Cardiff

Cabinet Reshuffle #SaveWILG

Interesting news from Cardiff today as there has been a cabinet reshuffle at the Senedd. This means Rebecca Evans is no longer the Minister for Social Services and Public Health. The person we now need to lobby with regard to the #SaveWILG campaign is Huw Irranca-Davies who has been made Minister for Children and Social Care. I congratulate him on his appointment and look forward to working with him to help support and salvage Independent Living for disabled people across Wales.

The BBC published a full account of the cabinet reshuffle, which can be read below:

Independent AM and former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Elis-Thomas is to join the Welsh Government as a minister.

Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle – promoting five AMs.

Lord Elis-Thomas will be minister for culture, tourism and sport – a deputy to economy secretary Ken Skates.

He left the party in October last year following a series of disputes with Leanne Wood, and has been voting with the Welsh Government.

The reshuffle came as Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant was removed from the cabinet amid allegations about his behaviour.

Other promotions include Neath AM Jeremy Miles becoming Counsel General, replacing Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, and Alun Davies, the AM for Blaenau Gwent, joining as cabinet secretary for local government and public services.

The latter appointment marks the return of Mr Davies to the cabinet since he was sacked from it in 2014.

Swansea West AM Julie James replaces Vale of Glamorgan AM Jane Hutt – a minister since 1999 and the longest-serving Labour minister of all time in the UK – as leader of the house and chief whip.

Below cabinet level, Delyn AM Hannah Blythyn, Eluned Morgan, the AM for mid and west Wales, and Huw Irranca-Davies, Ogmore AM, join the government in junior jobs.

Ms Blythyn will be minister for the environment, Ms Morgan is minister for Welsh language and life-long learning, and Mr Davies becomes minister for children and social care.

All three – and Mr Miles – were newly elected to the Senedd in 2016.

Mark Drakeford remains cabinet secretary for finance, but his responsibility for local government has been given to Alun Davies.

Meanwhile social services minister Rebecca Evans moves to become minister for housing and regeneration.

‘Experience and stability’

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “I am proud to announce my new ministerial team, which provides a balance of experience and stability, with new drive and energy.

“This strong team will drive forward our ambitious plans for Wales – focusing on growing the Welsh economy, creating jobs, supporting our public services and improving the day-to-day lives of the people of Wales.”

But Plaid Cymru Group Chair Dai Lloyd AM said his party was “unimpressed”.

“Wales as a nation is crying out for new ideas and a change of direction. Wales still does not have a government that will lift the country up the league tables and inspires people with its agenda,” he said.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, praised Ms Hutt’s contribution but added: “New names and new faces count for very little – positive outcomes are all that matter to the people of Wales. We need a change in ideology”.

Advertisements

Letter from Ken Skates AM #SaveWILG

This letter has been sent to a number of #SaveWILG  campaigners from Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure Ken Skates who has represented the constituency of Clwyd South since the National Assembly for Wales election of 2011. I don’t know why I am bothering sharing this nonsense, but if you don’t read it yourself then you wont believe the inaccuracies that are being pedalled by the Welsh Government.

It is an interesting aside that this is the man who I worked with at the Evening Leader In the late nineties. I would read and sub edit his work and we both went on a jolly to Legoland, Windsor when I was asked to review the theme park. I drove there while he slept in the passenger seat, now he is defending Welsh Labour for copying the Tories of Westminster and basically selling me down the river. What ever he says, the same will happening Wales as is happening in England. Maybe he actually believes that Welsh Labour are doing the right thing by closing WILG, but I am actually living with the consequences of the end of a three way triangular structure to care and support and I can assure him that it is a living nightmare.

Before you read the letter, which I will reply to if I ever get the chance, I must try to express my frustrations with life at the moment. I am really struggling to type at all, at a time when I need to write so many emails and letters. My diary is jam packed but I don’t have enough care and support to attend all the appointments that I have. I am stressed and worried about the future while I sit in loneliness and desperation with a puddle of piss on the bathroom floor after dropping my urinal. I have to wait for support to arrive to clear this up.

I want to assure Ali Granger, Andrew Ranger, Paul Swann and Liz Lefroy that I will respond to their emails ASAP.

I will finish this blog with a humorous observation. I was incredulous when I received an email from Welsh Labour who where offering signed Jeremy Corbyn bags as a prize in a fundraising drive. You couldn’t make it up. Welsh Labour have a track record of distancing themselves from JC, but here they are exploiting an opportunity to profit from the popularity of the Labour leader. The Labour manifesto actually proposes a return to a three tiered care system, which the powers that be in Cardiff are doing their best to destroy.

Bedtime now, but here is the letter from Ken Skates. I wonder who sub-edited it…

 

Dear XXXX
 
Thank you for taking the time to contact me recently on this important issue.
 
The Conservative UK Government closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June 2015 and the Welsh Labour Government subsequently established the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) as an interim scheme administered by local councils to ensure people receiving payments through the ILF continued to do so. The Minister for Social Service and Public Health, Rebecca Evans, extended the transitional scheme last year until March 31 this year in order to develop longer-term arrangements in consultation with organisations representing people with disabilities.
 
WILG was only ever meant to be a short-term measure to provide continuity of support for former recipients of ILF. The UK Government provided a transfer of £27m a year to meet the cost of providing this interim support, but this leaves no scope to fund a change in people’s needs, any changes in the cost of the support they require or for operating any scheme to support them. Such costs, therefore, need to be taken out of this funding at the expense of care for all.
 
The Minister looked at a range of options for long-term support that ensures people with disabilities in receipt of WILG continue to receive support to meet the additional costs of living independently in the community. In doing so, it became clear that continuing with a separate scheme outside of normal social services provision would not be appropriate. This is because it would continue the inequity of some disabled people receiving their support from their local authority, while others receive specific WILG payments in addition to the support they receive from their council. It was also felt that continuing with a separate scheme had the potential of becoming unsustainable in the longer-term as the money provided for it by the UK Government was fixed at £27m a year so the value of payments through the scheme would gradually diminish. In addition, this fixed sum does not take into account costs associated with changes in a person’s needs and would not be enough to meet the needs of those who receive it.
 
Rebecca Evans concluded that future support through normal social care provision via local authorities would be the most effective approach as it ensures that funding is used to provide support to recipients rather than being used disproportionately towards operating costs of a separate scheme as is currently the case. This approach addresses the issue of equality for all people with disabilities in receipt of social care support in Wales while making the best use of finite resources.
 
The Welsh Government recognises that some recipients would have preferred a different decision and is aware of concerns about the way in which a transfer to local authorities has worked in England. The Welsh Government has looked closely at developments in England and has learned lessons about what not to do. Funding for the WILG will continue in its current format until 2018-19, when it will transfer to councils. During this time, local authorities will meet with recipients of WILG and their representatives to identify the outcomes they are seeking to achieve and agree a package of support with them. Once this support is available, it will be provided to help people live independently instead of the payments previously received and the expectation is that by March 31, 2019 all WILG recipients will receive their support in this way. Recipients of WILG will only move into the new arrangements when the support they require is available.
 
Once again, thank you for contacting me on this issue. I fully understand why some of my constituents want the scheme to continue, but hope that the information provided will reassure you that the Welsh Government is not simply copying what the UK Government did in England and is putting in place a long-term solution which is fair to all disabled people who receive support from their local authority. This will ensure that they continue to live as independently as possible in their own homes. Please be assured that I will continue to raise your views with the Minister for Social Services and Public Health in all relevant discussions.
 
 
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if there is anything I can help with in the future.
 
 
Best wishes,
 
 
Ken

Help needed on Twitter #SaveWILG

I am requesting help on Twitter to get the message across to Assembly Members across Wales that there is still time to reverse the awful decision to close WILG and transfer all responsibilities for Independent Living to local authorities.

A list of AM Twitter handles can be found below along with a suggested Tweet and electronic postcards and memes that can be attached to Tweets for greater impact. Even if you only manage to Tweet a handful of AMs, this could make a real difference to disabled people across Wales.

Thanks for your support.

***

SUGGESTED TWEETS:

Disabled ppl with high care and support needs are in search of your support to maintain Independent Living for all. #SaveWILG

Wales voted Labour. Don’t copy Tory policy and damage independent living 4 disabled ppl #SaveWILG

This is the impact of closing the ILF in England  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-living-fund-post-closure-review #SaveWILG

Welsh Labour: Don’t copy Tories in Westminster. Protect independent living 4 disabled ppl #SaveWILG

These Tweets should be accompanied by some of the many postcard photographs, electronic postcards and memes.

***

David Melding @DavidMeldingAM

Lynne Neagle @lynne_neagle

Gareth Bennett AC/AM @GarethBennettAM

David Rowlands AC/AMVerified account @DavidRowlandsAM

Hefin David AC/AM @hef4caerphilly

Caroline Jones AC/AM @carolineUKIP

Dr Dai Lloyd AC/AM @DaiLloydAM

Carl Sargeant AM @Carl4AandD Michelle Brown AM @MishBrownAM

Carwyn Jones AM/ACVerified account @AMCarwyn

Joyce Watson AM @JoyceWatsonam

Nathan GillVerified account @NathanGillMEP

Neil Hamilton AC/AMVerified account @NeilUKIP

John Griffiths AM @JGriffithsLab

Vikki Howells AM @VikkiHowells

Ann Jones AM @ann_jonesam

David Rees @DavidReesAM

Neil McEvoy AM @neiljmcevoy

Ken Skates AMVerified account @KenSkatesAM

Dafydd Elis-Thomas @ElisThomasD

MickAntoniw AM @MickAntoniw1

Jayne Bryant AM @JBryantWales

Mike Hedges @MikeHedgesAM

Julie James AMVerified account @JulieJamesAM

Rebecca Evans AMVerified account @RebeccaEvansAM

Eluned Morgan @Eluned_Morgan

JaneHutt AMVerified account @JaneHutt

Rhianon Passmore @rhi4islwyn

Elin Jones @ElinCeredigion

Vaughan Gething AMVerified account @vaughangething

Mark Drakeford AMVerified account @MarkDrakeford

Mark Isherwood AMVerified account @MarkIsherwoodAM

Angela Burns @AngelaBurnsAM

Mohammad Asghar AMVerified account @MohammadAsghar

Lesley GriffithsVerified account @lesley4wrexham

Nick RamsayVerified account @NickRamsayAM

Andrew RT DaviesVerified account @AndrewRTDavies

Simon ThomasVerified account @SimonThomasAC

Huw Irranca-DaviesAMVerified account @huw4ogmore

Russell George AMVerified account @russ_george

Rhun ap IorwerthVerified account @RhunapIorwerth

Julie MorganVerified account @JulieMorganLAB

Sian Gwenllian AC/AM @siangwenfelin

Janet Finch-SaundersVerified account @JFinchSaunders

Lee Waters AMVerified account @Amanwy

Alun DaviesVerified account @AlunDaviesAM

Jeremy Miles AC/AMVerified account @Jeremy_Miles

Jenny Rathbone AMVerified account @JennyRathbone

Mark Reckless AMVerified account @MarkReckless

Dawn Bowden AM @Dawn_Bowden

Llyr Gruffydd AC/AM @LlyrGruffydd

suzy daviesVerified account @suzydaviesam

Darren Millar AMVerified account @DarrenMillarAM

Steffan LewisVerified account @steffanlewis

Adam PriceVerified account @Adamprice

Hannah Blythyn AM @hannahblythyn

Kirsty WilliamsVerified account @Kirsty_Williams

LeanneWoodVerified account @LeanneWood

Bethan Maeve AM/ACVerified account @bethanjenkins

 

 

Silenced by Disability Wales

As I write this blog, I am feeling quite insulted as I have just received an email from the good people at Disability Wales who have sent me the agenda for their annual conference in Cardiff. It makes for interesting reading – not because of what it includes, but rather because of what it does not mention.

Of course, there are many important topics up for discussion with some excellent speakers – as well as Carl Sargeant AM. There is no doubt that this will be a well-organised and informative day, but to my mind there is one key issue that is missing from the agenda.

I received an email many moons ago, advising me that Disability Wales could not support my #SaveWILG campaign because of some political bias. This was disappointing and frustrating as I think that everything is political to a certain degree and I have made every effort to make my campaign about the future of independent living in Wales and beyond, rather than focusing on the failures of any political parties.

My campaign has been going really well without the support of Disability Wales. I have had my petition discussed by the Petitions Committee in the Senedd and they have agreed to the following :

  • Consider the petition further in the context of the budget announcement due later that afternoon; and in the meantime
  • Write to the Minister for Social Services and Public Health to share the concerns of the petitioner and ask:
    • whether she will publish the results of the public consultation and minutes of the stakeholder group as requested by the petitioner;
    • whether an Equality Impact Assessment of the decision was carried out and can be provided to the Committee and petitioner; and
    • for her views as to whether the planned transitional arrangements will ensure that the aims of the Social Services & Wellbeing (Wales) Act will have been put into practice by local authorities before the planned closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant.

This has all been achieved by me and my comrades so to be airbrushed from the main platform for disability activism in Wales is quite an insult. It is especially annoying as the reason that my campaign could not be supported by DW is so that they do not upset their funders even though my campaign is in the interests of DW members. I believe something’s are worth fighting for and I will continue fighting for my principles no matter who I disagree with.

I hope everyone enjoys the DW Conference and that the day is a success, but members should remember that they will not hear the voices of all disabled activists in Wales. If anyone who attends wants to contribute to the #SaveWILG campaign, please do get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or the Contact page.

Hello,
You are invited to the following event:

Annual Conference and AGM 19th October 2017

divider

Event to be held at the following time, date and location:

Thursday, 19 October 2017 from 09:30 to 15:30 (BST)

Orbit Centre
Rhydycar Business Park
CF48 1DL
United Kingdom

View Map

Share this event:

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

divider

During 2017, the review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living and the UN’s examination of the UK and Welsh Government regarding implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People has provided a timely focus on whether policies and provision in Wales deliver on disability rights and equality.

Furthermore, as arguments over ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Brexit rage, what impact will it have on disabled people and following the outcome of the General Election, where does it leave the UK Government’s austerity agenda?

Disability Wales’s Annual Conference Defending our Rights: Challenging Attitudes explores these questions and issues with the assistance of a panel of expert speakers and round-table discussions.

  • Find out how Welsh Government proposes to take forward its commitment to disabled people’s rights from the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant AM
  • Hear how Access Consultant Dan Biddle challenges work place discrimination and barriers to employment
  • Learn about the EHRC’s approach to tackling discrimination faced by disabled people from Ruth Coombs, the new Head of Wales
  • Be inspired to campaign for change by leading disability rights activist Tara Flood from the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance
  • Network and exchange ideas with fellow DW members, stakeholders and supporters.
  • Be the first to preview DW’s new website as a tool for sharing information, resources and expertise on disability rights and equality

Annual Conference and AGM

Defending our Rights: Challenging Attitudes

Programme

9.30am:     Registration & Refreshments

10.15am:   Welcome and Scene Setting

                             Rhian Davies, Chief Executive

10.30am:   Personal Perspectives

Dan Biddle, Managing Director, Nationwide Access Consultants Ltd

10.45am:   Campaigning for Change

                             Tara Flood, Reclaiming our Futures Alliance

11.00am:   Regulating our Rights

                             Ruth Coombs, Head of Wales, EHRC

11.15am:   Panel Discussion

11.30am:   Break

11.45am:   Round Table Discussions

12.20pm:   Driving Forward Disability Rights

Carl Sargeant AM, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children

12.45pm:   Summary

1.00pm:     Lunch

2.00pm:     Website Launch

                             Demonstration: Promo Cymru

2.30pm:     AGM and Project Presentations      3.30pm:         Close

Share this event on Facebook and Twitter

We hope you can make it.

Best,
Disability Wales

Trip to the Senedd

Earlier this week, I travelled to Cardiff to handover my #SaveWILG petition to the petitions committee at the Senedd. It was a productive day in which I garnered many new contacts across the political spectrum and I received much support that gives me the energy I need to continue this fight now that I am actually getting somewhere.

 

 

The petition will now be considered at the next meeting of the petitions committee on October 3rd. As I understand it, Ministers will be asked for their opinions and views on the subject and I then have the right to reply. It is great to be involved in this democratic process and I am very proud of the work that my comrades and I are doing towards our aim for a equal and inclusive society for all.

Please excuse me for cutting this blog short, but I have much to do and very little time in which to do it. When your week is only 86.5 hours long, there really isn’t enough hours in the day…

Memory Match – 10-04-05

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

This is the third successive season that I have been writing the Memory Match column. Indeed, when I have written a Memory Match for every Football League season I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

10-04-05

Wrexham v Southend United

Football League Trophy Final

Millennium Stadium

Result: 2-0 (after extra time)

Wrexham: Foster, Edwards, Morgan, Ferguson, Lawrence, Roberts (Pejic), Crowell (Bennett), Jones (Williams), Ugarte, Llewellyn, Holt

Goalscorers: Ugarte (99), Ferguson (118)

Southend United: Flahavan, Jupp, Wilson, Pettefer (Guttridge), Prior, Barrett, Maher, Gower (McCormack), Eastwood (Dudfield), Gray, Bentley

Attendance: 36,216

It had been a depressing season, both on and off the pitch. This is not the time, nor place for a lengthy analysis of the turmoil caused by Alex Hamilton, but I must provide some context.

On 3 December 2004 the club was placed in administration by the High Court as we owed £2,600,000, including £800,000 to the Inland Revenue. Wrexham became the first League club to suffer a ten-point deduction for being placed in administration, causing them to drop from mid-table to the League One relegation zone.

Despite their financial turmoil, Wrexham reached the LDV Vans Trophy final against Southend United at the Millennium Stadium after beating Notts County (2-3), Stockport County (2-0), Chester City (0-1), Hereford United (1-2) and Oldham Athletic (6-3 on aggregate) on route to the Cardiff showpiece. It was Southend’s second consecutive appearance in the Football League Trophy final after losing to Blackpool (0-2) in 2004.

There were no surprises in Wrexham’s line up with Mark Jones, Carlos Edwards and Craig Morgan, all recovering from injuries. Midfielder Danny Williams was named as one of the five substitutes having overcome back problems, while Alex Smith, Chris Armstrong, Scott Green and Levi Mackin were the unlucky players not to make the final sixteen.

Wrexham began brightly and would have taken an early lead if Juan Ugarte’s goalscoring instincts not prevented him from passing to the unmarked Chris Llewellyn in the 11th minute.

Unfortunately, Steve Roberts had to hobble off on 14 minutes. He was replaced by Shaun Pejic, but this did not disrupt our flow as Ugarte proved when he curled a shot just wide.

It was not all one-way traffic though as Southend’s Freddy Eastwood threatened fleetingly, and Mark Bentley produced fine saves from Ben Foster both sides of the interval.

Twenty minutes from time Bentley’s header hit his own bar. The ball bounced back into play and Bentley challenged Ugarte for the rebound, with the Wrexham player winning only to see his header hit the post and eventually fall into Darryl Flahavan’s arms. Southend had escaped and forced the game into extra-time.

The contest turned on a disputed corner from the left by Darren Ferguson in the ninth minute of extra-time. The ball was headed goalwards by Dennis Lawrence for Ugarte to flick home from close range for his sixth goal of the competition. We had one hand on the prize…

Two minutes from the end, Flahavan could only palm Llewellyn’s shot into Ferguson’s path and he coolly slotted the ball home from 10 yards to send the best-part of 20,000 travelling Reds into raptures.

This vital victory brought with it up to £500,000 cash which helped keep the clubs future alive while administrators worked to find a new owner.

Supporters Trust representative, Lindsey Jones said: “It was a fantastic day. There were so many people there, and a lot of people we don’t see every week. If they didn’t have the bug before, they will now.

“Long term I hope this will attract more supporters, and in turn make north Wales as a whole support the club.”

***

Wrexham still retained an outside chance of escaping the drop with six league games left. They were only eight points from safety, but it was a case of after the Lord Mayors show as Denis Smith’s men slumped to two defeats – Bristol City (1-0) and Luton Town (1-2) –   following the excitement of Cardiff. Brief excitement and belief began to grow after victories on the road against Port Vale (0-2) and Stockport County (1-4), but relegation was confirmed with a 1-2 home defeat against Brentford on 3 May 2005.

 

Some Party leaders come to Wrexham for Election Debate

On Wednesday 30 March I attended the FSB Welsh Leaders’ Debate at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University. I have a rather exciting story to share from the evening, but I don’t want to share it at the moment because I do not want to give away my political allegiances before the hustings that I have arranged with Sheila Meadows OBE at the end of the month.

Until then, here is the story of the evening as taken from Wrexham.com

 

With the Federation of Small Business hosting the event at Wrexham Glyndwr University the debate itself was a businesslike affair.

First Minster Carwyn Jones was subbed by Edwina Hart AM, with Mr Jones having understandable business regarding Tata Steel. Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood fame stood in for UKIP’s Nathan Gill, with the other parties having their leadership lining up as promised – Andrew Davies from the Conservatives, Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru.

Wrexham.com did offer to film and live stream the event, however organisers have said BBC Radio Wales will be ‘carrying the event’ in some form, so we will provide a link if/when we spot it, for now there is a summary of some of the points made and a few observations of the evening.

( UPDATE there is a 30 minute edit that you can listen to online, or download an MP3 of on the BBC website here )

The debate was fast paced crammed into an hour with topics focused on Welsh business and related subjects.

The initial question that dominated the first quarter of the discussions centred around the news over Tata Steel looking to dispose of their assets in the UK (More coverage on this can be found on Deeside.com, with the obvious Shotton interest).

The responses from the panel were along party lines nationally through today, with Labour stating it was not just a Welsh Government issue but global due to ‘dumping’ from China with a wish that the issue will ‘rise above politics’. Edwina Hart said she wanted to see a ‘fit for purpose’ steel industry in the UK as regardless of Tata or state owner it is making £1m per day claimed losses.

In a conciliatory tone the Conservative leader stated it was ‘vital’ that both the Welsh and UK Governments worked together, and that they were not against a ‘stake’ being taking in the business for a short while if it was so required. A ‘tit for tat tariff war’ was warned against, with a refusal of Chinese steel being linked to possible knock on effects to other demand such as Airbus planes.

UKIP cited the lack of protection from the EU over ‘dumping’, with Mr Reckless wanting the UK to stand alone to enable ‘anti dumping tariffs’. EU rules over clean energy were noted with new coal power plants being on UKIP’s agenda if the referendum votes ‘out’.

The Liberal Democrats echoed other views of steel being an ‘industry of national strategic importance’, explaining that Shotton appears to be the only profitable part of the Tata UK operation and concern over the lack of clarity to its future. Referring to the banking bail outs, Kirsty Williams said “We need to put our money where our mouth is” to similarly bail out the steel industry, saying governments spend money on things ‘a lot worse’ than saving jobs.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru introduced a political fight, challenging Labour’s record saying manufacturing had ‘not been a priority for years’, pointing out that the Conservatives had been lobbying for China to be granted market economy status – a move that would it is claimed have severe impact on the competitiveness of the UK steel industry. UKIP also had their nose tweaked as their EU argument was skewered with it pointed out regardless if the UK was in or out, there is still a Conservative Government in Westminster so the policy on China would not change.

Another question was asked over divides in spending, with the implication the M4 corridor in South Wales and Deeside get a bigger bite at the proverbial cherry than other areas. The M4 is currently due to get a £1 billion upgrade, with a controversial relief road being much debated. The various black and blue versions of routes were mentioned several times leaving a debate in North Wales with a question over a southern focus bruised.

All parties noted issues with the A55, with electrification of the North Wales mainline or associated transport link improvements also being seen as important by all. The dividing lines were drawn over the implementation of spending, with UKIP looking to develop links with the so called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in a geographically imprecise area.

Edwina Hart challenged the view on the south getting a better deal than the north, saying that us here in the north get more per head spent on transport than the south. Looking at Andrew Davies, she also pointed out that the limits to cash available are due to the Conservative party in Westminster.

Kirsty Williams said there ‘was life outside of Cardiff and Newport’ and favoured a balanced regional approach, explaining how she was from mid-wales and therefore knows how it feels to be ‘not listened to’ by Cardiff. Leanne Wood went a step further saying Plaid Cymru would entrench fairness in spending into law to ensure there could be no geographical bias.

Wrexham.com has covered the mystery over the ‘deal’ for North Wales, and with the Chancellor George Osbourne putting it on par with a £1 billion city deal for Cardiff (signed and sealed) it did seem odd there was no mention of it. Andrew Davies reiterated that a strong economy was required for growth, and echoed UKIP’s view to ‘plug in’ to the Northern Powerhouse, explaining how he sees more east-west connections rather north-south.

With only twenty minutes remaining the last two questions about inward investment, tax reform, business rates and business support were answered in an often tangential manner.

Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru explained plans for Welsh Government to take equity stakes in new startups rather than straight grants, a system that would share the risk and reward.

Mark Reckless from UKIP said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the Severn Bridge tolls were to be kept under Conservative plans, with Andrew Davies from the Conservatives responding to abolish them would cost £15-20m and increase road use by 25%.

Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats made the only mention of tourism, saying she welcomed more visitors and encouraged more to be done to promote Wales.

Edwina Hart from Labour spoke of her positive experiences of visiting classrooms and seeing entrepreneurial spirit from children however pondered when it was ‘knocked out of them’.

No large scale reforms of the business rates systems were proposed, with various tapers and reliefs being put forward by all to help business. Kirsty Williams did give a warning that any wholesale changes would need to be ‘very careful’ as her locality does not collect much in rates but gets much more benefit, and devolving collection and control to local authorities could exacerbate any finance gaps.

In what was quite a tranquil debate the only audience applause (and a whoop) occurred when Edwina Hart suggested that Andrew Davies’ Conservative Party could make large global corporates pay tax, presumably referring to the likes of Facebook and similar who paid £4,327 in corporation tax in the UK in 2014 despite making $2.9bn profit globally.

Mr Davies replied that more had been collected under the Conservatives recently than under the whole of the previous Labour Government, a similar applause then took place.

The event went well, with the BBC Wales host Brian Meechan conducting his work with a subtle touch, however after the meeting there was mutterings on the small scale of the event and inability to get tickets. One told us they had many interested friends who were unable to attend, with them disappointed the audience appeared ‘packed’ with ‘political types’ – we did spot a couple of candidates for various positions and members of their entourages sitting in.

There was a video link in place to Swansea, with one question posed via the connection, one wag after the meeting said: “We have a meeting about North Wales in North Wales and still South Wales gets focus”, although for those unaware of the M4 routes it would have been an educational experience.