Wales politics

Vote 2011: 'Radical' Lib Dems say Wales can do better

Welsh Liberal Democrats said devolution can "work better" as they launched their assembly election manifesto.

The party said they will fight the election on the economy, and leader Kirsty Williams hailed a "radical" and "positive" programme.

She said the poll on 5 May was voters' chance to "set the course" of the country for the next five years.

The Lib Dems have held six seats at each of the first three assembly elections.

They face attacks from Labour and Plaid Cymru over the actions of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition UK government. Opinion polls suggest support for the party has slipped since the last election in 2007.

But Ms Williams said voters deserved a "proper conversation" about the way forward as the party published the manifesto in the seaside town of Aberaeron in the target seat of Ceredigion.

The manifesto promises to make better use of public money by rooting out government waste and offering grants to businesses that train unemployed young people.

Ms Williams attacked the record of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition that has run the assembly government since 2007, saying it "hampered" the campaign for last month's referendum when voters said Yes to giving the assembly direct law-making powers.

"It's clear to me that the Welsh people wanted devolution to work, want more powers for the National Assembly, but they want it to work better," she said.

"This election is the chance to set the course for our country until 2016, for the next five years."

'Get things right'

She said her daughters, who are at primary school, would be "knocking on the door of their GCSEs" at the next election.

"This election is the chance that they have got, that we have got to get things right for them," she said.

She attacked examples of "waste" by the Labour-Plaid government, including subsidised flights between north and south Wales and "fancy reports that they never follow up".

"No more excuses, no more saying 'well, we would like to but we can't'. We have now the powers and what we need is a government with the will to get things right for Wales."

Lib Dem pledges include grants of £2,000 for companies to train staff if they provide jobs to unemployed youngsters.

The party says it would tackle a "spending gap" between schools in England and Wales, targeting money at the 80,000 pupils who they say need it most.

It also says it would improve healthcare by cutting waste from the NHS.

Conservative Montgomeryshire candidate Russell George attacked the Lib Dems for not supporting the Tories' policy of ring-fencing NHS funding, adding: "Welsh Conservatives are the only party committed to protecting Wales' NHS budget."

Plaid Ceredigion candidate Elin Jones said: "After the way the Lib Dems have thrown out their principles, pledges and promises in Westminster no one could be expected to believe a word of what is contained in their manifesto."

A Welsh Labour spokesman said: "All political parties believe that devolution can work better and the Liberal Democrats have presented some worthy (and some woolly) ideas about how that could be achieved. However, the big question for them is - is anyone listening anymore?"