Thursday, 22 July 2010

Policy Development

We have come a long way in a short time-in political terms.

The Conservative-Lib Dem Alliance has committed to review fair funding. No government has done that before and indeed as recently as the election campaign Labour's Treasury team in the shape of Alistair Darling and Liam Byrne were ruling it out. More recently still Ed Balls of the Labour persuasion said Wales was doing well from funding and Barnett should remain. They need to move on.

Members of the opposition parties in the National Assembly are missing no opportunity to push this agenda. Labour need to convince their top brass to change their tune and Plaid Cymru could do much worse than seek to convince their Scottish Nationalist colleagues of the need for change too.We need to push on other fronts too.

The economic inheritance from Labour is in stark contrast to the golden scenario they picked up in 1997 but within resources we need rail electrification to Swansea (though to hear Plaid Cymru talk you would think electrification stops in Bristol, it actually goes to the area around Heathrow, so it is quite a challenge!) The Defence Academy at St Athan is also obviously a key concern. Some aims are less costly.

I hope that patriation of the Welsh Archive to Aberystwyth from Kew can be achieved, for example.

Other things we need to deliver within NAW budgets: more focussed help for home grown Welsh SMEs, help for communities, whether rural or urban that want to protect community assets, a coherent strategy to tackle rural depopulation recognising the threat that this is to the Welsh language and to communities generally, a campaign to encourage walking and cycling, a roll out of Smart meters to homes in Wales, an NHS for for the twenty first century making fresh drugs and treatments available to all our citizens regardless of their address, a dedicated Art Gallery, a Welsh Statues Fund, and, on the process side, an effective Policy Unit drawing expertise from all sectors and all political backgrounds in Welsh life to set out policy options.

These are items from our policy menu, some of which have already been announced.

I am sometimes amazed when some of the more ideologically driven politicians in Wales talk of the reactionary nature of our policy in Wales. The most cursory of glances at our policy proposals would show how threadbare an attack this is.

No government gets it wholly wrong or wholly right and the last Labour government was no exception to that rule but they did leave us with a greater wealth gap than when they came in. In Wales we have 96,000 children living in poverty.

In other devolved areas there are problems too. Still waits for many treatments are too long (longer usually than in England), and our prosperity levels have slipped behind those of large tracts of Eastern Europe that a decade ago had trailed behind us economically, so let's not pretend that there isn't a job of work to be done!

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