How our radical thinking has helped us to build a better Wales

Mark Drakeford

The last five years have been unlike any other government term in the history of devolution or in recent memory. So much has changed since Wales went to the polls in 2016. We’ve seen two Prime Ministers resign, we’ve voted in two general elections and in one life-changing referendum. But that’s not all. We’ve weathered more than a decade of Tory austerity cuts – a lost decade that has fuelled inequality in our communities and damaged the lives of a generation, particularly the most vulnerable.

Brexit, together with the new trading relationship with the EU, will have far-reaching consequences for our society, our economy and our place in the world. Today, in this post-Brexit world of newfound British sovereignty, we have a UK Tory government and a Prime Minister intent on turning back the clock on devolution with their thinly hidden assaults on the Senedd’s authority to make decisions on behalf of Wales.

Climate change continues to be a serious global issue, which requires urgent and sustained action from all countries around the world. The Welsh government and the Senedd were the first in the world to declare a climate emergency. We are also responding to the worst public health crisis in a century. The coronavirus pandemic has threatened the lives and livelihoods of people across Wales, while turning every aspect of our daily lives on its head.

The scale of these challenges has been unlike anything we have seen before. But despite all we have faced in the last five years, Labour in Wales has shown there’s a better way of doing things – of keeping Wales safe. Our response to the pandemic has been built on openness, partnership and collaboration. We have placed our trust in our public services and social partners and they have delivered. Our contact tracing service is publicly run and locally delivered – and people trust it.

We have not shied away from making tough decisions to protect people’s health but we have always based these on the latest scientific and medical evidence and we will always take decisions that are right for Wales, not because they make a good headline in tomorrow’s newspapers. We’ve delivered the most generous package of support for businesses anywhere in the UK, safeguarding more than 140,000 jobs; we’ve helped more than 5,000 people off the streets during the pandemic. We are now finding longer-term and secure homes for all these people, so no one is forced back onto the streets.

In 2016, we set out six key pledges to the people of Wales. We have kept those promises, delivering many of them early. Quality apprenticeships have helped more than 100,000 people learn new skills while earning a wage. It’s not just the young who have benefited: more than half have been taken up by people over 25. Our childcare offer has provided free early education and childcare for children aged three and four, helping working parents as they balance work commitments with being a parent.

We have cut the tax burden for small businesses, and half pay no rates at all. Meanwhile, we have doubled the capital limit for all those moving into residential care, ensuring people can keep up to £50,000 of their savings, investments or other capital, making this the most generous scheme in the UK. To ensure children and young people get the best start in life, we have invested £100m to boost school standards and reduce class sizes.

We have set up our ground-breaking New Treatment Fund, which has cut the average time it takes for new medicines to be available on the NHS from 90 days – to an average of just 13. Record investment in affordable housing has enabled us to exceed our target of building 20,000 affordable new homes. Putting a roof over someone’s head is more than just having a place to live – it’s an investment in their future, education and health.

We have delivered for Wales and will go on delivering for Wales. Our policies and our radical thinking have been helping us to build a better Wales for more than 20 years – repairing the legacy of generations of Tory neglect and offsetting the damage caused by the long, lost decade of austerity. Everything we do is about and for people in Wales. We have a long and proven track record of delivering for Wales, even in the most difficult of circumstances. We have real ambitions for a fairer, better tomorrow as we emerge from the long shadow cast by this terrible coronavirus pandemic. Welsh Labour is the party of Wales.

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