Jonathan Brooks-Jones provides an overview of Welsh Labour’s 2011 manifesto, launched today
Welsh Labour launched their manifesto symbolically at the International Centre for Aerospace Training in marginal Vale of Glamorgan, calling it “a serious document for serious times”. Labour’s five key election pledges for 2011 are:
- Tackle youth unemployment with the creation of a young people’s jobs and training fund and extend apprenticeship opportunities to young people.
- Improve working people’s access to GPs, requiring them to hold surgeries on Saturdays and in the evenings.
- More frontline spending in schools, raising schools funding by 1 per cent above the percentage change in the block grant.
- Fund the employment of 500 Police Community Support Officers
- Increase the roll out of the Flying Start scheme, doubling the number of children who benefit from improved health visiting, free nursery places and better support to families.
They will also require any businesses seeking support from the Welsh Government to sign up to their principles of corporate social responsibility, which features commitments to sustainable development and good employment practice.
Whilst recognising that the Welsh economic base is founded on large companies, with whom they promise to continue building strong links, they also to increase the number of small businesses in Wales. They pledge to review what entrepreneurial support is needed by SMEs, as well as ensuring that the mutual and cooperative sector has access to appropriate and robust business advice.
They will also continue to push for a funding formula to replace Barnett, though they will not seek powers to vary income tax. Instead they will look at Scottish and Northern Irish experiences to explore innovative, collaborative ways the Assembly can manage assets and raise capital.
The manifesto says they will ensure that the First Minister takes the lead on energy policy, to pursue a mixed energy economy. Their aim is that by 2025 up to twice as much renewable energy is generated annually in Wales. By 2050 they hope that all local energy needs will be met by low carbon electricity production.
They will also seek to tackle the energy challenge by investing a further £50 million in the ARBED scheme, which increases existing homes’ energy efficiency and help combat fuel poverty. They plan to make improvements to a further 10,000 homes by 2015.
They welcome Network Rail’s intention to create a devolved Wales and the Marches business unit, but say that Network Rail should have a greater degree of accountability to the Welsh Government and that Wales has a fair share of capital investment. In a significant departure, which echoes a commitment made in Plaid Cymru’s manifesto published earlier this week, Labour delcares
“We will examine the feasibility of the Wales and border franchise being run on a not-for-dividend basis, such as Glas Cymru.”
They also recognize that transport is a major contributor to carbon emissions, and believe that with improved engine technology and a reduction in the carbon content of fuel, it is realistic to aim for an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.
There is a strong emphasis in the manifesto on reforming Public Services, and improving delivery saying that ‘delivery will be Welsh Labour’s watchword in the fourth Assembly term’. They call for the establishment of an Independent Commission to review the governance and delivery of public services in Wales, and to make recommendations on the most effective delivery arrangements. They will also seek to establish a national trading standards service and preserve the function of Consumer Focus, ensuring that people in Wales have an independent voice in the delivery of public services.
They will also establish a First Minster’s Delivery Unit at the heart of the Welsh Government.
On education they wish to repeat the success of the internationally acclaimed Foundation Phase, with Flying Start, which provides free quality part-time childcare for children aged 2-3. They want to double the number of children benefiting from this service, so that 36,000 children aged 0 – 3 will be able to take advantage.
They also want to tackle Wales literacy and numeracy problem, by introducing national reading tests, which would be consistent across Wales and which they hope will ensure that fewer pupils are falling behind. Those who are falling behind will be targeted with extra help. A similar plan will be developed for numeracy in 2012-13.
In order to make performance of schools more transparent and accountable, Welsh Labour wish to introduce a grading system operated by local authorities across Wales. Schools will be expected to reach targets and produce an annual public report of performance information. However, the manifesto insists that this is not a return to league tables, but that it is:
‘a straightforward way for learners, parents, carers, educational professional and councilors to understand how their school is doing compared with other schools in similar situations … School grading is about using information to drive up standards, not opening up competition between schools’.
They also seek to ensure that all residential premises and all businesses have access to Next Generation Broadband by 2015, with the ambition that at least 50 per cent will have access to download speeds of 100Mbps. They also seek to optimise Wales’ use of the internet, by using it to create greater accountability and transparency in democratic processes, and establishing a web gateway for the world on what Wales can offer in terms of tourism, investment, educational opportunities and culture.