It was a busy FMQs in the Siambr last week, with discussions on the proposed M4 relief road, health, education and devolution. Lindsay Whittle of Plaid Cymru suggested that up to £52 million has been spent on developing plans and consultation on the M4 project.
Whittle added that £4.2 million was spent in 2014/15, £19.8 million in 2015/16, £12 million on buying properties and £20 million on consultation fees, urging the Minister to drop the plans as it was a bad decision. Carwyn Jones responded saying that the government has looked at other options, and the fees are necessary to inform the decision making process. He also explained that the alternative route would mean more disruption to residential homes and significantly greater impact on commercial properties.
There was confusion on the matter from the Conservatives; William Graham said his party supported the process, whereas moments later Nick Ramsey went totally against this calling on the government to consider the other options again.
The Lib Dem’s Kirsty Williams stood up to the minister on health, quoting a worrying fact that in North Wales only 60 per cent receive urgent radiotherapy treatment within 14 days, whereas the same figure in South Wales is almost 100 per cent. Showing what seems to be another failure by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, she also said that the charity sector has even offered to pay for new machines, but the health board might not provide the staff to man them. In what was a standard response, Jones said he would encourage the health board to look into and consider this, but offered no real solution to the problem himself.
The Tories and Labour parties fell out into an argument over who is ageist in the session. Andrew RT Davies said plans for adult education were failing, and 90,000 fewer adults in part-time education, pointing specifically to cuts in Further Education. The First Minister however admitted that some awful decisions had to be made, due to cuts coming from the Conservative party in Westminster. Davies said that the older you are in Wales, the less chance you’ll get to educate and re-train yourself, whereas Jones said the Tories were conducting a war on young people.
Leanne Wood had devolution on her mind, announcing worries that the current draft bill doesn’t go far enough. She also called on Labour to vote against any Wales Bill that restricts the Assembly’s powers in any way, to wait until after the Welsh General Election so a new government can take devolution to the next step.
Cardiff AM Jenny Rathbone sacked
Jenny Rathbone has recently criticised the Welsh Government for spending millions of pounds on research and consultation on the proposed new M4 relief road in Newport.
She was also the chairman of the All Wales European Programme Monitoring Committee, which oversees the use of EU funds. But, after speaking out against the Government, she has been fired from her role. The First Minister said the chairman of the committee needs to act in the spirit of collective responsibility.
In response to this news, Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas said, “When I compared your managerial style to Sepp Blatter the other day I was clearly wrong. I underestimated your ruthlessness.”
£8 million for adult mental health
The Welsh Government has announced a big boost to mental health services in Wales, with over half the cash set for helping dementia patients. Health Minister Mark Drakeford also said that mental health is the single biggest area of NHS expenditure, and it’s £587 million budget will be ring-fenced.