Wales standing up to UK austerity, argues First Minister

Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has told AMs that Wales is making progress in "the most difficult economic circumstances" and that the Welsh government is "standing up" to UK government austerity and welfare policies.

Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has told AMs that Wales is making progress in “the most difficult economic circumstances” and that the Welsh government is “standing up” to UK government austerity and welfare policies.

Publishing the government’s update on the progress made by ministers in implementing its programme for government, Jones declared:

“Our annual report shows real progress made in delivering on our promises on the issues that really matter to the people of Wales…

“We continue to make progress in health and education and have redoubled our efforts to do all we can to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in Wales in the face of UK government reforms…

“However, we cannot ignore the fact that our budget continues to be squeezed and we have some tough choices to make. We cannot continue to finance all the projects which have received funding in the past. We will need to prioritise to ensure the future of those public services we all rely on – health, education and job creation.”

The document notes that key achievements of the Welsh government over the past year include:

  • Creating 4,000 job opportunities to help young unemployed people into work through the Jobs Growth Wales programme and supporting 1,500 young people into apprenticeships through the Pathways to Apprenticeship programme.

  • Boosting investment in infrastructure by £900 million through the Welsh Infrastructure Investment Plan.

  • Investing £400 million to deliver high-speed broadband across Wales with support from the European Regional Development Fund.

  • Supporting the poorest communities by setting aside £22 million to ensure those eligible will still receive full council tax support, providing nearly 2,500 extra affordable homes and re-launching the Communities First programme to focus on health, learning and prosperity.

  • Providing easier access to health services, with nine out of ten GP surgeries offering early evening appointments at least two nights a week.

  • Recruiting an additional 400 Police Community Support Officers.

The report, however, has not been universally praised, with the leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies declaring the report to be no more than a “fig leaf to cover the monumental failure of a tired and lazy Welsh Labour government”.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems, meanwhile dubbed it  “pages and pages of self-congratulatory bumf with little meaning or use to Assembly Members or the people of Wales”.

Lee Waters, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, said that whilst Carwyn Jones has “done very well on the politics…the government is about the long-term decisions about the problems we face, and that’s where I think the record is much more patchy”.

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