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Out of the box

Betsan Powys | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wednesday - it must be Aberaeron and the launch by the Welsh Liberal Democrats of their manifesto. A boxful arrived in our office last night: no mistaking the message contained underneath all that red tape.

I'm starting to get the feeling that most parties have chosen to trail their key pledges well in advance. The date of the referendum meant this campaign was bound to be a short, sharp one - the parties didn't want their prized pledges to be squeezed. So as with Plaid yesterday, no great surprises from the Lib Dems.

You can read their manifesto in full here but let me have a stab at the key pledges:

The Lib Dems want our money put to better use by rooting out government waste.

On the day it's announced that the number of people unemployed in Wales has gone up, they point to a plan to offer companies £2000 to companies for staff training if they give jobs to employed young people and there's a big emphasis on education. The Lib Dems would tackle the spending gap between the amount spent on pupils in Wales and in England and of course the pupil premium they've already trailed quite heavily is there too.

There's a pledge to cut waste in the NHS, to trial different approaches to delivering care and "end the damaging ban on using private money in the health service." It can't, say the Lib Dems, be justified.

The north south airlink would go and more power would be devolved to councils, so they can innovate and make the most of the money they have.

As for costings - in line with their previous budget announcements - the Lib Dems agree with the way the vast majority of the Welsh block grant is spent but by 2015, if in government, they'd be spending £218 million differently. Where would it come from? Most by far would come from dipping into the government's reserves, the money they keep in a separate pot for a rainy day. The Lib Dems say that pot is too full and they'd keep it at "recommended levels" - in other words, they would spend some of that cash on their plans.

Now I tread very carefully back up to the moral high ground, which - as some of you pointed out in your comments yesterday - isn't always safe territory. But in the interest of balance, it seems only fair to point out that in this manifesto, the words 'General Election' in Welsh (Etholiad Cyffreddinol) are misspelled, the election slogan (Gall Cymru yn wneud yn Well) on the front page is mangled and there are any number of errors in the section in English on 'better education' . Could do better, to steal the party's own phrase. I look forward to Peter Black's take on it. A case of Pot .. Kettle .. Peter .. Black perhaps!

It simply proves says Kirsty Williams, under questioning, that the education system in Wales does need urgent attention.

Touché. No - hold the 'meeeows.' I said touché, not touchy!

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Spelling mistakes? I'm not much bothered by those, I'm guilty of plenty of them, particularly when feeling a bit splenetic. Although the LibDems are right to point out that Wales is a completely different ball game to Westminster all we can do is draw parallels from their existing administrations. My neighbourhood in Cardiff was cut off by snow in the winter just gone, not a day or two but for over a week. Not one gritter, not even on the bus route. This was just one poor performance in a whole string of them, including demolishing Cardiff Central bus station and then asking the people what should happen next! They should never have demolished Terminal Buildings in the first place. I can see why they didn't consult first, look what happened in Rumney, they held a plediscite on the future of Rumney Rec, didn't like the result (keeping it as it is by over 90%) so ignored it! If this is how they treat local democracy, high up on their mantra, what can we believe about the rest of it?
    And now a question: where's the LibDem coalition agreement offer? They aren't going to win, so what would they bring to a 'rainbow coalition'? The same question could be asked of all the other parties. A Labour result isn't a given, the candidate I've been offered is a Unite man, the pensioner organisation I belong to fell out with them some time ago, and they have hardly strained themselves trying to patch it up. I remain estranged from all things 'Unite'.

  • Comment number 2.

    Welsh Lib Dems make a few spelling mistakes, Labour and Plaid made 4 years of spending mistakes - which do I care about more?

  • Comment number 3.

    "...rooting out government waste..." A large part of government waste is devolution itself - millions in salaries for AM's, MLA's, MSP's, building's, maintenance and running cost's ! (better spent on jobs, health and education). Electors should take the advice of the new Common Representation Campaign and abstain.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's a well written document full of innovative ideas to make Wales go forward.

    'Cut your waiting times by cutting waste. We will improve healthcare
    by switching ineffective spending in the NHS to the frontline' I have seen waist in NHS, friend who worked them said they would replace a whole bunch of new radiators because the style did not suit!

    'Establishing a Welsh Stock Exchange to give Welsh businesses
    greater access to capital. We will provide the seed funding
    necessary to kick-start the Exchange, which will promote Wales as
    a place to do serious business, and will enable those businesses
    that are unable to access the London Stock Exchange to generate
    the finance needed to expand and create jobs. This will be funded
    from our Jobs and Growth Innovation Fund'
    I think a Welsh stock market will give a real business climate .

    'Creating a programme of good practice for people in working the
    public sector because not enough are trained in working with
    disabled people' Another good policy

    'Giving strategic direction to the Arts Council to invest more of their
    money into smaller festivals and up-and-coming artists, musicians
    and writers. We will also instruct the Arts Council develop a
    programme to ensure that arts and cultural events move towards
    sustainable business plans' This would spread arts viewing across instead of just Cardiff and it is a way that WAG can connect wiht people locally.

    'Removing the requirements for planning permission for small-scale
    microgeneration or Combined Heat and Power in private homes' Very good policy as alot of potential energy is untapped.

    'Restoring faith in the Ministerial Code of Conduct by making sure is
    policed by an independent body. This will end the situation where
    the First Minister is in charge of complaints against his Government'
    Another good one

    'Developing a formal protocol to ensure that small businesses have
    a chance to compete for contracts. This will include reducing
    ‘bundling’ and ensuring that access to information is available. We’ll
    also reduce the size and complexity of application material'
    A very good policy as this will allow smaller Welsh businesses to compete against companies outside Wales coming into Wales in tender.

  • Comment number 5.

    "eliminating waste" is such a pathetic "policy". Who on earth opposes less waste?

  • Comment number 6.

    A purrrrr-fect response Betsan, when finding poor use of language, whether Welsh or English, the writers should expect a scolding, we should expect more from those that would guide the future direction of political Wales, and to place the blame on poor education in Wales is just not cricket Kirsty Williams, the end of term report for the Lib Dem's might read "must do better" ........

  • Comment number 7.

    Nick Clegg would be proud of the rhetoric.

    Eliminate waste - a great headline - but then Kirsty would give more power to Local Authorities - does she realise that LA's already waste money at a faster rate then the Welsh Assembly? A way to save money would be to cut the number of LA's which. Nearly all of our AMs say that we have too many>

    Lets spend our reserves says Kirsty - hasn't the UK done that and more inthe last ten years. Gosh Clegg was talking only the other day about the need for saving for a rainy days.

    Kirsty and Clegg are from the same mould

  • Comment number 8.

    There used to be a Welsh Stock Exchange, along with local bourses in Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow amongst others. Alas centralisation, consolidation and the death of the localised specialist partnerships with 1986's 'Big Bang' ended all of this. Also, how many of the local companies from AB Electronics to Powell Dyffryn remain independent these days. We could certainly trade Glas Cymru's bonds, which are one of the stars in the City.

    It is a nice idea, especially if it could match local companies and finance and become a trading house for entrepreneurship and innovation. The principal obstacle is finance (the early stage / VC / SME market is a dog at the moment) and the willingness to take a long term view.

    Such a market could make a go of things by [1] specialising in a certain area such as Clean Tech and [2] making a platform for funding and mentoring newer and smaller companies.

    There is the little issue of having companies to invest in. Perhaps such a move could nudge things on a bit. There is no lack of interesting SMEs in Wales. One I came across (second generation wind turbines - far more efficient and less obtrusive than the things you see today) gained its funding...from a group of Angels in South Africa.

    So, it is a good idea in theory. It would take a great deal to get off the ground, but if the aims and objectives are the right ones, I'd like to see it take off. That also goes for other specialist exchanges across the UK.

  • Comment number 9.

    1. RW49

    My neighbourhood in Cardiff was cut off by snow in the winter just gone, not a day or two but for over a week. Not one gritter, not even on the bus route. This was just one poor performance in a whole string of them, including demolishing Cardiff Central bus station and then asking the people what should happen next! They should never have demolished Terminal Buildings in the first place. I can see why they didn't consult first, look what happened in Rumney, they held a plediscite on the future of Rumney Rec, didn't like the result (keeping it as it is by over 90%) so ignored it! If this is how they treat local democracy, high up on their mantra, what can we believe about the rest of it?


    With respect, but aren't all your criticisms related to Cardiff Council not the Welsh Assembly.

    As for Kirsty Williams I am afraid she just hsn't got what it takes.

    She may be an effective leader of the LibDems in Wales, I don't know.

    But, watching her on the news last night I am afraid she comes over like a 6th form teenager, not a leader.

    Though to be fair, non of the leaders in Wales have got that something extra to believe in.

  • Comment number 10.

    Oh, silly me, there I was thinking there there was only one Welsh Lib Dem party and the 'local' sort is a poor guide to the 'national - Assembly' sort. I don't think I'd trust either to run a party in a brewery. On a more heavyweight issue, the fact that Welsh SMEs are having trouble finding skilled recruits is a cause for concern, even more troubling is the four main parties response to the issue. They all talk of some sort of apprenticeship solution. Now don't get me wrong I'm a big fan of apprenticeships, I was one once myself and I found it the perfect form of higher education but then I left school suitably qualified to enter the scheme I wanted. Alas, not so now, as has been said by others, a large number of school leavers are not well enough educated to even start an apprenticeship never mind get the most out of it. That is something that should figure large in the election debate: why have education standards slipped and what should be done to reverse this. Surely not more of the same!

  • Comment number 11.

    Welsh Lib Dems make a few spelling mistakes, Labour and Plaid made 4 years of spending mistakes - which do I care about more?..

    Well said, spot on!

    Regards
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 12.

    Actually there were two stock exchanges in Wales, Swansea and Cardiff, careful though WelshKnot or people from True Wales will accuse you of supporting independence (they used the idea of a Welsh Stock exchange as evidence of a conspiracy to make Wales independent!).

    The Lib Dems seem to have flip flopped over prescription charges, no bad thing... but want private money in the NHS (privatisation in other words).

  • Comment number 13.

    @welshknot

    A Welsh stock market would enhance cardiff as an international centre. It would do wonders for companies not big enough for the AIM . It could also cater for companies outisde of Wales. Perhaps UK and Irish smaller companies.

    Public money should be used to develop this as it will have long term positives.

  • Comment number 14.

    If we are serious about improving the Welsh economy then we need to help find ways of enabling local companies to gain finance, a Welsh Stock Exchange is undoubtedly part of that package. Interestingly the West Midlands Regional Chamber (or what ever it was called before its abolition) created a virtual one for Birmingham.

  • Comment number 15.

    12

    Thanks for that LDT, this is new to me, but it does make sense as Swansea and Cardiff flank the old industrial heartlands.

    Yes, we must be careful about that slippery slope!!

    13

    Pre AIM companies is an interesting idea. Mind you, some of the AIM companies I have looked at were early stage - raise the funds, start a project and aim for revenues before the 'burn rate' eats away the funds. A risky business but most certainly not a boring one!

 

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