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.

Nonetheless, the party launched its manifesto yesterday (18th April) in hope of building upon their solid results in 2011 and 2015.

Securing Real Change for Wales
(pdf - English; pdf - Cymraeg)

Health & Social Services
  • Commission an independent Keogh-style inquiry into the Welsh NHS.
  • Increase health spending in real terms each year of the Fifth Assembly (2016-2021).
  • Tackle waste with an NHS Efficiency Task Force and £100million transformation fund to "bring the Welsh NHS into the 21st Century".
  • Prevent hospital closures or reorganisations; protect all existing A&E departments; re-establish minor injuries units at Colwyn Bay, Rhyl/Prestatyn and Tenby; extend opening hours of Newtown's minor injuries unit; re-establish children's and specialist baby services at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest.
  • Increase the number of doctor and nurse training places.
  • Increase mental health spending; increased capacity for child and adolescent mental health and provision of crisis teams in every A&E department.
  • Introduce a £100million cancer patients fund and reduce the referral to diagnosis target time to 28 days.
  • Make defibrillators available in all public buildings and train all secondary school pupils in first aid.
  • Make Wales the first dementia-friendly nation in the UK.
  • Provide £50million towards research into new treatments and cures.
  • Invest an extra £10million a year in ambulance services and recruit an extra 100 staff. Also provide £3million a year in match-funding for the Wales Air Ambulance.
  • Give patients the right to choose their GP and hospital; guarantee GP access at evenings and weekends.
  • Introduce a "scores on the doors" system for hospitals.
  • Re-introduce prescription charges "for those who can afford it" and print the unit cost of drugs to promote patient responsibility.
  • Introduce directly-elected Health Commissioners for each local health board.
  • Public health :
    • Appoint a Deputy Minister for Public Health.
    • Improve access to cancer, diabetes and eye condition screening.
    • Supports vaping in public and piloting the use of e-cigs as a smoking cessation tool.
    • Work with Welsh food and drink manufacturers to reduce sugar and salt content.
  • Implement a £400 a week cap on residential care costs and protect £100,000 in assets for those in residential care.
  • Consult on a right to respite for carers.
  • Introduce an Autism Bill to ensure local authorities take necessary action to protect the rights of autistic people and their families as well as guaranteeing quick diagnoses.

Education & Young People
  • Treble free childcare allowance for 3-4 year olds from 10 hours to 30 hours a week.
  • Reform Flying Start to target parents who need it, not geographical areas.
  • Fund schools directly, giving spending control to teachers and governors.
  • Introduce modern foreign languages to primary schools.
  • Establish a dedicated teacher training college.
  • Scrap regional education consortia.
  • Use public-private partnerships to drive school building.
  • Prevent the closure of any school without agreement of parents and governors.
  • Increase the number of school hours dedicated to PE and encourage competition; oppose the loss of school playing fields.
  • Consider the establishment of university technical colleges for post-14 education.
  • Introduce thousands of "flexible apprenticeships" for newer companies and to promote gender balance.
  • Introduce a student rent rebate for undergraduates to help with living costs.
  • Explore compressed two-year degrees to cut student debts.
  • Reform the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to pay for school transport and childcare.
  • Cut ministers' pay by 10% to fund youth political engagement programmes.
  • Pilot a National Citizen's Service for those aged 18-25, working in social roles.

Economic Development
  • Establish an industry-led body to encourage business development/investment and draft a manufacturing strategy.
  • Establish a regional development bank with localised access to business finance.
  • Will scrap business rates for all small businesses and taper rate relief for businesses with a ratable value of £12,000-£15,000. Will reform business rates by splitting the multiplier used in Wales.
  • Establish a "Small Business Hub" to scrutinise the Welsh Government's impact on small businesses.
  • Remove age caps on employment support schemes and ensure Welsh Government job support schemes are available to those already receiving UK Government support.
  • Introduce employer incentive grants to create 12 month work placements.
  • Create a North Wales Powerhouse and fully back a city deal for Swansea Bay.
  • Guarantee better access to public procurement opportunities for small businesses and the voluntary sector.
  • Steel crisis:
    • Explore how business rate relief can protect the steel sector.
    • Work with the UK Government to tackle steel-dumping.
    • Implement procurement rules to favour Welsh steel.
    • Consider the creation of an urban development corporation for Port Talbot.

Transport & Infrastructure
  • Create an arms-length body to deliver Wales-wide integrated transport.
  • Will consider raising the speed limits on the A55 and M4 to 80mph once powers are devolved.
  • Supports halving tolls on the Severn crossings, including the removal of toll plazas to cut delays.
  • Would start work on the M4 Newport bypass within 12 months of coming to office.
  • Supports : dualling the A40 to Fishguard, Dinas Powys bypass, safety review of the A44, studying the impact of scrapping Cleddau bridge tolls, a third Menai crossing.
  • Will work to deliver electrification of the south Wales mainline and Valley Lines "as soon as possible" and extend the proposed South Wales Metro further west.
  • Improved rail services between north Wales and both Liverpool and Manchester airports.
  • Would upgrade Cardiff Airport's terminal and seek to attract new flights, as well as reviewing the effectiveness of the north-south air link and developing the case for devolution of Air Passenger Duty.
  • Restore funding to the Bus Support Grant and protect free bus travel.
  • Supports a smart card for public transport.
  • Aim to deliver universal superfast broadband and mobile coverage by 2019.

Finance & Tax
  • Support the implementation of the living wage, which they estimate will benefit 12% of the Welsh workforce.
  • Will cut income tax – reportedly by cutting the basic rate of income tax to 18%.
  • Will introduce a council tax freeze for the duration of the Fifth Assembly (2016-2021).
  • Abolish stamp duty for first time buyers on properties worth up to £250,000.

Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs
  • Designate high flood risk areas as "Blue Belt" to prevent irresponsible developments; commission an independent assessment of Welsh coastal and river flood defences.
  • Simplify, and introduce directly-elected members to, National Parks Authorities.
  • Implement annual reviews of carbon emissions to help meet international targets.
  • Use landfill tax income to fund environmental projects.
  • Pilot a deposit return scheme to encourage recycling.
  • Increase fines for fly-tipping, dog fouling and littering.
  • Legislate to ensure local authorities collect landfill/black bag waste no less frequently than once a fortnight.
  • Reform planning guidance to encourage building on brownfield and publicly-owned land.
  • Re-establish Rural Affairs as a full-time cabinet post.
  • Commit to early preparations for CAP from 2020 following a mid-term review.
  • Use a scienfitically-led programme for Bovine TB eradication.
  • Increase public sector procurement of Welsh-made produce.
  • Make the Rural Development Programme more accessible to farmers and small rural businesses.
  • End the use of wild animals in circuses.
  • Introduce mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses.
  • Consolidate and update existing wildlife legislation in a Wildlife Bill.

Local Government & Public Services
  • Introduce a "Right to Bid" for community assets.
  • Only allow local authority mergers after local referendums giving consent. Also encourage more local referendums and lower the elector signature threshold to trigger a referendum on directly-elected mayors from 10% to 5%.
  • Ensure communities can veto excessive council tax rises.
  • Introduce a Localism and Citizenship Bill to enshrine community rights in law, introduce new rules on senior pay, extend the remit of local councils and make Commissioners accountable to the Assembly not the Welsh Government.
  • Ensure live streaming of local authority cabinet, full council and scrutiny committee meetings.
  • Legislate to define the role of council chief executives and council leaders.
  • Publish details of senior officer pay (following a national review of senior pay) and ensure all councils publish details of spending above £500.
  • Delegate specific ministerial responsibility to north, mid and west Wales to make sure their voices are heard in cabinet.
  • Cut Welsh Government running costs by 20%.
  • Move an entire Welsh Government department to north Wales.
  • Make special adviser posts subject to greater public scrutiny and transparency.
  • Support lengthening Assembly plenary sessions, with the possibility of Thursday sittings.
  • Have a cross-party push to increase public awareness of the role of AMs, their contributions and voting record.
  • Ensure broadcasters show more Assembly proceedings.

Housing & Social Justice

  • Deliver 70,000 new homes over the Fifth Assembly.
  • Protect the "right-to-buy" and restore the full discount, with receipts from right-to-buy sales used to construct more social housing.
  • Extend Help to Buy to properties needing renovation and implement a rent-to-buy scheme.
  • Work with the private sector to develop social renting agencies run as social enterprises.
  • Support independent advice services for people in fuel poverty, and work with energy companies to set up crisis funds for emergency heating.
  • Designate a minister responsible for the needs of older people across all government departments and introduce an Older People's Bill.
  • Work with partner organisations to tackle nuisance cold-calling.
  • Support, and aid the integration of, refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Introduce an Armed Forces and Veterans Commissioner, plus a Veteran's Card providing free bus travel, priority access to NHS treatment and free access to leisure and Cadw sites.
  • Support a 40:40:20 appointments process to ensure gender balance and seek greater representation of people with disabilities, religious minorities and LGBTs.

  • Overhaul Welsh language teaching to ensure every child is confident in using Welsh.
  • Continue to support Coleg Cenedlaethol Cymraeg.
  • Launch a "Tipyn Bach" scheme to encourage traders and customers to use Welsh; develop a network of Welsh language business champions.
  • Aid museums to take items of significant importance to Wales on loan.
  • Establish a multi-site Welsh Military Museum.
  • Would "champion" St David's Day becoming a public holiday.
  • Encourage community groups to take on running public libraries.
  • Preserve the status of the arts in the school curriculum and introduce an instalment plan to enable families or schools to pay for musical instruments.
  • Introduce arts on prescription for the mentally-ill.
  • Campaign to protect the funding and editorial independence of S4C.
  • Support a Commonwealth Games bid for 2026.
  • Push for a safe-standing areas at Welsh football grounds.
  • Introduce a capped fund to help tourist businesses deal with VAT bills.
  • Make Visit Wales an arms-length, industry-led body.
  • Supports the development of visitor strategies for major seaside towns.

Constitutional Reform
  • Opposes devolution of policing "to protect the integrity of cross-border crime-fighting"; continue to support PCCs.

Major Faults :
  • Few costings! Again! I'm surprised that, of all the parties, the Conservatives didn't include any hard fiscal analysis. For example, their proposed 2p cut in the basic rate of income tax would cost £360million alone. Where's the money coming from? Tell us.
  • "Labour are just one seat away from losing control of the National Assembly" – oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Realistically, Labour would have to lose at least six to seven seats in order to not form at least part of a Welsh Government.
  • Raising the speed limit to 80mph on main east-west roads. It's not a bad idea in principle that motorway-standard roads have higher speed limits, but others have pointed out the negligible impact on journey times and possible safety risks (Borthlas, Blog Menai). Needs a rethink.
  • The maths of the Conservative proposal to use proceeds from right to buy sales has been criticised before, with potentially as many as seven homes needing to be sold under right to buy to raise enough funds to build one replacement (see also : Welsh Tory Housing Policies – Do they add up?).
  • Wales is currently completing around 5,400 new homes a year. It would take a mammoth effort to get that up to 14,000 a year and meet their homebuilding target. Does that sound realistic to you?

Minor Faults :
  • Though not to the same extent as the Greens, some of the proposals are vague and open-ended; they only needed an extra sentence or two of explanation. There's something to be said for concise manifestos that communicate intentions clearly – and this comes closes to successfully pulling it off - but still....
  • There's some repetition of the same points, particularly in relation to business support.
  • How many "flexible apprenticeships"? How would it work?
  • Removing toll plazas on the Severn crossings – Replaced with what? Number plate recognition? Tell us.
  • Have they dropped their calls to re-privatise Cardiff Airport?
  • Who "can afford prescription charges"? To what level?
  • Their Bovine TB proposals neither rule in nor rule out a badger cull.
  • The 40:40:20 appointments process sounds like a novel idea, but perhaps needs to be explained a bit better. I'd be surprised if LGBTs, for example, made up more than 2% of the Welsh population.
  • As mentioned several times previously it's unclear whether safe standing can be piloted without UK Government consent – though it seems the Tories realise that.
  • AMs occasionally struggle to fit a full afternoon's agenda into most plenary sessions and many debates go on longer than necessary with more speakers than necessary. Quality of debate please, not quantity.
  • All public Assembly proceedings are already available via Senedd TV, and the last attempt at broadcasting all Assembly proceedings on TV (S4C2) was shortlived. As it is, if it's a choice between Babestation and Y Dydd Yn Y Cynulliad....


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