Guaranteed rise in pensions will help 84,974 in South East Wales

Due to recent changes, every pensioner will get a guaranteed rise in their state pension matching the highest of inflation, increase in average earning or 2.5%.

This means that this year 84,974 people in South Wales East will get a rise of £4.50 a week, totalling £19.9 million of extra money for pensions in South East Wales.

This is the start of pension reform under this UK Government. This week, Liberal Democrat Pension Minister, Steve Webb MP, announced that the Government will be introducing a flat-rate pension of £140.

South Wales East Regional Candidate, Veronica German, commented:

“During these difficult times, Liberal Democrats in Government are making a real difference for today’s pensioners.

“Many pensioners will remember Labour’s pitiful rise in the state pension of 75p, which was frankly insulting. This Coalition Government has given pensioners a guaranteed rise of inflation, an increas in average earning or 2.5%, which is the highest, for this year on.

“A pensioner retiring today can expect to recieve around £15,000 more in basic pension over the course of their retirement than they would have done under Labour.

“This new flat rate will particulary benefit women and will ensure future pensioners have the guarantee of a decent future, something the Liberal Democrats have been campaiging on for years and are now delivering in Government.”

Commenting further, Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“The bold commitment of triple guarantee of a rise in the state pension by the highest of inflation, the rise in earnings of 2.5% will make the pension system fairer – but Liberal Democrats in Government will not stop there. That is why I have announced announced the Government will be bringing in a single flat-rate pension of £140 a week. We will replace a complex pension system.”

NOTES:

1. The triple lock guarantee of a rise in the state pension by the highest of inflation, the rise in earnings or 2.5% was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto at the last General Election.

2. The Liberal Democrat manifesto also said that a Liberal Democrat Government would look into creating a simple, universal pension.

3. On Monday 4 April 2011, Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, published the Government’s Green Paper, ‘A state pension for the 21st Century’, which sets out plans for a single-tier state pension. A consultation will be held on when would be the most appropriate time to introduce this, with a view to do so before the end of this Parliament in 2015.

249,200 receiving an Income Tax cut in South East Wales

Around 8,200 people in South East Wales will no longer have to pay Income Tax and a further 241,000 will get £200 extra in their pockets.

Liberal Democrats in Government secured a rise in the Income Tax threshold, the point from which people start paying their taxes, of £1,000 to £7,475 which comes into force today.

Across Britain nearly 900,000 people will be lifted out of paying Income Tax while around 23m basic-rate tax payers will get an extra £200 in their pockets.

This increase is the first step toward the Liberal Democrat commitment to raise the Income Tax threshold to £10,000, with a further rise of the threshold was announced in the budget for 2012.

Commenting, South Wales East Regional Candidate Veronica German, said:

“At a time when people are worried about their personal finances, this tax cut will help millions of people.

“In South East Wales, 241,000 will get an extra £200 to spend this year and I know this will make a real difference.

“I am proud that thanks to Liberal Democrats in Government, almost a million people will be lifted out of paying tax altogether across the country, while 23m people will get a tax cut.

“This tax cut is straight from the front page of our manifesto to the pockets of 23m tax payers.”

Commenting further, Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg, who visited Bettws last week, said:

“We have to make difficult decisions but we can still make life fairer and that’s what Liberal Democrats in government and across Britain are doing.

“From today Liberal Democrats have delivered a £200 income tax cut to every basic rate taxpayer, and there’s more to come – our ambition is a country where no one pays any income tax on the first £10,000 they earn.

“These are the kind of decisions Liberal Democrats are making in Government to make life just that little bit easier for people who are facing difficult times.”

NOTES:

1. The raising of the Income Tax threshold to £10,000 was a priority for the Liberal Democrays om the General Election: it was one of four policies we put on the front of our manifesto (along with the pupil premium; a rebalanced economy; and long-lasting political reform).

2. We have already started to deliver on all four of those key priorities.

3. By 2012/13, the Income Tax Threshold will be raised to £8,105, meaning that Liberal Democrats will have lifted 1.1 million people of of paying tax and will have given 25 million people a tax cut worth £326.

Veronica German calls for update on feasibility test

Veronica German has today called for the Assembly Government to reveal the findings of the feasibility test on the Newport to Ebbw Vale rail link.

The feasibility test, conducted by Network Rail for the Welsh Assembly Government, was intended to assist the Government into making an informed decision on the next steps that need to be taken.

The Assembly Government have always maintained that the study would be completed and announced by March 2011.

Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for South Wales East, Veronica German, commented:

“It has repeatedly been announced that the feasibility work would be completed by the end of the Government’s term. With only a month to go, we must see the results of Network Rail’s findings.

“The Deputy First Minister stated that no decision on the Ebbw Vale to Newport rail line would happen until the feasibility test had been conducted. I believe it is our right that he release to the general public the results that Network Rail have found.

“This saga has been going on for far too long now. In 2008 it was indicated that the service would be fully operational in time for the Ryder Cup. Now, with a month to go until the end of the Labour-Plaid Government, we’re still waiting for the results of the feasibility study.”

The Deputy First Minister has always stated that no work on this project could be done until works at Gaer Junction would be complete. In 2008 he announced that this would definitely be done by 2010. This year he stated it will now be done after April 2011.

Ms German continued:

“This rail-link is crucial, yet this Assembly Government has categorically failed to get it up and running.”

First Minister is turning his back on Merthyr and the incinerator

Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales East, Veronica German has today questioned the First Minister on his government’s involvement in the proposed Covanta Incinerator in Merthyr.

Speaking in the Assembly today Ms German asked if he could explain why the First Minister had stated that his government was a not a statutory consultee on this planning application.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) website clearly states that the Welsh Assembly Government is a statutory consultee at both the pre application and examination stage of the process.

When asked, the First Minister stated that it was “Not a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government”.

Ms German Commented:

“I am amazed that the First Minister can so easily turn his back on the people of Merthyr.

“It comes just days after a protest outside the Senedd by protesters from Merthyr, the Rhymney valley and Blaenau Gwent.

“They do not understand why their government are not willing to state their position on this proposed development, particularly since it seems to conflict with the government’s strategy for waste.

“The fact that the First Minister refuses to even comment is shameful.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats are determined to fight this inappropriate proposal all the way.”

Veronica German welcomes BMA Wales saving ideas

Welsh Liberal Democrats Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Veronica German AM has today welcomed a report from BMA Wales which lists numerous ways that the Welsh NHS could save money.

The BMA Wales has drawn up a list of savings to the tune of £100 million – whilst still delivering an effective service.

One such way is cutting down on the use of consultancy companies such as McKinsey & Company, which was commissioned by the Assembly Government.

The controversial McKinsey ‘report’ cost a staggering £500,000, BMA Wales believes that the NHS could save up to £4m by not relying on such companies.

Ms German Commented: “This latest investigation from the BMA rings true with what the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been saying for some time, that there are savings to be made without affecting the service that is delivered.

“We need to drive efficiencies and find savings wherever we can – this includes investigating the £1 billion being spent ineffectively in the Welsh NHS.

“I hope that the Welsh Assembly Government will listen to the BMA and seriously consider their suggestions.”

Veronica German AM welcomes revised TIC report

Veronica German AM & Cllr Jacqui Sullivan

Veronica and Cllr Jacqui Sullivan campaigning for the TICs to remain open

Assembly Member for South Wales East, Veronica German, has welcomed the publication of a revised report on the Tourist Information Centres in Monmouthshire, which now clearly states the value to visitors of personal contact.

Ms German commented:

“Since the previous discussion paper ‘The Future of Monmouthshire’s Tourist Information Centres (TICs)’ was published earlier this year my Monmouthshire Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have repeatedly said that that we do not believe web-based tourist services are a substitute for personal interaction and local knowledge.

“Right from the start of the consultation we have said that technology should complement the TICs rather than replace them”.

The new report now says: ‘New digital marketing technologies have a role to play in encouraging more people to visit Monmouthshire, but when they arrive, a face-to-face service is key’.

She continued:

“I am thrilled that MCC have listened to what the Welsh Lib Dems and the people of Monmouthshire have been saying and that they have recognised that the service provided by the staff has an economic benefit to businesses across Monmouthshire. Now is the time to work together, supporting each individual centre to ensure that they can become sustainable businesses which will secure their future for years to come”.

Veronica German welcomes devolution of animal health and welfare budgets to Wales

South Wales East Assembly Member Veronica German has welcomed that animal health and welfare budgets are being devolved to the Welsh Assembly Government.

The powers for animal health and welfare have been devolved to Welsh Ministers since 2005 and therefore the transfer of these budgets aligns policy making ability with the ability to direct more spending on the priorities relevant to Wales.

The financial package is worth £21.02million in the first financial year (2011/12), and the budget will be devolved from April 2011. Over the 4 years of the Comprehensive Spending Review period, Wales’ share of the budget will amount to £77.71m, Scotland £76.98m and England £387.93m.

Commenting, Welsh Lib Dem Assembly Member Veronica German stated:

“Devolving the animal health and welfare budgets to Wales is a welcome move. Over the four year period of the settlement Wales will receive around 14% of the total UK budget, which is higher than the Barnett consequential. This recognises that Wales has a comparatively higher concentration of livestock movement and will protect the ability of local authorities to enforce animal health legislation.”

Veronica German AM attends ‘No Incinerator’ action day

Veronica at the action day with Cllr Bob Griffin

Welsh Liberal Democrats Veronica German AM and Councillor Bob Griffin last weekend took part in a ‘No Monster Incinerator’ action group day in Merthyr town centre.

Over the course of the day, 600 local residents completed and signed the IPC (Infrastructure Planning Commission) registration forms in protest against the incinerator.

Ms German, Assembly Member for South Wales East commented:

“I am pleased with the support local residents are giving to the campaign against the proposed incinerator. In fact, people felt so strongly on this issue that they were actually queuing up to register their objections to the plans. Recent community public meetings have been packed, illustrating the strength of feeling of local residents.

“The incinerator might create a few jobs, but this would be incredibly short sighted. A recent report illustrated that increased recycling could provide more than 3,000 new ‘green jobs’ in the Heads of the Valleys. The research showed that recycling creates ten times as many jobs as incineration and that the region could potentially have a green, successful and thriving future. This is the direction the region needs to be heading, rather than the environmentally unfriendly incinerator.

“There also seems to be a big problem over the lack of consultation with local residents. It was startling the number of people I spoke to who hadn’t been aware of the proposals, or at least were not aware of the size of the development planned. Covanta held some meetings which according to many residents lacked any sort of detailed information. Since then, the IPC have held some meetings that were poorly advertised and also lacked any proper information. There is a sense of feeling in the local community that their voices are not being heard.”

Veronica will be meeting a group of constituents who are visiting the Senedd tomorrow afternoon after they have presented a petition to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

Veronica German welcomes inquiry on broadband development in Wales

Veronica German AM has welcomed the news that the Welsh Affairs Select Committee is undertaking a new inquiry on broadband development in Wales, following concern that Wales is being left behind other parts of the UK and beyond in the digital revolution.

The Westminster Government has recently made a significant commitment to investing in the UK’s Broadband infrastructure and developing next generation broadband and announced £830 million of public funding to finance the broadband strategy to 2017.

The Committee has agreed to undertake an inquiry into Broadband Services, which will examine:

• The current provision of broadband services in Wales;
• The UK Government’s broadband strategy, with particular regard to its potential impact on Wales;
• The case for further Next Generation Access (‘super-fast’ broadband) pilot projects based in Wales;
• The extent to which the strategy of the UK Government will complement the Welsh Assembly Government’s priorities for the future of broadband in Wales;
• Progress made towards promoting digital inclusion in Wales, including evidence of the take-up of broadband support schemes on offer;
• Progress made towards improving the provision of broadband infrastructure throughout Wales and eradicating broadband ‘notspots’; and
• Progress made towards improving mobile broadband coverage in Wales.

Commenting, Assembly Member for South Wales East Veronica German stated:

“I’m really pleased that the Westminster Government understands the importance of investing in broadband infrastructure in Wales, which will help individuals and businesses access key services.

“There is serious concern that Wales is being left behind other parts of the UK in the digital revolution and I know that many people in South Wales East have serious difficulty in gaining access to online services.

“The UK Government has announced £830million of public funding to finance the broadband strategy to 2017. I hope that this inquiry by the Welsh Affairs Committee will help ensure that this money is targeted at the areas of Wales that are in desperate need of support to build a modern broadband infrastructure and bring them online in this digital age.”

Veronica German AM joins calls for cancer services overhaul

Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Health, Veronica German has today expressed her support for Macmillan’s calls to overhaul cancer services in Wales.

Ms German commented:

“Last month we released our cancer plan for Wales which is calling for a more comprehensive cancer strategy in Wales.

“There is an increasing body of evidence that shows that under the Labour-Plaid government, Wales has slipped behind England, despite spending more per head on our health services.

“The Welsh Government has failed to develop proper strategies to improve the prevention and treatment of cancer, as Scotland and England have done. The result of this has been patients in Wales receiving worse services in Wales than over the border.

“Wales needs a cancer service that is focused on the patient and their family from diagnosis, treatment through to aftercare, remission and palliative care.

“In short, a service that doesn’t stop when the treatment stops.”