On Friday we squeezed 25 minutes with Carwyn Jones at Wrexham.com HQ, and took the chance to ask him a few quick questions.
As readers will have noticed we added in some of his responses regarding three topics in recent articles, namely:
- Wrexham’s food bank usage statistics, article here.
- Labour’s proposal of a ‘North Wales Metro’, article here.
- Labour Leader rules out single authority for North Wales, article here.
Further to that our quick Q&A style chat is documented below…
Wrexham.com asked the most topical question raised by our readers, which is of course healthcare. We related the stacking of ambulances outside of A&E locally, and pointed out depending on who you ask blame shifts from Wrexham, to North Wales, to Cardiff to Westminster over funding cuts, so we asked where does the buck stop?
It is not all about funding, demand for A&E goes up on average 7% every year, so we know thats a challenge and we know in some parts of Wales A&E units were built many years ago and they are too small. The first thing you have to do it make sure that at the other end of the hospital is make sure people can go home as quickly as possible when they are ready.
We’re seeing the numbers of delayed transfers of care coming down in Wales, they are going the opposite way in England. That has an effect all the way through the hospital as it releases beds, which makes it easier for people to go through.
The health boards did plan for A&E demand this winter, they have managed to deal with that demand even though it was higher than even we could have expected. We know that we need to continue putting money into A&E, not just A&E but health generally. If you look at what we’ve done in 2011, 42% of our budget is spent on health now its 48%, we spend more per head than England does.
There will be some days though where there are challenges and that has meant in some hospitals that we have seen ambulance waiting outside on days where there have been particularly high demand.
Relating experiences expressed to us by readers where people have found it hard to find space in care homes resulting in a ‘bed blocking’ situation, we asked if he felt enough was being done in a joined up manner.
It is important local authorities are able to provide the support people need. We are seeing that happening across Wales because we are seeing the number of people who, to use the phrase bed blocking, is dropping. In England it’s going the other way because social service spending has been hammered there. So we are going in the right direction, there is still more to do.
There are always challenges in the health service, it works well for most people most of the time. On the occasions where it doesn’t the important thing is to take action, that is exactly what we did for example by taking Betsi into special measures.
Wrexham.com readers will be aware of planning meetings or planning documents that set out requirements for certain numbers of large numbers of new developments in and around Wrexham, which are often cited as being prescribed from Welsh Government. Feedback from readers often asks where new services would be provided to support such developments.
First of all there is no edict. We do set targets that is true, local authorities are able to put forward own targets where they can provide evidence to support that. There is no doubt there is a need for more houses in Wrexham, it is a popular place to live the economy is doing really well and unless we provide houses, particularly for young people they are going to be priced out of the market forever and a day.
Bearing in mind it is open to local authorities if they give planning permission to large estates for example to demand of the developers they provide money for a health centre, or for a school through a device called a Section 106 Agreement. It depends how hard a bargain a local authority drives with a developer, but what should be happening is where those houses are built, the facilities should follow as part of those agreements.
We then asked about Council mergers and community councils… you can read that answer in the article here, which was then followed by a question over food bank use in Wrexham you can read those answers here.
Carwyn Jones was spotted recently enjoying the football at a recent Wrexham match, so outlining the recent good news over the long term lease and profitable status of the club we enquired what Welsh Labour’s legacy for the ground would be in his eyes.
If we look back 25 years the Racecourse was an international football ground. Now it is a long way to being that at the moment but it has the potential to do that in the future. What I think is important is that now the club have control of the stadium they think about what their plans are for the future, how can we develop the stadium back into the stadium it used to be in terms of its status?
That is going to take a long term plan, making sure the stadium is viable and looking to attract internationals into Wrexham again. It is a great shame there is not a stadium in the north that is not big enough with enough seats to host football internationals, and in many ways the spiritual home of football in the north of Wales is Wrexham. I remember in the 70’s the first time I had heard of Wrexham was because of the football team.
That is how I feel the club ought to go, how do you develop a multi use sports facility that is also a community facility, that also has the potential to be an international stadium in the future. It is not going to be huge, but it will be big enough to certainly host some internationals.
Local Labour candidate Lesley Griffiths interjected…
I think it is really important that it is not just used once a fortnight, getting the Stereophonics here in July is great, I think the last concert was in the 80’s. I think it is really important we look to not just improve for football use.
Carwyn Jones added…
No football stadium can hope to make money by holding a game once a fortnight, it has to be more than one sport if we can do it and the Racecourse has that, the facilities for business and being able to host events.
After speaking about the Racecourse, which is of course on the Wrexham Glyndwr University campus, it was an appropriate time to ask his views about the future of the University and to widen it out, if he agreed a policy where Welsh students are given loans regardless of if they stay in Wales or go to England potentially promoting a brain drain with those studying away often remaining away from Wales.
Glyndwr has huge potential in the area, as with a lot of universities these days there are two things that are important, increasing size and collaboration with other universities. We know where other universities work together to offer courses jointly it can be hugely important as a university develops.
In terms of funding the money follows the student. From our perspective if we benefit from the fact students may come to Wales and pay their fees in Wales, there is a beneficial effect for us. My answer to that would be that it is up to Welsh universities to compete for those students, it cant be there on a plate, they have to be able to say to students in Wales ‘you don’t need to go outside Wales, we can offer the right course for you’. So the ball is in the university’s court, it is important they are able to compete, and then more of that money stays in Wales.
To me what is important is that the money follows the student, and that what we have done has meant students have been able to study without accumulating the level of debt that their colleagues in England have had to.
We told Carwyn Jones that we could not have a First Minister in Wrexham.com without regaling what we hear all the time about Cardiff and South Wales getting funding, airports, racetracks, M4 corridor investment, billion pound city deals for Cardiff (the list went on) and essentially everything in the world happens in South Wales. We asked if he had heard of this on the doorsteps and if it was a perception or valid.
Yes, it is a perception. If we look at Wrexham, the new link road to the Industrial Estate has been delivered, it is hugely important for economic development. New schools, there is a new school in Llay, in Caia Park, three new schools being built. Two new health centres in Hightown and Caia Park, so there are examples there of investment in Wrexham itself.
If I start over in Anglesey we lobbied for Wylfa B to come along, which is hugely important for the economy of Anglesey, done. We are looking at a third crossing for the Menai because we know the choke point that exists on the Britannia bridge. We have invested in the A55, the amount of money that has been spent on the Penmanbach and Pen-y-Clip tunnels is almost as much as we paid for the airport. That is just one section of the A55. If we look at Rhyl, there is £34 million spent on the seafront and a new school opened this week. If you look at the work we have done in Deeside with Airbus and Toyota putting investment into Deeside, there is as well the new neonatal unit in Glan Clwyd.
All these things are funded by Welsh Government, and there is no way the voice of North Wales could be lost as there are three Cabinet Ministers from north Wales. They are a very powerful voice for the north. North Wales does not have a voice in the UK Cabinet, it has a very powerful voice in the Welsh Cabinet.
Turnouts are not wonderful in the Assembly Elections, so we asked if there was a communication issue to blame with North Wales not being aware of what work is taking place.
No, but I think there is a real problem with the media in Wales in the sense that historically we have not had a robust print media. We have the Daily Post, we have the Western Mail, we have the other daily’s like the Leader and the ones in the south but so many people get their news by reading papers published in London. They might as well be reading papers published in Iceland with all the coverage they give to Wales.
We know in some parts of Wales some people still get their news from English TV stations, less so than was the case before. It has been a problem before that people have not known there was an election, but I am not finding that this time around. The area that was the weakest in terms of knowing there was an Assembly election was Deeside and this area as people point their aerials towards the Granada region, but I have not found that this time.
As well as the election itself taking place, we asked if he thought people knew what powers were devolved or not.
I am not sure people are exactly sure what Westminster does. People are not going to know exactly who does what as that takes time for people to understand. I am very much in favour of calling our Assembly a Parliament, which is what it is, after the election. Scotland is a Parliament, there is a UK Parliament, in reality it is a Parliament and I think it is important as people understand what a Parliament does but don’t quite know what an Assembly does.
People get their news nationally from the BBC and ITV, but in terms of print media it is more difficult. People will read the news about what is happening in England and assume it is happening in Wales.
UKIP did better locally than people thought in the Westminster elections, why do you think they are possibly emerging in terms of Wales?
We have heard today UKIP saying they wish to reintroduce Westminster having a role in Welsh legislation which is something the people of Wales decisively dumped in 2011. UKIP have a problem with Wales, for a long time they were anti-devolution, anti-Welsh language, anti-Wales, they have toned that down since and grudgingly accepted devolution.
Their leader in Wales was appointed by Nigel Farage, so if he says anything Farage does not like he gets sacked. I don’t like the idea of a leader of a party in Wales being controlled from London.
They talk about openness, where are their tax returns? Where is Farage’s tax return? Where is Nathan Gill’s tax return? UKIP is the current vehicle for people who are annoyed, as the Lib Dems were once, as Plaid were back in 1999.
We are reminding people we are the party of the working people, we are the party with the policies to help people. When I hear Nigel Farage say he is in touch with working people I say he is an ex-public schoolboy who worked in the City. I grew up with relatives with pneumoconiosis from the mines and I saw what it did to them. My family came from an area that was badly affected by the miners strike and I saw what happened there, I saw women who were old before their time looking after men whose lives had been destroyed by the anthracite dust. I saw all that. I am not having Nigel Farage tell me he knows working people better than I do.
Wrexham.com spoke to Carwyn Jones on Friday 15th April
You can read a similar style very quick Q&A with Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies here.
The full candidate lists for both Wrexham and Clwyd South can be found by clicking here.