FMQs: Privatised probation services judged to be “a catastrophic policy”

Cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB increases 24% in a year

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs), said 12,000 cattle have been slaughtered over the last year due to bovine TB – an “eye-watering” 24% increase. Clearly, farmers were being let down by Welsh Government policies.

“….your policy is not working, otherwise the number of cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB would be decreasing….And whichever way you want to look at this, the fact remains that the Welsh farming sector is under a huge amount of pressure….The unsustainably high number of cattle being slaughtered in Wales is down to your Government’s failure to tackle this disease holistically, and in the meantime, farming communities across Wales are feeling isolated, ignored and neglected.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The First Minister said the marked increase in cattle slaughters was down to more sophisticated bovine TB detection methods, meaning more cases were being picked up. This was no sign government policies were failing.

While there’s a short-term increase in cases, over the last decade the number of new cases has fallen by 37%. A new institute at Aberystwyth University will be the focus of world-leading research into tackling the disease.

“One of the most catastrophic policy decisions by a Westminster Government”

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) brought up the recent coroner’s ruling that Connor Marshall – who was murdered by David Braddon in Porthcawl – was unlawfully killed. At the time, Braddon was being supervised by a privately-run community rehab company after probation services had been part-privatised by the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition in 2014.

“In 2015, the year of the murder….staff were writing to the company complaining of excessive workloads. Last week, the coroner concluded that the management and supervision of the newly appointed probation worker responsible for David Braddon was woefully inadequate….The Inspectorate of Probation report in July last year reported that 60% of officers thought their workload was unmanageable. Were the concerns raised by probation workers brought to the attention of the integrated offender management Cymru board or the all-Wales criminal justice board on which the Welsh Government is represented….?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister wholeheartedly agreed with Adam Price’s assessment of the privatisation of probation services – which the Senedd has condemned before. His belief is that probation and youth justice services should’ve been devolved from the very start because services probation officers rely on, like mental health services and housing, are devolved themselves.

He didn’t have all the information at hand to answer what the Welsh Government knew at the time (promising to provide an update) but adding to his other points, he didn’t believe there was any sort of private market that could be used to provide probation services in Wales.

Welsh Government commissions study into Cardiff congestion charge plans

Given the publicity around Cardiff’s plans to introduce a congestion charge, Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) suggested it was unfair that Cardiff receives the lion’s share of transport investment in the south-east, yet was now considering “taxing Newport, Bridgend and the Valleys to pay for Cardiff” and its transport vision.

The First Minister confirmed the Welsh Government have commissioned a study on the proposal and its potential impact on the surrounding local authorities. This study will be used to formulate a national policy position on congestion charging. Dismissing the idea out of hand was, however, lazy thinking:

“….dismissing all the ways in which we can make a difference in the future as though they were of no relevance to people who live either in the capital city or in the areas that surround it is no way at all to approach what is a fundamentally serious public policy challenge here in Wales, in our capital city and far beyond.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

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