Tuesday’s Social Mobility in Great Britain: fifth state of the nation report by the Social Mobility Commission highlights the extent of inequality and the urgent need for greater action by the UK and Welsh Governments to improve social mobility and secure opportunity for Wales.
The report found that an individual’s life chances remain largely determined by the place of their birth, with a striking geographical divide between South East England and the rest of the UK.
Within Wales substantial differences also exist, both between local authorities and between the most and least disadvantaged individuals within each local authority. The report also showed that whilst cities do provide access to better paid jobs, they’re not a silver bullet for social mobility, as some of the worst performing areas in Wales are urban and many of the best performing areas are rural.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented:
“This report is a stark reminder of the shocking state of social mobility in the UK, with the rest of the country being left behind once again by South East England. The report rightly calls for the UK Government to direct a greater proportion of spending to the areas that need it most and nowhere in the UK needs it more than Wales.”
“Kirsty Williams is doing fantastic work within the Welsh Government to improve social mobility, making closing the attainment gap part of Wales’ national mission to improve education and increasing the Pupil Development Grant to make this a reality. However, Kirsty cannot solve social mobility on her own, Wales needs a cross-government and cross-society effort to improve social mobility.”
“The same old ideas for improving social mobility will not work, we need bold new solutions. We need a Beveridge Report for the 21st Century to eliminate the 5 evils Beveridge identified 75 years ago and we need to trial groundbreaking policies like Universal Basic Income and Negative Income Tax. Only through ideas like these will we secure opportunity for Wales.”
The proposed Mid Wales and North Wales growth deals are a once in a generation chance to develop our rural economies and prepare them for the next 30 years.
Rural economies across Mid and North Wales face immense challenges, none more so than Brexit. The Brexit deal will have severe implications for the financial support for farmers, the ability of rural communities to attract tourism and access to markets for food and drink exports.
However, the Mid Wales and North Wales growth deals are opportunities to utilise the naturual resources and natural beauty across the regions, deliver growth and investment for every area of Wales, give rural communities the digital infrastructure they need and develop the skills base of both regions.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said:
“Following the Cardiff and Swansea city deals, it is only right that Mid and North Wales are set to get their own growth deals. If these deals are really going to make a difference to rural economies they need to be more than just warm words and vanity projects. They must be ambitious and tailored to the unique needs of Mid and North Wales if they’re to have the transformational benefits our rural economies deserve. “
“Mid and North Wales are blessed with incredible natural resources, universities at the forefront of research and innovation and a skilled and committed workforce. Growth deals must utilise these resources to make the regions powerhouses of the green economy, foster economic growth, fight poverty and give communities the digital and transport infrastructure they need to compete in the global economy.”
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have always proudly stood up for rural communities and we’ll fight for ambitious growth deals that give Mid and North Wales the opportunities they deserve.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have criticised the UK Government’s industrial strategy white paper for failing to provide the ambitious vision the Welsh economy needs.
With productivity 19% lower than the UK average, poverty at 23% and economic growth stagnating, the industrial strategy was a golden opportunity to set out a plan to transform the Welsh economy. Instead we have a plan that merely papers over the cracks and fails to take the bold steps needed to ensure prosperity across Wales.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats would give the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon the go ahead, develop tailored growth deals for North and Mid Wales, support Wales’ growing digital economy and fintech sectors and call for Wales to be given more economic tools to decide its own destiny.
Commenting, Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds said;
“This strategy was the UK Government’s chance to take real action to improve the Welsh economy, unfortunately it’s all talk and no substance. The Government talk about clean growth whilst continuing to refuse to give the go-ahead to the Swansea Tidal Lagoon and discuss investing in all areas of the UK whilst cancelling crucial investment in Welsh railways. People across Wales will rightly be asking the Government what this strategy will actually do for their communities.”
"Unlike the Government the Welsh Liberal Democrats have an ambitious vision for the Welsh economy. We’d make the UK a world leader in green energy by giving the green light to the Swansea Tidal Lagoon, develop comprehensive growth deals for North and Mid Wales, fight poverty in every corner of Wales and call for Wales to be given the powers it needs to transform its economy. Only the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the ideas needed to secure opportunity for Wales.”
“If the Government are serious about developing Wales’ industry and supporting cutting-edge businesses they don’t need a 255-page document, they need an exit from Brexit. Brexit will limit access to vital European markets for firms like Airbus and Tata, end Wales’ participation in European research and innovation programmes and restrict Wales’ ability to attract the workforce and investment needed to compete in the global economy. The people must be given the final say on the Brexit deal.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have condemned the wave of transphobic articles that have appeared recently across the media. In the week of Transgender Day of Remembrance, it is more important than ever the press report issues without prejudice and parties come together to stand up for the rights of the transgender community.
Recent days have seen numerous anti-trans scare stories, many ridiculing attempts to prevent transphobic bullying despite the fact 45% of trans school pupils in the UK have attempted suicide. Other articles have willfully misrepresented plans to update the Gender Recognition Act.
Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds commented;
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats are rightly proud of our record on transgender issues, including holding the Senedd’s first debate on transgender issues in 2014, successfully campaigning for the establishment of a Gender Identity Clinic in Cardiff and investing £1.4m to strengthen mental health services for schools. However, we know more needs to be done, including improving transgender mental health support and providing inclusive sex and relationship education.”
“Transgender rights are human rights. There is no place for transphobia in a civilized society. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are proud to fight for a Wales that is open, tolerant and united. We believe in a Wales where everyone has the opportunity to live free from hate, bigotry and discrimination and we will not rest until this Wales is a reality.”
The Chancellor missed a golden opportunity to invest in Wales and deliver equitable growth across the UK, preferring instead to throw money down a Brexit black hole.
Instead of investing in Wales through the Swansea Tidal Lagoon or delivering rail electrification to Swansea the Chancellor has chosen to waste £3bn on a Tory hard Brexit and planning for a no deal Brexit the Government foolishly refuse to rule out.
The Chancellor also failed to take meaningful action on Universal Credit or the public sector pay cap, preferring instead to simply pay lip service to the suffering these policies are causing.
Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds commented;
"This budget presents a missed opportunity for Wales. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have presented an ambitious vision for Wales, it is disappointing that the Chancellor lacks this ambition.
Instead of investing in making Wales a world leader in Tidal Energy by giving the green light to the Swansea Tidal Lagoon or giving South Wales the transport investment it needs the Chancellor decided to throw £3bn into a Brexit black hole. It’s clear only the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the ambition and ideas needed to ensure opportunity for Wales.”
“As one of the most deprived regions of the UK and even the EU, Wales has suffered more than most from austerity. With the Chancellor failing to take meaningful action on Universal Credit and the public sector pay cap and growth set to be much slower than expected, this suffering will only continue.
The Chancellor needed to immediately end the roll out of Universal Credit to prevent rising child poverty and homelessness and end the public sector pay cap to end the scandal of public sector workers relying on food banks to survive. It is bitterly disappointing the Chancellor has failed on both counts.”
“This budget is yet another example of the crippling damage Brexit is already doing to the Welsh Economy. Instead of investing in public services or vital infrastructure projects, the Chancellor is spending £3bn preparing for a disastrous no deal Brexit his party foolishly refuse to rule out. The Welsh people deserve to have the final say on the Brexit deal and a chance to choose an exit from Brexit.”
Following comments from both Airbus and aerospace industry group ADS, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have demanded the UK Government immediately rules out a no deal Brexit. The UK Government should instead commit to a deal that includes an effective transition period, provides certainty for businesses and ensures as close of a relationship with the EU as possible after Brexit.
In written evidence to the Commons Business Committee Airbus stated that failure to reach a deal would have “significant consequences” for the company, with new visa requirements affecting the “long-term competitiveness of UK sites.” The firm added that “if costs increase as a result of the UK leaving the EU, this will inevitably impact future UK investment decisions.”
Speaking to MPs on the Business Committee, Paul Everitt of ADS warned “No deal would be the worst possible outcome, from an industry point of view. We believe that would be chaotic, and unhelpful for this particular sector, and a number of others.”
Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds commented;
“The aerospace industry is one of Britain’s most successful high tech sectors and is of particularly importance to Wales, with Airbus’ 6,000 jobs in Broughton making a substantial contribution to the Welsh economy. The UK Government must immediately rule out leaving the EU without a deal and commit to a deal that supports firms like Airbus and protects the jobs they bring to Wales.”
“By continuing to entertain the idea of a no deal Brexit the UK Government are showing just how out of touch they are with the devastating harm Brexit will do to hardworking families whose jobs are at risk if they continue to dismiss the warnings of firms like Airbus. Unfortunately the Government is more concerned with placating its most extreme backbenchers than listening to businesses, whilst the Labour party continue to abdicate their responsibilities by giving the Government a blank cheque on Brexit.”
“Brexit will risk jobs and is already pushing up prices, it's becoming increasingly clear that we need an exit from Brexit and that the people should be given a vote on the final deal.”
Stuart Robin Baker Vice Chair of Flintshire Liberal Democrats said;
“As an employer of 6,000 people in Flintshire, Airbus’ warning must be taken seriously. It is essential the UK Government gets a Brexit deal that protects jobs at Broughton and ensures key businesses like Airbus can continue to flourish in Flintshire.”
Following a letter from more than 100 businesses to Downing Street urging the Prime Minister to approve the project as soon as possible, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their support for the lagoon and demanded the project be given the go ahead in the budget.
In January the government commissioned Hendry Review strongly supported the lagoon, calling it a no regrets opportunity that was cost-effective and would bring significant economic opportunities to the region. The lagoon would act as a pathfinder project for larger lagoons across the UK, including at Newport, Cardiff and Colwyn Bay.
Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds commented;
"The Swansea Tidal Lagoon is supported by the Hendry Review, local businesses and Assembly Members from all parties. The UK Government must end their dithering and get behind this crucial project.”
“Having already cancelled rail electrification to Swansea, the UK Government cannot neglect South Wales again by failing to approve the lagoon. If there is money for a £1bn deal with the DUP and for infrastructure projects across South East England, there is money for the Swansea Tidal Lagoon. How much longer must the people of Wales wait before they receive a fair deal?
“The Swansea Tidal Lagoon is a vital pathfinder project that could pave the way for lagoons across Wales from Newport to Colwyn Bay. These lagoons have the potential to make Wales a world leader in tidal energy, bringing untold environmental and economic benefits to their communities, Wales and the UK in the process.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said;
“Giving the go-ahead to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon would not only be a significant economic boost for Wales and provide jobs, but it would help the UK to meet it’s vital climate change targets. Using the tides to power our homes is an important part of building a sustainable future for Britain.”
Pupils across Wales are set to benefit from a new £2.5 million Welsh Government small and rural schools grant announced today by Welsh Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams.
The fund will help schools use digital technology to prevent professional isolation, provide administrative support for headteachers with substantial teaching commitments, support the collaboration and federation of schools and facilitate the use of schools for community purposes.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented;
"Straight out of the Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto, this funding will benefit pupils, teachers, and the wider community.
“Once again, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are delivering on our commitment to support rural communities and raise standards in our schools.
“We have always recognised the crucial role rural schools play within their communities. We will continue to fight for the needs of rural communities across Wales.”
Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams said;
“Small and rural schools play an important role in our national mission to raise standards and extend opportunities for all our young people.
“We are taking action and providing new funding to help small and rural schools deal with the unique challenges they face, such as small pupil numbers and issues in recruiting head teachers and staff.
“This financial support will benefit pupils, teachers, and the wider community. I want to see rural schools working more formally together and across the country, forming federations and looking into the possibility of sharing buildings with other services to ensure school buildings remain viable.”
Labour MPs abstained on an amendment to the European Union Withdrawal Bill that would have would have required the Assembly and other devolved legislatures to consent to the repeal of the European Communities Act.
Despite describing the EU Withdrawal Bill as a “naked power grab,” Welsh Labour refused to give Wales the opportunity to block a Brexit deal that will undermine devolution and do untold damage to the Welsh Economy.
Commenting, Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds said;
"If we ever needed proof that we can't trust Labour to stand up for Wales, this was it. Labour politicians in Cardiff Bay will be understandably angry that their colleagues in London decided to turn their backs on Wales at an incredibly important point in the Brexit negotiations.”
“Brexit will impact every aspect of the Welsh economy, from lamb exports and ports to industry and small businesses. This vote was a golden opportunity to give Wales a powerful voice in negotiations and protect Wales from a Brexit that risks jobs and pushes up prices. Labour have once again comprehensively failed Wales.”
"As the Brexit negotiations become more chaotic by the day and the UK lurches towards a no deal Brexit, it's becoming increasingly clear that we need an exit from Brexit and that the people are given a vote on the final deal."
Mark Wilson, the Chief Financial Officer of Aston Martin, has told MPs that a no deal Brexit would be “semi catastrophic” and would mean his company would have to temporarily stop production.
A halt in production would have severe consequences for Aston Martin’s St Athan factory in South Wales. Production of the Aston Martin’s DBX model at St Athan is expected to create 750 highly skilled jobs and support a further 1,000 jobs in the supply chain once production starts in 2019.
Speaking on behalf of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds said:
“Aston Martin’s admission that a no deal Brexit would lead to a halt in production is a damning indictment of Brexit’s impact on the Welsh Economy.”
“A no deal Brexit would have a crippling impact on industry across Wales, from Airbus in Broughton to Tata in Port Talbot. The UK Government must immediately end their dangerous flirtation with a no deal Brexit that would have devastating implications for Welsh jobs and industry.”
“As the full implications of Brexit for the Welsh Economy become increasingly clear, it’s only right that it’s people and not politicians who have the final say on Brexit deal and the opportunity to vote for an exit from Brexit.”