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Welsh Liberal Democrats oppose further Welsh Government attempts to centralise planning decisions

Welsh Liberal Democrats have opposed the Welsh Labour Government’s attempts to degrade the voice of applicants in the planning appeals process.

Using the ‘Town and Country Planning (Determination of Procedure) (Wales) Order 2014’ the Welsh Labour Government wishes to change the way in which planning appeals are dealt with. The measure, if implemented, would mean that Ministers decide the level of appeal each case receives and thereby remove the ability of principal parties to select the appeal method they feel the case requires.

When the Planning Bill was launched last week it was widely criticised for centralising planning decisions with the Minister and diminishing the voice of local communities.

Given this it is particularly disappointing that only a week later the Welsh Labour Government have chosen to bring forward supplementary legislation to do the same thing in another area.

Our planning system is far from perfect, however, as we reform the system we need to ensure that the voices of local communities are not lost in the process.

These proposed regulations in their current form are opaque and undemocratic.

Decisions on whether proposed developments merit a public hearing should not be left down to the Planning Minister, without any need to justify their decision.

These decisions must be made in an open and transparent way, with a clear set of criteria that can be used to determine any disputes.

Welsh Liberal Democrats would welcome a proper debate on this issue within the Planning Bill; these regulations must not be bulldozed through the Assembly with little discussion.

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Labour Government letting Welsh cancer patients down

There needs to be a huge improvement to cancer waiting times after figures published earlier this week show that a key waiting time target has once again been missed. It has been over 6 years since the target was last met.

The Welsh Labour government has a target for 95% of urgent patients to be seen by a specialist within 62 days. A target that has been missed every month since 2008. New figures released today show that, just 85.2% of these cases had started definitive treatment within this time period. The figures also showed that not one of the six LHBs met this 95% target.

Last year the Health Minister told us that the cancer 62 day waiting time target would be met by October 2013, yet still that important target has not been met. In fact, the target has not been met once whilst Carwyn Jones has been First Minister.

It is simply not good enough that not a single Welsh health board met its 95% target. Being diagnosed with cancer is a terrifying experience and no-one should then be forced to wait over two months until the start of their treatment.

Whether it is cancer waiting times, referral to treatment times or ambulance response times, the Welsh Labour Government has continued to show that it cannot run the NHS in Wales. I hope Welsh Labour will listen to my calls to set up a cross-party and no-party commission to look into how we can address the significant problems our NHS faces, now and in the future.

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Regional Consortia must be consistent and transparent

The Welsh Education Minister must ensure that the four Regional Education Consortia are consistent in their approaches to monitoring the implementation of Welsh Government policies.

The responsibilities of the consortia are expanding at an almost daily rate.

Following questions put to the Minister recently, I am concerned that not enough monitoring work is being undertaken by the Welsh Government to ensure that the consortia are fully meeting their obligations.

Whilst I appreciate that decision-making should take place at as local level as possible, the ability to fully scrutinise the performance of the consortia is difficult given the lack of transparency.

I have found that there is an inconsistency in the way the consortia operate, with some decisions directly contradicting Welsh Government guidance.

Given that the individual local authorities are still responsible for school improvement under statute, local councillors are the elected, accountable individuals who receive consortia reports.

However, at a time when the education sector has such a vast number of initiatives and reviews in place it is imperative that direction and delivery are fully supported and that the Education Minister can be scrutinised on the consortias’ work.

Without effective scrutiny, that support might well not be made available and school standards could suffer as a result.

I will continue to pursue this matter with the Minister and my own regional consortia in North Wales

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Welsh Government must publish A55 plans

I called on the Transport Minister yesterday to meet the Welsh Government’s commitment to infrastructure improvements in North Wales by identifying and funding projects to ease traffic on the A55.

The Welsh Government has previously welcomed increased borrowing powers for infrastructure projects in Wales and at the same time made a commitment to making much-needed improvements to the A55.

I welcome the commitment from the Minister yesterday that the design work and assessments will now be actioned.

The Minister has also said that she will share the plans with local AMs in North Wales as soon as possible.

The recent delays along the A55 are the latest in a long line of recurring repairs and have shown the devastating impact that roadworks can have on motorists, the local economy and the business community in North Wales.

We need to ensure that the Welsh Government stands by its commitments and tackles the issues that have been highlighted on the A55 for too many years.

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Nearly 1,400 Patients waiting over a year for treatment

Shocking figures published by the Welsh Liberal Democrats reveal that nearly 1,400 patients in Wales are being forced to wait over a year until the start of their treatment.

The figures also show that 9 patients in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board area, have been waiting over 2 years and still haven’t received their treatment.

A breakdown for each health board shows the following number of patients have been waiting over a year until the start of their treatment:

Abertawe Morgannwg – 545 patients
Aneurin Bevan – 298 patients
Betsi Cadwaladr – 61 patients
Cardiff and Vale – 423 patients
Cwm Taf – fewer than 5
Hywel Dda – 63 patients
Powys – 84 patients, commissioned by the Health Board, have been waiting over a year

The Welsh Government’s target is that not a single patient should wait longer than 36 weeks until the start of their treatment.

These figures are nothing short of a national disgrace. It is completely unacceptable that nearly 1,400 people are being forced to wait over a year before being treated.

Month after month we see the Welsh Government’s 36 week target being missed. However these figures show the problem is even worse than once thought.

My concern is that the Welsh Labour Government seems entirely clueless on how to turn things around. Waiting lists are piling up and there is little sign of the situation improving.

This is why we need to establish a Commission to secure a historic and long-term plan for health and social care in Wales. A Commission with cross-party, professional and patient representatives would be able to work together and deal with the strategic problems facing our NHS in Wales. By involving doctors, nurses and patients from the outset, we would ensure that the experiences of those using our front-line health services feed into the efforts to reform our NHS.”

Whether it is inadequate cancer care, poor ambulance response times or dire A&E waiting times, the Welsh Labour Government is failing to provide the health service that patients in Wales deserve.

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Assembly Member celebrates the Welsh Museums Festival at Porthcawl Museum

The Welsh Liberal Democrats Heritage Spokesperson, Peter Black has joined in the celebration of the first ever Welsh Museums Festival by visiting Bridgend’s only museum situated in the old Police Station in Porthcawl.

Welsh Museums have worked closely with CyMAL to plan the Welsh Museums Festival to coincide with the Museums Association (MA) Conference & Exhibition which is taking place at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), Cardiff yesterday and today.

Porthcawl Museum is currently running an exhibition explaining how the town invited and welcomed 56 Belgian Refugees into their life for the duration of the First World War. Mr. Black was shown around the exhibits and discussed with the volunteers their plans for refurbishing the museum.

“This visit was a particular pleasure for me,” said Mr. Black, “as until recently the future of this museum has been under threat. However, I understand that talks been the society who run the facility and the council have been very productive and that there is a distinct possibility that the society will be able to take a lease on the building and apply for grants to improve it.

“Museums are very important in bringing our history to life and helping us to learn more about the communities we live in. In these straightened times it is essential that we do everything we can to keep them open and thriving.”

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