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Westminster coalition and Welsh Government both under fire at Plaid Conference

by Nick Powell

Plaid Cymru will continue to fight the so-called 'bedroom tax', an MP has told the party's conference, despite losing a vote at Westminster aimed at blocking the housing benefit cut.The government had a majority of more than 40, despite Labour's decision to support Plaid's motion in the Commons.

Arfon MP Hywel Williams told the conference in Beaumaris that the disabled and people who are unemployed or on low wages will have nowhere to turn. He said that while household incomes are constrained and homelessness continues to rise, the 'bedroom tax' will have extremely damaging consequences.

The bedroom tax is a devastating policy that will come into effect in April affecting 660,000 people, and 40,000 of them in Wales. This is simply another way in which UK Government is persecuting benefit claimants. It’s important to note that those who claim benefits are not ‘shirkers’ – the majority of them are in work, on low wages, and facing increased rent charges. With low household wages, how will people afford the penalty of between £418 and £1248 per year? To the shame of Cameron and Clegg, disabled people will have to choose between heating, eating or paying the rent.

– Hywel Williams, Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon

The conference was also told that the Welsh Government 'blames other people' rather than take responsibility for public services. But Plaid Cymru's education spokesperson said it's time for the Welsh Government 'to stop passing the buck' and that the education minister should keep his job.

The Welsh Government needs to break the link between educational attainment and poverty. We need early intervention for pupils so no child is left behind to ensure proper literacy levels for children leaving primary school. Today I’m calling on the First Minister to make sure the Education Minster Leighton Andrews stays in his job so we can properly scrutinise him for his policies.

– Plaid Cymru Education Spokesperson Simon Thomas AM

Minister should 'name and shame' himself says Plaid

Plaid Cymru's education spokesperson, Simon Thomas accuses education minister Leighton Andrews of 'jumping the gun' by taking Merthyr Tydfil's schools from local council control and wanting to transfer them to Rhondda Cynon Taf. He added that the minister must share the blame for poor education.

If the Welsh Government is to continue with this practice of naming and shaming the worst offenders when it comes to poor education delivery, then it needs to include itself in that list. The Minister said he did not run education in the five local authorities found so far to be failing, but parents, pupils and the public all think that the Minister does run education in Wales, and so do I. He needs to stop blaming others and the system and admit that, as the Education Minister, he is ultimately responsible for the provision of education and get on with the job if improvement.

What is clear is that the present system is dysfunctional. Poor or inadequate performance seems to outnumber examples of strong services. The Minister says that his preferred option is to incorporate Merthyr’s education services into Rhondda Cynon Taf, despite RCT being classified as only ‘adequate’. He needs to think very careful about that. Merging Merthyr with Rhondda Cynon Taff also jumps the gun on the work of his advisor who is charged with heading the review into the future delivery of education in Wales.

– Plaid Cymru Education Spokesperson Simon Thomas AM

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