Election 2016 – The Manifestos: Plaid Cymru

The Change Wales Needs – Bilingual/Dwyieithog (pdf)

Health & Social Services
  • Access to cancer diagnosis within 28 days via the development of three urgent cancer diagnosis centres. Nobody should wait longer than 45 days to start treatment.
  • A £50million fund for New Medicines and Treatments.
  • Establish an integrated health and social care service. Current local health boards will be abolished and replaced by regional combined authorities (mentioned later).
  • Free personal care for the elderly by the end of 2018 and abolish care charges for people diagnosed with dementia “at some point”.
  • Recruit and train an extra 1,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses.
  • Numerous public health measures, including :
    • Banning smoking in playgrounds and university/college campuses
    • Consult on raising the age to buy tobacco to 21
    • Introduce free fruit in schools and conduct a trial on the effect fruit and vegetable subsidies have on consumption
    • Introduce legislation on a minimum unit price for alcohol
    • Extend breast-screening programmes to women aged 75 and bowel-screening programmes to younger age groups
    • Introduce HPV vaccinations for boys and men
  • Legislate to protect the rights of autistic people and their families/carers.
  • “Increase spending” on mental health services and improve transition between child and adult mental health settings. Establish a specialist eating disorder centre.
  • Merge the ambulance and fire services into a single National Fire & Emergency Service.
  • Create a paperless NHS (Digital Health Service), which will give citizens ownership of their own medical records. Also introduce “Robbie’s Law” – giving next of kin access to a deceased relative’s medical records.

Education & Young People
  • Free full-time childcare for children over the age of three by 2021.
  • Offer an annual premium – the equivalent of 10% of salary – to teachers who achieve a Masters in Education. In exchange they’ll expect teachers to agree plans to raise standards relative to international peers (i.e. PISA tests). They’ll also make the teaching profession self-regulating.
  • Turn schools into “community hubs” – keeping them open at weekends and turning facilities over to community use (i.e. sports pitches, swimming pools).
  • Create national specialist employer/university-led vocational skills colleges, starting with construction, green skills and digital technology.
  • Introduce a voluntary National Citizen’s Service to provide paid placements of up to 12 months for 18-25 year olds focusing on inter-generational care and digital exclusion.
  • Welsh-domiciled graduates who work in Wales will receive a £6,000 a year debt write-offs for the first five years after graduating (up to a maximum £18,000). Loans will be introduced for Welsh-domiciled postgraduates at preferential interest rates.
  • Seek to close the university funding gap between England and Wales by allocating greater resources to HEFCW.
  • Establish a National Youth Parliament with the voting age lowered to 16.

Economic Development
  • A long-term target to bring Welsh gross value added (GVA) to parity with the UK by 2036, meaning an annual economic growth target of 3.5% a year.
  • Create 50,000 apprenticeships by 2021. Employment, education or training will be offered to anyone under the age of 25 who’s been out of work for more than 4 months.
  • A National Industrial Strategy, which includes the resurrection of the Welsh Development Agency (WDA), a new arms-length tourism promotion body and a publicly-owned Bank of Wales to provide finance to small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Take whatever measures are necessary to protect the Welsh steel industry, including the possibility of a state-backed joint venture and changes to procurement practices.
  • Any business with a ratable value of less than £10,000 will no longer pay business rates, with tapered relief for those valued between £10,000-20,000. Targeted business rate relief will be provided to larger companies which meet social responsibility commitments.
  • Target keeping 75% of public procurement spending within Wales, possibly creating 40,000 jobs.
  • Introduce a Regional Renewal Act to “ensure prosperity in all parts of Wales”.

Transport & Infrastructure
  • A National Infrastructure Commission would be established to plan, find funding for and deliver major infrastructure projects.
  • Support a north-south rail link along the west of Wales (Aberystwyth-Carmarthen). Support the south Wales metro, and similar systems in north Wales and Swansea. Aim to electrify all major rail lines by 2034.
  • Create a publicly-owned mutual broadband network, ISP and telecoms company similar to the Basque Country’s Euskatel. Ensure no home is left without access to superfast broadband by 2017.
  • Create a smartcard for public transport, with the possibility of introducing unlimited bus and rail travel within Wales for a one-off annual fee. Buses would be re-regulated and free bus travel protected.
  • Will keep Cardiff Airport in public ownership, with aims of securing another low-cost carrier, establishing long-haul services to North America and maintenance of the north-south air link.
  • Supports : the Blue Route (A48 upgrade) solution for the M4 in Newport, a new Menai crossing, eliminating Severn crossing toll fees for Welsh residents, scrapping tolls on the Cleddau Bridge and reopening of the Rhondda-Blaengwynfi Tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians.

Finance & Tax
  • Supports devolution of income tax via a majority vote in the Assembly – but with greater powers to set income tax bands and tax thresholds. Promises not to increase income tax over the course of the Fifth Assembly (2016-2021).
  • Will raise the threshold for stamp duty from £125,000 to £145,000.
  • They estimate they’ll be able to “redirect” ~£1billion a year from other budgets to fund their policies by :
    • Three-year spending reviews (starting 2017-18) – £200million saved per year
    • An independent budget review by the end of 2017 – £300million
    • NHS spending efficiencies in line with the Carter Review in England – £300million
    • Back-office savings and the creation of a single Welsh public sector pension fund – £150million
    • Changes to student support – £250million
    • A cap on public sector redundancy payments and review of senior public sector pay – £40million
  • The Welsh Treasury will undertake a review of local government finance, including the creation of a fairer council tax and longer-term replacement of both business rates and council tax with a land value tax and local income tax.
  • Will introduce a tax and expenditure report modelled on the Scottish Government’s GERS.

Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs
  • Wales will produce 100% of its own energy requirements from renewables by 2035, mainly based on local energy generation and after a national inventory of renewable energy potential.
  • Establish Ynni Cymru as a national not-for-dividend energy company (along the same lines as Glas Cymru).
  • Supports off-shore wind projects, the Swansea tidal lagoon and hydro-electricity from the Usk. Also supports a sustained £3billion home energy efficiency programme over 20 years.
  • Will ban “fracking” as soon as the powers are devolved and opposes : public subsidy for waste incineration, new opencast mines and “new nuclear power stations in new locations”.
  • Will bring the zero waste target forward to 2030 (from 2050), and will take additional measures such as : a ban on Styrofoam packaging and reverse vending machines for recycling.
  • Create a National Flood Forum to represent the interests of people affected by flooding. Will also plant 5,000 hectares of new woodland a year to prevent flooding.
  • Introduce a Wildlife Act and seek to establish an animal health centre at Aberystwyth University as the first steps towards a veterinary school.
  • Introduce a nationwide ban on the release of “sky lanterns” and continue to support a GM-free Wales.
  • Increase procurement of Welsh food and drink within the public sector and ensure levies on Welsh livestock go towards promotion of Welsh produce.

Public Services & Local Government
  • The Civil Service will be reformed and a Cabinet Office established to lead strategic delivery. National delivery will increasingly be provided via executive agencies with a reduction in the size of central government.
  • A “Welsh Public Service College” will be established within an existing university as a post-graduate degree awarding institution to train civil servants and public leaders.
  • Supports a Public Service Ombudsman Act to increase their investigatory and complaints handling powers.
  • Create six regional combined authorities – comprised of existing local councils – for strategic planning on education, health and social care, highways and transport and economic development. The executive board will represent the political balance of the constituent local authorities and would be chaired by a directly-elected mayor.
  • Around 150 area councils would be created (each with a minimum 10,000 residents) with greater responsibility over local regeneration, planning, recycling, school governance and local energy schemes. It sounds as though these would replace town and community councils.

Housing & Social Justice
  • Create a National Housing Company to borrow against rents to build new public rented housing. Oppose the Right to Buy.
  • Introduce a rigorous system for social housing allocation to ensure it goes to the greatest local need.
  • Will introduce rent controls for the private housing sector to increase security and stability of tenures.
  • Seek to build an additional 10,000 homes above current targets.
  • Will use the Welsh Government’s discretionary housing payment system to refund those affected by the “Bedroom Tax”.
  • Establish sheltered employment schemes as a way to gradually move disabled people towards employment.
  • Will seek to make Wales a “Nation of Sanctuary”for those fleeing war and persecution.
  • Communities First would be phased out and the role taken over by area councils (mentioned earlier).

  • Declare 2019 Celebrate Wales year – aimed at tourists – to mark the 200th anniversary of the first modern National Eisteddfod.
  • Improve Foundation Phase teaching so all pupils are able to speak Welsh to an “acceptable standard”by age 7 with a target of 50% of all 7 year olds being in Welsh-medium education by 2030.
  • A National Language Agency will be established to promote Welsh and push for improved status, including Welsh as an official language at Westminster and the EU.
  • Support a football museum in Wrexham, a Welsh one-day cricket team, and bids for both the 2026 Commonwealth Games and a major cycling tour.
  • S4C should be devolved to Wales alongside a ring-fenced portion of funding within the block grant.
  • Create an independent Welsh Media Commission to fund an English language digital news network, and improve links between local and hyper-local newspapers and radio stations “producing open-source content”.
  • Local authorities will be obligated to provide arts and cultural services, including the preservation of school music services.
  • Free entry to museums will be maintained, with support for a National Art Gallery and a National Digital Library.

Constitutional Reform
  • Immediately seek progress on : Silk Commission recommendations, creation of a Welsh legal jurisdiction and a needs-based replacement for the Barnett Formula.
  • Seek cross-party talks on devolution of : criminal justice, rail infrastructure, public procurement, broadcasting, industrial policy and business taxes as part of amendments to a future Wales Bill.
  • Establish a “Constitutional Convention”. The goal being a confederal UK, with an elected second chamber at Westminster equally representing the Home Nations. They would expect it to report by June 2018.
  • Although independence remains the party’s “long-term aspiration” they have no plans to hold an independence referendum. However, if the UK votes to leave the European Union against the wishes of the Welsh electorate they’ll consider holding a multi-option referendum on Wales’ constitutional future.
  • The number of AMs would be increased in line with Silk Commission recommendations (to 80/90), there would also be a right to recall AMs.
  • Single Transferable Vote (STV) will be introduced for all elections at all levels within Wales.

Major faults :

  • Plaid clearly state where they would get the money to pay for their key pledges – thumbs up – but don’t say how much those pledges would cost. They say the manifesto’s been independently assessed as fully-costed. There’s no reason to disbelieve that, but without the information it reads like just another lengthy shopping list.
  • What do their plans for £6,000 a year debt write-offs for employed Welsh-domiciled graduates mean for tuition fees? Other proposed changes to student support – which will reportedly save £250million a year – aren’t outlined properly. It’s silently implied students will “front load” debts, with tuition fees rising to £9,000 a year in line with England. If that’s the case they should say so.
  • 1,000 extra doctors, 5,000 extra nurses – In what specialities? What grades? Where from? Over what timescale? If treatment and diagnostic capacity isn’t addressed all the extra doctors and nurses in the world won’t shorten waiting times.
  • Can you really legislate to ensure prosperity? The Regional Renewal Act sounds as wishy-washy and aspirationally unachievable as the Future Generations Act.

Minor faults :
  • There are so many new “National Executive Agencies” proposed it’s difficult to see how the Assembly will keep up with them all. The boundary between policies that can be realistically delivered in the Fifth Assembly (2016-2021) and longer-term ones is too blurred.
  • Proposals for a Constitutional Convention by 2018 are optimistic as it’s dependent on a government friendly to the idea being in power at Westminster. That can’t happen this side of 2020. It would be better to focus on Wales Bill amendments.
  • AFAIK powers to change the cigarette purchase age aren’t going to be devolved (I’m happy to be corrected). It would probably have to be done on an EnglandandWales basis.
  • Digital Health Service : Public sector + big IT project + sensitive information = “problems”.
  • Creating a Youth Parliament while at the same time lowering the voting age to 16. If young people are able to vote why do they need their own talking shop?
  • Any suggestions Wales can generate 100% of its energy requirement from renewables in under 20 years, at the current pace of developments, is “ambitious” bordering on unachievable – particularly if the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon isn’t built.