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Friday, July 14, 2006

Money first

I was quite bemused yesterday to see two important announcements by Labour Assembly Government Ministers less than 24 hours after the final Plenary session before recess. These amounted to a major Transport Strategy consultation, and a health initiative described in the press as an 'A&E revolution'.

In many ways it was strangely convenient that two major initiatives have been launched at the very moment that Ministers can evade scrutiny for the nine full weeks of the recess. Had either been announced just one day earlier then the Ministers concerned could have appeared before the Assembly and explained fully what they were intending to do.

Effectively they have tried to bypass the proper attention of Assembly Members in order to spin their own message. The health plans - which seek to transform A&E departments - has been published when the Assembly's health committee, and all the opposition party health spokespeople, are out of the country.

From my initial reading, there appears to be much common sense behind both documents. But it will be two months now before I am able to ask either Minister about it in person. It begs the question, what are they afraid of?

One thing that Andrew Davies may be afraid of is how the rhetoric in his transport strategy does not match up to the way that he treats his constituents. His dismal record of investing in public transport schemes in his own City of Swansea is an example of an area where he and the Government can do better.

Recent Transport grant allocations gave Swansea Council only £5.7 million of the £16 million it asked for to rebuild the Quadrant bus station, complete the bus link to the City Centre from the Fabian Way Park and Ride site, build another Park and Ride site at Fforestfach and complete City Centre bus links. By contrast Rhondda Cynon Taf Council got £39 million to build the Porth relief road whilst Neath Port Talbot got almost all the £10.8m it asked for, mostly to spend on their peripheral distributor road.

Considering Mr. Davies claims to want to get cars off the road he is spending an awful lot of money on new road schemes. I do not object to that where these schemes help a community suffering severe congestion and pollution, however I do object to his failure to find money to realise his own vision of better public transport in the City he represents.
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