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Politics

Snap election builds in unfairness

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A SNAP General Election is unlikely to break the break deadlock, the Electoral Reform Society has warned
The ERS says results are likely to be ‘clear as mud’ when it comes to translating voters’ preferences, with ‘vote-splitting, wasted votes and unfair results on an industrial scale’.
One in four (24%) voters are planning on voting ‘tactically’ – rather than for their first choice – increasing the likelihood of random results under Westminster’s winner-takes-all voting system, according to BMG polling for the Society.
When the same question was asked before the 2017 general election, 20% of people said they’d opt for someone who was not their first choice.
Westminster’s voting system rests on a handful of marginals changing hands: “Eleven seats were won by less than 100 votes in 2017. North East Fife was held by the SNP by just two votes. Such are the vagaries of the system that the Conservatives could have won an absolute majority based on just 533 extra votes in the nine most marginal constituencies.
“A working majority could have been achieved on just 75 additional votes in the right places. Two very different outcomes based on less than 0.0017 per cent of voters choosing differently,” the Society’s 2017 election report noted.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “Few believe a third General Election in the space of four years will ‘fix’ the current impasse: the only agreement seems to be that there is yet more volatility coming our way, with parties hoping to gain from the chaos.
“It’s amusing to remember that Westminster’s voting system is supposed to deliver ‘strong and stable’ government. It has totally failed to do what it says on the tin, and no wonder – people are rightly shopping around, but this two-party system is totally unable to cope.
“This election is likely to see ‘tactical’ voting on a scale never seen before, alongside widespread ‘vote-splitting’ and candidates getting in on fractions of the vote.
“First Past the Post voting is now an engine of volatility, which could make the current problems even worse. We could see a ‘wrong winner’ election – where the biggest party did not win the most votes – another hung parliament, and wasted votes in the millions. It’s time to join other advanced democracies in backing a fair voting system where seats match votes.
“This must be the last election conducted using Westminster’s scandalously unfair electoral system. It’s time for Westminster catch up with the rest of the world, with proportional representation and an end to the disaster of winner-takes-all voting.
“Whatever the case, this election will be a ‘hold your nose’ ballot, with one in four feeling forced to vote tactically for their second or third choice.
“A snap election guarantees nothing but an unfair lottery for voters. Let’s build a democracy fit for the 21st century, with an electoral system that encourages cooperation, not gridlock.”
ERS analysis of the 2017 election found that millions of people’s votes were thrown on the electoral scrapheap. 68% of votes had no impact on the result – representing 22 million votes going to waste.
Professor Sir John Curtice told LBC today that this election is likely to see a very high number of votes for parties other than the traditional ‘big two’.
In June, he told the ERS: “There is little doubt that Britain’s traditional two-party system is facing its biggest challenge yet in the wake of the Brexit impasse. If that challenge persists it would seem inevitable that there will renewed debate about the merits of the first-past-the-post electoral system.”
The latest YouGov poll puts Labour and the Conservatives on joint support of 59% – far below their 82% reached in 2017.
The ERS is calling for a proportional voting system for Westminster, the Single Transferable Vote system used for Scotland’s local elections and elections in Ireland.
The warped nature of the system is reflected by the fact that in 2017 it took 43,000 votes to elect a Conservative MP, 49,000 for Labour, nearly 200,000 per Lib Dem and over 500,000 votes for the Greens’ single MP. It took just 28,000 votes per SNP MP and 29,000 per DUP MP. The SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrats support PR.

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Community

Llanelli MP & AM call for school transport solutions

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Llanelli’s MP and AM joined Tumble residents on Friday (15.01.20) to walk along the unlit path that children have been forced to take since a bus service to Maes y Gwendraeth school was scrapped.

A number of school bus routes in Carmarthenshire have been cancelled in response to UK Government legislation which has restricted the types of vehicles that bus companies can use. This has left many children who relied on these services with no safe way to get to school.

Nia Griffith MP and Lee Waters AM are working with local residents and councillors, like Dot Jones in Tumble, to find solutions that can be implemented by the County Council or UK Government.

Lee Waters AM said, “After carrying the bags and instruments of a Tumble pupil three miles to school on Friday morning it’s clear we need to get these services running again. I’ve been working with the Council and Welsh Government to try and find a common sense resolution to the problem of cancelled school buses right across Llanelli.

“It’s a complicated situation, and unfortunately the Welsh Government’s powers are limited, but we may have found a way forward if the UK Government are willing to be flexible. The Welsh Government has written to ask them to exempt school transport in Carmarthenshire from the new regulations which would allow the local services to resume.”

In addition to commercial school bus routes, there is also a scheme for pupils to access spare places on the coaches that pick up children who live further away from school for a small fare. However, local parents have raised concerns about the availability of this scheme and the process by which places are allocated.

Nia Griffith MP said, “We must work together to find ways to restore bus transport as soon as possible, even if the situation is complex.

“I understand the County Council will now review the scheme which lets pupils use spare places on existing school buses, but this needs to be done as quickly and effectively as possible to ensure the maximum number of pupils benefit.

“It is crazy to have buses with spare capacity passing the bus stop and leaving pupils to walk. But we need transport back for all pupils who have lost it.”

Cllr Rob James, who joined the walk to Ysgol Maes y Gwendraeth on Friday, said: “The bus services that have been withdrawn are vital services to many of our communities and must be retained.

“The local ward Councillors and I are thrilled with the support we are getting from the local MP and AM to solve these issues and we hope that there can be a resolution shortly.”

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Partnership outreach van providing help and support to those in need

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Partnership outreach van providing help and support to those in need in Llanelli extended thanks to further funding by Police and Crime Commissioner

Following the success of a partnership outreach van parked up in Station Road, Llanelli in December – the initiative is being extended thanks to further funding provided by Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn. The Commissioner originally instigated the additional partnership working pilot in Llanelli in response to local concerns relating to substance misuse – and the response to the van in Llanelli was overwhelmingly positive, with 35 people receiving support from one or all of the agencies on the van across both nights.

Dyfed-Powys Police teamed up with Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service (DDAS), Carmarthenshire County Council and Crimestoppers Fearless campaign in order to be able to engage with members of the community on the new outreach van, in order to support and signpost those in need during the festive period. The partners then came together and held a debrief session to consider the initial success and value of the initiative. Of the 35 people who had visited the van to seek support on both evenings – 12 were referred into DDAS and housing and employment services for longer term support.

At the conclusion of the debrief, there was consensus amongst the partners that the communities of Tyisha and Glanymor would benefit from extending it and there was an appetite for it, therefore each agency was keen to commit ongoing resources to the outreach van for the next three months. The initiative will then be reviewed again at that point.  

Chief Inspector Chris Neve of Dyfed-Powys Police said: “I am once again grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner and our partners for their ongoing support for this initiative – which proved to be a popular and valuable opportunity for the communities of Llanelli to speak and work with the services involved. I was pleased to see so many people receiving the support and advice they needed in the initial phase of the initiative – and we now look forward to being able to continue to provide these services for the next three months and helping many more people. I encourage anyone who requires support and advice from any of the agencies, or would just like to chat with any of them, to come along and visit the van.

The council’s Head of Homes and Safer Communities Jonathan Morgan said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the community to speak to our officers first-hand about any issues they may have or any advice they may need on housing matters. We have exciting plans to transform the Tyisha ward and the community is a big part of that, we want to make Tyisha a better place to live and work for everyone.”

The project aims to provide a convenient and approachable opportunity for those in the community that would benefit from advice and support from these services, but who may not always proactively seek this out. It also allows the agencies to understand and experience first-hand the issues in the area.

The outreach van will next be parked in the St Elli Shopping Centre, Llanelli on Thursday January 16 between10am and 2pm, where all the partners will be there promoting the project and explaining what they can offer. 

Then from Thursday January 23, the van will be parked back in Station Road between 2pm and 7pm for anyone to access, and then every two weeks for the next three months. They’ll be ready and waiting to provide advice and support to all those in need.

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Politics

Opposition slate WG Budget

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FINANCE MINISTER Rebecca Evans unveiled the Welsh Government’s draft Budget with plans to invest more than £8bn for the Welsh NHS alongside ambitious projects to help combat climate change.


In the first Budget following the declaration of a climate emergency in Wales, there is significant new funding for low carbon transport and housing and support to restore Wales’ natural environment. This budget also protects major ongoing funding for renewable energy, the development of zero-carbon technologies and access to nature.


The 2020-21 draft Budget will see the Welsh NHS receive an inflation-busting increase of £342m next year, alongside an almost £200m boost for local government. Core funding for local authorities will grow to almost £4.5bn, boosting resources for schools, social care and other local services.
There will also be additional funding to tackle poverty, including extra support for disadvantaged pupils, and investment for town centre regeneration in a budget that delivers real-term increases for all Welsh Government departments.


This Budget also confirms that Welsh rates of income tax will be unchanged for next year, maintaining the pledge not to raise tax rates this Assembly term. It also focuses on longer-term, preventative measures to promote the wellbeing of future generations.


The UK government’s September 2019 spending round provided funding allocations for one year only. Following this announcement, like-for-like funding for Wales next year will be £300m lower compared with 2010-11.
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “This draft Budget delivers on our promises to the people of Wales and invests for the future of our planet.
“Despite a decade of austerity, we have consistently prioritised our NHS. Our plans will confirm a £37bn investment in the Welsh NHS since 2016.
“As we take on the climate emergency, I am protecting our existing investment and delivering a new £140m package with support for low carbon transport and a National Forest for Wales.


“Funding increases for other vital public services, such as schools and local government have also been secured in this year’s Budget. Ministers have also worked across government to focus on long-term, preventative measures such as mental health investment in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act.


“Even though our like for like funding remains below 2010 levels, this Budget strives for a greener, equal and prosperous Wales.”


Responding for the Conservatives, Darren Millar AM tore into the Draft Budget 2020-21.


Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday (Jan 7), he said it was “…an opportunity the Finance Minister has missed…”, and full of policies that are “…tried, tested, and failed”.


From the M4 Relief Road, to Cardiff Airport, and from health and education to the economy, Mr Millar said that the Finance Minister had a golden opportunity to invest in the people’s priorities, drive a more dynamic economy, and build on the opportunities for Wales outside the European Union.


“But,” he began, “where there was the opportunity to be imaginative you’ve opted for the mundane. Where there was the opportunity to rise to the challenge and be ambitious for our economy, you sat back. Where there was the opportunity to be radical you’ve stuck to the tried, tested and failed.”


Mr Millar continued his passionate critique of the Draft Budget, calling the lack of investment in Welsh roads – including the M4 Relief Road rejected by the Welsh Labour Government following a £144-million investigation – “… one of the biggest barriers to growth and investment in South Wales” and calling for investment in the A55 and A40.


“But ironically, when we look at where the Welsh Government is investing in transport – it’s actually in the most polluting form – air travel.


“This year, we’ve seen a further £4.8 million for the state-owned Cardiff Airport, on top of a loan above £21m announced in October.”


Just last week, pre-tax losses at the airport trebled from the previous year to some £18.5m, far more than the modest £1m loss during the airport’s last full year in private ownership in 2012.


Specifically on the environment, Mr Millar – who represents Clywd West – said: “This was proclaimed as a ‘green’ budget, but the reality is that the Welsh Government’s response to its climate change emergency declaration has been slow, vague and uncosted. We need to see more investment in cleaner technology in line with the drive to phase out diesel and petrol vehicles.


“Many Welsh counties have the poorest network of electric vehicle charging stations in Britain. Why isn’t this budget doing more to invest in these? It’s a missed opportunity to invest in clean technology and encourage consumers to make greener choices.”


Speaking later, Mr Millar said: “There are elements of this Draft Budget I have welcomed, as have my Welsh Conservative colleagues, but overall its one failed opportunity after another from a failing Welsh Labour Government.”


Plaid Cymru shadow minister for the economy and finance Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said: “This is a budget that delivers only in its lack of ambition.


“Twenty years of Labour rule in Wales has shown us that more money for our NHS doesn’t in itself mean better services. What we need to see from this Labour government is a strategic plan on how this extra funding will be spent on preventative measures instead of the continued mismanagement of our NHS and health boards that are still in special measures. Meanwhile, local government is still not being given the level of funding it so desperately needs to deliver crucial front line public services.


“The £140m package for low carbon transport is not nearly ambitious enough and such a small package in the face of such a colossal global climate crisis shows that this Labour government isn’t taking the issue seriously enough.”


Rhun ap Iorwerth added: “To compound the problem of Labour mismanagement, the truth is, that the Welsh Government’s budget will be tied to the priorities of whatever government is sitting in Westminster, and we know that UK Governments – of whichever colour – care little about addressing Wales’ needs.”

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