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16  June

COLUMN: ‘Wales needs more doctors and nurses, not politicians’

31/01/2024 @ 09:15


There are plans afoot to increase the number of Senedd Members from 60 to 96, but Montgomeryshire MS, Russell George, is certainly not in favour.

“We’ve seen The Welsh Government, with support from Plaid Cymru as part of their coalition, announce that they will proceed with plans to expand the Senedd from 60 to 96 members.

Proposing to increase the size of the Welsh Parliament by 60% while cutting budgets for public services is the wrong priority.

There is no public mandate for either a bigger Senedd or for the proposed changes to our voting system so none of these proposals should be implemented in my view, and certainly not without the public having their say via a referendum.

Under the Government’s recent proposals, voters will not vote for an individual candidate. Instead, in 16 regions of six members, parties will put forward slates of candidates, but voters will simply vote for a party, not a person. The link between constituent and member is completely lost. Voters understand and expect to have a close relationship with their constituency members and to be able to hold them accountable if not.

Any member will owe their position not to a personal relationship with voters - who after all will choose only parties - but instead with their party bosses. This, I believe, is the wrong approach.

I believe Wales does not need more politicians in Cardiff Bay – we need more teachers, doctors, dentists, and nurses.

Despite this need, the Welsh Government's Health Minister has not matched the UK Governments pay offer for doctors, which is at least 20% higher for most healthcare staff. This becomes even more disappointing when we recognise that Wales has for a long time received £1.20 for every £1 spent in England.

With residents across Wales facing longer NHS waiting lists, lowest education results, public service budget cuts and cost-of-living pressures, the last thing they need is to be footing the bill – expected to be around £100m over five years at least.

Ministers should be spending that money on tackling the big issues facing Wales, not wasting time and cash looking at upping the number of Senedd members.

It’s not just more politicians though, we’ve seen the Labour Government openly talk about the introduction of a tourism tax.

I fear Wales could lose out on being the number one destination choice in the future for holiday makers if this Government pushes ahead with its ridiculous tax plans, which will do nothing but punish businesses by discouraging tourists and ultimately cost people’s jobs.

You add this to the 182-day second home ruling that is anti-business and anti-local economy, I believe that we really could see the rural economy hit hardest in mid Wales.

The 2021 spending review delivered the Welsh Government a record settlement of £18 billion a year. I feel here in rural Wales, we are not getting the benefit of this record settlement due to the mismanagement of the Welsh Government.

Instead of giving us access to GPs and dentists, and improving public transport or supporting the rural economy, they are spending this money on projects such as more politicians and 20 mph road restrictions.  

Whether you agree with my views or not on the above, my door is always open if you want to meet to discuss this with me.”