AM HIGHLIGHTS BENEFITS OF WG POLICIES FOR PONTYPRIDD

Mick Antoniw, Assembly Member for Pontypridd has highlighted the benefits of Welsh Government policy on infrastructure, education and employment in Pontypridd during a debate on the Welsh government’s Annual Report.

You can find a copy of the Welsh Government’s Annual report key achievements here.

Here’s the full transcript of Mick’s speech:

First Minister, one of the matters that you refer to in the report is the vibrant and resilient communities. And I would like to congratulate Welsh Government in respect of the transformation Welsh Government policies have had, working in partnership with Rhondda Cynon Taf council, in respect of Pontypridd. It is a town that has a buzz to it now as a result of funding from Welsh Government that enabled the council, for example, to then purchase the freehold.

You look at the town now and you see the development of the Taff precinct that is taking place. That is a town that is transforming itself, increasing prosperity. And when you look also at what is happening in terms of Transport for Wales there, within that, the investment there that is taking place, it is absolutely phenomenalā€”jobs being created, the station being modernised, leisure, the whole ethos of the town, and that is a result, actually, of that partnership that has taken place. And I very much welcome that, and see that as potentially a model. And the movement of Transport for Wales to not go into Cardiff, but to base itself out towards the Valleys, has been absolutely fundamental in that shift. And, hopefully, the benefit of that will be not only for the Pontypridd area, but more broadly as well.

Can I also say that when you take that in conjunction with the way in which the partnership over twenty-first century schools, the education facilities. Ā I was talking with the leader of the council only the other day, and he was telling us that, over the 10-year period, they were able to use the way in which Welsh Government has fundedā€”used the borrowing capacity of the council, and assisted with the funding of thatā€”. They will have invested Ā£0.75 billion in new schools, transforming the educational framework and structure for our children in a way that, in England, counties can only look over the border at with jealousy.

But can I say the one area that really excites me within there is the reference to the social partnership Act. Because we have the highest levels of employment we have had for a long, long timeā€”for generations. But we also have the highest levels of in-work poverty, and, of course, we have the consequences of broader economic policies. Wales Trades Union Congress report that, from 2018 to 2019, the number of zero-hours contracts jumped by 35 per cent in one year, from 37,000 to 50,000ā€”important because it means that people in those zero-hours contracts have no security. They can’t hold down mortgages; they can’t plan for their future. They are one of the most cruel developments that have taken place over the years. And if we look also then at the Office for National Statistics, 23 per cent of our people are in work, but in in-work poverty, where work is no longer the route out of poverty. And if we also then look at the bogus self-employment,Ā which is really a method for employers for tax abuse and a way of avoiding job protections and job security for workers. The fact that we have such high levels of employment is obviously very, very good, but we now have to address the ethical standards and the social standards of employment.

So, a social partnership Act, which has been called for by the Wales TUCā€”and I’m very pleased with the commitment, First Minister, the Welsh Government has given to thatā€”has the opportunity to transform the status of employment by using our Ā£6 billion of procurement to go to companies who will actually, instead of competing on a downward spiral of employment and social standards, start looking at competing actually in the quality of the standards, offering decent pay, collective bargaining, recognition of trade unions, and all the environment, health and safety and social aspects that we would expect from a twenty-first century society and a twenty-first century employer, and, to go with that, the need to obviously monitor and to enforce and to build on the codes that have already been developed by Welsh Government. I wonder, First Minister, if you could perhaps outline a little bit more about the plans for that, the potential timetable for when we might actually start seeing the draft Bill. I know there’s been a consultation, but this I see as one of the most groundbreaking and exciting pieces of legislation, which Wales can lead on in the rest of the UK.