Wales needs public services it can be proud of
Public services in Wales are under-resourced, and in many cases, this lack of funding has been a feature of Welsh life long before the start of the Conservative austerity agenda. Failings can be seen across a multitude of public services, but arguably are most prominent when looking at transport, health and education.
Currently, public transport infrastructure in Wales is stuck in the colonial era. Our rail infrastructure is designed not to connect communities but instead to pull wealth out of them. We need only look at the valleys lines across south Wales as a primary example of how the lines begin at the heads of the valleys where pits were present and come down to link up with Cardiff and then on to Cardiff bay. All in aid of bringing down the black gold to be shipped across the world.
But of course, these lines no longer ship coal down the valley. The pits are silent. But that hasn’t changed the modus operandi of the rail lines. Now they no longer ship raw resource out of the valleys but instead people.
Successive Westminster Governments have failed to connect the valleys towns, have failed to connect communities, and as a result, these communities have been left behind. Despite having 11 percent of the UK’s railway lines, Wales receives less than 2 percent of rail investment. This is not fair, and simply cannot continue.
A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government will seek to rectify this, and ensure a fair level of investment for our railways. We want to build a cross rail for the valleys that connects the eastern valleys to the western valleys in a way that has never been done before. A Crossrail that can bring much needed investment to the area and ease the flow of goods and people from Maesteg to Blaengarw to Treorci and beyond.
Quite simply, Wales deserves better.
When it comes to the NHS, Plaid Cymru has major plans to invest in the service and staff. We have had long standing policies to train and recruit 1000 extra doctors, 5000 nurses, midwives and degree level health professionals, and 100 dentists.
However, it isn’t just increasing capacity. We have to improve the way existing resources are used, and how the service deals with serious issues of patient safety. Here, our existing management structures are not fit for purpose, with Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in special measures for over 4 years, and many other health boards having Welsh Government intervention in their running.
There have been many reports highlighting how failures of management and internal systems have put patient safety at risk whilst consultants are paid £2000 a day for not helping. That’s why we want to create an NHS management and accountability law that puts NHS managers under the same professional regulation as Doctors, Nurses and Midwives.
We would create an NHS management body to set professional standards and competencies required by managers, with the ability to investigate and strike off managers for poor decisions. A doctor can be struck off by the general medical council, a nurse struck off by the nursing and midwifery council, but a poor manager is often free to continue making mistakes that harm patients.
Turning to education, and forecasts aren’t much better. According to Estyn – the education inspectorate – pupils at half of Wales’ secondary schools don’t meet their full potential by the time they leave school. Thousands of young people are being let down by the system. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Year after year of cuts have resulted in fewer and fewer teachers in the system – many of the most experienced are leaving. Added to this is the huge problem of recruiting new teachers. At the root of the problem is insufficient funding for schools which means education is not being delivered effectively. Inevitably, this has a knock on impact on pupils. That’s why increasing school funding is crucial to our plan for improved education; Plaid Cymru has consistently argued that schools need more money.
Since 2010-11 there has been an 8% real terms decrease in spending per pupil and over half of Wales’ secondary schools are in deficit. But more money alone is not enough. Teachers inspiring children in our schools are crucial in raising standards and vital in our quest for a prosperous and fair Wales.
The early years are vital, and early intervention strategies are key to creating a level playing field for each child, whatever their background or circumstances. The Plaid Cymru Government we form in 2021 will implement a series of measures that will allow a teacher’s relationship with their pupils to be the primary focus of their work.
We will focus on making the profession attractive for potential teachers and raising the societal status of teachers, removing all unnecessary interventions that disrupt the essential child-teacher relationship, and using schools as family support hubs with co-ordinated multi-agency early intervention for vulnerable children and families from birth.
Plaid Cymru’s ambition is simple really: public services which deliver and which the people of Wales can be proud of. But to get there significant investment and reform is needed, and Plaid Cymru is the party determined to step up to the mark and accomplish just that.
Dai Lloyd is a member of the Welsh Assembly and Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Local Government, Care and Public Services.
With the UK now set for a General Election on December 12, Bright Green is publishing a series of articles from the spokespeople of progressive political parties on how their policies would transform the country. This article is part of that series – all articles can be found here.
Header image: Jeremy Segrott – Creative Commons