Independence Index

Your in-depth guide to Welsh independence.

Assembly

The latest news, debates and reports from the Senedd.

Bridgend

The major local political stories and developments from Bridgend county.

Laws

We gave AMs law-making powers; this is what's being done with them.

Committee Inquiries

Detailed scrutiny of how Wales is being run.

Election 2016

All the build-up, details and analysis of the National Assembly election 2016.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Election 2016 : BBC Wales Leaders Debate

(Pic : BBC Wales)

With just one week to go until polling day, the second of the two Welsh leaders debates was held last night by BBC Wales in Cardiff. If you missed it you can catch up on iPlayer (link). There was also an after-show with the usual talking heads and party apparatchiks each claiming their own side "won"; you can watch here (link).

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Election 2016 - The Manifestos : Minor Parties


Your choice at the election won't be restricted to the six parties mentioned previously.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Election 2016 - The Manifestos : Labour

(Pic : BBC Wales)

The final manifesto of the established parties was released last Tuesday (19th April) and comes from Labour, which had been criticised for delays to their manifesto's publication. They still look odds on to form the next Welsh Government at the moment so it doesn't really matter too much.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Our Seneth Serene




                                                                Act One, Scene One

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Election 2016 : ITV Wales Leaders Debate

(Pic : ITV Wales)

Although (most of) the party leaders recently went through BBC Wales' #AskTheLeaders Q&A sessions - and are in the process of offering Adrian Masters cooking lessons on ITV Wales - the first "proper" debate of the 2016 National Assembly election took place in Cardiff last night.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Election 2016 - The Manifestos : Conservatives


(Pic : via Twitter)

Proving just how quickly things can change in politics, in the space of a few weeks the Welsh Conservative campaign has shifted from being one where they can build up their numbers in opposition to one where they're fighting to remain the official opposition, with external events threatening to derail things.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Election 2016 : The Other Election

(Pic : Wales Online)

There are of course two nationwide elections taking place on May 5th. The focus will be on the National Assembly, but we'll also be going to the polls to elect/re-elect Wales' four Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Election 2016 - The Manifestos : UKIP


(Pic : via Twitter)


Hot on the heels of the Lib Dems, it was the turn of UKIP to launch their manifesto - which they did in Newport on Friday (15th April). They currently look dead certs to burst into the National Assembly, possibly winning a significant number of seats.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Election 2016 - The Manifestos : Lib Dems

(Pic : via Twitter)


With under three weeks left of campaigning, and with the leaders debates starting next week, I'd expect all of the party manifestos to be published in the coming days. On Thursday (14th April) it was the turn of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, for whom the polls are still looking grim (though not as bad as they used to be).

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Election 2016 - The Manifestos : Greens

(Pic : BBC Wales)


The second manifesto of the 2016 National Assembly election was released on Tuesday (12th April), this time from the Wales Green Party, who are seeking to get their first AMs elected on May 5th.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Ogmore By-Election Runners & Riders


With Huw Irranca-Davies deciding to contest the Assembly election, as you probably already know a vacancy for his Westminster seat will be filled at the same time as the Assembly and Police & Crime Commissioner elections on May 5th.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Election 2016 - The Manifestos : Plaid Cymru

(Pic : Plaid Cymru via Flickr)

Now that the Assembly has been officially dissolved, the 2016 election campaign is fully underway. So it's time to turn attentions to the serious bit : what the parties promise to do if we elect them.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Ta-ra Tata : What future for Welsh steel-making?

(Pic : The Independent)

This is an immediate follow-on from the National Assembly debate held earlier today. This post will look in more detail at some of the options facing Tata and other interested parties (like the UK and Welsh governments), as well as what the next steps might be.

Ta-ra Tata : Senedd Recalled

(Pic : BBC)

Following last week's sudden announcement that Tata are actively considering a quick sale of its UK steel-making business, the National Assembly was recalled from Easter recess for an extraordinary plenary session this afternoon.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Live From Angel Street - March Planning Committee



The latest Bridgend Council (BCBC) webcast returns to the Development Control Committee, and monthly meeting held on Thursday (March 31st). You can watch it here.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Senedd/Election Watch - March 2016



  • Celebrations were held to mark the tenth anniversary of the official opening of the Senedd building on March 1st. Llywydd Rosemary Butler (Lab, Newport West) said the Senedd hasestablished itself as a central part of Welsh public life".
  • The Communities and Local Government Committee recommended the BBC spend an additional £30million on Welsh programming, that an Assembly media committee be established and that S4C's funding and remit be considered separate from the BBC as part of its recommendations on BBC Charter renewal.
  • In their report on the draft Local Government Bill, the Communities Committee recommended the Welsh Government provide loans of up to £246million to councils to cover the upfront costs of proposed mergers. The Committee said it was, "unrealistic....to expect authorities to meet upfront costs without....assistance."
  • Plaid Cymru criticised cuts to schools careers advice with the budget and workforce for Careers Wales halving since 2010-11, leaving as few as 40 careers advisers for Welsh secondary schools by the end of 2016. Rhun ap Iorweth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) said, "There’s a danger that pupils can go through school with....no careers support.”
  • On March 7th, the First Minister unveiled the Welsh Government's “alternative draft Wales Bill”, which included proposals such as : a formal name change of the National Assembly to Welsh Parliament, devolution of criminal justice in 2026, the creation of a distinct Welsh legal jurisdiction and the creation of a Welsh Law Commissioner.
  • The Public Services Ombudsman said out-of-hours NHS services needed a systemic review after a number of cases highlighted “inadequate standards of care” and were not “one off incidents”. The Welsh Government said it took the issue seriously, but wanted more focus and cooperation instead of a “diktat”.
    • The Finance Committee recommended the Fifth Assembly introduce a law to strengthen the powers of the Public Services Ombudsman, including investigatory powers, complaints handling across public services and extending jurisdiction to private health providers.
  • A report for the Welsh Government – coinciding with International Womens' Day – said more women needed to be encouraged into science and engineering and that a “critical shortage” of female scientists and engineers was hampering the Welsh economy. Also, prominent present and former women athletes called for more coverage of womens' sport.
  • The Environment Committee said Wales should produce 100% of its energy requirements from renewables following their inquiry into the future of energy production. They also recommended setting annual targets to reduce energy demand, reviewing building regulations on energy efficiency and establishing a not-for-profit “umbrella company” for locally-produced energy.
  • The National Assembly unanimously approved the Tax Collection & Management Bill on March 8th. The Act will create a Welsh Revenue Authority to collect devolved taxes – such as landfill tax and stamp duty - from 2018.
  • AMs voted in favour of a partial ban on the use of e-cigarettes in some public places – notably schools, places where food is served and public transport – as part of Stage 3 amendments to the Public Health Wales Bill. However, the Bill was rejected by the Assembly on March 16th by 27 votes to 26 after Plaid Cymru were derided as a “cheap date” earlier in the day by Public Services Minister, Leighton Andrews (Lab, Rhondda), for reaching easy agreement on the Local Government Act.
    • Dafydd Elis Thomas AM (Plaid, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) felt “personally betrayed” by Plaid's sudden u-turn whilst he attended the House of Lords, describing it as one of the lowest points of his time in office. Plaid were also ridiculed by the Liberal Democrats for voting down the law for “farcical” reasons, though the u-turn was welcomed.
  • A report on the M4 Newport relief road suggests it could cost as much as £1.1billion, despite the First Minister's previous claims the project would cost “nowhere near” £1billion. Draft orders for compulsory purchase of land were issued on March 24th, though no official go ahead can be given until after the Assembly election.
  • The Welsh Government started legal action against Lambert Smith Hampton as a result of the RIFW scandal. The National Assembly debated the Public Accounts Committee report on March 16th and unanimously agreed to note its recommendations.
  • The Finance Committee's inquiry into how Wales is funded recommended a “long-lasting” commitment to fair funding, and said arrangements for fair funding needed to be finalised before taxes are devolved. They also recommended this be put on a statutory basis and an independent body be formed to create a transparent system for funding the devolved administrations.
  • In his UK Budget on March 16th, UK Chancellor George Osborne announced : Severn Bridge tolls would be halved in 2018, tax breaks for a proposed Port Talbot enterprise zone and the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks from 2018. An extra £3.5billion in spending cuts were also announced.
    • In addition, a £1.2billion “city deal” covering 10 local authorities in south east Wales was signed on March 15th. The money will be used to develop the south Wales metro, establish a semi-conductor cluster and create an innovation district.
  • Iain Duncan Smith resigned as UK Work and Pensions Secretary after opposing cuts to disability benefits. The Prime Minister was “puzzled and disappointed” by the decision. Welsh Secretary, Stephen Crabb MP (Con, Preseli Pembs.) was appointed as his replacement, while Alun Cairns MP (Con, Vale of Glamorgan) was promoted to Welsh Secretary.
  • The Enterprise & Business Committee recommended a deadline of 2018 be set to introduce an all-Wales travel smart card as part of its inquiry into buses and community transport. Chair William Graham AM (Con, South Wales East) said, “It is technologically possible and passengers want it. The incoming transport minister will need to drive this initiative from day one."
    • On March 23th, Economy and Transport Minister, Edwina Hart (Lab, Gower) announced a Transport Commissioner for Wales – one of the recommendations of the report – would be created, subject to UK Government approval.
    • A second Enterprise and Business Committee report into rail infrastructure recommended a business case be drafted to electrify the north Wales mainline, enhanced services between Aberystwyth and the English Midlands and the redevelopment of Cardiff Central station.
  • Education Minister, Huw Lewis (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney), launched new teacher training guidelines for university courses, including new two-year postgraduate courses and greater specialisation for primary school teachers. The intention is to create the “toughest and best” teacher training system in the UK.
  • A Public Accounts Committee report into Cardiff Airport criticised the lack of a “long-term growth plan” and a lack of progress against business plans. The Welsh Government said passenger satisfaction levels were at an all-time high and passenger numbers were increasing.
  • On March 30th, Tata's executive board announced it would consider selling its UK steel-making business – which includes plants in Port Talbot, Newport, Llanelli and Shotton – after rejecting a restructuring plan.
    • The UK Government and Welsh Government issued a joint statement saying they were “considering all the options” for the Port Talbot plant in particular, including a management buy-out - though the Prime Minster ruled out nationalisation on March 31st. The Llywydd recalled the National Assembly  from Easter recess to discuss the issue on April 4th.

Projects announced in March include : A £26million Welsh Government-EU investment in a solar energy research centre in Port Talbot; a new £6million National Autism Service to be rolled out over the next three years; the launch of a transgender action plan; a £3.2million upgrade to three sports sites in north Wales; a new IT system to track hospital infections in “real time”; £12.8million for regeneration projects and £10.3million for 94 new ambulances.



  • The Welsh Conservatives pledged to start construction of an M4 Newport bypass “within 12 months” should they form the next government, but will review all options beforehand. They accused Labour of “dithering” on the issue and later said a Labour-Plaid coalition would lead to the project's cancellation.
  • The Lib Dems pledged to include a carbon impact assessment on every new piece of legislation and would submit a carbon budget alongside annual budgets. William Powell AM (Lib Dem, Mid & West Wales) said, “It is only the Welsh Liberal Democrats who have the ambition....that Wales needs to tackle climate change and grow our green economy.”
  • At Plaid Cymru's spring conference in Llanelli, Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, South Wales Central), said voters has been “taken for granted” by Labour and repeated key campaign pledges such as recruiting an extra 1,000 medical staff, scrapping home care charges for the elderly and the creation of a economic development agency.
  • Plaid also ruled out making a coalition with Labour if the latter press ahead with plans to construct an M4 Newport bypass. Leanne Wood said, “focusing spending on one small corner of the nation is completely unacceptable.”
  • The Green Party in Wales outlined their housing proposals, including a commitment to building 12,000 new homes a year, guarantees that a minimum proportion of those would be social housing and extra help on fuel efficiency.
  • The Conservatives unveiled proposals for a hospital rating system and measures to “boost patient choice” such as giving patients a right to choose their GP and hospital. They also proposed an NHS Safety Bill. Shadow Health Minister, Darren Millar (Con, Clwyd West) said, “We want to see an NHS underpinned by patient responsibility and choice - supported by record levels of funding and investment.”
  • UKIP unveiled their regional candidates on March 7th, which includes former MPs Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless. Nathan Gill MEP – who topped the list in North Wales - said, “The Welsh membership have now had their say....Now is the time for all of us to move forward united and to campaign to bring real change to the political establishment in Cardiff Bay.”
  • The Conservatives would treble the number of hours of free childcare from 10 hours a week to 30. Shadow Education Minister, Angela Burns (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.) said “It is currently very difficult for working parents to take advantage of....free childcare, especially as provision frequently has to spread over five days.” UKIP would increase the number of child minders by allowing them to work without regulatory approval.
  • At their spring conference in Llangollen, the Conservatives unveiled key policies, such as capping residential care costs at £400 a week, guaranteeing extra funds for the NHS and directing more money to classrooms. Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Davies (Con, South Wales Central), said he also wanted to make Wales the UK's “low tax capital”.
  • The Lib Dems pledged to extend the Nurse Staffing Levels Act to cover maternity wards, mental health wards and community nurses. Kirsty Williams AM (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) said, “We all want NHS staff to have the time to care for our loved ones, which is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats will deliver safe staffing levels across the NHS.”
  • The Wales Green Party launched its election campaign on March 21st, pledging to scrap tuition fees for Welsh-domiciled students, end school closures and “protect front line public services”. Party leader, Alice Hooker-Stroud, said “From public transport to our health care, to our education, it's time to put the public first.”
  • Plaid Cymru's PCC candidate for Dyfed Powys, Dafydd Llywelyn, said the new EnglandandWales helicopter service was letting down the force area after a FOI request revealed 86% of requests for air support beween 8pm and 8am weren't honoured, despite promises of 24-hour cover.
  • Plaid Cymru pledged to reform the “regressive” council tax which could result in those in the lowest council tax bands paying up to £400 a year less, while they also pledged not to change income tax rates during the Fifth Assembly. They also called for civil service reform to fix a “conservative and risk-averse” culture.
  • The Conservatives would make 70,000 extra homes available for rent or purchase and would retain the “right-to-buy” as well as scrap stamp duty for first time buyers who buy homes worth less than £250,000.
  • Plaid Cymru would offer education, employment or training to everyone under the age of 25 who's been seeking work for four months as part of plans for “cradle to career” support – which would also see the creation of 50,000 apprenticeships. Llanelli candidate, Helen Mary Jones said, “We will work to ensure that no young person in Wales is left behind.”
  • Labour's PCC candidate for North Wales, David Taylor, was criticised by civil justice campaigners for stigmatising the unemployed and mentally ill after pledging a “war on wasters” and zero tolerance towards anti-social behaviour, vandalism and public drinking.