Senedd Bites #58: Cheap Wales

(Title Image: Twitter via BBC Wales)

“Cheap Wales” trade and investment tweets condemned

The Welsh Government were criticised after  its Trade & Investment arm publishing social media posts which highlighted Wales’ relatively low pay – “up to 30% lower salary costs” – as a selling point for international businesses. This isn’t the first time the Welsh Government have used the claim, doing the same thing during their failed bid for the Green Investment Bank in 2012.

Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) said the post didn’t reflect Labour values, while Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said, “The days of selling Wales as a country where you can get a cheap workforce has to be consigned to history because it does nothing for our economy.”

Plaid Cymru “considering name change”

It’s long been on the table, but an internal review of Plaid Cymru carried out by former SNP MP, Angus Robertson, has recommended a “more inclusive” name for the party, with “New Wales Party” emerging as an early contender.

A name change has been recommended in previous reviews to prevent the party being seen as solely the preserve of the Welsh language which Mr Robertson said, “….means that Plaid struggles to reach out to non-Welsh speakers, and because the Welsh-speaking areas are by now geographically confined, Plaid also struggles to present itself as an all-Wales party.”

Call to ban anti-homelessness furniture

Homelessness charity The Wallich has called on “hostile architecture” – architecture and furniture designed to deter rough-sleepers – to be banned in Wales. 120 people signed a petition to the Senedd calling for a ban.

Local authorities such as Cardiff and Swansea denied designing street furniture to prevent people from sleeping on them (i.e. by installing armrests), though private landowners are allowed to install fences of up to 1m in height and install thing such as spikes without planning permission.

Cleddau Bridge tolls to end in April 2019

A £3million agreement has been reached between the Welsh Government and Pembrokeshire Council to scrap tolls on the Cleddau Bridge between Pembroke Dock and Neyland from April 1st 2019.

The toll currently stands at between 35p-£1.50 each way. The one-off payment will meet the cost of staffing changes and removing toll booths.

The Leader of Pembrokeshire Council, Cllr. David Simpson said “I’m very pleased that the tolls are going – it will be a great boost to the economy of the county. I’d like to thank the staff of the bridge for the work they have done over the years but I hope they understand now that our hands were tied here.”

Renewed calls for lobbyist register following rules breach

The Welsh Government have moved to tighten restrictions on professional lobbyists meeting with ministers after it was revealed that the Economy Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) had met a broadband company at the Senedd where a senior lobbyist was also present – though seemingly by accident.

Former First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said in 2016 that ministers don’t have formal meetings with lobbyists. In 2018, the Senedd’s Standards Committee rejected a lobbyist register but instead recommended a trial where AMs record meetings with lobbyists.

UKIP loses only committee chair

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) has taken over as chair of a Senedd committee after AMs voted 44 to 4 for a change of the political composition of committee chairs. It comes following significant changes in the number of members in each group, with UKIP losing three members and Plaid Cymru losing two.

The Conservatives have long complained that they deserved an additional committee chair because they became the largest group in the Senedd by default. As a result, UKIP’s David Rowlands was removed as chair of the Petitions Committee and replaced by a Conservative.

Neil Hamilton said it was setting a dangerous precedent of removing rights from a minority group in the Senedd and argued that Plaid Cymru should lose a chair in order for proper political balance.