Mark Drakeford took part in his first First Minister’s Question this afternoon.
Better Off Out (of the UK)?
Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) asked that in light of the Welsh Government commissioning an OECD review of Welsh economic strategy, how was Wales performing now and would Wales be performing better or worse as an independent nation?
The First Minister hadn’t changed his view that Wales is better off within the UK.
According to the World Bank, Adam continued, Wales would place 23rd of 36 full OECD members; the Republic of Ireland was placed 5th. As mechanisms of wealth redistribution and economic prosperity go, the UK isn’t a very good example of one. He then turned to Labour’s record.
“We were promised a new strategy for the Valleys, but nothing is happening. The city deal for the Cardiff capital region has so far failed to bring forward a project north of the M4 corridor. You promised work on the technology park in Ebbw Vale would start in March last year—it hasn’t.”
– Adam Price AM
The First Minister pointed to falling unemployment and falling economic inactivity, adding that projects like the Ebbw Vale one are long-term visions lasting up to 10 years. Ireland has been able to attract shell headquarter companies to boost economic figures, but disposable incomes remain low.
“It’s always been a paradox of nationalism, it seems to me in this Chamber, Llywydd, that they (Plaid Cymru) are so depressed about Wales and so keen to be somewhere else in Europe.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)
A Healthier Wales
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), welcomed the new First Minister but went straight for one of Labour’s sore points: the NHS.
“We can’t deny that our services are struggling under successive Welsh Labour Governments. The record is absolutely clear. Collectively, our health boards are facing a deficit of £360 million. Our A&E waiting times have not been met since implementation in 2009. Patients are routinely waiting longer than one year for vital surgery. Wales’s largest health board, Betsi Cadwaladr, is in special measures and has been for three and a half years.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
After being accused of not having a clear vision, the First Minister told Paul Davies such a plan exists in the form of A Healthier Wales. Wales was doing better than England in terms of social care and integrating it with health and he was committed to using all the resources at the Welsh Government’s disposal to ensure the NHS stays true to its founding principles.
Protecting Cardiff’s Cultural Heritage
One of the big stories over the Christmas recess were mooted plans by the Rapport family to demolish a Victorian terrace at Cardiff’s Guildford Crescent, which has resulted in the closure of the Gwdihw bar. Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab–Ind, Cardiff Central) asked what the Welsh Government can do to protect cultural heritage from redevelopments.
The First Minister confirmed Cadw is looking into the merits of listing the buildings and are aware of how urgent that needs to be done. It’ll be down to Cardiff Council’s cabinet to make a decision on whether to make Guildford Crescent a conservation area and if they decide to do so before the Rapports demolish the terrace, the Rapports will have to apply for special consent (which likely won’t be forthcoming).