Drakeford unveils six flagship policy pledges ahead of May elections

Elliot Chappell

Mark Drakeford has unveiled six pledges focused on the Covid recovery and environment, creating jobs, supporting young people, boosting police and community support officer numbers and giving care workers the real living wage.

Launching the party’s campaign for the elections in May this morning, ahead of a full manifesto release in April, the Welsh Labour leader declared that “these are the pledges we will take to the country in the coming weeks”.

The First Minister argued that in the upcoming election his party will be the only one that “can and will deliver all of its promises”, and pledged to deliver each one of the proposals – “no ifs, no buts”. Welsh Labour pledged to:

  • Launch a Covid catch-up programme for schools and the NHS, including the delivery of a new medical school in North Wales;
  • Introduce a ‘young person’s guarantee’ of a place in work, education, training or self-employment for all those aged under 25 in Wales;
  • Abolish more single-use plastics and creating a new national forest;
  • Guarantee the real living wage for all social care workers;
  • Fund 100 additional police and community support officers; and
  • Deliver urgent job creation with a “low-carbon housebuilding revolution”.

The party leader described the commitment on the health service and education as “the most comprehensive programme of catch up support ever seen for our public services” to those watching the virtual launch this morning.

He explained that his government would launch an NHS recovery plan “on day one” and that the administration would hire more than 1,800 additional tutoring staff to ensure that no child is “left behind” as a result of the pandemic.

The young person’s guarantee, Drakeford told those watching this morning, will include the creation of 125,000 new apprenticeships for young people. He said Labour will “stand with them as they face the worst economic crisis we’ve ever seen”.

He added that alongside guaranteeing the real living wage for care workers, Labour will continue to cap non-residential care fees and maintain the £50,000 capital limit to help people retain more of their savings before paying for care.

The responsibility for policing in Wales lies with the UK government, but the Welsh Labour administration has committed over recent years to funding 500 community officers to ease the pressure caused by the austerity cuts pursued by Westminster.

“Where the Tories want to cut all 500 of the vital police and community support officers that the Welsh Labour government funds, we will not only protect them – we’ll fund 100 more,” Drakeford announced.

On his promise to create a “greener Wales”, he said: “The next Welsh Labour government will match urgent job creation with combating climate change and build 20,000 new low carbon social homes for rent to support people, jobs and the planet.”

“Our manifesto promises won’t depend on doing a backroom deal with another party,” Drakeford reminded those attending the launch. “They aren’t conditional on an unreliable and unrealisable pledge to find a new Westminster money tree”.

The launch followed a keynote speech from Drakeford to the party’s online ‘Spring Forward’ event in February, in which he argued that the next Labour administration would put the climate crisis “at the heart of everything we do”.

The party released a party political broadcast earlier this month, in which the Welsh Labour leader declared to the public that his party’s plan for the devolved nation is “bold and ambitious – as it should be”.

The short message featured residents explaining why they will be voting for the party in the May election and focused on some of the achievements of the Labour administration, both during the pandemic and over the last few years.

The first Welsh Political Barometer poll of 2021 showed Labour ahead in the contest for the Senedd last month, with 34% of voters backing the Welsh Labour Party. This was down four points on the previous research carried out in October last year.

A YouGov poll released at the start of March predicted that the party is on course to lose five seats in the upcoming vote and that, while Labour would remain the largest party in the Senedd, it would fail to secure overall control of the Senedd.

The research suggested that the party will secure 33% of the constituency vote and 29% of the list vote. The Tories are projected as coming second, with the backing of 28% and 25% of the electorate in the constituency and list votes respectively.

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