Welcome to the December edition of our monthly bulletin, providing you with the news of what is going on within the Caerphilly Constituency Labour Party.
Secretary’s Report: Bryn Hollywell
Politically we live in interesting times; we have a crucial general election on Thursday 7 May, and once the Christmas and New Year period is over we will form a campaign team and ensure there is a representative from each of our 6 wards on the Team. We will discuss the plans in more detail at our January GC Meeting on Friday 9 January. We know how important it is to win a majority at the general election, and our MP, Wayne David’s article in this monthly bulletin on George Osborne’s draconian Autumn Statement, tells us all we need to know about the Tory plans for the future.
No doubt you will have read with interest the fast moving devolution of certain powers to Scotland, as promised by the 3 leaders of the main political parties, including income tax raising powers, talks of more devolved powers to the English Regions, and just a few days ago, a significant devolution of additional revenue streams to the Welsh Assembly, a significant portion of which will be allocated to the NHS in Wales. Negotiations on the fine detail continue, but the outcome of the general election in May is crucial for a successful conclusion to these devolved powers to the Welsh Assembly. Jeff Cuthbert’s article “Where next for the devolution process” in this edition provides more detail.
Our CLP Chair, Pam Baldwin, and I attended the Welsh Labour Policy Forum in Cardiff on 15 November, to input ideas into the manifesto process for the Welsh Assembly elections in 2016, and a report will be provided at our December GC meeting on Friday 12 December. One significant item to report is that the Caerphilly CLP will have the honour of leading the debate in the Welsh Labour Annual Conference being held in Swansea on 13-15 February, on a motion on early intervention that was accepted by the 2014 Conference.
Don’t forget that we have a crucial by-election in the Tonyfelin Ward of the Caerphilly Town Council on Thursday 18 December. Any help you can provide will be welcome, and please look out for my weekly email on our Saturday morning canvassing activities.
Finally, a huge vote of thanks to Lisa Jones, our CLP Fundraising Officer, and her hard working committee, for a superb Annual Christmas Dinner event at the Caerphilly Golf Club, on Friday 5 December. Everyone enjoyed themselves, including the 9 members from our twinned constituency, Cardiff North, which included, the candidate, Mari Williams, and Rhodri and Julie Morgan. Lisa provides the financial details in the Fundraising Update article in this bulletin.
Article from Wayne David MP
Labour offer a fairer way for the nation’s finances
As I write this, George Osborne has just delivered his final Autumn Statement on the state of the country’s economy before May’s general election. This was an Autumn Statement that showed that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have failed every test and broken every promise they made about the economy.
The most important test of whether any government’s economic policy is successful is whether living standards are rising for ordinary families. But, while this Tory-led Government has introduced a huge tax cut for millionaires, working people are now £1,600 a year worse off.
Part of the reason for this is because in 52 of the 53 months that David Cameron has been Prime Minister, prices have risen faster than wages.
It is because of this cost-of-living crisis that the Chancellor will break his key promise of balancing the nation’s finances by next year. The reason that the deficit has not come down as fast as George Osborne said it would is because most working people have not seen their wages increase. This, combined with the fact that too many are stuck in low-paid jobs, means that the tax revenues needed to get the deficit down aren’t coming in.
Tax and benefit changes have also hit families hard. Figures from the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies show that families are on average £974 worse off this year because of the tax and benefit changes the Tory-led Government have made since 2010.
But Labour has an economic plan to do things differently. Under Labour the minimum wage will rise, the bedroom tax will be scrapped, there will be a 10p rate of income tax to benefit 24 million basic rate taxpayers and business rates for small firms will be cut.
This is all about making sure that Britain’s finances are balanced in a fairer way. And another way to help do that will be to reverse the Tories’ tax cut for the top 1% of earners.
After the failure of the current Government, difficult decisions will need to be made on spending, which is why Labour is proposing to cut the winter fuel allowance from the richest 5% of pensioners. But, as Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have said, they will not make any spending promises without being clear where that money is coming from.
With the general election just five months away, the British people face a clear choice between a Conservative Party that choked off the economic recovery in 2010, which led to three years of lost growth, and a Labour Party that is committed to taking action to secure a strong, balanced and sustainable recovery that works for the many, not just a few at the top.
Article from Jeff Cuthbert AM:
Silk and Smith – Where Next for the Devolution Process?
The aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum has seen much political debate about the future of the United Kingdom and the shape of its constitution. While the people of Scotland voted by a majority of 55% to 45% in favour of staying in the union, what is clear is that the current structure of the UK cannot just remain the same. People want change, but change within the union. How this will impact on Wales and Welsh devolution is very important, and something which the First Minister in particular has been considering very closely.
The Wales Bill is currently going through Parliament which will put into legislation some (though not all) of the recommendations of Part 1 of the Silk Commission report into Welsh devolution. As a result, Wales will be given borrowing powers (something long overdue) as well as control over minor taxes such as stamp duty (though not, sadly, air passenger duty). We will also be given the power to vary income tax in Wales (a power that Scotland has had since 1999) subject to a popular referendum, while full control of business rates will also be devolved.
Silk published Part 2 of his report earlier this year, recommending that a number of powers over certain policy areas – such as policing – be devolved to Wales. The four main political parties in Wales have been digesting the report’s recommendations; however it was generally agreed that we would see very little in terms of a response from the UK Government prior to next year’s General Election. However, the change in Secretary of State for Wales, along with the Scottish referendum, seems to have expedited the process. Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has called for an agreement between the Wales Office and the National Assembly for Wales to be hammered out by St David’s Day – an ambitious target.
In response to the Scottish referendum result, the UK Government asked the Smith Commission to look at how best to further the process of Scottish devolution, in line with the vow made to the people of Scotland by the three main UK party leaders ahead of the referendum back in September. Smith published his recommendations at the end of last month and it is quite a comprehensive package of devolution measures. Unsurprisingly, the Scottish Nationalists do not think it goes far enough, but Labour is confident that this package offers the people of Scotland what they want – more control over their own decision-making, but within the safety net of the United Kingdom.
In response to Smith’s recommendations for Scotland, First Minister Carwyn Jones has demanded that all powers offered to Scotland are also offered to Wales. This includes the power to vary our own income tax rates – provided that the people of Wales give their approval to this in a popular referendum. Furthermore, devolution of income tax cannot even be considered until the perennial problem of Wales’ underfunding from the Treasury is addressed. Otherwise, each time Wales complains of this underfunding, the UK Government will simply tell us to go away and raise our own funds with income tax – thus locking in the underfunding.
Clearly, there is a long way to go. There are significant differences between Wales’ four main parties about what should be devolved. Some areas such as defence and foreign affairs should always remain the preserve of the UK Government. However, there is a starting point of consensus: all of Wales’ four main parties agree on the need for a clearer model of devolution. We have a deadline of St David’s Day for us to reach an agreement. As the Scottish referendum showed, people in the UK think we are ‘better together’ – but the union has to change.
Our Annual Dinner took place on Friday 5 December and was a huge success. The Fundraising Committee would like to thank everyone that came along for their support. A huge thanks must go to our two special guests, Rosemary Matthews AM and Kevin Brennan MP.
At the dinner, the draw for the Members Annual New Year Raffle was made. In total, 632 tickets were sold - thank you to everyone who bought tickets.
Details of the prizes and winners are as follows:
1st Prize of £100
Ticket No: 1250
Name: Mr Graham Court
2nd Prize of £50
Ticket No: 0966
Name: Mr Bernard Hodgkin
3rd Prize of £25
Ticket No: 0281
Name: Mr Tony Jones
4th Prize of Case of Quality Wine
Ticket No: 2234
Name: Mr T Bennett
Others prizes were won by A Arrowsmith, Anne Chamberlain, H Jenkins, Peter Slarke, Jayne Edwards, Fay Gay, Huw Thomas, C Lord, Liz Aldworth and Mari Williams.
The Caerphilly CLP Fundraising Committee would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.