Senedd Bites #15: Relaunches, Lagoons & Hubs

AM kicked out of Plaid Assembly group

For the last year or so, Plaid Cymru have existed in a state not unlike a slow-motion car crash. After cringe-inducingly long time, Plaid Cymru’s AMs have decided to permanently expel Neil McEvoy AM (Ind, South Wales Central) from the group after an interim suspension that’s lasted a good 4/5 months.

It’s still unclear what precisely he’s accused of (other than his opposition to the Right to Buy ban) and his anti-establishment credentials are set to be bolstered after a lobbyist-backed petition to remove him from the party gathered more than 20,000 signatures.

I’ll probably come back to this when the full details emerge, but Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) has come out to criticise the party’s disciplinary procedures whilst backing the decision itself.

Leanne Wood “would welcome leadership contest”

While there have been tentative moves towards a Labour leadership contest, there’s the outside chance of a Plaid Cymru leadership contest later this year too.

Leanne Wood AM’s (Plaid, Rhondda) tenure is automatically up for review in October and it presents an opportunity for a challenger to put their name forward. Nobody’s done so yet, though Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) has expressed interest if a leadership election took place in light of anonymous briefing against Leanne’s leadership last summer.

Despite another Plaid “relaunch” earlier this week – completely overshadowed by the Neil McEvoy business – I would be surprised if Leanne leads Plaid into the next Welsh General election in 2021; but you would assume October 2020 – when the post is up for review again – would be the rational time for an orderly succession.

Petition calls for disability access “scores on the doors”

A petition has been submitted to the National Assembly calling for the introduction of a “scores on the doors” system for disabled access to building similar to that used for food hygiene scores.

The petition, which was submitted by the Bridgend Coalition for Disabled People, believes such a system would make it easier for disabled people to find out how accessible a business or building is before venturing out and whether they had disabled facilities such as toilets.

The petition will still need to go through the committee process, but the Welsh Government said they believed the idea had “some merit”.

Conflicting claims over Welsh Government tidal lagoon offer

The Welsh Secretary played down the significance of a “substantial” offer by the First Minister for the Welsh Government to financially support the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon in order to secure its development. It’s unclear what numbers are being talked about, but it’s believed to be at least £100million.

No progress has been made on a decision whether to give it the go-ahead or not following concerns over the size of the public subsidy that could be required.

£180million “Metro Hub” unveiled

Plans have been released for a £180million hub for rail services, bus services and the wider South Wales Metro at Cardiff Central station.

The plans will see Cardiff Central station redeveloped and modernised to accommodate 20million+ passengers a year, a new bus/coach station, a new multi-storey car park, room for future light-rail to/from Cardiff Bay and parking for up to 1,000 bikes.

The Cardiff City Region have agreed to put £40million towards the project, with the rest of the funding dependent on the Welsh& UK government as well as private investors.

Parliamentary health review calls for “revolution”

A major review into the future of the Welsh NHS has made a number of recommendations in order to prevent further decline.

The review, led by former Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ruth Hussey, recommends “seamless” working between the NHS and social care, a focus on shifting resources away from major hospitals, introducing a measure of patient choice in how and where to receive care and urgent action to address staff shortages and staff wellbeing.

A new longer-term plan for health is due to be published in the spring, but Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), said the review “will set firm foundations….for years to come”.