Senedd Bites #50: No jobs yet at Ebbw Vale business park

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

“No jobs” yet at £100million Ebbw Vale automotive park

A special BBC Wales investigation into the Ebbw Vale automotive business park has revealed that no jobs have yet been created, despite being announced 18 months ago.

The Welsh Government have claimed the park would create up to 1,500 jobs by 2027, but local representative Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) – who was previously responsible for the Valleys Task Force – said the lack of progress could cost Labour at the next election.

The BBC found that local businesspeople were “disillusioned and demoralised” by the lack of progress, but the Welsh Government said infrastructure works could start “in the coming months”.

Paper literacy and numeracy tests to be phased out by 2021

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), has announced that traditional classroom paper tests in numeracy and literacy for Years 2-9 will be phased out by 2021 and replaced with adaptive online tests which will change to meet the abilities of the pupil.

She told the Senedd that this will provide teachers with real-time high-quality information and enable them to gear lessons more specifically to help learners improve. The project will be backed by £1.7million to help schools most in need of urgent IT upgrades.

AM readmitted to the Labour Assembly Group

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) was readmitted to the Labour group after being suspended towards the end of 2018 following anti-Semitic remarks which were recorded at an event in 2017.

It’s understood the decision to re-admit was made towards the end of 2018, but this wasn’t universally welcomed by Labour AMs.

Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East) said, “This decision raises so many questions about the Labour Party’s attitude towards the Jewish citizens of our country.”

Ireland to reopen Welsh consulate

The Republic of Ireland has announced its intention to re-open a consulate in Cardiff as part of the country’s preparations for Brexit. The office closed in 2009 following austerity measures and is expected to reopen by June 2019.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs & Trade Department said, “The re-opening of the Consulate General in Cardiff would be….a concrete recognition of the importance of our political and economic ties with Wales and sustaining those links after Brexit.”

Open letter calls for new First Minister to back a second Brexit referendum

An open letter signed by AMs, MPs, councillors and local chairs of Wales for Europe called on the First Minister to back a so-called “People’s Vote” on Brexit.

Mark Drakeford has, to date, been ambivalent on his stance, seemingly preferring a fresh UK general election to a second referendum. He’s also called for an extension to the Article 50 period to prevent the UK from crashing out of the EU without a deal on March 29th.

The letter says, “….we now urge you to use your new office to its utmost to demand – of both the UK Government and the UK leadership of your own party – a new People’s Vote in which continued membership of the European Union would be an option on the ballot. This new public vote is necessary regardless of whether or not a General Election is called.”

Lib Dems mourn Paddy Ashdown

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, paid tribute to the former leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, who died on December 22nd at the age of 77.

She said, “A Liberal to the core he lead with passion and energy at a critical time for the party. On a personal level, he was incredibly supportive, encouraging and kind.”

Welsh Lib Dem leader, Jane Dodds said, “We all owe Paddy a debt of gratitude for his role in rebuilding our party and ensuring the flame of liberalism continues to shine brightly.”

New leader of Green Party in Wales elected

Anthony Slaughter, from Penarth, was elected the new leader of the Green Party in Wales following the resignation and defection to Plaid Cymru of the previous leader, Grenville Ham last year. He had previously served as Deputy Leader.

He said, “I am proud and excited to have been elected as Leader of Wales Green Party. These are challenging and unpredictable times. With the devastating effects of the ongoing Climate Crisis and the damage being done to our communities by the politically driven austerity agenda, there is a real need for a strong Green voice in Wales.”

Party members voted to remain a branch of the EnglandandWales Green Party last year instead of becoming a wholly Welsh party, as in Scotland.

£5million fund for sport facilities

Sport Wales has announced a £5million investment fund which will be used to upgrade and protect sports facilities.

Culture Minister, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnnydd) said, “Whether it’s the hall you do classes in or the pitch you play on, having the right facilities in place has a big impact on a person’s experience – and the likelihood of them participating on a regular basis.”

Sport Wales Chief Executive, Sarah Powell added, “We have several existing applications from key partners that could benefit from this exciting announcement and we will look to progress with these as a priority.”