IMMEDIATE new actions to boost living standards and an incessant assault on poverty are promised by Eluned Morgan if she wins the Labour Party Wales leadership contest.
She said radical measures to counter the pernicious impacts of Conservative austerity and reduce poverty, including the introduction of a Poverty and Inequality Commission, will sit alongside bold wealth creation measures in a new economic drive to permanently remove Wales out of poverty.
“I know full well that the people of Wales are as able and as intelligent as any others in the Western world, and yet almost a quarter of people in Wales still live in poverty and the only real antidote is the creation- and then the redistribution-of new wealth in Wales,” she said.
“We have relatively few rich people- only around 5,000 people pay the top rate of tax. Redistributing wealth from poor people to really poor people is no answer at all- and neither is the continued financial strangulation of the Welsh economy by more Tory austerity, more Tory welfare cuts and a criminally mismanaged Tory hard Brexit,” said Eluned.
“It’s time to pull the plug on poverty and address an issue which has plagued Wales for generations. We have a clear and positive plan with quick wins to build a new confidence as well as long term, sustainable change,” said Eluned. “That means creating wealth, creating good quality jobs backed by the sustainability of enlivened public services.
She highlighted the big challenges that must be addressed. “An ageing population, climate change, automation- we must see them as opportunities. We have a fantastic underused resource out there; we must allow our skilled and experienced older people to help build strong and active communities and together we can build a vibrant, new green economy using the latest technologies,” she said.
Eluned said a permanent Poverty and Inequality Commission, to set a long-term direction of travel and suggest practical solutions for tackling poverty in Wales would be established. It would be instructed to deliver a report after the first six months, building on the work identified in the Welsh Governments Anti- Poverty Action Plan 2012-16 and of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee to promote fair pay and tackle low pay across Wales.
“For instance, one issue on which we can immediately have an impact is by asking the Commission to focus is on how we can reduce the price of funerals in Wales.”
Change: Here are Eluned’s initial target areas:
• Vital skills provision: “While our unemployment rates in Wales are low, over half of the people who are in receipt of state benefits are now in work. Many have not had a pay rise in ten years. It is acknowledged that one of the key mechanisms to increase pay is through improving skills levels.”
• Focus on the young with targeted training: “Get young people to train in areas where there is a chance of getting a good job and an opportunity to progress in work. “We will restrict access to courses where there is little hope of a long-term well-paid job and encourage them to study courses where there are skills gaps and a career path.”
• Investing in Potential: ”Wales has the power to borrow so let’s open minds as well as open roads. To begin with we’ll pilot Individual Learning Accounts to help people to train in areas where there are skills shortages. We will focus this first pilot on people who are most at risk of losing their jobs as a result of digitalisation and offer unemployed under-25-year olds and disabled people a one-off payment of £1,000 subject to an acceptable business plan being introduced to start their own business.”
• Helping the elderly to combat fuel poverty: “We will work with energy companies to identify need and ensure that measures to insulate homes are rolled out across Wales”
• Tackling child poverty: “Child poverty is on the rise as a result of Tory austerity measures. Around 1 in 3 children in Wales live in poverty. Too many families in Wales are struggling to make ends meet. I will do everything in the Welsh Government’s powers to make sure that no child in Wales goes hungry.
My government would work with schools, GPs and voluntary organisations to ensure that every child has access to healthy food and a full belly throughout the year.”
• Pilot a Universal Basic Income trial: “Digitalisation and automation offers great opportunities- but will also will replace jobs We will work with local representatives to identify a community who may be interested to undertake a pilot on Universal Basic Income, and we will work to encourage the Department of Work and Pension to work with us on this matter.
• Living and Minimum Wage: “My government will work with Police Commissioners and the HMRC to prioritise the enforcement of the minimum wage laws and work to mandate the Living Wage throughout the public sector and through government procurement.”
• Tackling debt “50% of the people of Wales don’t have more than £100 in savings. This means that the smallest unplanned problem can push people into debt. We will ensure that everyone entering hospital or GP surgeries with a mental health issue will be asked if they have debt issues and we will offer support and advice to help them.
• Homelessness “We will work towards delivering the policy of ending youth homelessness in Wales by 2027. We will ask the End Youth Homelessness Cymru steering group to look at a national abandoned homes plan. We will increase the supply of land available for social landlords through ensuring that social value is recognised by local authorities when estimating the value of the land. We will work with Social Housing Associations to support Welsh SMEs in the housing construction area to break the stranglehold by large housing developers.
• Ending rip off funerals We will establish a Commission to investigate the huge disparities in the costs of funerals in Wales. Many people are persuaded to pay over the odds for funerals when families are at their most vulnerable. We will also research how we can fund funerals for those who have no families and die with no money to ensure they are paid respect and given dignity in death.
“I promise change, change that has been contributed to by many supporters across Wales, and will offer my broader economic ambitions in my Manifesto for a Modern Wales.
“But we must act quickly- and radically-and take up the cases of the hundreds of thousands of people across Wales who are in poverty, who are excluded, who are disadvantaged or who are now really fed up with the stresses of just barely managing and desperately want change, solutions and their voices heard.
“I say to them that we are listening and with their help, drive and support, we will propose specific, achievable and deliverable economic priorities for growing the economy and launching an immediate and effective attack on poverty in our country,” said Eluned.