Welsh Government criticised for ‘unhealthy aversion’ to scrutiny during coronavirus pandemic
An opposition Assembly Member has condemned the Welsh Government’s “unhealthy aversion to scrutiny” after members received one sentence replies to questions, or none at all.
Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders AM said a growing number of members received responses stating only that ‘the Minister will write as soon as possible and that this will be published online’.
She said that she had also received a one sentence reply from the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething telling her that he did not have “any information” about the number of care home residents who had died.
Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies AM has now written to the First Minister over growing concerns of the lack of scrutiny at this time of national emergency.
Janet Finch-Saunders said that she was “appalled by the Welsh Government’s recent unhealthy aversion to scrutiny”.
“Whilst I appreciate the tremendous strains that all Welsh Ministers are currently under, proper checks and balances must be upheld if we are to maintain confidence in our public institutions,” the Conservative AM said.
“With increased restrictions on plenary contributions and a limit to how many written questions we can submit, it is recklessly irresponsible for Welsh Ministers to avoid submitting full and proper replies to questions.
“As the official opposition in the National Assembly, the Welsh Conservative Group has promised that we will continue to constructively hold the Welsh Labour Government to account throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With great swathes of public money at stake, including an additional funding package of £350 million for Wales, it is paramount that the Welsh Government remain open and transparent in the decisions they are taking.”
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru have called for pay rises to all NHS and social care staff in recognition of their work during the Coronavirus crisis.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said that health and social care workers were putting their lives on the line during the crisis and “the least that could be done” was to raise their pay.
The Shadow Health Minister said care staff should have “parity of pay” with NHS staff by moving all social care staff to NHS terms and conditions.
“This crisis has truly exposed the year on year impact of cruel cuts and the way in which social care is seen as a second class service,” he said.
“With outbreaks in many care homes, the need for far better conditions and a valued workforce couldn’t be clearer. Imagine if all care homes had been supplied with PPE from the start? How many lives would have been saved?
“Plaid Cymru is therefore calling for all care staff to have parity of pay and terms and conditions with NHS staff by moving social care staff onto NHS terms and conditions. This would mean a pay rise for the majority of social care workers, as well finally putting an end to zero-hour contracts and casualisation.
“Our NHS workers also deserve better. Having experienced a decade of pay freezes and real terms cuts under austerity, we must spend the next decade doing the opposite and giving real terms rises to all – as well as ensuring proper bursaries for student nurses and protected training time.
“We also need to reverse the year on year on cuts to Local Government to ensure that they too are properly financed in order to properly remunerate care staff.
“Health and social care workers are putting their lives on the line for us through this crisis. The very least we can do is show them we value them by giving them access to testing, adequate PPE, and raising their pay and work conditions.
“I hope the positive that comes out of this nightmare is that we remember how much we treasure our health and care services, but also that we realise we have to pay for them properly.
“If we want a good, sustainable health and care service, we need to pay for it. We need the right resources, the right people, paid properly, and not carrying an unsustainable workload.”