Plaid Cymru leader clashes with First Minister during FMQs
Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth has clashed with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford in the Senedd today in a disagreement over agency workers being used in the care sector.
During FMQs on Tuesday (October 24), following a question from Plaid Cymru’s leader, Mark Drakeford said Mr ap Iorwerth, “spends his time calling for things for other people to do”.
— Emily Price (@EPriceJourno) October 24, 2023
Mr Drakeford’s tetchy response came after the Plaid Cymru leader accused Health Minister Eluned Morgan of plucking her spending plans for the NHS “from thin air”.
Last week, Ms Morgan warned that health would still be expected to make significant cuts, despite expenditure on health being ring-fenced as part of the Welsh Government’s most recent budget plans.
Mr ap Iorwerth today asked for clarity on exactly how much each health board would be expected to save
He called for an explanation of how the Welsh Government intends to make savings on agency staff spend, which reached record levels of £325m last year.
Responding, the Mr ap Iorwerth’s question, the First Minister said: “The Minister is still discussing these issues with the health boards. It’s the responsibility of the health boards to come forward with the plans, and they will have to come up with those plans, as they do every year.
“After the discussions, when we’re clear about the steps that the health boards will be taking, of course the Minister will come before the Senedd to explain and to provide additional information.”
Mr ap Iorwerth pointed to a recent tv interview given by the health minister in which she referred to spending less on agency staff in order to make savings.
He said: “We need details. And in the absence of detail, people can’t be blamed for thinking that statements like that are plucked from thin air. Spending plans not implemented properly or not thought through properly are bound to impact on front-line services.
“As the head of the British Medical Association in Wales said, efficiency savings on top of efficiency savings have led to an NHS that is inefficient in its delivery of services.
“The need to get staffing right is a long-term issue. Another long-term problem is the unsustainability of the care sector. If the spend on agency staff is an example of private companies stepping in to make profit because of Labour mismanagement, isn’t that exactly what’s driven the decision now by the Labour Rhondda Cynon Taf council—to the anger of unions and local residents—to outsource all its long-term homecare?”
In response the First Minister said: “If solutions were as easy as speeches, we’d all be a lot better off. Indeed, the leader of Plaid Cymru is correct: he spends his time calling for things for other people to do. One day maybe he’ll be in a position to do some of those things himself.
“As far as RCT is concerned, I’m happy to refer him to what the council itself has said. The council is not privatising all homecare services in Rhondda Cynon Taf; 90 per cent of long-term care in the council is already provided by the independent sector, and these proposals will transfer the remaining 10 per cent to the independent sector to ensure a more efficient service delivery to residents.
“The remaining services will remain directly provided by the local authority. I’ve no doubt that the local authority will continue to be in discussions with its trade unions and with others who are interested in the care sector to make sure that, at a time when all public service budgets are under enormous pressure, they are able to go on making decisions that focus on the care of those individuals who rely on the service, and ensure that they are at the forefront of the way in which those decisions are made.
Speaking after FMQs, Mr ap Iorwerth said: “Today, the First Minister blamed Plaid Cymru for coming back ‘time and time again’ demanding that Welsh Government should take action on some – frankly – quite fundamental issues.
“If the Welsh Government got to grips with these issues, perhaps Plaid Cymru wouldn’t need to keep coming back asking for action on things that – had they been done earlier – they could have made a real difference. This is no more apparent than with the staffing crisis in our NHS right now.”
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