Thursday, 1 March 2012
The cuts imposed on people in Wales by the Westminster Coalition will not only be brutal but will affect us to a greater extent than any other country in the UK.
Welfare reform will increase poverty. It will undermine the Welsh Government’s stated policy aim of reducing child poverty, wiping out the gains made over the last decade. By 2012-13, the Welsh Government has estimated the reforms could increase cases of relative child poverty in Wales by around 6,000. Plaid Cymru has said over and over that it is not right that the poorest people pay for the mistakes of the bankers. Yet that is what is happening.
A coaltion of charities produced their Cuts Watch Cymru report this week, which shows how the cuts are impacting on people in Wales. The worst of the cuts are yet to come, but so far, there has been a 38% increase in the numbers of people applying for a crisis loan since 2007 and a 40% increase in the numbers of people going to loan sharks. The Welsh Government is powerless to protect people against these cuts. There are a number of recommendations in the report which could help to provide a buffer against the worst effects of the cuts, but it is inevitable that Wales will be hit hard while so many people here depend on welfare payments.
The welfare safety net we have all become used to will not be there in the future. That is why we must now have a plan to increase the numbers of people in work, to reduce the numbers of people reliant on the ever-reducing welfare/public expenditure pot. If we want good welfare provision in Wales, and I believe most people do, then we will have to show that we can pay for it.
I have advocated bringing together all the best talents in this country to consult widely on a long term plan to create jobs, jobs, jobs. These jobs should be created as part of the building a new 'social economy' which puts people before shareholder profit and which is designed to turn around our ailing and disadvantaged economy, to bring prosperity to all parts of Wales. These outcomes will not happen by accident. No one person or party has all of the answers and a plan like this could only work if people are prepared to think long term, breaking out of the short term thinking that comes with four year election terms. It won't be an easy job. It'll be a huge challenge, but do we have an alternative?
Happy St. David's Day.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
It is becoming increasingly apparent that water is going to be a valuable resource for the people of Wales in the years to come. It is now imperative that Plaid Cymru leads a positive national campaign to safeguard the future of Wales' water resources.
The issue was brought into sharp relief this week when the National Farmers' Union in England called for the exploitation of Wales' water for the benefit of the drought-hit south-east of England. Plaid Cymru's evidence to the UK Government's Commission on Devolution, also known as the Silk Commission, calls for the Welsh Government to be given the power to levy new taxes.
Plaid Cymru must make sure that people in Wales fully benefit from any future exploitation of Welsh resources. Water has a deep emotional resonance amongst the Welsh people. It is a crucial part of our national history and we have a lot of it. The story of Tryweryn still rings true: Wales has an abundant resource which thirsty parts of the state desire. We must play to our strengths and we should allow the export of our water - but on the condition that the people of Wales should see the benefit.
At the moment it is not possible to directly charge money for water that specifically goes to England, because in the privatised water market there aren't any national borders. However, if future changes are made to the market in line with the climate change agenda, we must make sure that Wales is in a position to benefit financially. At the moment water is not that valuable in raw monetary terms. But this could change. Any new taxes we could levy on water would be looking to the future and specifically to any new reservoirs or other pieces of infrastructure that might be developed in Wales.
The UK Government is developing a new water policy which may also involve legislation. The Welsh Government is also interested in water having recently issued a statement about its role in combating climate change. It is no coincidence that the Government of Wales Act specifically excludes the Assembly from making any laws relating to water supply. Why don't the powers-that-be want Wales to decide on our own natural resources?
These resources should belong to the Welsh people, not to corporations or to the UK Government.
Thursday, 15 December 2011
I have decided to put my name forward for the leadership of Plaid Cymru. The next few years will present a great opportunity for Plaid to fulfil our long term ambitions and I would like to be at the helm as we enter a new chapter in our history.
Now, more than ever, a strong Plaid Cymru is needed to put the transformation of our economy at the fore of the political agenda. I have the vision, ambition and determination to do that.
More information about my campaign and platform can be found on my campaign website www.leanewood2012.com or by following me on Twitter and Facebook.
Friday, 9 December 2011
This week presented a rare opportunity for opposition politicians to come together in the House of Commons to oppose the deeply unfair reforms of the public sector pensions. By supporting a motion laid by the SNP and Plaid Cymru which called for the UK Government to reverse unfair changes to public sector pensions, the Labour Party could have sent a clear message that this issue was more important that party politics. Labour MPs could also have sent a message to the two million or so people who stood on picket lines and marched on rallies last Wednesday that their fight was their fight and their number one priority.
Instead, Labour politicians showed that tribalism is more important than the protection of the public sector pension scheme. They took the side of the Con/Dems on Wednesday. The motion was defeated 242 to 11.
This debate was the first one to be heard in the Commons in the last year-and-a-half since pension changes were first mooted. In this time, there have been 36 opposition debates held by Labour where public sector workers and their pensions have been ignored. A significant number of Labour MPs also crossed picket lines at Westminster last week even though some vowed not to.
I was proud to visit a number of picket lines last week and march with my fellow Plaid Cymru members, including our leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, during the Cardiff rally. Labour politicians were conspicuous by their absence; a fact that did not go unnoticed by many of the people taking part in the rally. This non-committal position reflects the deep malaise their leader Ed Miliband now finds himself in by refusing to back the strikers and going as far as condemning the withdrawal of labour.
If Labour politicians cannot back the public sector workers on an issue as clear cut as the unjustified degradation of hard-earned pension rights then surely they should be asking themselves whose side are they on?
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Tomorrow, one of the biggest days of industrial action will take place in the UK in living memory. I will stand with the many ordinary men and women who are calling for the pension schemes they signed up to and paid in to, to be honoured. It is not too much to ask for a retirement without poverty after a lifetime of work but that is exactly what is at stake if the Westminster coalition has their way with the public sector pension scheme.
This is precisely why this issue has garnered such wide-spread support, particularly from trades unions which have never previously taken part in industrial action. Refuse workers, teachers, nurses, civil servants, meals on wheels providers will all be screwed by this Westminster cabinet of millionaires. Yet if you swallowed the rhetoric, you would be forgiven for thinking that tomorrow’s strikers are greedy, self-serving and not living in the real world.
Education Secretary of State Michael Gove this week described some of the union leaders as “militants itching for a fight”; a statement rendered even more farcical by the emergence of pictures of him kneeling proudly on an NUJ picket line in the 1980s.
The Government’s lead negotiator with the trade unions is Francis Maude MP. This privileged son of a Tory MP has been hopelessly inept throughout the whole proceedings and shown an ignorance of Government policy that mystifies his appointment as the government's liaison person with the trade union movement. I'd say that it's the Westminster Coalition Government that is actually ‘itching for a fight’ with the public sector. After all, they have form when it comes to cracking down on the public sector in their brief, but incredibly destructive, 18 months in office.
In Plaid Cymru, we know whose side we are on. We recognise that public sector workers deserve to retire without facing grinding poverty after a lifetime of dedication. Most importantly, we are not afraid to declare our support for such a just cause….are you listening Ed Miliband? As a Unison member and chair of the cross-party PCS group in the Assembly, I will proudly take my place on the picket line tomorrow.
I have no doubt that moral argument is on our side. With solidarity and determination, victory will be ours too.
Monday, 21 November 2011
The Westminster coalition has revealed plans today to “assist” the flagging housing market by underwriting mortgages with £400 million of tax-payers’ money. While the finer details of the plan and whether it applies to Wales are yet to be revealed, the stated aim of the 'Get Britain Building' initiative is to reduce deposits for newly built homes.
No one can deny that the construction industry is in need of a boost. That message came loud and clear last week with the launch of the Wales Construction Federation Alliance in Cardiff Bay. Housing building is undoubtedly one of the best ways to stimulate an economy. The housing charity Shelter, amongst others, has shown that for every £1 of public money spent on house-building, the economy gets £3.50 back. There is a strong imperative to provide affordable housing in Wales where social housing is more scarce than in England.
However, the latest gimmick from the Con/Dems is an ill-thought out response to these challenges. The banks, propped up with tax-payers cash have carried on their 'business as usual' with the culture of excessive pay and bonuses persisting unhindered by the mistakes of the past. With a 100% guarantee applied to their lending decisions, isn't there a big risk of mistakes repeating themselves? It was irresponsible lending in the US sub-prime mortgage market that lit the touch paper for the casino capitalism bonfire of 2008 that is still raging today. How do we know that George Osborne won't sanction even more reckless borrowing with a cast-iron guarantee to mortgage lenders? As Mervyn King said in August 2008:
"We don’t guarantee lending to other forms of borrowing; we don’t guarantee lending to manufacturing borrowing...it would be a very dangerous move to move to a situation where the government saw its major role as guaranteeing lending...why should the taxpayer take on the risk of borrowing by individual borrowers some of whom are risky it’s the lenders who should take the risk. And what we saw in the first half of 2007 was that not enough attention was paid to monitoring the riskiness of that lending.”
Furthermore, wrapped up in today’s announcement is an offer of a heavy discount on council houses – worth up to 50 per cent – in a bid to persuade people to buy their homes. This will further exacerbate the scarcity of social housing and increase waiting lists. When little or no social housing building is taking place, this is an irresponsible and ideological move by the Con/Dem coalition. Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme of the 1980s may have had its supporters but the heavy discounts, allied with a failure to replenish housing stock, laid the seeds for the shortage of social housing we have today.
We need a major social housing programme to provide the much-needed shot in the arm for the construction industry and to shorten the creaking housing waiting lists of local authorities across the UK. This would provide an asset for the public who will own the housing at the end of the investment. Under today's announced plans there will no tangible pay-back to the tax-payer. Mortgage lenders, bankers and private house builders will be the main beneficiaries.
The Westminster Coalition is keen to trumpet at every opportunity how their interest rates on borrowing are very low because of its austerity programme (or socially regressive and ideological war on the public sector and people on the lowest incomes, depending on how you look at it). Why not use these low borrowing rates to carry out a bold and ambitious social housing programme that will give people homes, jobs and help to build up the public asset base? The answer is ideological.
Thursday, 10 November 2011
From the Assembly's Record of Proceedings: 9th November 2011.
Plaid Cymru debate on the economic crisis:
"I am sure that everyone listening to this debate is familiar with the effects of the economic crisis and, as Assembly Members, I am sure that we are all well-versed, not just with the fast-moving news events, but also with the way in which the crisis is impacting upon people’s lives, by the very nature of the cases that are coming to our attention.
In Plaid Cymru, we are deeply disappointed with the lack of ambition and visible action from this Government on the economy. Our economy needs urgent, vast and long-term intervention. No longer can we sit back and cross our fingers, hoping that circumstances are going to change, because all indications are that things are not going to change, and that, if anything, things are going to get a lot worse.
The First Minister tells us that his door is open and that he is willing to listen to ideas. I have some ideas that I hope that the Government will now start to take seriously. We have no need whatsoever to reinvent the wheel. In a paper that went to the former Enterprise and Learning Committee on 15 July 2010 from the Co-operatives and Mutuals Wales, two international examples were given, which, if we could do the same in Wales, could transform our economy, particularly the worst performing areas of our economy. Clearly, all businesses need finance and we all know that, despite two rounds of quantitative easing, businesses are struggling to access finance.
The Enterprise and Learning Committee paper refers to the Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins in Quebec, which is an investment fund that was started in 2001. This fund raises development capital for co-operatives to invest in the 'resource’, or the less-developed regions of Quebec. In the first five years, the fund grew from $79 million to $587 million. By 2010, $905 million, raised from individuals and the private sector, was supporting, through loans, 225 co-operative enterprises. What is stopping us from setting up a dedicated fund, along the Quebec lines, to support the expansion of co-operatives and social enterprises in Wales?
The second international example cited in that paper, which could be considered in Wales, is the vast network of manufacturing co-operatives in the Basque Country. The Mondragon Corporation was formed with a technical training college in 1956 by a Catholic priest. It now employs over 90,000 people in 256 co-operatives. Within its structure, there are now two banks and a university, and its supermarket chain is the third largest in the Spanish state. It operates a maximum-wage policy, with a ratio of 5:1, so that the highest earner cannot earn more than five times the lowest-paid worker, which then assists with equality.
If our current precarious economic situation does not warrant bold and ambitious action on this scale, then what will it take? The Government has financially supported co-operatives, but where do they sit in the overall economic strategy? What outcomes does the Government hope to see as a result of that support? Why do we not make the growth of co-operatives a strategic economic objective? Why not pull together all the various interested parties to set up a co-operative growth fund, along the lines of the Quebec model, and why not pay a visit to the Basque Country to meet the people there and to discuss how we could set up something similar to their manufacturing co-operative network in Wales?
The First Minister has asked for ideas. It is a real shame that he is not here to listen to them this afternoon, but they are on the record and, hopefully, we will see some action on the co-operative front in Wales soon."
Monday, 24 October 2011
Scotland is going places. That was the over-riding mood at this weekend's SNP conference in Inverness.
Alex Salmond has every reason to be confident and optimistic. His speech reflected the confidence and optimism that will be needed on the part Scotland's people if the referendum on independence is to be successful.
It's hard to work out where the No campaign will come from. The Tories are in a terrible mess. Will they rely on their party bosses in London to put the case against?
Long time Labour supporters are starting to see independence as inevitable.
In her fraternal address from Plaid Cymru to the conference, Elin Jones AM said that we should now be thinking about the implications of all of this for Wales.
“As you, in the SNP and in Scotland, consider the real possibility of creating an independent Scotland, we are left to consider what would be left. A UK Government governing all English matters, and only some Welsh matters and even less Northern Irish matters. It is now time for a serious debate on the future constitutional relationship of the countries of the British islands. It is time to debate equality, not subservience and dependence. To us, the UK is currently a pretence of a country. After a Yes vote in your referendum, it could no longer pretend to anyone, not even itself.”
Can we in Wales emulate the enthusiasm, confidence and determination which was on show in abundance in Inverness this weekend? A glimpse of what is possible was seen in the build up to the rugby world cup semi-final. The nation was united in wanting success then. If that same drive could be dedicated to building and equalising Wales, there'd be 'nae limits' to what we could achieve.
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Speech delivered in the Senedd on Wednesday 21st September during a Plaid Cymru debate on the funding cuts and the Welsh economy.
Leanne Wood: I would like to focus on public procurement and its potential for stimulating local economies and helping to create jobs. The amount spent by the public sector in Wales is estimated to be £4.3 billion every year. In my view, and that of Plaid Cymru, that money should be working for the Welsh economy, and at the moment so much of it is not. Too much money leaks out of Wales and that is contributing to the ongoing weakness of the Welsh economy. A new mindset is required if we are to turn this around. I accept that some good progress has been made, but to take that next leap a new mindset is required.
In questions earlier, the excellent examples that can be seen in housing were mentioned. Efforts to include social clauses in contracts that enable the sourcing and training of labour locally have been a great success, providing a model of good practice that could be rolled out throughout the public sector. If a local firm gets a contract for work, the money earned by the workers in that firm is more likely to be spent locally, close to where they work, stimulating local business activity. Conversely, people who work far away from where they live are more likely to spend their money elsewhere. Of course, people who are not in work at all are unable to spend money locally, which is why areas with high levels of unemployment often have dying, or dead, town centres. Supermarket, internet and out-of-town shopping has taken a heavy toll on our town centres and there is a limit to what the Government can do to change people’s shopping habits. However, the Government can change its own shopping habits. Every pound that leaks out of Wales is a pound that is not working for Wales. By resolving to try to plug these gaps and keep Welsh expenditure in Wales, that money could contribute towards sustainable jobs growth. If I were to make an optimistic assumption that the Government does not intend to water down the previous Government’s carbon reduction ambitions, measures geared towards supporting public bodies to purchase their food and renewable energy from local sources wherever possible would provide numerous desirable outcomes.
What is stopping the local procurement of food and renewable energy? First, we have competition rules. They may be challenging, but those challenges have been overcome in the social housing sector and in other European Union countries. More work would need to be done to upskill people and to ensure the business capacity to provide food and renewable energy to the public sector. More would also need to be done to train those responsible for procuring on behalf of the public sector—an issue that will be expanded upon later.
Most of all, this would require the political will to set about utilising public sector expenditure to create jobs. Regrettably, without such will and commitment, the cuts will inevitably drive the movement the other way. Bigger, more centralised contracts may well be cheaper, but a failure to decentralise and make money work for the good of the Welsh economy risks us missing a great opportunity.
The creation of a home or internal market was suggested by Leopold Kohr in his 1971 book Is Wales Viable? Kohr’s thinking has been further developed in 'A Greenprint for the Valleys’. Although it offers solutions for the market failures in the Valleys, its principles can be applied anywhere, and I recommend that Members read both—I would, would I not? Commitment, effort and political will from the Government to plug these gaps and stop money leaking out of Wales, coupled with a commitment to decentralise, unbundle and make public contracts smaller, could provide a much-needed boost to the Welsh economy. Surely this is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.
Saturday, 10 September 2011
Speech delivered to the Plaid Cyrmu conference on a motion about the Welsh economy.
The world has become a very different place since the global banking crash. 2008 saw catastrophic system failure and unsurprisingly, it's those who can least afford it who are now being asked to pay. It's clear that we can't go on in the old way. Capitalism is broke. The market has failed spectactularly and new thinking is needed if we are to get out of what is a very big mess.
It's not as though we haven't been here before. The depression of the 1930s only ended in the US with Roosevelt's New Deal and it took years. The Tories answer is for drastic and savage spending cuts and they plough ahead despite the warnings. Their strategy is for the market to provide private sector jobs to replace those lost in the public sector. We all know that strategy won't work in Wales - the market failed to provide jobs in too many places in the boom years. It'd be naive to believe it's going to deliver now.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
The Greenprint was put together to offer propsals to turn around those economies where the market has failed. But the basic principles can be applied to any community. I doubt whether there is a single community in Wales that isn't feeling the after-effects of 2008.
In 1971, Leopold Kohr wrote a book called "Is Wales Viable", which tackles the economics of an independent Wales - the "can we afford it" question. Kohr proposes the creation of a home market - where people consume products from Wales, or the home community. Of course it couldn't be done for everything, but if a home market can be created for the basics - renewable energy and food, then we could not only improve our economic position, but we could build up resilience as well - to food and energy price hikes, which are pretty much inevitable.
You may have heard the phrase "follow the money". So much money is leaking out of the Welsh economy. Kohr would argue that we should plug those gaps, stop those leaks and take steps to keep the money within the local community. Local authorities are in a good position to take a lead on this. Procuring locally, supporting budding co-operatives, making attractive loan finance available, prioritising job creation and taking steps to keep money local would make a good start.
Co-operation is part of Plaid Cymru's DNA. In the early 1930s, DJ Davies and Noelle Ffrench championed co-operation not only as a way to overcome economic disadvantage, but also as a route to Welsh freedom. Many party members have set up and been involved in running co-ops over the years - co-operation and collectivism are a key part of what Plaid is about.
In the Basque Country during economically difficult times during the 1980s, the Mondragon Corporation was formed and is still going strong today employing thousands in manufacturing. One of the most successful post-2008 UK companies has been the John Lewis Partnership - a co-operative.
This new, post crash world needs new and different thinking.
The motion asks that Plaid Cymru prioritises job creation and the economy, and that we use our strength and influence at the local authority level to contribute to that aim. We can show that by building sustainable and self-sufficient communities and delivering real improvements, we can at the same time as contribute towards the building of a sustainable and self-sufficient Wales. Our nation is, after all, a community of communities. Please give your support to this motion.
Saturday, 3 September 2011
My speech to the Mardi Gras this afternoon:
Prynhawn da Mardi Gras Cymru.
I bring you greetings and solidarity from Plaid Cymru.
Today is a day for celebration. A day to party. But it is also a day to remember.
In days gone past, being openly gay was militant. We should always remember and be thankful to those older gay activists who refused to hide who they were, who refused to kow-tow to a homophobic society. They have given us what we have today and we have come a long way in a relatively short time.
But we can't afford to be complacent. The economic climate will threaten some of the progressive gains we have made in recent times. We are in increasingly intolerant times. Hate talk is on the up.
We hear benefits claimants called scroungers, young people called scum. As gay people you should understand where hate talk can lead.
Whoever is being picked on, hate talk is a danger to us all. We cannot allow it into the mainstream.
I ask you to take one small moment today to make a big decision. Will you commit to challenging intolerance or hate talk wherever you hear it? If you hear people being put down because they are gay, on benefits, immigrants, gypsies, young - and we've recently been subject to such intolerance for being Welsh...
Decide to stand up to it. Challenge it.
Don't let hate and intolerance become a normal part of Welsh political and civic life.
Today is about celebrating and remembering. It could also be about being determined to fight to keep the gains we have made and to make our society better. If everyone here today makes a personal commitment to stamp out hate in Wales, you can make a fantastic contribution towards creating that equal society we all want.
I hope you all have a great party today. Let's celebrate, but lets also strive to keep what we've got - and more. Diolch am gwrando.
Saturday, 20 August 2011
A Treasury select committee has concluded that the Private Finance Initiative is poor value for money. With stories like this, this and this, it would have been difficult for them to arrive any other conclusion.
Wales has been shielded from the worst impact of PFI. This foolish form of finance was ended in the Welsh health service when Plaid Cymru formed the One Wales Government with Labour in 2007. I hope that the Labour minority government won't ditch this committment and that they will extend a ban on the use of PFI throughout all sectors. PFI will saddle our children and grandchildren with an unsustainable level of debt and will set us back in attempts to improve economically.
Due to the slashing of the Welsh capital budget by the Westminster Government, Labour could be tempted to turn once again to PFI. Despite the wealth of evidence out there to show how pernicious PFI can be, various Labour Ministers have evaded direct questions on their plans for PFI that I and other Plaid colleagues have asked of them.
While Labour in Wales are unlikely to pursue PFI with the same vigour as Blair and Brown did from 1997 onwards, the commissioning of just one PFI project would be one too many. Its time to rule out PFI in Wales.
Saturday, 28 May 2011
This is a video of a lecture I gave at Plaid Cymru's Summer School, July 2010. DJ Davies, his wife Noelle Ffrench and Raymond Williams' ideas feature heavily in A Greenprint for the Valleys - a link to the PDF version can be found here.
Warning: the video is 39 minutes long.
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Since the referendum in March, many party members and commentators have asked the question 'what is Plaid Cymru for?' We had very little time to consider our answer. Two months before the election, Plaid Cymru contributed vast staff and volunteer resources to the 'Yes for Wales' campaign. We had comfortably secured a strong YES vote in the referendum on the Assembly's law making powers, which, we must remember, had only come about because of Ieuan Wyn Jones's insistence and persistence.
By then, Plaid had met all of its short term goals. As part of the One Wales agreement, the Holtham Commission managed to finally persuade the other parties of the need for reform of the way the Assembly is funded. The other major gain for Plaid had been to secure legislation to protect the future of the Welsh language, granting its' official status for the first time. A key question was asked: what is Plaid's Unique Selling Point was now that all of that has been achieved?
Comparisons with Scotland's election results can't be avoided. Some will argue that a more independent broadcast and print media would have helped to ensure that the election there was fought on Scottish issues. That the election in Wales was dominated by the UK coalition government's cuts and Labour's claim to 'stand up for Wales' went unscrutinised. How, exactly, are they going to stand up against the Tory cuts? The political context has changed beyond all recognition since the last UK general election. The SNP (and Labour in Wales) have managed to work out their response to the new context quickly. Has Plaid? The SNP's UK-wide known, strong, tub-thumping leader is only part of the SNP's success story. Salmond was able to push a clear message with a clear Unique Selling Point – uncompromising promotion of independence and a means to fund it (through controlling Scotland's natural resources and fiscal autonomy). No-one is in any doubt what the SNP is for.
At the first Plaid Cymru Assembly group meeting, it was decided to recommend to the party's National Executive Committee that a root and branch review of all aspects of Plaid's structures, communication, messages and organisation takes place so that we can work out what needs to change. The plan is to look at everything. But before we work out the processes, we must first address the 'what is Plaid for' question. As members, we all know why we do the work we do, but can we explain it to people in simple, understandable terms? In answering this question, we will have to show what makes Plaid unique. There should be no ambiguity. People should be left in no doubt as to what Plaid Cymru is for.
Last summer, I presented a lecture at Plaid Cymru's Summer School outlining the decentralist/co-operative ideas of DJ Davies and his wife Noelle Ffrench who emphasised the power of 'community' to create an alternative, viable economy for Wales. DJ and Noelle were part of the first group of people who came together to form Plaid Cymru in 1925. The pair spent years during the financial crash of the 1930s carrying out detailed work which provided a basis for Plaid to offer a vision of a different, better, economically-functioning post-imperial Wales. They provided the economic case for self-government in very difficult financial times and it is inspriring. Can their work be applied to the cuts context we are in now? The Davies/Ffrench programme offered practical solutions to tackle unemployment, limited state welfare and the lack of control over our natural resources. Community, co-operation and self-sufficiency have been the basic principles underlying Plaid's economic philosophy since the party was formed. They are principles which can be re-applied today to offer a vision for a better, economically and environmentally sustainable and more equal Wales which would be radically different to the same-old management approach to Wales favoured by the British parties. Wales faces a range of challenges which can not be met with more managerialism. Plaid Cymru now has the time to work on this and to make sure our message is radical and bold. Why not? And if not now, when?
Sunday, 24 April 2011
The PCS Union in Wales have asked all Welsh election candidates to respond to five pledges as part of their 'Make Your Vote Count' campaign. This is my response.
1. I pledge to oppose all job cuts and proposals to close offices - such as Newport Passport Office and the Driving Standards Agency in Cardiff - and to support the PCS ‘There is an Alternative’ campaign, which prioritises closing the annual £120 billion tax gap, along with investment in jobs & public services.
As chair of the all-party PCS group in the last Assembly, I have actively supported the PCS union in its' campaigns against job losses and office closures. Many of the office closures to date have been from non-devolved departments, carried out by a government in Westminster which places little value in strong public services with a well-treated workforce. Plaid seeks further devolution so that the people of Wales, who value public services highly, have a greater say about public services in Wales. So far in Wales, any job losses at Welsh Assembly Government level have been with the agreement of the relevant unions. I will continue to support this way of doing things and I will continue to condemn those public bodies acting without trades union support, like, for example, the situation in Rhondda Cynon Taf. I fully support the PCS 'There is an Alternative' campaign to close the tax gap. I also support the work of UKUncut.
2. I pledge to support the principle of universal entitlement to welfare services paid for through general taxation and to oppose the UK government’s cuts in welfare and housing, which target the sick and disabled, families with children, those on low incomes, and pensioners.
It is wrong that those who can least afford it, will end up paying for the the problems caused by financiers. The Westminster government works to protect the financial interests of their friends, while pushing through ideological cuts to public expenditure in the name of balancing the books. The political right are setting about reducing the welfare state, Shock Doctrine style. I support comprehensive, universal public services and I believe they should be paid for by progressive taxation.
3. I pledge to address the disproportionate impact of spending cuts on:
• groups who already suffer from entrenched inequalities – such as those covered by the Equality Act 2010;
• economically deprived areas such as Wales, especially its rural and valleys communities, and on the Welsh language.
I will support efforts to overcome the long-term underfunding of Welsh public services - £300 million annually - identified by the Holtham Commission.
I support this statement. Plaid Cymru has called for the full implementation of the Holtham Commission proposals to overcome the funding disparity brought about by the Barnett Formula. We are already seeing the cuts fall disproportionately in Wales's economically deprived areas with faster job losses, fast depreciation of wages and cuts to the benefits on which a greater percentage of the population rely. I have recently published a consultation document which proposes a green jobs creation plan for the valleys. A PDF version can be found here
4. I pledge to support the PCS campaign to protect public sector pensions as affordable and sustainable, including calling on the UK government not to increase pension contributions or make cuts in the value of pension payments.
5. I pledge to protect public services and work alongside PCS, other trade unions and community organisations in fighting to ensure that no further services are outsourced or privatised.
If re-elected to the Senedd, I will continue to support Plaid Cymru policy and trade union campaigns against privatisation and outsourcing. I have argued on many occasions that the introduction of a profit margin into public services that previously had no shareholders to pacify, makes no sense economically. Quality or workers' terms or more ususally, both have to be reduced to plug the gap and over time and the lack of investment results in a failed service. I have opposed PFI for similar reasons. I will continue to makes these points whenever I get the opportunity.
Sunday, 27 March 2011
One of the themes of this weekend's Plaid Cymru conference was the economy. Wales's economy is in a poor state and not getting better despite billions of euro-cash.
With public sector cuts resulting in job losses and cuts to workers' wages hitting at the same time as big rises in the costs of living, allowing the Welsh economy to continue to decline is not an option.
As Dr Calvin Jones pointed out in a Stop Climate Chaos Cymru fringe meeting, Wales will need three nuclear power stations to replace oil, which is fast increasing in price as world reserves run out. Calvin presented a chilling picture of what can be expected: he asked how Mrs Jones living at the top of the valleys will be able to get to hospital when there are no buses, taxi's are unaffordable and the NHS can't afford to put fuel in its ambulances. This is the sort of consequence we can expect from peak oil, if we continue to live the way we do.
It's important to understand our history if we are to avoid making the same mistakes. One of the reasons that Wales's economy is in the state it is, is that we failed to control our own natural resources in the past. Those areas which produced the coal which fuelled the Britsh Empire should today be wealthy. Instead the land and the people of those areas were exploited, colonial-style, as the profits from coal lined the pockets of those elsewhere. It is those former coalfield areas, the valleys, which are among the most deprived part of Wales, the UK, even Europe - which is why we still qualify for EU structural funds. If Wales is to host another energy revolution, control over and the ability to realise the profits from those energy sources is going to be vital.
The valleys and parts of our coasts are due to see a vast expansion of wind power. Wind turbines being contructed already. Opposition continues, with one of the chief objections being that local communities will see little benefit. Electricity will not be cheaper and any benefits from compensatory 'wind-falls' to local councils are likely to be swallowed up by the cuts. In future, all renewable energy developments should have an element of community ownership and tangible benefits for the local communities before they are allowed to go ahead.
Decisions about large energy projects should be made in Wales, by devolving the power for energy consents for power generation of more than 50 MegaWatts. And the land owned by the Crown Estates in Wales should be owned by the people of Wales, with the profits being invested back into green infrastructure instead of into the coffers of the Windsors.
And there are more proposals in the Valleys Greenprint to make sure small communities in Wales see the benefits from controlling and owning the renewable energy we have to produce.
A green revolution has the potential to provide a vital boost to the Welsh economy. If we can make sure people have the right skills - green construction, co-operative and business skills and access to finance, co-operatively-based, where possible, and we can implementing some of the other proposals contained in the greenprint and those put forward in the conference fringe by Stop Climate Change Chaos and recently by Friends of the Earth Cymru, we have the potential to create thousand of jobs and prepare Wales for a future less reliant on carbon emitting fossil fuels AND save people money on their home energy bills. No brainer? What are we waiting for?
Monday, 21 March 2011
A PDF of the Greenprint for the Valleys - a green jobs creation plan can be found on the Plaid Cymru site.
There are more reports here and here. An introduction can be listened to here.
Copies of the Greenprint will be available tonight at a public meeting in Cwmaman Institute, Cynon Valley, 7pm. Another will be held in the Rhondda next Monday.
Friday, 18 March 2011
Next Monday, I am launching 'A Greenprint for the Valleys'. The launch meeting will be held on 21st March at 7pm in Cwmaman Institute in the Cynon Valley, with Plaid Cymru’s Cynon Valley candidate, Dafydd Trystan Davies.
The Greenprint is an attempt to offer ideas which will provide solutions to the varied problems we face in the valleys from public sector cuts, high levels of unemployment, especially among young people, low skills levels as well as potential future problems like fuel and food price rises, benefit and pension cuts and the weather-related effects of climate change.
Proposals include establishing a Green Construction Skills College, implementing an integrated transport plan for the valleys, providing financial support for home energy efficiency measures and for the setting up of green co-operatives, as well as creating a land bank for renewable energy and food production and a programme to renovate heritage buildings.
Can we wake up the community spirit that was strong in the valleys during the 80s miners' strike? Can we recreate the ethos of our forefathers who built the miners’ welfare halls, the libraries, the hospitals and the workingmen's clubs in the days before the welfare state existed?
With the ConDem government in London intent upon tearing apart our hard-fought-for welfare safety-net, I hope that this consultation document will at least help to start a debate among people in the valleys about how we can use our own skills and resources to build protection against these attacks and to make sure the area has a future.
A second public meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday March 28th in the Soar Ffrwdamos Centre, Penygraig, Rhondda, with Plaid’s Assembly candidate Sêra Evans-Fear.
Copies of the Greenprint will be available at the public meetings and in the form of a PDF on the Plaid Cymru site from next Monday.
Friday, 31 December 2010
Over the last two years, Plaid Cymru has issued a number of papers and carried out a series of events aimed at consulting people in Wales in preparation for our manifesto for next year's Assembly elections. Hundreds of people have participated in one-day conferences focussing on climate change, security, communities, town centres and more. I participated in many of these events where there were often lively, informative and stimulating discussions.
Some common themes have emerged. Energy and food security must be planned for. Jobs are essential, particularly in those areas which have suffered from economic decline since the devastation of Wales's heavy industry. Difficult economic conditions coupled with public sector cuts means that long term planning is needed if the parts of the Welsh economy are to avoid becoming depressed.
Over the coming weeks, I will be publishing a 'greenprint for the valleys', a specific set of proposals which aims to pull together the themes from the consultation days into a long-term plan to create jobs which prepare us for the future. By aiming for self-sufficiency, can we create our own markets and capacity to start a revolution in renewable energy, home energy efficiency, public transport and food production? Can we utilise existing government initiatives like feed-in tariffs and youth training schemes as well as public sector procurement and encourage the formation of co-operatives to create jobs to do work that will benefit our communities in the long term?
With responsibility for the plan laying with someone with a seat at the Welsh government table, the plan should be implemented in a pilot area covering the most economically deprived communities within the EU Assisted area known as West Wales and the Valleys. In the run-up to the Assembly elections I will be taking the proposal to the different valley communities to hear to peoples' views. In the longer term, I hope that successful aspects of the plan could be rolled out throughout Wales.
Can people be motivated to get involved in a plan to turn-around local economies and communities? Are people up for thinking about an alterative to Cameron's 'Big Society' here in Wales?
If you would like an advance copy of the consultation 'greenprint', or you would like to be kept informed about the meetings planned for the valleys, or you would like more information about Plaid Cymru, please send an e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Even though a fortnight has passed since news broke of the ‘lock-out’ at Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough council, the news is yet to truly sink in.
For those who haven’t heard, the Labour-run council has threatened 10,000 workers in Rhondda Cynon Taf with a ‘lock-out’ unless they accept lower terms and conditions of employment without any negotiations, by-passing the trades unions and refusing to rule out compulsory redundancies.
In the Rhondda, we have just commemorated the 100 years since the Tonypandy riots broke out. How ironic is the timing of this anniversary?
In terms of shafting their core supporters, this "gun-boat diplomacy" is up there with the abolition of the 10p tax rate.
In fact, Labour is the only party to have threatened staff with a lock-out in Wales – first in Neath and now in Rhondda Cynon Taf. The Tories have taken similar action in England but not even they have dared to try the same in Wales. The Plaid group on RCT council have battled to prevent this non-negotiable down-grade of workers' terms and conditions, but the ruling Labour group voted to hand over responsibility for decisions about staff over to the Chief Executive just before the threatened lock-out. Do those Labour councillors really believe that keeps their hands clean?
RCT council is prepared to ride rough-shod over the workers’ terms and conditions before knowing the level of finance they will receive from the Assembly Government. The Assembly's draft budget is not due to be published until the 17th of November. Councils will know their financial settlement after that.
RCT's non-negotiable plan includes cutting the overtime payments of some of the lowest paid staff. I want to know much of a pay cut the top brass are taking. And the cabinet members? How 'all-in-this-together' are we in RCT?
In the valleys before the last election, Labour told people that only they could stop the Tories. How hollow these claims must sound to their voters now that they are behaving exactly like them.