It would be able to commission distance learning courses for FE colleges to utilise, and even accredit courses. This would help improve the provision for disengaged young people, increase opportunities particularly for those in rural areas and help build greater parity of esteem between vocational and academic learning.

We also believe that the existing Qualifications and Credit Framework should be adapted in order to develop a more flexible and comprehensive credit accumulation and transfer system. This would allow students to break their studies more easily and transfer between institutions to suit their own needs, by enabling learners to accumulate credits from their courses and complete their programme at their own pace.”

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Extracts from Kirsty Williams’ Conference Speech

In her keynote speech at the Welsh Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Newport, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats will said:

UK media attention

For years the Welsh Labour Government has enjoyed minimal UK media coverage, but Conference, things have changed. The chickens have come home to roost, and Welsh Labour doesn’t like it. Barely a day goes by when we don’t see another exposé on Wales’ public services.

For me, it feels really quite strange. I have an immediate reflex to jump to the defence of my country, no matter what.

It’s just so sad. We are such a great nation and we are so much better than those headlines. This isn’t what I want people to read about us.

Yet it’s not just sadness that I feel: it’s anger too. I know that some of these stories maybe motivated by a political agenda, but many are accurate and too often based on truth.

Our health service struggles like never before, our schools remain underfunded and underperforming, our economy lags behind the rest of the UK.

I am furious that we as nation are being portrayed in this manner.

Last week Carwyn Jones said these criticisms weren’t a war on Welsh Labour, or the Welsh Government, but a war on Wales as an entire nation.

How dare he take cover behind the people he is meant to lead. What kind of leader does that?

These headlines might hurt our sense of national pride, but we must not forget, it is Labour that is Wales’ weak link. Labour is holding us back, Labour – the weight around our nation’s neck.

Party of IN

Our message is loud and clear:

We are the only party of IN.

There is simply no point in voting Labour in the European elections, they are too scared to have a voice on Europe and squandered billions of EU funds.

The Tories are a mess. Cameron continues to pander to Euro-skeptics and to UKIP.

And then of course, there is Plaid Cymru – who want to have their cake and eat it. They cannot credibly call for Welsh independence yet proclaim they stand for Europe.

Plaid might be infighting and sacking people over attacks on UKIP, but the irony is, they have similarities: they are two separatist parties and both of them could take us Out of the EU. Plaid’s dream of independence could threaten thousands of jobs.

Yes they sneer at UKIP, but you don’t fight little England nationalism by trumping it with Welsh nationalism.

The people of Wales have a choice on May 22nd.

If you want Out – Then UKIP is the best way to go.

However, if you want to make a positive choice, to make a positive statement, then I urge you to vote for the party of IN: The Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Tax

Smack bang on the front of our 2010 manifesto was our promise to raise the Income Tax threshold to £10,000. This weekend, we have delivered on that pledge.

While Labour cut the 10p tax rate – clobbering Wales’ lowest paid workers with higher tax bills, we have done the exact opposite.

Because of the Liberal Democrats, 144,000 of the lowest paid workers in Wales will no longer pay a single penny of Income Tax and over a million people have seen their tax cut by £700 compared to what they paid under Labour.

David Cameron said the policy was unaffordable. Nick Clegg had to drag the Tories kicking and screaming to agree to it.

The Liberal Democrats are delivering for Wales, helping those on low and middle incomes and helping those that want to work and get on in life.

Welsh Liberal Democrats in Government

I spoke to you earlier about the Labour-Tory war. They paint it as a war because that’s their comfort zone. Education, health and the economy – these are all secondary to them.

The fact is, it’s not a real war. In truth the Tory Party and the Labour Party are hand in glove. For years those parties have conspired to ensure that politics has been about a false choice. A false choice between a fairer society or a stronger economy. For decades, our party has been fighting against that false choice. Nick Clegg has broken that barrier down, showing that the Liberal Democrats in coalition can deliver both a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Wales needs the same approach in the Welsh Government. Whether it is the Pupil Premium, the Health Technology Fund, the Intermediate Care Fund or our ‘More nurses’ bill, we have shown we are the party of good ideas.

The opposition, like the Government, are wedded to their ideological dogma:

Labour and Plaid are forever competing over the old ideas of left wing socialism. They can’t build a stronger economy. The Tories are planning to charge patients to use the NHS and to bring back grammar schools, they become more right wing by the day and can’t build a fairer society.

It is only the Welsh Liberal Democrats that can provide a true alternative; a progressive and inclusive party of Government that will put the people of Wales first: Bringing news ideas, Ambitious for our people, Hungry for Welsh success and anchoring our government in the centre ground. Building the stronger economy and the fairer society that the people of Wales deserve.

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