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Monday, April 21, 2008

The guru speaks

At last, some commonsense from Plaid Cymru economics guru, Eurfyl ap Gwilym. Plaid's Lords-wannabe believes that the Welsh Government will find it difficult to sustain costly policies such as free prescriptions in the face of a fixed budget and without having the powers to vary taxes or to borrow money. He also believes Wales is lagging behind England in capital projects for the NHS and education because of the failure to find an alternative to the Private Finance Initiative:

“One of the Assembly Government’s early acts was to abolish prescription charges across the board at an estimated annual cost of £30m. Now £30m is quite a modest sum when compared with the Assembly’s annual budget of £14bn. Yet, because the Welsh government has no tax-raising or borrowing powers, there was no question of the cost of this policy being paid for through increased taxation or additional borrowing. Given these constraints the question arises as to whether or not this was the best use of the £30m of taxpayers’ money. Should we be subsidising middle-income people or should we spend the money elsewhere to support those with greater needs?

“Another example of the pressures that the present devolution arrangement places on government is university tuition fees. In England universities are now allowed to charge tuition fees of up to £3,125 per student per year. Many leading universities are calling for a sharp rise or removal of this ceiling. Student-paid tuition fees are becoming a significant... source of funding for English universities. However, top-up fees are not levied on Welsh students. This means that either universities have to be compensated by the Assembly Government for this loss of income or they will suffer under-funding.”

It is estimated that the funding gap between Welsh and English universities is £50m a year.

Dr ap Gwilym concludes: “... Are too many politicians in Wales unwilling to differentiate between polices which might make sense in the case of a government which has taxation and borrowing powers, but which do not in our situation where we have discretion over spending but none over taxation and borrowing? Now that the rapid growth in public expenditure is at an end, it is time for members of the National Assembly to face up to some of the realities of devolution.”

Clearly, Dr ap Gwilym is using this article to make the case for greater law-making and fiscal powers for the Welsh Assembly but in doing so he presents a very cogent criticism of the present Labour-Plaid Cymru One Wales Government that in its programme of government, has presented us with a series of unaffordable gimmicks, many of which will take funding away from core services. This includes free prescriptions, which Dr. ap Gwilym believes is unaffordable under the present funding regime, though I place top-up fees in a different category and believe that there are clear advantages of persisting with this policy irrespective of the financial problems it poses.

How responsible is it for Plaid Cymru to continue to pursue this agenda when even their chief financial advisor believe that they are steering for the rocks?
OK, so now WAG has a basis of rewarding those Welsh universities who seek to build an endowment based on owning patent rights to their inventions and discoveries. Instead of WAG forking over 50 million and expecting nothing back, why not package the 50 million into a means for paying (and rewarding) Welsh university scientists who want to apply for patents on their inventions and discoveries, with their Welsh university taking an agreed share. Everyone happy, universities start to build up large endowments (as successful research universities in the USA do). WAG could really turn Wales into a smart little country!
I think WAG should stop waisting public money in financing the Welsh Teacher Training Colleges; why are we producing so many teachers in Wales, with no jobs to go to (except in middle England)

Lets have an answer from someone!
there is nothing here that he hasn't said before, its just a shame that his own party ministers don't listen to him and try and make the case with their Labour colleagues who couldn't care less about the WAG budget as long as they stay in power in Cardiff Bay.
You stated previously that Lib Dem peers had been elected to their position. Can you clarify how all your peers were elected, as I genuinely do not know the facts?
A panel of about 30 are elected by Federal Conference Reps (roughly equivalent to your National Council) which will remain valid for the term of a Parliament. They are ranked in order of popularity and the leader will draw on them when asked for nominations for peers. He also has the right to nominate some people of his choice in addition to penal members. Lord Roger Roberts was made a peer by this route as were a number of others.
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