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Fifteen years of Welsh Labour rule and what have we got to show for it.

RCT N

This month saw the fifteenth anniversary of devolution in Wales, and there has been a considerable amount of progress since the National Assembly first opened its doors in 1999.
Yet many people in Wales are not seeing the benefit of devolution - not because of the institution but because of the fifteen years of Labour rule which has seen us fall further and further behind the rest of the UK.
As with any institution or government the National Assembly and the Welsh Government is only as good as the people who run it. It is not devolution itself that is to blame for the issue in Wales, but the succession of lack lustre Labour Ministers and backbenchers who have done nothing to drive forward expectation and achievement.
The Welsh Government have, and continue to, let us down in key areas such health, education and the economy.
With Liberal Democrats in coalition at Westminster the UK economy is seeing the strongest rate of growth since 2007, yet Wales continues to buck the trend with the lowest GDP and GVA in the UK. On average there are more young people not in employment, education or training in Wales than across the UK.
The Welsh Government set up its flagship Enterprise Zones supposed to kick-start the economy yet 47% of businesses don't think it will have any benefit to them. Many businesses are not even aware that they are part of an Enterprise Zone, and most people not directly involved have probably never heard of them let alone know what they are.
The Welsh Labour Government failings with regard to education are well documented. Wales continues to slip down the international PISA rankings and our children are being let down by a system that does not allow them to achieve their potential.
A recent report found that pupils eligible for free school meals in Wales are 50% less likely to obtain five good GCSEs than their counterparts in England. That is a disgraceful statistic, and it is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats fought to have the Pupil Deprivation Grant introduced. This had been introduced previously by our colleagues at Westminster and was a key manifesto promise of ours. It gives schools additional money for each pupil they have entitled to free school meals so that targeted support can be given to ensure low income is not a barrier to educational achievement.
Just last month a report by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) criticised the Welsh Labour Government for a lack of vision and for 'overwhelming' schools with too many changes. The response - yet another new scheme that on the face of it is vague and ill thought through.
The Health Service in Wales continues to lurch from one crisis to another. The Welsh Labour Government cancer waiting time target of 95% of urgent cases to be seen by a specialist within 62 days has not been met since 2008. The target for 95% of new patients to spend less than 4 hours in emergency care facilities from arrival until admission, transfer or discharge has never been met.
Ambulance response times are a disgrace particularly here in Rhondda Cynon Taff where we are constantly at or near the bottom of the league table. During March only 55% of category 'A' life threatening emergency calls across Wales were responded to within 8 minutes. In RCT that figure was just 43.5% - the second worst in Wales, just slightly above the previous month when it was the worst in Wales. The response from the Welsh Government - change the targets.
We deserve better and it's time the Welsh Labour Government took some responsibility for the huge problems it is presiding over. It is not the institution that is to blame but the people running it - and those who continue to elect them no matter what.

http://pontylibdems.org.uk/en/article/2014/809824/welsh-labour-governmen...

Karen Roberts
Campaign Manager RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats

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