News in brief: Labour accused of a ‘betrayal’ of its values as election race hots up
Plaid Cymru has accused Welsh Labour of a “betrayal of its values” due to a lack of social progress in Wales since the introduction of devolution and of having “a lack of ambition” in power.
As the parties ready their final pitches to the electorate ahead of Thursday’s Senedd vote, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster Group Leader and Senedd Election Campaign Director Liz Saville Roberts MP also claimed Plaid “is the party of social progress in this election.”
“Labour’s twenty-two years at the helm in Wales typify the mantra of good intentions but bad governance,” she said.
“They set admirable targets to eradicate child poverty and tackle the climate crisis, only to miss them due to their lack of ambition and economic competence.
“Aneurin Bevan warned that those who stand in the middle of the road are in danger of being run over. Labour would do well to heed these words rather than sit on the fence, or say one thing and do the opposite on key issues of social justice such as free school meals and the devolution of welfare.
“Labour’s record on voting against free school meals, voting against a flooding inquiry that would get vital answer for those whose homes have been devastated by bad weather, and arguing that welfare powers should remain in the hands of the Tories in Westminster speak of a party which has forgotten how to enact its values, and betraying those very values in the process.
“Now is the time for a new beginning. Let’s choose a new future not stick with the past and more of the same.
“Plaid Cymru’s fully-costed plans to offer free school meals to all primary pupils, free childcare from 24 months, a weekly child payment for the families who need it the most and a council tax cut for the poorest households prove that we are the party of social progress in this election.
“Re-electing a Labour Government determined to keep Wales tied to an unjust and unequal union will never deliver the changes that will make our nation fairer for everyone who lives here.
“A Plaid Cymru Government will mean a stronger Wales – feared and respected by Westminster, not neglected and ignored. This will mean a better deal for Wales – more investment and more powers.
Covid cases continuing to climb in Newport
Public Health Wales has confirmed one further death due to Covid-19 and 65 new cases of the virus in today’s update.
The newly reported death was in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area, taking the total number of deaths there since the start of the pandemic 13 months ago to 945.
Due to yesterday’s bank holiday, the data for today covers the 48 hour’s up to 9 am on Sunday.
Five of the 22 local authorities in Wales reported no new cases since Friday, while Newport (12) and Cardiff (11) were the only two areas to record case numbers in double figures.
Case numbers are continuing to climb in Newport which has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 29.7 up from 25.2 per 100,000 people in Friday’s report and the positive test rate at 2.7% per 100,000 tests is also the highest in Wales – up by .3% since Thursday.
The national weekly case rate is down from 10.8 to 10.3 and the test rate has fallen from 1.2% to 1.1 % over the weekend.
In total, 1,864, 400 people have received a first dose of vaccine since the start of the mass vaccination programme on 8 December and 772,527 have had both doses and are fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister aims ‘separatism’ jibe at Labour and Plaid
Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru of pushing for “more separatism” and said he was a “believer in devolution” during a visit to Barry Island.
Mister Johnson came under fire in November after he called devolution a “disaster” in leaked comments to Tory MPs and was subsequently contradicted by Conservative leaders in both Wales and Scotland who emphasised that they did not seek to do away with devolution.
Campaigning for the Welsh Conservatives, with the Senedd election just days away, Mr Johnson also said voters wanted to see politicians working together to combat the Covid pandemic.
“I don’t think the people of this country are obsessing right now about further constitutional change,” Mr Johnson told BBC Wales.
“I think what they want to see is politicians working together to beat the pandemic.”
Both Plaid Cymru and Labour “are obsessed with the constitutional issues,” he added, ”trying to go for more separatism. I don’t think that’s the right way forward.”
“I think we should be working together,”
“I think we should have a situation which people can be proudly emphatically Welsh, but also see the merits and the beauty of doing things together.”
Lib Dems focus on the economy and tourism as campaign enters the final stretch
The Welsh Lib Dems are focusing on the themes of economic recovery and tourism as the campaign for the Senedd election enters its final 48 hours.
Ahead of a visit today to Aberystwyth and Aberaeron, the leader of the Welsh Lib Dems Jane Dodds and Ceredigion candidate Cadan ap Tomos both highlighted issues facing the rural economy.
“The pandemic has hit our rural communities hard. For those heavily reliant on tourism and the hospitality sector, the last year has been tough,” Jane Dodds said.
“The last year has brought into sharp focus the significant challenges in our rural economy. From poor digital and transport connectivity, housing costs, and the challenges of running small businesses, rural Wales faces a difficult period ahead.
“Welsh Liberal Democrats are fighting this election with pledges to invest in tackling broadband and mobile phone connectivity to help both businesses and those choosing to work remotely.”
“Places like Ceredigion have so much to offer visitors and the pandemic has opened the eyes of many to homegrown tourism but many of our businesses will still be feeling the impact of the pandemic for many years to come, “Cadan ap Tomos added.
“We recognise how essential small businesses, entrepreneurs and the self-employed to our area and will support them by establishing a Job Creation Premium which will offset the initial costs of recruitment and training for businesses looking to grow.
“Welsh Liberal Democrats will also help local businesses over the next five years by freezing business rates for five years providing both smaller bills and certainty.”
DVLA staff stage second strike over safety concerns
Workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is Swansea have started a second four-day strike today.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are taking industrial action due to covid-safety concerns at the agency’s headquarters.
One member of staff has died and 500 more have tested positive for the disease since September and a coronavirus outbreak was declared at the agency’s headquarters in December.
The union is calling for a reduction in the number of staff who need to go into the office to work.
Just 250 of 6,000 staff were working from the office at the beginning of the pandemic, but that number has since increased to over 2,000 the union says.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has accused the DVLA’s senior management of “unreasonable and crass behaviour” following the breakdown of negotiations to resolve the dispute.
The DVLA says it has followed Welsh Government guidance at every single point throughout the pandemic and worked to introduce a wide range of safety measures at its offices in Swansea.