Local public services are a key component in the well-being of the public they serve.

May 3, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Issues | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 03 May 2017

13:51:04

Spoken Contribution – 13:51:04

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Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Minister, I have been encouraged by some of your proposed local government reforms. You appear to want more transparency, and perhaps you also accept the idea that more plurality of opinion is sometimes needed. Local residents don’t really benefit from councils being run like one-party states. Would you welcome it if councils were able to scrap the cabinet system and return to the old committee system, which enabled members of all parties to participate in the running of the council?

Spoken Contribution – 13:52:15

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Thanks for that answer. The choice does sound like a welcome development. However, I wonder if entrenched parties that have been running their council for some time would be minded to introduce voluntarily such a change of system, but we will see. Localism is a principle that is sometimes championed by your Government. UKIP is also a fan of localism. We want to allow local residents to decide on major planning developments in their area. In other words, we want legally binding local referenda. Is this an example of localism that you would favour?

Spoken Contribution – 13:53:15

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Okay, thanks for your very clear answer there. We are concerned in UKIP at the recycling targets of your Government. We feel that reduced black bag collections could be harmful to residents. Do you agree that fortnightly collections should be the minimum service provided to residents?

Spoken Contribution – 14:08:11

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Yes, thanks for that. I think, although the Government here did provide money, it hasn’t been an across-the-board, consistent system, so it would be welcome if we could at least have the full council meetings broadcast by each council. Hopefully, you will stick to this, and I’m sure you will. It’s good that some of the councils are also broadcasting the cabinet meetings, which is welcome. So, can you just guarantee that you will push through with this once the local elections are over?

Spoken Contribution – 15:56:45

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Thanks to Plaid Cymru for bringing today’s debate. We, in UKIP Wales, agree with the broad thrust of the Plaid motion. Of course, local public services are a key component in the well-being of the public they serve.

Cuts in public funding are always to be regretted if they threaten well-used local services and facilities. Unfortunately, the reality of politics is such that the reasons for cuts are invariably disputed by different parties. Traditionally in Wales, we have had Labour-run councils who complain that budget cuts are always caused by Conservative Governments in Westminster. Of course, when we had a Labour Government in Westminster, they had to think of a different excuse. But that situation looks unlikely to recur, at least not for a considerable time. Since 1999, we have a third player in the blame game, namely the Assembly, and now we have Brexit as well. For the public, it’s all very confusing. I think, from the public’s point of view, it’s better to forget who is to blame for cuts, at least once the elections are over, and to concentrate on providing the highest quality public services that we can.

Local economies can be helped by local council decisions. Procurement should favour local firms. Councils can also help with issues like parking provision and charges. The Assembly itself is also a major player here with its powers over business rates, and UKIP certainly favours policies that benefit local businesses. Traditional high streets are something we should fight to preserve. Well-run local pubs deserve whatever support councils, and the Assembly, can offer. We still await an announcement from the Assembly Government on its proposals to support pubs in Wales.

There have been some interesting issues raised in today’s debate. Neil McEvoy was talking at length about the problems we’ve had in Cardiff. Now, I don’t want to particularly focus on Cardiff itself but, when he talked about the confusing decisions regarding recycling made by the Labour-run council, allied to their decision to close down two of the four recycling sites in Cardiff, it does raise questions, but I will refrain from comment on that particular decision, except to mention that you had a local referendum on that, but the result was completely ignored. This does raise UKIP Wales’s position that we need legally-binding local referendums on major planning decisions. Unfortunately, I don’t think Plaid are yet in support of this measure. Perhaps you need to think about that in greater depth.

Hefin David made an interesting contribution talking about his own role on Caerphilly council. Now, his decision is to leave the council; he believes that you can’t combine the job of being an Assembly Member with being a councillor. Neil McEvoy has come to a different decision, and I think, if I’m correct, we also have a Conservative member, Russell George, who, since he was elected, is still a member of Montgomery council. I think he is. So, in his case–sorry, it’s Powys County Council isn’t it—it seems to be possible to combine different roles. It’s interesting that if we turn the clock back only a few years, there were many MPs who, on election to Westminster, continued to sit on their local councils, and it was thought that the link between national Government and local government was worth preserving and that local councillors should, where possible, continue to sit on the council after they became MPs. So, it’s interesting how that viewpoint seems to have changed. I think in the Labour Government after 1945, we actually had a Home Secretary in Chuter Ede who remained a member of his local council.

Spoken Contribution – 16:00:41

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Sure.

Spoken Contribution – 16:00:50

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I wasn’t implying that you were, Hefin; that wasn’t my point. I just said that there are differences of opinion, that’s all; I was just ventilating the issue. [Interruption.] Okay, it’s been ventilated.

We need to curb excessive officer salaries. There do need to be tough statutory guidelines here, and we are also mindful of the need to address zero-hours contracts. Now, Hefin spoke on this as well, and I think one of the Ministers yesterday mentioned zero-hours contracts. I’m slightly confused now by Labour’s position, because you all seem to be saying that you’re against them, but you don’t seem to be doing anything about it. We certainly do need to look at their use in the public sector. We need to look closely at this. In general, in UKIP Wales we believe that zero-hours contracts do drive down pay and working conditions, and so we believe that action over the use of these contracts in the public sector is sorely needed. Thank you.