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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Two down one to go - Welsh Government drop unpopular policies

As I predicted a couple of days ago, the First Minister has effectively kicked local government reform into touch and it looks like the famed black route M4 extension around Newport will follow it in due course.

In addition The Western Mail reports that First Minister Carwyn Jones has confirmed that the Welsh Government will not resurrect plans for a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in some public places. He told the BBC:  "The Public Health Bill will be brought back to the Assembly but clearly there is no point including the provisions on e-cigs when we know they’re not going to get through.” This was inevitable, so much so that it didn't seem worth mentioning earlier.

The First Minister also told the BBC that local government reorganisation plans will have to go back to the drawing board. He said: “I think it’s tricky if you just leave it without any kind of guidance or direction from the Welsh Government. You end up then with lopsided authorities, you end with different authorities with different powers.

“I think it has to be an all-Wales approach, but as to what that approach looks like, we have an open mind and are happy to discuss with other parties.”

That approach may well save face but it will not yield any common proposals unless Plaid Cymru, the Tories and UKIP significantly change their position.

As for the M4 relief road, well a public inquiry is already underway so Carwyn Jones can't really kill it off now.

I accept that the new Welsh Government will not go for the blue route for the reasons Carwyn Jones sets out, but unless they find another route that does not destroy conservation areas nor impinge on Newport docks, then there really is no way forward for that particular project in my view.

The First Minister might hope that the inquiry will rule in his favour or that a new proposal will emerge from it, but whatever the outcome in a year or two's time he still has to get a budget containing the necessary expenditure through the Assembly and that looks unlikely.
Hopefully there will be similar compromise on the Diamond report. We need to be careful that Labour don't accept raising fees and then blame the @Lib Dem education minister' when outrage follows. Mike Sheehan
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