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  1. Nick Powell

Selection as Cheshire MP would be "huge honour" says AM

North Wales Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach has confirmed that she's applied to be chosen as Tory candidate in the safe seat of Eddisbury in Cheshire.

It would be a huge honour to be chosen. North Wales and Cheshire are neighbours and we have always had close links.

– Antoinette Sandbach AM

Although she is still waiting to hear officially that she has been shortlisted, Antoinette Sandbach added that if she's selected she would donate her Assembly salary to charity until polling day on May 7. So it seems highly unlikely that she would remain an AM if elected an MP. But she was unwilling to speculate about what would happen after the voters of Eddisbury have chosen their MP.

  1. Nick Powell

Tory AM shortlisted for safe Westminster seat

A North Wales Conservative AM is one of three people shortlisted by Tories in a Cheshire constituency to be their new candidate for Westminster.

Antoinette Sandbach is in the running to be the next MP for Eddisbury, just over the border from Wrexham. The present MP, Sir Stephen O'Brien, has a majority of 13,255 and received more than half the votes cast in 2010. He's leaving the Commons to take up a senior post at the United Nations.

Antoinette Sandbach is looking to swap the Senedd for Westminster Credit: Welsh Conservatives

Antoinette Sandbach has been a regional list AM for North Wales since 2011. She stood for the Flintshire seat of Delyn at the last Westminster election and came within 3,000 votes of defeating its Labour MP, David Hanson. Today she refused to comment about her shortlisting in Eddisbury, where the candidate will be chosen next Wednesday, March 25.

Despite a recent change in the law, to stop AMs "double-jobbing" by sitting as MPs as well, Antoinette Sandbach would be allowed to hold both posts for up to a year. That would take her up to the next Assembly election but as a regional AM, she could stand down without causing a by-election. Her seat would be filled by the next person on the Conservatives' North Wales list, Janet Howarth, who's a Tory councillor in Llandudno.


  1. Nick Powell

Welsh Tory leader sees case for more AMs

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has signalled that his party is no longer totally opposed to an increase in the number of Assembly Members, so long as the "total cost of democracy" does not go up. Mr Davies says the Welsh Government's growing powers and responsibilities make it difficult for an Assembly with so few backbenchers to hold it to account.

Are we really going to have another five years with just 60 AMs? It's already evident that there are huge pressures on the Assembly's ability to scrutinise the government.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

It's possible that an increase in AMs could be linked to a cut in the number of local councillors as part of the local authority mergers expected in the next few years. Also the Conservatives are likely to revive plans to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 if they're still in power at Westminster after May's election.

Welsh Conservative Leader calls for 'living wage'

Andrew RT Davies AM, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives addresses Party Conference Credit: Welsh Conservatives

Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies says all public sector workers in Wales should earn the 'living wage'.

Speaking at his party conference in Cardiff, Mr Davies said they will seek to make the change by 2021 if the Conservatives win next year's Assembly election.

Around one in four Welsh workers earn less than the living wage.

"This sends a clear message that a future Welsh Conservative Government will tackle unfair pay and set a clear example to all employers to value and invest in their staff."

– Andrew RT Davies AM, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives

Welsh Conservatives hit back at Labour 'broken promises'

The Welsh Conservatives have hit back at criticism from First Minister Carwyn Jones at Welsh Labour's Conference in Swansea.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said it was "more empty rhetoric from Labour's First Minister of broken promises. In a week when Carwyn Jones talked of ‘juvenile politics’, Welsh communities will rightly see through his hypocrisy."

This is the Welsh Labour leader who said his party took its eye off the ball on education. This is the Welsh Labour leader who runs the only UK health service where funding is falling. Like a scratched record, he repeats the same promises, yet delivers on none. Welsh Conservatives are the only alternative to a lazy Labour government that has run out of ideas.

– Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader
  1. Nick Powell

Support for new motorway tested in Senedd vote

There's no agreement on the best solution to congestion on the M4 around Newport Credit: PA

Conservative AMs will force a vote in the Senedd today on whether there should be a review of the Welsh Government's plan to build a new motorway south of Newport to relieve pressure on the existing M4.

The £1 billion project is highly controversial, both because of its cost and because of the environmental impact on the Gwent Levels wetlands. Some business groups prefer the idea of upgrading the existing Southern Distributor Road to a motorway, arguing that it would be a cheaper and quicker solution.

That's angered residents who live near the distributor road who fear the noise and pollution that might be caused by a motorway. Now the Conservatives' transport spokesman, Byron Davies, says he's not convinced that a full motorway is required and that more modest improvements might be enough to relieve pressure on the M4.

It doesn't have to be a motorway.

– Shadow Transport Minister Byron Davies AM

That's roughly in line with what the Liberal Democrats have been arguing, while Plaid Cymru oppose spending such a major part of the transport budget on just one road scheme.

There's also been opposition from some Labour AMs, including two former ministers. So it would appear that most Assembly Members at least have doubts about the project. The Welsh Government has already conceded that construction work won't get the go-ahead before the 2016 Assembly election.


Welsh Govt didn't pay attention to rail deal say Tories

The Welsh Conservatives have blamed a lack of attention to detail by Labour ministers when Valleys rail electrification was first announced for the row over money that put the entire project at risk. Originally the UK government expected the entire £460 million cost to be repaid by the Welsh Government, primarily by increasing train fares.

Under the new deal announced today the UK Government will contribute £230 million to the scheme, though the rest of the money will still have to be repaid.

This deal will have a hugely beneficial impact on the lives of tens of thousands. It is a massively important investment that puts Wales first, prioritises infrastructure and transport, and provides a hugely welcome boost for business.

Labour didn't electrify an inch of rail track – and their mistakes and lack of attention to detail led to the circumstances preceding today’s solution. In stark contrast - this announcement is the real action Wales needs.

I wholeheartedly welcome the hard work of Conservatives in Wales in securing a pivotal and life-changing deal for our communities. From Newport to Swansea and - crucially, into the Valleys - this is what the region needs to secure growth and move forward.

– Shadow Transport Minister Byron Davies AM

Tories want elected commissioners to run Welsh NHS

The Welsh Conservatives are calling for locally elected health commissioners to take over from health boards, which they say are subject to political patronage as their appointed by ministers.

Communities across Wales have felt powerless to influence the decisions which have been made about health services in their areas. The Welsh NHS must become more accountable to those it serves and more responsive to the taxpayers who fund it.

Elected Health Commissioners will put the patient voice at the heart of decision making in the NHS, transferring decision making over health services from central government and into the hands of the people.

You vote them in, and you vote them out - that's our vision for patient voice in the Welsh NHS.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

The Conservatives claim that the new system would lead to greater openness, as the commissioners would be publicly answerable when something went wrong in the running of the health service. Labour have dismissed the proposal as a waste of money.

This month the Welsh Labour Government announced nearly half a billion pounds of extra funding to secure our safe, modern NHS, free at the point of use. Now the Tories want to cream off some of that money, take it away from the front-line and put it into the pockets of Health Commissioners. What planet are they living on? Welsh Labour is on the side of patients and NHS staff, we want health money spent on health services, not another layer of bureaucracy.

– Welsh Labour spokesman

Welsh Tory leader rejects police devolution - for now

Andrew RT Davies says he's against the devolution of policing powers Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies is to tell his party that he's opposed to the devolution of responsibility for the police from the Home Office to the Welsh Government. In a speech to Tory activists he'll say that there is no current evidence to support the idea and that "serious questions must be answered" before it can be considered.

Policing was one of the few areas of disagreement when the Welsh party leaders met to reach a joint position on further devolution. Any explicit reference to the police was dropped from the joint motion that they will ask AMs to debate. But it does call on the UK government to "make progress on Silk 2", meaning the second report of the Commission on Devolution, which did call for the police to be devolved.

Let’s look at the evidence on policing. Since 2010, crime in Wales has fallen by 15 per cent. In many ways, the Conservatives have gone beyond police devolution in England and Wales with the creation of Police and Crime Commissioners.

So today, I want to say clearly, the evidence is yet to be made for the devolution of policing. We know that the Welsh Labour Government and the other parties want these powers, but the question is, do Welsh Labour MPs support these moves? I think not. Just take a look at the comments of some Welsh Labour MPs and you’ll see very clearly that they disagree.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

Mr Davies is not totally ruling out Welsh control of the police. Instead he says that there must be a series of "clear commitments and promises" before the Welsh Conservatives can support any change.

  • Front line services must not be affected
  • The Welsh Government must say how the fall in crime will continue
  • The police themselves must be given a say in what should happen
  • The Welsh Government must set out its priorities for the £1.2 billion Welsh police budget

Mr Davies argues that Wales has fallen behind in too many areas for which the Welsh Government is responsible and that must not happen to the police. He will also claim that the First Minister has "forgotten his day job" and is giving too much attention to constitutional reform, rather than concentrating on health, education and the economy.

The issues surrounding future devolution in Wales are hugely important. Of that there is no doubt. This week’s cross-party agreement on the broad principles to take forward and collaborate upon reflects that. There is work to do and there are discussions to take place. But constitutional change doesn’t take place overnight.

Labour’s First Minister is so wrapped up in the constitution he can’t see the wood for the trees. He’s forgotten his day job.

Carwyn – Stop diverting attention from your domestic failures. Constitutional questions must be answered but not at the expense of the economy and public services.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM
  1. Nick Powell

Labour councils win 'dodgy' budget deal claim Tories

The Welsh Conservatives claim that there are signs of "dodgy budget manipulation" in the funding cuts faced by local councils. The Tories point out that eight of the ten councils with the smallest cuts in their money from the Welsh Government are Labour controlled.

The Labour Party seems to be protecting money for traditional Labour-voting heartlands ahead of the election instead of delivering a fair deal for every part of Wales. This appears to be a cynical and crude attempt to manipulate local government funding to force Conservative, Plaid Cymru and independent-run councils to make tougher choices between raising council tax and cutting services.

The figures speak for themselves. The ten councils with the best deal from the Welsh Labour Government are almost exclusively Labour-controlled, while councils led by other political parties are having their funding slashed.

– Shadow Local Government Minister Janet Finch-Saunders AM

Welsh Government sources point to the local government funding formula, which they see as being far from cynical or crude, although it's undeniably complicated. They draw attention to the so-called "damping" mechanism, which has protected from even deeper cuts three of the worst-hit councils -Ceredigion, Powys and Monmouthshire. They're led by Plaid Cymru, the independents and the Conservatives respectively.

They still face cuts of between 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, while the three with the smallest cuts -Labour controlled Neath Port Talbot, Newport and Merthyr Tydfil- lose between 2.4 per cent and 2.6 per cent. The largest single factor is that above-average increases in pupil numbers have had an even bigger impact than usual on this year's funding formula. That's because the money for schools is being increased despite cutbacks in overall council funding.

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