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Friday, March 28, 2008

Labour again!

Welsh Labour leader, Rhodri Morgan, trundled down the M4 to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea yesterday to launch his party's local election campaign. Presumably, Labour chose the Liberty Stadium because they want to be associated with successful football and rugby teams. It will not do them much good.

As Plaid Cymru's Helen Mary Jones said: "Even for the Labour Party this campaign has come up with a surprising lack of new ideas; voters can only expect more of the same from this party which has obviously run out of steam as anyone who has a Labour council is aware.” It seems that Labour's one trick is to focus on anti-social behaviour and crime, something that at Westminster they have been in charge of tackling since 1997 with little success.

Rhodri Morgan's refrain that he is fed up with marauding gangs on the street corner, "we want kids to have something much better to do", is not just familiar, it is tired and repetitive. Labour have been in government for eleven years, why have they not sorted it? Why are the Welsh Assembly Government not investing in new facilities for young people in our communities? The answer is that there is no black and white solution to this problem and whilst Labour continue to pretend that there is then they are doing us all a disservice.

Welsh Liberal Democrat local government spokesperson Jenny Randerson summed up the immediate issue when she said, “Labour’s stance on crime and antisocial behaviour is a joke. This is the party that axed funding for the popular and successful 101 non-emergency number scheme, when it should have been extended to all of Wales.

“They cut the funding in Whitehall and refused to support it in the Assembly. The 101 number continues in Cardiff, because the Welsh Liberal Democrat-led council has put their money where their mouth is and invested in tackling antisocial behaviour.”

What was most astonishing however was Rhodri Morgan's attack on Swansea's new Leisure Centre. He described it as Wales’ equivalent of the Montreal Olympics, an allusion to the £32 million cost. This from a First Minister who has authorised huge sums of public money bidding for the Ryder Cup, the City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games, all of which we supported but which would impact on the public purse.

Of course if Labour incompetence had not closed the Leisure Centre in the first place then we would not have had to rebuild it. Labour's legacy to Swansea will continue to be a burden on all taxpayers for many more years. They left the City with the £32 million bill for the Leisure Centre, with having to find £150 million for crumbling schools, £600,000 for dangerous street lamps, a declining City Centre, a multi-million pound bill to renovate/repair City Centre car parks, a £35 million bill for crumbling roads and pavements, a multi-million bill to re-open the Tir John tip, a £30 million bill to repair the Guildhall and a pensions fund deficit for Council workers of £4 million a year. It is a credit to the present Administration that they have made such major strides in sorting out this mess.

What is more, in 2003 Labour set out a long-term financial plan for Swansea Council which meant that we needed to find £12 million worth of savings by this year. They then proceeded to refer to this as our financial black hole. Well, Rhodri Morgan will be pleased to learn that Swansea Council under Welsh Liberal Democrat leadership found all those savings and have balanced the books for each of our four budgets. We have done so without major cuts in services and whilst keeping average Council tax rises at 3.8%. That compares with an average of 8.66% under Labour.

It is no wonder that on the doorsteps here people are telling us that they do not want Labour back in. Will Rhodri Morgan listen? I think not.
Peter, i'm no labour fan, but swansea has benefitted from labour also surely? Your blod would come across a lot better if you stepped back and were a little more impartial. Swansea is a city transformed in the main, the museum, the new pool, sa 1, the liberty stadium, all positives surely. Lots of negatives as you state, but lots of positives too? No mattr who is in charge or calling the shots.
I am not denying that Labour have done some good for Swansea nor am I claiming that the Lib Dem Administration is perfect. Yes the 50 metre pool and the museum are major assets whilst SA1 is starting to come on despite the Welsh Government starving it of resources. The stadium was good too although one of the first things the new Adminstration had to do was to rescue its business plan so as to stop it going under in the first year. We also had to invest additional money into essentials like fitting out the kitchens and under-soil heating, which had been cut out of the original scheme by Labour so as to keep the project within budget. False economies I am afraid.
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