Sheila Meadows OBE

Open Letter to Deputy Health Minister, Julie Morgan AM #SaveWILG

FOR THE ATTENTION OF DEPUTY HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTER JULIE MORGAN AM

Dear Julie

It was really good to meet you once again at my home on January 24th. I would like to thank you for listening intently to the evidence presented by myself, Sheila Meadows OBE and Vic Grout as to why the Welsh Government need to save the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG).

I am writing as a concerned WILG recipient to enquire when you will be able to reveal how the Welsh Government propose to rectify the situation caused by the imminent closure of WILG? I must push for a solution to the predicament I find myself in as time is running out and I still have not completed my reassessment thanks to the incompetence of my local authority. We were assured back in April 2018, that these reassessments would be completed by September 30, 2018. This deadline was then pushed back to November 30, 2018. The fact that this deadline has been missed should not be a surprise to anyone.  I am still struggling to cope with the inadequate levels of care and support that I currently receive, with no idea when this situation will improve. Last night I had to call my dad to assist me at 01:36. This is an untenable situation.

For your information I have included two links, at the foot of this letter, that will help you to build a clearer picture of what is going on. I have faith in Welsh Labour to do the right thing and act now before the situation gets any worse. The maintenance of the tripartite system is an absolute necessity. 

Please note that this letter is written with the deepest respect and understanding and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Nathan Lee Davies

DISABILITY NEWS SERVICE: LAST-DITCH APPEAL TO NEW WELSH FIRST MINISTER OVER INDEPENDENT LIVING SCHEME 

OPEN LETTER TO FIRST MINISTER MARK DRAKEFORD

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Letter from Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM – #SaveWILG

I received the following letter from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM ahead of our meeting tomorrow.

I was a little disappointed and confused by this letter and the whole host of concrete evidence that it ignores in favour of working towards saving the Welsh Independent Living Grant. We will reserve these arguments for our meeting tomorrow and look forward to working with Julie Morgan to help safeguard independent living for disabled people with high care and support needs in Wales.

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21 January 2019

Dear Nathan,

I am looking forward to meeting both you and Sheila Meadows at your home on 24 January to discuss the position on the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG). In advance of this I thought I would let you know of the outcome of the recent “deep dive” review which local authorities were instructed to do before Christmas. This was so that we were assured of the position on the transfer of people’s support to authorities’ social services.

As you may know to be assured of this position the former Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care instructed all local authorities to review all cases where, following an assessment of someone’s care needs, there was an intention to reduce the local authority’s direct support to the person in what would have been the WILG element of their overall support. This was to identify the reasons for these, the exact scale of any reductions and to receive from each authority a personal assurance that where this was to occur it was appropriate and did not impact on that person’s ability to live independently in the community.

These deep dive reviews were undertaken at the end of 2018 and a summary of the
outcome is attached for your information. Of the 1,174 people who had completed at that time their future care review as part of this transfer, only in 157 cases (13%) was a reduction in the former WILG element of their support proposed as a result. In the majority of cases people’s care reviews had identified them as requiring future care of a similar nature and level to that they currently received, while people were to receive a higher level and intensity of care following their review in a slightly higher number of cases to that where a reduction was proposed.

Where a reduction was proposed, the level of this varied from individual to individual depending upon their particular circumstances and the reason for their reduction. Hence most people to receive a reduction in the former WILG element of their support were to receive a reduction of between 1-14 hours a week, with a wide range of reasons for this.

Of particular note were instances where a change in social care support, either in the way this is provided or of a different type, has had a consequential effect on the level of formal care a person requires. There were also a number of cases where people had developed a need for healthcare since the ILF’s last care reviews undertaken in 2015 and hence no longer have a requirement for social care. In addition, there were instances where changes were to be made to the commissioning arrangements or level of support for a person, due to the full value of their funding not being fully utilised previously. Often this was at the request of the person or their family.

To ensure local authorities had undertaken these deep dive reviews correctly, the former Minister met at the end of last year local authorities’ relevant social care Cabinet Members and all Directors of Social Services (or their representatives) on a regional basis. This was to question them on the outcome of their deep dive reviews to ensure the support they were putting in place for people was genuinely helping them to live independently and to give authorities the opportunity of raising any implementation issues they were encountering.

During these meetings local authority representatives provided their personal assurance that where reductions were to occur these were appropriate, did not impact on that person’s ability to live independently in the community and, in the vast majority of cases, had been agreed with the person concerned. Where they had not been agreed with the person authorities were seeking to resolve this with them. In addition, no major implementation issues were raised by authorities as being of concern.

There is, as I am sure you will agree, a critical need to ensure that the completion of this transfer of support for those people affected is undertaken correctly in a manner which does truly support their ability to continue to live independently. As a result, to ensure I have a full picture of the issues I am currently getting myself appraised of the background to this issue, the action to date and the implications of the outcome of the deep dive review the former Minister undertook.

Perhaps we could discuss this outcome when we meet, as well as your and Sheila’s concerns, so that I can decide what further action may need to be taken to ensure the transfer is effective in supporting independent living.

I am copying this letter and its attachment to Shelia Meadows and look forward to meeting your both this Thursday.

Yours sincerely

Julie Morgan AC/AM
Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services

R (Luke Davey) v. Oxfordshire CC Court of Appeal 2017 #SaveWILG

The following article is from a website produced by Luke Clements who is a Professor of Law at Leeds University and a Solicitor.

This is an invaluable piece of writing from Mr Clements who would certainly a good person to speak with and have as an ally for our campaign. I remember Sheila Meadows OBE mentioned the work that Mr Clements had been doing many years ago, but he recently came to my attention again following an email from Ann James who has a professional and personal interest in Social Care in Wales. She set up this journal with Luke Clements last Autumn and it is a resource which enables critical discussion and analysis of social welfare law in Wales. It also provides exposition of  the SS&WB (Wales) Act 2014, and provides briefings on aspects of the law.

It is really encouraging to have received an email from someone so knowledgeable at the start of a very important period for the #SaveWILG campaign.

Without further ado here is the excellent article that I will also email to all of my campaign team as we prepare for the Welsh Labour Conference on April 20-22.

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People in Wales in receipt of the Independent Living Grant, the Welsh Government’s interim measure to soften the blow of the closure the Independent Living Fund (ILF) would have followed R (Luke Davey) v Oxfordshire CC and the subsequent appeal with interest in the hope that the Court of Appeal would overturn the earlier High Court decision.

The Welsh Government has confirmed that the Independent Living Grant will continue in Wales until March 2018 and in the subsequent year all those who previously received the ILF will be re- assessed and have their care and support provided for by their local authority.

It is likely that many former ILF recipients will see attempts to reduce their care and support funding in the same way as Luke Davey.

In this case we have seen the High Court loathed to strike down the Local Authority decision as being irrational and the Court of Appeal found no reason to interfere with the decision of the High Court.

One should take heart that Davey does not give local authorities a carte blanche – and it should most certainly not be taken as creating an open season to cut services. It decides that the well-being duty is a legally enforceable obligation and that once a support plan has been agreed local authorities must provide the funds to meet every aspect of that plan. It also states – in terms – that once there is evidence that a direct payment is insufficient to secure suitably qualified carers then the local authority must address this by increasing the amount paid.

Davey is a case ‘on its facts’: disheartening and quite possibly a personal tragedy for Luke Davey. Cases of this kind come along infrequently but they do not upend the social care legal order.

For us in Wales, the excellent Merton decision and the facts of the Davey case, provides the basis for disabled people to expect an assessment that gives primacy to their well-being outcomes identified by the person being assessed or their advocates. It highlights that Local Authorities need to provide a rational for any changes in provision that will stand up to the test of irrationality should it be challenged in the Courts.

The transition to local authority provision for previous recipients of the ILF is not an automatic signal for a reduction in care provision for the individual who is eligible for care and support.

Response to Minister for Children and Social Care from Sheila Meadows OBE #SaveWILG

I have shared a letter below written by my friend and comrade Sheila Meadows OBE who started the fight to support disabled people with high care and support needs long before I appeared on the scene. Together we have been fighting for disabled people’s rights for over five years now.

She is responding to the letter I received from Huw Irranca-Davies last week. This can be viewed in full here.

I will write my own response to this letter shortly, but I doubt that I will be able to add much more than Sheila has already said. The following letter encapsulates all that we have been trying to get across, but the folk at Welsh Labour seem to lack the humanity and humility to listen and admit that they will need to revise their plans to close WILG before it is too late…

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Dear Mr Irranca-Davies

Thank you for your letter to Nathan Lee Davies. I will respond on a few points which I hope will contribute to the discussion and I ask you to respond to the final point so important in our discussions, but not addressed in your reply.  I refer to the triangulation we spoke at length about – the need for a third independent person or group with power who can mediate between the Local Authorities and recipients should this prove necessary.

You Wrote: …”separate public consultations held in 2014 – one for recipients and the third sector, and another for local authorities on the principle of four potential options for future support arrangements for former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). I would like to assure you this was not the case. Only one consultation was held with all the responses considered together.”

What we raised was that the analysis of the responses from recipient, third party organisations, etc. and LG were considered separately. Social Services responses indicated their desire to run the future ILF. This was supported by Welsh Government.

You Wrote: …”As Sheila may recollect as a member of the stakeholder group who advised Welsh Government, when the detail of how a resulting shortlist of options could be implemented that option was indeed considered further.”

Yes it was discussed further and the views of the SS representatives and LA were supported over the voice of the recipient.  I used to travel back form Cardiff feeling that I and the voluntary organisations had been able to convince the civil servants and others understand the problems we would face if the funding and decisions were left to our Local Authorities alone. The SSWB act, all assured me, would protect WILG recipients to live independently.   I was not then and have still to be convinced.

You Wrote: …”In addition many were concerned that the increased numbers of disabled people in Wales, who local authorities could claim funding for from the scheme, would result in the threshold to access this system having to be set at a very high level in order to make the scheme affordable.”

It is interesting that you highlight this particular issue as this was about the only issue we all agreed on, but not in the form you recall it.  As social services in the local area must fund or ensure the support of all disabled people who qualify for services, then it was seen by the whole group as fairer across Wales to have a higher threshold set. All agreed that the threshold was too low and would need to be raised considerably, but all felt this would be fair. 

  • When someone required a very large package of care the LA  could turn to a central source for financial support
  • It would also prevent local authorities ‘upping’ the cost of care provision to qualify for the enhanced payment which we know was done to attract ILF when central government ran it.
  • It was also seen as making it an ’All Wales standard’ of eligibility for enhanced care packages for those with the greatest disabilities.
  •  It would also have brought in one of the most important elements, someone/group, who would sit outside Local Government to monitor and mediate and ensure fairness across all authorities. 

Which brings me to my final comment; Nathan and I tried very hard to explain the importance of the ILF social worker in assessments and provision. They would hold LA to account if they were not fulfilling their agreed part in the contract and would also be equally determined that what the recipient or appointee had agreed was also being carried through.  Now if LA decide on a plan for you or in my case my son and I don’t agree, who do I turn to?  If my son is likely to suffer physically or mentally because of a decision, then I can complain but to whom?  To the LA?  How can it be possible to complain to someone about themselves and expect a reasonable outcome? Both Nathan and I thought we had explained this issue very fully with Mathew Hall, Head of Policy Division, but this issue is totally ignored in your letter. Once again, I am faced with the same issues, we have meetings, think the Civil Servants have listened and heard, but find the issues which they don’t fully understand, or unable to find a solution are  totally ignored.  I can understand that you don’t agree with my view but I feel there is a need to respond to the most important issue brought to the meeting.  We called it the ‘Black Hole’

The need for an independent third person is vital. After your visit we did get the letter you sent to Wrexham in November, thank you, it arrived in the middle of February!  Without your direct intervention would this have happened?  I am sure you will not want all such issues to be brought directly to you but to what other support do we turn when the Local Social Services are struggling and unable to communicate with us or support us.  You are aware of our experiences, is it any wonder we cannot trust Local Authorities on the future of WILG recipients to be able to live independently with adequate support? 

With thanks

Sheila Meadows

Letter from Huw Irranca-Davies AM #SaveWILG

I have received the following letter from Huw Irranca-Davies AM, Minister for Children and Social Care following our meeting last month.

I was disappointed with my performance at the meeting and now I am disappointed with the letter that the Minister has sent. It is the sort of letter we’d expect to get from a government minister; it appears detailed and thorough, but it seems to avoid the reality on the ground.

I also need to properly formulate my argument into five key points that I would like to ask the Minister to avoid him trailing off and talking about general issues. I will do this later this afternoon. I had hoped that by listening to me talk about the problems disabled people would be facing in dealing with local authorities only, that Huw Irranca-Davies would have responded with a more positive and original letter full of hope and pragmatic free thinking. Unfortunately, I received the following:

Dear Nathan

Thank you for meeting me to discuss the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and for sharing your experiences and concerns. It is important to me to see how the decisions we make as a government are translating into delivery for people on the ground. As we discussed, I am writing in response to some of the points which were raised, and to give you an update on further actions.

At our meeting you explained that you thought there had been separate public consultations held in 2014 – one for recipients and the third sector, and another for local authorities on the principle of four potential options for future support arrangements for former recipients of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). I would like to assure you this was not the case. Only one consultation was held with all the responses considered together.

You also raised the issue of accessibility of the consultation for recipients. To address this issue various versions of the consultation were produced including a Welsh language version, a braille version, easy-read and easy-to-read version. The latter versions were produced with assistance from the RNIB and Learning Disability Wales. I understand from my officials that a large number of the easy-read and easy-to-read versions were issued where recipients and their families felt these would aid their understanding of the consultation.

On the substantive issue of a scheme to succeed the ILF, you asked why the option of a Welsh Independent Living Scheme put forward by Stephen Harris of the Dewis Centre for Independent Living was not considered further, as you believed this option received most support from respondents. However, as the consultation summary indicates, the most supported option was in fact the potential for arrangements in Wales similar to that of the ILF. As Shiela may recollect as a member of the stakeholder group who advised Welsh Government, when the detail of how a resulting shortlist of options could be implemented that option was indeed considered further.

However, the Welsh Independent Living Scheme option did not make that shortlist for several reasons. While on the face of it the scheme would adhere to the principles behind the establishment of the ILF, many opposed it as the funding would not go to the individual but to their local authority to fund the cost of their care package. The only way under this option that recipients could continue to have control over the support payments they received would be through direct payments from their local authority. In addition many were concerned that the increased numbers of disabled people in Wales, who local authorities could claim funding for from the scheme, would result in the threshold to access this system having to be set at a very high level in order to make the scheme affordable. This was in light of the fixed, finite funding the UK Government transferred to the Welsh Government to fund the support of former recipients of the ILF. This could have had the potential to reduce the funding the scheme could provide to authorities in individual cases. In view of these concerns Ministers at the time concluded it was not suitable to pursue this option further.

It is important to emphasise that the decisions taken in consultation with the stakeholder group have at all times sought to ensure people with disabilities in Wales have the right to live independently at home and are supported to do so. As a government we have acted to underpin this in legislation through our Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. The Act is changing the way people are supported to give them more voice and control over the care and support they require to meet their own wellbeing outcomes. It is encouraging to see increasing evidence of this approach becoming standard practice across Wales to the benefit of those who rely on support, and with a positive effect on the future support packages which are being agreed for WILG recipients.

We also discussed the monitoring of the two year transition period, where I confirmed we collect periodic data from local authorities on their progress. As of November last year over 350 recipients in Wales, of the 1,300 recipients in total, were already in the process of agreeing their future support package with their authority, with over 30 having now decided to transfer to receiving their support through their support package. While this is positive, I agree we need to widen this monitoring to also collect qualitative data on the outcomes which WILG recipients are experiencing, and I am currently considering ways in which this could be done. In addition I am acutely aware if we are to support recipients to live independent lives, authorities need an appropriate amount of time to undertake reviews with them and for recipients to have time to agree their future support packages do this. As a result I am also considering whether there is a need to adjust the transition to allow authorities more time to complete these reviews given the numbers involved and the fact that a large number of recipients have complex care needs.

Finally, you raised several concerns about the approach of Wrexham County Borough Council to care assessments and to the transition process for recipients of the WILG to local authority support. In the light of your concerns my officials will seek direct assurances from the local authority over its implementation of the transition process and its reviews of recipients’ future support needs.

I will write to you again with a progress update on the transition to the new support payments, including any potential changes for the transition and the monitoring of the transition, and response to your concerns over local implementation. In the meantime I am copying this letter for information to both Ian Lucas MP and Sheila Meadows, and I thank you again for taking the time to meet me and discuss these important matters.

Huw Irranca-Davies AC/AM
Y Gweinidog Gofal Cymdeithasol a Phlant
Minister for Children and Social Care

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I WILL BE RESPONDING TO THIS LETTER OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS. MY RESPONCE WILL BE PUBLISHED ON THIS BLOG IN FULL.

MY MOVE…

 

Minutes of meeting with Huw Irranca-Davies #SaveWILG

The following notes where typed up by Sheila Meadows OBE following are meeting with Huw Irranca-Davies  last week. As time goes on, I regret not saying certain things and holding him accountable for his party’s failings over the past few years. This is why I am trying to set up another meeting in Cardiff with the honourable gentlemen.

Anyway, good or bad, these are the minutes from our meeting:

18/01/18

#SaveWILG meeting

Present: Mathew Hall (Civil Servant Policy Division), Ruth Parness (PA Ministers Private Office), Huw Irranca-Davies, Ian Lucas MP, Nathan Lee Davies, Sheila Meadows OBE, Tia Louise Wills

Notes taken by  Sheila Meadows OBE

Nathan Lee Davies (NLD) opened the meeting explaining it has been a long, hard campaign since 2010 and particularly since 2015 with the closure of ILF and the beginning of WILG

A Social Worker visited NLD in 2015 and informed him that without WILG the council would be looking to reduce his hours of support. NLD explained he had a progressive condition and requires additional support not less. He explained his fears for the future.

NLD described his involvement in the community and states his campaign is formed from a desire to help all WILG recipients have positive outcomes.

NLD feels targeted by Wrexham Council as a disabled person (Social Care cuts/Blue Badge issues) and is frightened of the future. NLD explained the need for an independent third party that can fulfil the role of ILF in providing information and support in dealing with the council to give uniformity across councils.

NLD requested that the minister take this opportunity to achieve something better for disabled people, not just WILG recipients.

Huw Irranca-Davies (HID) discussed the history of the consultation process, Steve Harris’s 4th option and was given notes sent by Steve and the Wrexham consultation notes. He accepted there had never been complete agreement in the stakeholder group but was clear he wanted every penny of the £27 million to go to the care of former ILF recipients to maintain their independent living. HID is also aware of the problems facing disabled people in England.

HID was clear that he had no intention of changing policy, but was also clear that he expected LAs to be assessing fairly to meet needs. Under the SSWBA, ALL people should be supported to achieve the outcomes they require for their mental and physical health.

Ian Lucas (IL) pointed out that when an urgent letter was sent to Wrexham council in November, far from supporting recipients by making contact and reducing anxiety as requested they had merely filed it. He has no confidence that Wrexham LA will come forward to produce a process or plan for meeting the high level of needs of this group of disabled people.

There was a wide discussion on how and who takes responsibility when a LA does not, or cannot meet the requirements of the WG.

NLD explained how he felt during initial discussions with his social worker last month. She laughed when he suggested he needed 24-hour care and knew the panel would reject such a request out of hand. NLD feels far from working with him to meet his needs, he is seen as an inconvenient nuisance by Wrexham council.

HID and Matthew Hall (MH) confirmed the policy was not to reduce the support people have but to meet their needs to continue to live in the community.

MH has agreed to send a follow up letter to NLD and Sheila Meadows (SM) once he has spoken with HID – who has now left the meeting. NLD and SM also reinforced the loss of the knowledgeable and supportive body we had in ILF and MH agreed to consider how to ensure an LA who is not performing well will be forced/supported to move forward.

SM closed the meeting with a quote by Gwenda Thomas: “It is no longer good enough that they do things differently – we must do different things.”

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.