Senedd tributes not the time for Thatcher attacks - Lib Dem leader
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams says she'll use this afternoon's tribute session 'to recognise the important role Margaret Thatcher played in British and Welsh politics' rather than to launch a political attack.
The Brecon AM said she's 'not going to turn into Mrs Thatcher's number one fan because of her passing' but said that she was 'brought up to be respectful' at such times.
And she added that it's right that AMs are given the opportunity for 'a moment of reflection on the life of an individual who played a part in public life.'
£10,000 tax threshold is 'historic achievement' - Welsh Lib Dems
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has welcomed the Chancellor's decision to raise the point at which people start paying tax to £10,000 from next year. She said:
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today accomplished our number one manifesto pledge by raising the tax threshold all the way to £10,000. We are ensuring that 130,000 of the lowest paid workers in Wales will be lifted completely out of the income tax system while over a million people will receive a £700 tax cut. This is an historic achievement and one that will greatly help hard working families in Wales.
– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader
Lib Dems want more for schools before they'll back Budget
by Nick Powell
The Welsh Lib Dems say their Budget demands will again concentrate on education. Last year Jane Hutt won their support for her Budget by agreeing to a Pupil Deprivation Grant, similar to the Pupil Premium paid in England. The grant pays £450 to schools for each pupil entitled to free school meals.
The Lib Dems are now saying that although the grant was a start, more must be done to make sure that all pupils in Wales get a fair start in life. In England, there'll soon be a 'catch-up premium' based on the number of pupils arriving in secondary school who have fallen behind in English or maths.
Last year, the Welsh Liberal Democrats vastly improved upon the Welsh Labour Government’s proposed budget by introducing the Welsh Pupil Premium. If we recognise an opportunity to improve on this year’s budget, then of course we will consider it, but the agreement must be the right one.
Despite failing standards in our schools and an ever growing spending gap per pupil when compared to England, the Welsh Labour Government was content with the status quo. The Welsh Liberal Democrats couldn’t allow this trend to continue, which was why we insisted on the introduction of a Pupil Premium.
We fought hard to ensure that further funding was put into our education system so that the most disadvantaged children would get the help they need. We are immensely proud that when we are out knocking on people’s doors, it is the Pupil Premium that people remember from that particular budget.
We used our influence to give all children a fairer start in life. Nonetheless, we can’t just sit back and believe the job is done. In this budget, we are calling on the Welsh Labour Government to make further moves to ensure that Wales’ children are not allowed to be left behind.
– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM
Kirsty Williams says she has held preliminary talks with Jane Hutt about this year's Budget. As Labour lacks an overall majority in the Senedd, the Finance Minister will have to strike a deal with one or other of the opposition parties. The Lib Dems are hoping to be her preferred partners.
Welsh Lib Dems hope pressure pays off in party vote
by Adrian Masters
For the Welsh Liberal Democrats, there's a lot riding on today's regional pay vote in Brighton. (There are more details here.) If they succeed they'll have set their party against any attempt by the Coalition Government to introduce different public sector pay levels in different parts of the UK.
It's a major challenge too for Eluned Parrott who only became an AM last year but is leading the debate which starts at 4pm this afternoon. She told me that she wants to win over heads as well as hearts, presenting economic arguments against regional pay as well as appealing to a sense of fairness.
She and leader Kirsty Williams have also seized every opportunity to try win over senior figures in a series of formal and informal meetings. Danny Alexander, who earlier this year said he was 'keen' to see local pay, will be in the front row. Have the Welsh Lib Dems succeeded in changing his mind?
'Doctored report is like Iraq dossier' says Lib Dem leader
The Welsh Liberal Democrats' leader. Kirsty Williams, says the email exchanges clearly contradict the Health Minister’s statements that the Case for Change report was an independent impartial assessment, based on solely on the evidence.
This is an appalling insult to the many people in Wales who are rightfully concerned about the impending NHS reorganisation. How can we now have confidence in the Welsh Labour government's reorganisation process when they sex-up documents to suit their own needs? Many will remember how the UK Labour government sexed-up the Iraq war dossier to prove their case for war. It is no surprise that they have done this again. The Health Minster has said that the buck stops with her. She will have to come before AMs as soon as possible to explain why they doctored this report to suit their needs".
– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM
Welsh Liberal Democrats say they've reached a deal with the Welsh Government which will see more Lib Dem policies put into practice. Leader Kirsty Williams AM says her party's plan to guarantee mortgages for first time buyers of new-build homes will be implemented as a result of the deal. She said,
Difficulties in financial markets and banking sectors have made it difficult for people to buy their first home. Welsh Liberal Democrats believe this mortgage scheme will help first time buyers in Wales.
The decision to back Carwyn Jones' latest spending plans, follows a previous agreement which to support the budget back in November in return for extra spending on the poorest pupils. As part of that deal, there was a commitment to discuss what to do with £216m of extra Treasury money.
According to the party's Finance Spokesman, Peter Black, the first year's share of that money amounts to £38m and of that, 'about a third' will be directly attributed to Lib Dem projects. Future spending would be the subject of further talks. A Welsh Government source confirmed the deal, saying,
We have reached agreement on the Budget announcements that the Minister will make today. This is very encouraging.
Kirsty Williams , the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats renews calls for an NHS doctor locum bank for Wales
Kirsty Williams is again calling on the Welsh Government to establish a Welsh NHS locum bank. She says its important to reduce the need of locums from expensive private agencies and make it easier for the health service to fill temporary gaps in provision
We've been telling the Welsh Government month after month that they are wasting money in our NHS on areas where we could be saving money. Budgets are tight in the NHS at the moment and that is why it is crucially important that the Welsh pound goes a long way to support vital services and the care that patients receive.
The NHS in Wales is spending a lot of money on expensive private companies who supply it with medical staff. In Scotland, they managed to reduce by two thirds their spending on hiring nurse locums
– Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
In Scotland , NHS nursing banks have been set up to provide an internal pool of staff who can be called on to cover absences with a saving of some twenty million pounds over five years according to figures quoted by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
'Hurt and frustrated' but Welsh Lib Dem leader says she won't quit
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams has spoken of 'genuine hurt and frustration' felt by party activists at last week's local election losses. She acknowledged that 'the vast majority (of what went wrong) can be attributed to London' and the effect of being in the UK coalition government.
But she said it would be 'lazy' to blame it all on UK matters and said the Welsh party must see what it could do better and why it managed to hold on in some places and not others. She said,
We need a proper analysis of what happened. There's no consistency to the results. If it was all about London, we'd have been wiped out everywhere and we weren't.
She also said she hadn't thought of resigning, adding that
If anything the results have made me more cross, more angry. I've devote the vast majority of my adult life to this cause; to quit now when it's hard? No, it's made me more blinking determined.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has responded to Health Minister Lesley Griffiths over the financial position of local health boards, calling it 'fantasy accounting'.
I am absolutely flabbergasted that the Health Minister can call this a ‘remarkable achievement’. What’s remarkable is that the Health Minster thinks that this is an achievement.
Local Health Boards have a statutory obligation to balance their books and break even at the end of the financial year. It is clear, even in the Health Minister’s statement, that three of the seven health boards haven’t met their 2011-2012 financial targets. What they are doing is taking money from their 2012-13 allocation to cover up their financial incompetence from 2011-2012.
This is another way for Welsh Government to hide the debts that are building up in the NHS; debts that could add up over time to potentially dangerous levels. This is fantasy accounting at its best – or worst!
– Kirsty Williams AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats