Welsh Government “not responsible” for university job losses

(Title Image: Cardiff University)

Broadband’s missing millions

Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery) asked for an update on the next phase of Superfast Cymru, but the numbers involved were a bit of a mystery.

“You’ve announced the £22 million that has been allocated. Your predecessor, last year, announced £85 million would be allocated to phase 2. So, can I ask you – my calculation is that that’s £62 million remaining – how you plan to spend that £62 million in regards to phase 2?”
– Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM

Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters (Lab, Llanelli) said the second phase would extend superfast broadband to an additional 26,000 properties by March 2021. The Welsh Government were still considering how to use the £62million that hasn’t yet been allocated.

Ultimately, it’s a non-devolved area and the Welsh Government were using their own money to do this when they don’t really need to. The Deputy Minister said it was the UK Government’s responsibility to reach the unreachable areas and called for broadband to be given the same universal status as postal services.

Welsh Government “not responsible” for university job losses

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) raised the issue of 380 redundancies announced at Cardiff University. What analysis has been done regarding the potential economic impact of these job losses?

Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) said universities were autonomous and any decision was down to them alone.

“I think that’s pretty blasé Minister because this will affect people on the ground – their livelihoods, where they spend their money, how they spend their money, the jobs that they will be able to go to and the skills that we will have in our communities. So, I will ask you again: what economic analysis will you have on a Wales basis as to the impact of the cuts to our higher education sector?”
– Bethan Sayed AM

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon and Radnor), heckled that there were no cuts and Ken Skates repeated that the Welsh Government haven’t made any cuts – which Bethan Sayed never implied – adding that universities manage their own affairs.

“I, first of all, thank the Member for acknowledging that there are no cuts to higher education from the Welsh Government. I think that’s very helpful to clarify, and I think, in reflecting on that very fact, I should also say that we have been relentless in fighting for the higher education sector just as we have been relentless in supporting the further education sector as well. But we are still fighting against nine years of biting austerity.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates

Delays on new railway station decisions

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) asked why the next stage in the decision process for deciding where to build new railways stations was taking so long? Residents of Carno in Powys were particularly frustrated by the delays.

The Economy Minister said it was simply the volume of work involved:

“I think it’s important to say that there’s no point in moving schemes to a detailed business case level unless we are completely confident that there is potential for them to result in a sound business case, and that’s why the work has been so extensive. But it is also worth stating that there are no indications from the UK Government, as yet, of any new funding streams to introduce new stations on our railway network.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates

Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) supports a new station and rail link in Abertillery and felt the decision-making model was biased towards areas with the greatest population densities. Could this model be reviewed?

The Minister would like to see changes, but the cost-benefit formula is what UK Government funding decisions when it comes to new stations are based on. Unless rail infrastructure is devolved and a fair funding formula is put in place that isn’t going to change.

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