- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
I am in Brussels and Luxembourg this week with the Assembly’s Petitions and Enterprise and Business committees. We caught the Eurostar on Monday, luckily missing Tuesday’s travel chaos.
As it happens, one of the issues we have discussed is transport: the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor, which stretches from Ireland and north UK to the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and to the Mediterranean in the south of France.
We have also talked about inward investment. The Welsh Government recently announced the best inward investment figures for 30 years, creating more than 5,000 new jobs and securing a further 4,520. This will be a hot topic as we approach the EU membership referendum – what is the cost-benefit?
Earlier in the week the Assembly’s Petitions Committee met its EU equivalent. I have been a member of the Committee since 2011. In that time it has become an important link between the Welsh public and the Assembly. We are currently carrying out a survey; we want to know what you think about the petitions system – what matters it should cover, who should be able to use it, what action the Committee should take etc. You can take the five-minute survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/review-of-nafw-petitions-system.
As a cross-party group of AMs we consider all sorts of issues. Last week we received a petition to lower the smear test age in Wales from 25 to 18. We recently published a report on British military recruiting in Welsh schools, prompted by concerns that the Armed Forces make disproportionately more visits to Welsh secondary schools than the rest of the UK, and to more schools in poorer areas.
Many of the petitions we get are about funding, as you might expect. Budget cuts are high up on the political agenda, locally and nationally. Powys Council is looking to cut spending by another £47 million by 2020. At the same time, the UK Government will make further cuts to the Welsh Budget: £43 million pounds from the Welsh Government’s revenue budget and £7 million from its capital budget. This is on top of the 8% that has been slashed from the Welsh Budget since the start of this Assembly in 2011.
We see the impact on local bus services and other amenities. Nationally, the UK cuts threaten Welsh services and endanger infrastructure projects. It is the job of the Welsh Government to lessen the blow.
We all know to avoid false economies; but when budgets are tight, short-term savings are tempting. It is a point I made in the Senedd earlier this month when I questioned the First Minister about care services in Powys. After the mess with Alpha Home Care councils should look to commission providers that value and support their staff. That is the best way to guarantee good quality in the long term, I argued. The First Minister agreed. Invest in tomorrow or cut today – what is the cost-benefit?