Wales remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. Consequently it’s to receive £2bn in European aid between 2014 and 2020. It is the third time in a row that Wales has qualified for what is called “structural funding”. This latest amount has to be used by the Welsh government for long-term sustainable economic growth and jobs. The money is given to areas where the value of what is produced is three-quarters or less of the EU average. Lets hope that good use is made of the money in this round.
Money, money, money, preoccupied not Abba, but Plaid Cymru this week. So much so that the party had a meeting with the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. The meeting was confidential so we don’t know whether they asked for the bank to be renamed to better describe its role as the UK’s central bank but they did ask for Wales to be represented on the monetary policy committee which sets UK interest rates.
The nearest Wales’s gets to a state visit happened this week when the Irish President visited Wales. Michael Higgins spent two days in the country where he met First Minister Carwyn Jones to discuss the economic and cultural links between Eire and Wales. The President also visited Swansea to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth.
TheLabour leader in Scotland Johann Lamont has stood down. In her going she accused the Labour party of trying to run Scotland “like a branch office of London and describing some of her Westminster colleagues as dinosaurs who do not understand the politics of Scotland. http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/10/labour-lost/
Whoever is chosen to be Labour’s new leader in Scotland will have his or hers work cut out. The polls there show the SNP in Scotland steaming ahead. Mori shows them in a 29 point lead over Labour. The YouGov poll isn’t quite as dramatic but still shows a very solid lead for the SNP. If there was an uniform swing the SNP would bag a hefty number of seats and would by far the largest party in Scotland. It looks as if Labour can’t count on the Scots branch office to bail them out in the Westminster elections.
Thursday Scotland polls
YouGov/Times Con 15% Lab 27% LD 4% SNP 43%
Ipsos Mori Con 10%(-7) Lab 23%(-19) LD 6%(-13) SNP 52% (+32) Green 6%(+5)
YouGov/Sun Con 33% Lab 32% LD 7% UKIP 15% Green 7%
YouGov/Sun Con 31% Lab 34% LD 6% UKIP 17% Green 7%
Ashcroft Con 31%(+3) Lab 31%(nc) LD 7%(nc) UKIP 18% (nc) Green 5% (-3)
YouGov/Sun Con 32% Lab 32% LD 8% UKIP 18%
Populus Con 34% (nc) Lab 36%(nc) LD 8%(-1) UKIP 13%(nc) Green 3% (nc)
ComRes/Indy Con 30%(+1) Lab 30%(-5) LD 9%(-1) UKIP 19% (+4) Green 4%(nc)
Opinium/Observer Con 33%(+5) Lab 33%(-2) LD 6%(-3) UKIP 18%(+1) Green 4%(nc)
YouGov/Sunday Times Con 33% Lab 33% LD 7% UKIP 16% Green 6%
Britain is a country deeply divided by poverty according to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. And Wales? Well, it certainly isn’t in the rich part of that divide.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation “the face of poverty is changing. More than half of people experiencing poverty now live in working households. Public policy has yet to catch up with this shift.” Half of those are families with children.
Indeed Wales has the second highest relative child poverty rate of any region of the UK. 22 per cent of children in poverty compared to 18 per cent in the UK as a whole.
Unfortunately in many parts of Wales there is a wide gap. Take two local councils lying next door to each other – Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent. In these two areas child poverty varies from 12.5 per cent in Monmouthshire to 29.4 per cent in Blaenau Gwent.
OK the Welsh government has recognised the problem and had developed a distinctive early years focus on children. It has Flying Start, a programme for children aged three and under whom live in deprived areas and also the Foundation Phase for three- to seven-year-olds.
All three-and four-year-olds in Wales are entitled to ten hours per week of free early education and two-year-olds who live in Flying Start areas are also entitled to 12.5 hours per week free early education.
The Families First programme promotes joint working by agencies in local authorities to prevent and intervene early with at-risk families, especially those in poverty.
The past year has seen the expansion of Flying Start, with numbers up by one-third to 31,000, keeping the Government roughly on course for its plans to reach a quarter of all four-year-olds by 2016.
In this area the Welsh Government have indeed made some modest progress in narrowing the development gap at age seven between children eligible for free school meals and other children.
But a great deal more needs to be done and not just at the early stages as a newly published report for the Children’s society shows.
Despite the UK having universal free education, children from poor families are seriously disadvantaged according to the Children’s Society.
Parents have to provide an average of £800 per child on additional school costs. These include uniforms, outside study trips and other materials.
The fact is that many of Wales’s working families don’t earn enough to pay for these ‘extras.’ Consequently the children suffer serious disadvantage to their education.
None of these problems will be solved until real incomes rise. Its not about the minimum wage it should be about ensuring that families have a living wage so that their children thrive and grow.
Children should enjoy their school days. They shouldn’t be made to feel inferior and excluded from the benefits that the school offers kids from better off families.
Johann Lamont stood down as leader of the Scottish Labour party. She accused colleagues of trying to run Scotland “like a branch office of London and describing some of her Westminster colleagues as dinosaurs who do not understand the politics of Scotland in the new post-referendum world.
What brought about her resignation was the sacking of the general secretary of Scottish Labour, Ian Price without the London HQ of the party even bothering to consult her.
The truth of the matter is that neither the Scottish nor Welsh Labour parties are anything but branch offices of the centralist party.
Although Carwyn Jones was elected leader of the Welsh Labour party, all the paid officers in the Welsh party HQ are there courtesy of the national executive of the central party.
Just like in Scotland the national party general secretary could invite them to London for a “chat” and promptly give them the boot.
Whilst Wales’s First Minister calls for Home rule his party is very much into central control.
Party candidates have to be approved by the National executive. They can impose their will on local constituencies and also the Welsh party.
The Welsh party may have its own logo and call itself Welsh Labour but make no mistake it’s independent in name only. Welsh Labour was a branding exercise to allow Rhodri Morgan to claim clear red water between Wales and Blair’s New Labour.
The problem with Labour is that it has never really understood devolution. Its focus first and foremost is Westminster. Their only concern is that Wales and Scotland provide the cannon fodder of Labour MPs in such quantity to allow a Labour government be formed.
If they had any understanding of Scotland, would they have been seen campaigning alongside and sharing the same platform as the Conservatives in the Better Together campaign? Unlikely, traditional Labour voters saw this as a betrayal.
Although Scotland rejected independence it’s not the SNP that are the losers in eyes of the voters. In the greater Glasgow area, 12 Labour constituencies backed independence. Since the referendum, SNP membership has more than tripled with the party becoming the third largest in the UK.
Meanwhile Labour is in free fall. Sacking their general secretary, losing their leader. Hardly the best background to return Labour MPs.
Henry McLeish, a former Labour first minister, said that Scottish Labour supporters no longer know “what the party stands for.” They are unlikely to ever “know” until Labour in Scotland and in Wales become independent of the metropolitan clique that control the party.