Welcome to the March 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
A number of Caerphilly Constituency Labour Party members attended the Welsh Labour Annual Conference held in Swansea over the weekend of Friday 13 February to Sunday 15 February. A detailed report is included in this bulletin. Our delegates were myself, Amanda McConnell (her very first Welsh Labour Conference), and our Youth Officer, Rhydian Birkinshaw. However, we had a number of other party members at this Conference; our CLP Chair, Pam Baldwin in her capacity as a member of the Welsh Executive Committee, and a number of visitors to the Conference, Cllrs Barbara Jones, June Gale, Chris & Elaine Forehead, Hefin David; Fay Gay, and Kerry Jones representing the Caerphilly CLP Women’s Forum.
A reminder that we are holding a Special GC on Friday 13 March, starting at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers of the Caerphilly County Borough Council at Ty Penallta, Ystrad Mynach, to debate the Welsh Government’s White Paper on the reform of local government in Wales. I believe we will have a full and vigorous debate on this topic especially from our councillors who have expressed strong reservations on some of the ideas put forward in this paper. I have produced a paper summarising some of the main topics that we will debate, and copies will be available at the meeting. If you wish to read the paper before the Special GC meeting, please contact me. You should also read the White Paper itself to understand all the various recommendations: http://wales.gov.uk/docs/dsjlg/consultation/150203-power-to-local-people-fullv2-en.pdf
We have many party members who are school governors and at our last GC meeting we agreed to ask whether you would ask your local school what provision they undertake to advise parents on applying for the Pupil Deprivation Grant. The numbers who normally apply for this grant has reduced considerably within the Caerphilly County Borough area, and we are concerned that many parents may not be aware that they may be eligible for it.
We will not have a GC meeting in April as all our efforts will be concentrated on the general election on 7 May. Please look out for my emails that will detail all our election activities, and invitations to help in any capacity, including putting up widow posters, or large ‘For Sale’ size boards as ‘posters’ in your front garden.
Article from Wayne David MP:
Labour’s plan for a better future
We now have just over two months until the people of Caerphilly and the rest of the UK will go to the polls. When they do, they will be faced with a clear choice about what sort of government they want.
The Tories will say that we should carry with their failing plan that has led to the economy benefiting a few at the top. Labour, on the other hand, will be offering a better economic vision; one that recognises that working families must succeed if Britain as a whole is going to succeed.
To do this, Labour will scrap the Tories’ tax cut for millionaires and instead introduce a new lower starting rate of tax. This will lead to a tax cut for 24 million working people.
By 2020, Labour will also have increased the minimum wage to £8 per hour, leading to a £3,000 wage increase for full time workers on the minimum wage. In addition, Labour Ministers will have ended exploitative zero-hours contracts.
Thanks to the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats there are 1,156 households in the Caerphilly constituency that are currently hit by the bedroom tax – and if David Cameron is returned to power this figure is likely to increase. The Government’s own evidence shows that since it was introduced, 57% of people paying the bedroom tax across the country have had to cut back on household basics.
This proves that the bedroom tax is one of cruellest and most unfair of the policies imposed by this Tory-led Government. And that is why one of the first acts of a new Labour Government will be to scrap it.
While the Tories have chosen to waste billions of pounds on a reorganisation of the NHS in England that has put profit before patient care, a Labour Government will have different priorities. Labour Ministers will invest in the NHS in Wales and the rest of the country. Thanks to the mansion tax, in Wales we will be able to train an extra 1,000 doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
And after David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the Big 6 energy companies, which has led to fuel bills rocketing up by £300, Labour will introduce a freeze on energy bills until 2017. This will mean that in the first 20 months of a Labour Government energy bills will be able to fall, but they will not be able to rise.
That is why at the election the choice will be more of the same under the Tories or the positive alternative offered by Labour of a better future.
Article from Jeff Cuthbert AM:
The St David’s Day Agreement
On Friday 28 February, David Cameron and Nick Clegg unveiled their latest package of devolution measures for Wales at a stage-managed event at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. The St David’s Day Agreement, they claimed, delivered on the Prime Minister’s commitment to include Wales “at the heart of the debate” on the United Kingdom’s constitutional future following the result of the Scottish independence referendum on 18 September last year.
Carwyn Jones has welcomed the announcement as a small step in the right direction, but has expressed disappointment in the large part that this is a missed opportunity. People do not want their elected representatives to be debating constitutional intricacies ad nauseum at the expense of important bread-and-butter issues that matter to them. However, the sheer magnitude of the Scottish independence debate and its potential consequences for the future of the UK – coupled with our increasingly fragmented political culture – means that it is important we get Wales’ devolution settlement right. While devolution was only narrowly approved in Wales back in September 1997, it is now generally agreed that most people in Wales would prefer that the everyday decisions that affect their daily lives should be made by politicians in the National Assembly for Wales.
Let’s look at the announcement’s key points. Firstly, the UK Government has agreed to introduce a ‘funding floor’ to end Wales’ under-funding as a result of the complex Barnett formula used in HM Treasury. This is to be cautiously welcomed, but at this point it is all very vague – we need more exact figures before we agree. This is especially the case given that the UK Government wants to link this to Wales having powers to vary income tax levels – we must be wary of this as a Tory trap and we reiterate our stance that we will not call a referendum on income tax powers in Wales without an express and detailed commitment to fair funding for Wales.
Secondly, the UK Government has agreed to let the Welsh Government issue bonds to borrow for capital expenditure on large-scale infrastructure projects. We welcome this, as it puts the Welsh Government on an equal footing with local authorities (and town and community councils!) and will allow us to borrow when necessary to create jobs and stimulate demand during an economic downturn. However, we are disappointed that there is no devolution of air passenger duty (APD). This would put Wales on level terms with Scotland and Northern Ireland, and would have been a very useful tool to help boost Cardiff Airport, which we own.
The Assembly will also be given powers over its own electoral arrangements – including voting systems, the number of Assembly Members, and the ability to lower the voting age to 16 for Assembly elections, should it have a mandate to do so. These provisions, I believe, make a lot of sense. I also welcome more devolution over consent for energy projects, including shale gas extraction (fracking) – although the powers don’t go as far as we like, it is progress at least. We will also receive greater powers over areas like bus and taxi licensing, speed limits, and ports.
A new Wales Bill will now be introduced to Parliament and it is important that it is scrutinised carefully. The package announced by Cameron and Clegg last week must be seen as a ‘baseline offer’ – the minimum that Wales will get, whoever wins the next General Election (which we all hope, of course, will be Labour!). Ed Miliband has promised to introduce a ‘reserved powers’ model of devolution for Wales (similar to Scotland) and devolve certain powers over policing, in addition to the current St David’s Day proposals. A lot of work now needs to be done to ensure that we get this right for the benefit of the people of Wales.
Report on the Welsh Labour Annual Conference
13-15 February 2015, Swansea
The first event was a reception on Friday evening at the Liberty Stadium for all delegates where I met with many AMs and MPs, and even more candidates for vacant AM seats!!. I spoke briefly with Leighton Andrews AM, the Minister for Public Services, with whom I was trying to agree a date for a special GC in our constituency to enable him to debate his recent White Paper on local government reform. He apologised for being unable to attend a number of alternative dates I had suggested, but looked forward to hearing our responses, and he reiterated that at this stage nothing had been finalised. Our female delegates and visitors will report back on the Women’s Summit that was held at the same venue prior to the reception.
Conference began in earnest on Saturday morning and after the welcoming speeches and approval of the Standing Orders Report we began to debate the various motions and issues on our agenda.
The first item was our Early Intervention issue agreed for debate at last year’s Conference and subsequently considered at the Welsh Labour Policy Forum. I formally moved the subject and thanked Welsh Labour who were very supportive and other contributors, such as the Wales Branch of the Socialist Education Association, who formally seconded the item. The motion was carried. The next motion was on zero hours contracts. The recent announcement that a Labour Government will outlaw exploitative contracts was well received, and the motion was approved.
Our First Minister, Carwyn Jones, gave an outstanding speech and outlined all the positive measures undertaken despite massive cuts in funding from the Tory-led Government, and how vital it was for a new Labour Government in May.
Under the heading of ‘Jobs and the Welsh Economy’, 4 motions were debated:
- A Manifesto for a better deal at work in Wales from UNITE
- Umbrella companies from UCATT highlighting underhand practices in the construction industry, where workers were duped into paying both their own and their employer’s National Insurance Contributions.
- Postal delivery services in Wales, moved by the CWU, detailing their key role in rural areas now under threat from a privatised Royal Mail.
- Not For Profit Rail in Wales moved by ASLEF.
The first three were approved and supported by the Welsh Labour Executive Committee, but they requested that the ASLEF motion be deferred for further discussion. The movers disagreed, but by a narrow vote of all delegates the referral for further consideration was agreed by Conference.
The afternoon session began with a very impressive speech by our Party Leader, Ed Miliband, which was very well received. He outlined the fundamental differences between Labour and the Tories on all aspects including the fundamental core of our manifesto that sought to reduce inequality, and how the current storm on tax avoidance highlighted how the Tory Party only spoke for the rich and ignored everyone else.
Three motions under the heading of ‘Challenge 2020 Tackling Poverty and the Cost of Living Crisis’ were debated:
- Coalition Government attacks on Wales moved by the GMB trade union
- Children in poverty moved by Welsh Young Labour
- Childcare and tackling poverty from Cardiff North Women’s Forum
The first two were agreed and Cardiff North ‘s delegates agreed to the WEC request for referral.
Derek Vaughan MEP addressed Conference and highlighted how vital the EU was for Wales in terms of jobs, apprenticeships and funding for a range of vital services. The Cardiff North motion on the controversial TTIP Trade Agreement between the EU and multi-national companies was debated and assurances sought that the European Parliament would not agree to any public bodies being affected by these proposals. Derek assured delegates that there were many months of negotiations to be completed before it was signed off.
The Education Minister, Huw Lewis, spoke on the progress being made on standards within our schools and the progress being made throughout Wales. The SEA (Socialist Education Association-Wales Branch) submitted a motion on secured salaries for supply teachers, which the Caerphilly CLP was prepared to second, but was withdrawn following a request from the SOC as the wording needed to be agreed by the teachers’ unions.
Conference approved a motion moved by Cardiff West CLP on the establishment of a constitutional convention following the outcome of the Scottish referendum on independence. Our First Minister had supported this initiative to ensure that Wales’ interests, especially the creation of a fairer Barnett Formula, were recognised. This approach was very different from the Tories’ plans for English MPs to speak and vote solely on ‘English’ issues.
Finally for the first day of the Conference, a motion on youth services moved by the South Wales Police Commissioner, Alun Michael, was approved, and Conference noted the very high quality of speakers from the Wales Youth Party who participated in this debate.
On Sunday morning I attended a forum on the general election campaign and was provided with an useful summary of the points and issues we should consider between now and the general election. At the same time our AM, Jeff Cuthbert, attended a session with children’s charities and young people to see what they could contribute to the election campaign.
We then heard a wonderful speech by the Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith MP. It was forceful, funny and passionate, and was very well received by delegates.
Conference then debated health and social care led by the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford AM, and debated 3 motions on the subject:
- Welsh Labour investing in and supporting the Welsh NHS moved by Brecon & Radnor CLP.
- Fitting primary care to meet new challenges moved by the Welsh Branch of the Socialist Health Association.
- Care of vulnerable adults moved by Cymru Wales Unison Labour Link, moved by Dave Bezzina (Caerphilly CLP).
All three motions were carried.
Conference closed with a report from Dave Hagendyk, general secretary of Welsh Labour, on the work undertaken by his wonderful staff, including our own, Mary Williams!!, and Conference concluded with a resounding rendition of the Red Flag.