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Welsh Government needs to refocus its efforts regarding job creation

A report published last year by the Welsh Government reported that many young people on the Jobs Growth Wales programme are stuck on low wages not only during their placement but also afterwards and that the placements are largely in menial roles.

The Welsh Labour Government’s own findings show that people on this scheme earn a lot less than average, and even after completing the scheme they only earn 76% of what other young people earn.

The evidence suggests that Jobs Growth Wales traps people in low wages, and that has an adverse effect on the whole economy.

In London, Labour talk about better paid jobs for young people, but in Wales their actions are very different. If you want to help young people build a career and a life, you must give them the skills they need to thrive, not trap them in low skilled jobs.

Welsh Liberal Democrats want to see the millions spent on this project spent on proper apprenticeship schemes and proper training.

Apprenticeship teach young people skills and a trade. Jobs Growth Wales simply gives people a poorly paid work placement for six months with a bit of ad hoc training thrown in at the discretion of the employer.

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Action needed to protect Welsh dairy farmers

Earlier this week I questioned the Secretary of State for Wales over what he is doing to assist the Welsh dairy industry.

The dairy industry has come under pressure recently from a combination of rising supply and falling demand, particularly as a result of lower than expected demand from China and Russia’s ban on food imports. I have therefore called for more to be done to protect the many farmers whose businesses are struggling as a result in the fall in milk prices.

During the question session in the House of Commons chamber, I called on the Secretary of State to work with his colleagues across Government, to extend the role of the Grocery Code Adjudicator to try and tackle this issue.

The Secretary of State responded admitting that the jurisdiction of the Grocery Code Adjudicator is limited, but there will be a review next year in 2016, and the Government look forward to hearing more information. I pointed out that required action is urgent, and for many Welsh dairy farmers 2016 may well be too late.

I am very concerned about the current pressures being put on the dairy industry which are forcing farmers out of businesses. As I said to the Secretary of State for Wales, a review of the Adjudicator in 2016 is not soon enough for the many farmers in Wales who may well go out of business in that time. We need action as soon possible to give the Adjudicator, as well as it is, to have more jurisdiction further down the food chain, including dairy suppliers.

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New websites put Welsh Lib Dems at forefront of web campaigning

The launch of welshlibdems.wales and demrhyddcymru.cymru is putting the Welsh Liberal Democrats at the forefront of digital campaigning in the run up to the next set of elections, the party has said today.

The party is the first political party to use the new .wales and .cymru domain names, following in the footsteps of the Welsh Assembly and other public bodies.

The launch of the party’s new websites uses the Nationbuilder platform, developed in America and used by many progressive campaigns across the pond. The new sites are the latest addition to the Welsh Lib Dems’ high-tech campaigning arsenal, which includes a state-of-the-art voter database based on that used by Barack Obama’s winning US Presidential campaigns.

Kirsty Williams AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Vice-Chair of the Liberal Democrats’ General Election Campaign Team, said:

“With the 2015 election predicted to be the first ‘digital election’ by many commentators, our cutting edge new websites will put the Welsh Liberal Democrats at the forefront of that fight. We’re also proud to be the first party to use the new .wales and .cymru domains, playing a key part in establishing our nation’s home online.

“These websites make it easier than ever before to find out what the Welsh Lib Dems are up to, what we believe in and what we’re achieving for Wales. Combining our strong record of delivery from Westminster and the Welsh Assembly with our vision for Wales gives us a strong message to take to the people of Wales at the next elections.

“Time and time again, polls and papers have written off the Liberal Democrats and consigned us to extinction yet time and time again, Liberal Democrats have bounced back and confounded all expectations. Our website launch today shows just how committed we are to the fight over the next 100 days, and how determined the Welsh Lib Dems are to win the support of the people of Wales.”

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Wales still lagging behind rest of UK new unemployment stats show

The Welsh unemployment rate is reducing at a slower rate than any other UK region new figures released today show.

Statistics published by ONS show that compared to last year the Welsh unemployment rate dropped by just 0.1%, compared to 0.8% in Scotland, 1.5% in Northern Ireland, 1.6% in the North East of England and 1.8% in the West Midlands.

With the Liberal Democrats in Government, we continue to see unemployment fall across the UK.

While this is welcome, here in Wales we continue to have the slowest growth rate of the whole of the UK, year on year. 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.

We have seen some progress, and that is obviously good news for those who’ve recently found a job. But we still need to address the fundamental problems in our economy. We need to find out why the unemployment rate is falling significantly faster just over the border in the West Midlands for example.

What is clear is that even though we’re heading in the right direction by reducing unemployment, the leaps forward made elsewhere in the UK under the Coalition Government are not being repeated here in Wales due to the poor economic management by the Labour Party in Wales over the last decade or so.

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Action needed on neonatal centre for North Wales

The Welsh Government must demand action from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board following its failure to prepare a business plan for the proposed Neonatal Centre at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

In May of last year the First Minister announced that high-risk neonatal and obstetric services should be centralised for North Wales in a new centre but this could only progress once the Health Board had prepared a business plan. This plan has still not been published.
In their report in September 2013 the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health predicted that without a significant investment in neonatal services national standards could only be maintained if increasing numbers of infants were transferred to England.

In a question to the First Minister today in the Senedd, I asked for an update on the business plan for a regional neonatal centre in North Wales.

When the decision to site a regional neonatal centre in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd was announced in May of last year the First Minister promised that Assembly Members would be kept informed about the submission of the business plan. That was over 6 months ago and we have heard absolutely nothing.

The fact is that neonatal staff and families have had over two years of uncertainty due to poor management from both the Health Board and the Welsh Labour Government. We need to be told why this inordinate delay continues.

I’m disappointed that the First Minister hasn’t bothered to keep Assembly Members up-to-date on this issue. That is why I asked him today to make clear what progress has been made and when we can expect to see the business plan.

The danger is that without a plan to implement the First Minister’s decision to create a neonatal centre at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, existing services at all three major hospitals in North Wales will be starved of investment and increasingly unable to provide medical care which meets the All Wales Neonatal Standards.

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One in three Welsh families are surviving on less than the living wage

Today’s Western Mail leads on the study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which found 29.4% of families in Wales are struggling to make ends meet.

They say that at least eight million parents and children are living on incomes below what is needed to cover a minimum household budget:

It says there has been a widening gap in income “inadequacy” since the recession, with lone parents and single breadwinner families facing particular pressure.

Around 71% of lone parents live on inadequate incomes, up from 65% since the 2008/9 recession, said JRF.

Cuts to benefits and tax credits and a real-term fall in wages were behind the growing gap between the incomes of families with children and the income they need, said the study.

South Wales West Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black, also a Swansea councillor, said: “The growth of in-work poverty in Wales is well documented and of huge concern.

“The UK government has done what it can by cutting taxes for over 1.2m low paid workers but Wales remains a low wage economy.

“Dealing with that must be the focus of attention for the Welsh Government over the next year or so.”

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