• Together for our economy-Welsh Labour’s pledge to create 100,000 high quality apprenticeships

    Julie James AM has celebrated Apprenticeship Week 2016 by highlighting Welsh Labour’s plan to create 100,000 high quality all-age apprenticeships if it wins the Assembly election.

    The commitment is one of six key pledges the party has launched ahead of the Assembly poll in May.

    Last year nearly 20,000 apprenticeships were started across Wales.

    A recent National Training Federation for Wales report said that apprenticeships generate over £1bn for the Welsh economy annually with a £74 return to the economy for every £1 invested in an apprenticeship.

    Apprenticeship Week runs from 14th -18th March.

    Ms James AM said:

    “Welsh Labour has helped create thousands of good quality apprenticeships over the last five years and developed a strong track record of high quality vocational learning.

    “This has helped us generate record levels of inward investment and make Wales an attractive place to come and do business.

    “This success of our Welsh Labour Government has come from the partnership it has built with businesses right across Wales over the last few years. Our apprenticeships and Jobs Growth Wales programmes have been hugely successful in helping individuals to raise their skills and in allowing local businesses to expand and grow.

    “In the next Assembly term Welsh Labour will strengthen this partnership with business and create a minimum of 100,000 high-quality all age apprenticeships in the areas where our economy needs to expand.

    “The Welsh economy will need a workforce with higher level skills to compete in the global economy of the future and to keep inward investment strong. Our pledge is to create high quality apprenticeships that match the ambitions of our apprentices and meet the skills needs of our growing economy.

    “Through this pledge we will build on the solid economic foundations we have laid over the last few years and create better opportunities for people to get on.

    “Together for our economy, Welsh Labour recognises that when our economy succeeds, Wales succeeds. This pledge will help us achieve the economic growth Wales needs over the next few years.”

  • Welsh Government continues to deliver on its promise to give 36,000 children a Flying Start in life

    New statistics reveal the Welsh Government is on track to meet its ambitious target of providing Flying Start services to 36,000 children for the second year running.

    Figures out today show 33,252 children benefitted from Flying Start between April and December 2015. This is over 600 more children than benefited at the equivalent stage in 2014-15, a year in which the programme was delivered to more than 37,000 children – reaching and exceeding the Welsh Government’s target a year early.

    Flying Start supports families living in some of the most disadvantaged communities across Wales. It offers 12 and a half hours of high quality childcare a week for 2-3 year olds; support for the development of children’s speech, language and communication; parenting support; and an enhanced health visitor service.

    Giving children the best possible start in life is a key priority for the Welsh Government, which is why funding for the early years programme was fully protected in the recent Draft Budget and will be maintained at almost £77 million in 2016/17,  in spite of significant cuts to the Welsh Government’s own budget.

    Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister, Lesley Griffiths, has welcomed today’s figures:

    “I am delighted the latest figures show we are well on track to deliver on our commitment to provide Flying Start support to 36,000 children again this year.

    “Giving children the best possible start in life has been one of this Government’s key priorities, which is why we have invested almost half a billion pounds in the scheme since 2006. Our communities are reaping the rewards of this investment, with thousands more families now able to access high quality childcare, support for children’s speech, language, and communication, as well as parenting support, and an enhanced health visitor service.

    “Time and time again I have spoken to teachers who say they can clearly see the benefits Flying Start gives children, preparing them for the challenges and opportunities they face as they get older. The £77m we have allocated for the programme in 2016/17 will ensure children across Wales continue to get a Flying Start in life.”

     

  • Most families secure first choice schools for children in Swansea

    Swansea West AM, Julie James has welcomed Swansea Council’s announcement that thousands of parents are celebrating their child getting into their first-choice secondary school this September.

    The Local Authority announced that 99 percent of applications made online, within the deadline, secured a place at their first choice school.

    Ms James AM was delighted that so many families are receiving their first choice placement.

    “I am glad that many parents will see their child go to their first choice school, it can make such a difference to a young person’s transition to secondary education.”

    Local Authorities in Wales compared to England still have the power to plan for school places, as the Welsh Labour Government have a policy against free schools or academies.

    Ms James said: “I am proud that the Welsh Labour Government have made sure that Local Authorities still hold the power to determine school places. If we look over the border with what is happening in England with the rise of free schools and academies, the figures for children getting into their first choice school are abysmal.”

    Ms James also congratulated the Council for their innovative approach to getting parents to apply and secure places at secondary school, with more than 2,500 applications made for transition to Year 7.

    “The online system has clearly worked with such a high percentage gaining admittance to their first choice school. It made what can be a stressful process simpler and the results speak for themselves.”

    “I wish those young people all the best in their new schools and I hope education in the Local Authority can have another record breaking year.”

    Any family not offered their first choice school has been offered an alternative and the chance to appeal against the decision.

    Details on that process are available on the Council’s website at http://www.swansea.gov.uk/article/2581/Admission-arrangements-to-secondary-schools and on the Information for Parents booklet at http://www.swansea.gov.uk/informationforparents

    Any parent who has still not applied for a reception or Year 7 place for their child in September 2016 should contact the Council’s School and Governor Team on 01792 636550 as soon as possible.

     

     

     

  • SWANSEA COMMUNITY FARM – FUNDRAISING EVENT

    Julie James Swansea West AM is sponsoring a fundraising event on behalf of Swansea Community Farm to raise some much-needed funds for this fantastic local organisation who have been struggling for survival over the last couple of years.

    Like most large cities, Swansea has areas with more than their fair share of social problems. The lack of facilities within these areas often means there are few things for children and young people to do outside of school hours. Swansea Community Farm is a resource for the local community and provides a small oasis of countryside in an otherwise urban landscape.

    I am supporting the Community Farm by holding a buffet curry lunch on 26th February at 1pm at the Rose Indienne on St Helen’s Road. Tickets are £15.00, with our guest speaker Rebecca Evans AM, Deputy Minister for Farming and Foods.

    If you are interested in supporting this organisation but are unable to attend the fundraiser, please consider a donation that will help the farm and the children in our communities. Contact my constituency office on 01792 460836 to find out how you can pay for tickets or, alternatively, make a donation.

  • Local AM hails achievements in improving the lives of our treasured pets

    When it comes to improving the lives for our beloved pets in Wales, the Welsh Labour Government has proven to be extremely proactive.

    Speaking at the launch of Cats Protection’s Manifesto for Cats, Swansea West AM Julie James was full of praise for the progress made in improving Animal Welfare in Wales.

    “The Welsh Labour Assembly Government have made great strides in improving the welfare standards for animals in Wales and I am very proud of our achievements.”

    Ms James added: “It is great to hear directly from organisations such as Cats Protection on what they feel the priorities are and I will continue to fight and advocate for many of the improvements to animal welfare for cats outlined in the manifesto.”

    Ten years ago, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 was passed, and it set a high bar for animal welfare standards by taking action to prevent harm from coming to animals and promoting the welfare of animals with owner responsibility.

    Since then, the Welsh Assembly Government has taken more steps in animal welfare improvement for dogs, specifically through the introduction of breeding regulations in 2014 and requiring microchipping for all dogs the very next year.

    Now, a manifesto has been launched by Cats Protection to advocate for similar improvements to animal welfare for cats.

    The Manifesto for Cats: Wales gives potential areas of improvement, which include an update to the law to control and reduce cat breeding, compulsory microchipping for cats, and increased animal welfare education in Wales.

     

  • Julie James AM welcomes launch a new national scheme to provide free swimming for veterans and Armed Forces personnel in Wales.

    Free Swimming for Armed Forces and veterans is the latest initiative to be launched by the Welsh Government as part of its Package of Support for the Armed Forces Community.

     The scheme is being delivered by all Local Authorities in Wales to enable and encourage veterans and our armed forces personnel to enjoy swimming as a form of physical activity and in recognition of the service they have given to their country.

    Julie James AM said: “This is a great scheme, I like many residents in Swansea West believe strongly that we need to recognise the service our armed forces have given and are giving”

    “This scheme is another way in which the Welsh Labour Government is recognising the contribution they make, to our country and this community.  I hope members of the armed forces community and veterans in Swansea West will be able to make full use of this opportunity to exercise.

     

  • £43m schools and social housing capital boost will create 800 jobs says Jane Hutt

    Schools and social housing projects across Wales are set to benefit from an immediate £43 million capital investment boost, Minister for Finance and Government Business Jane Hutt has announced today.

    This investment will also provide a boost to employment in Wales supporting up to 800 jobs – including 300 in the design and build of new schools in our communities and 500 in providing affordable housing.

    A total of £23m will be allocated to 21st Century school projects across all 22 local authorities during 2015-16, supporting the rebuild and refurbishment of over 150 schools and colleges.  A further £20m will be allocated to the Social Housing grant helping build approximately 230 affordable homes across the country.

    The Minister made the announcement following a series of visits to previous beneficiaries of Welsh Government capital funding in North Wales.  During her time in North Wales, the Minister visited the new Holywell Learning Campus which has received £15.5m through the 21st Century school programme and the Llys Santes Ann affordable housing development which has received £693,000 through the social housing grant.

    Jane Hutt said:  “We have always been clear about the importance of investing in our infrastructure both in terms of the social and economic benefits it brings.  Only yesterday I saw these benefits first hand – from the state of the art learning facilities under construction at the Holywell learning campus to the Llys Santes Ann social housing development which is delivering affordable homes for local residents in Wrexham.

    “I am therefore delighted to be able to announce an immediate boost of £43m for social housing and 21st century schools projects across Wales during this current financial year.  Through the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan we have set a clear direction for infrastructure investment across Wales and the additional funding announced today will deliver real and long-term benefits for people.”

    Alongside the additional capital investment, the Minister has also published an update of the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan project pipeline in line with our ambition of providing a comprehensive picture of infrastructure investment across Wales.  The pipeline is available at http://gov.wales/funding/wiipindex/?lang=en

  • Government changes to Sunday trading will strangle retailers in red tape says Usdaw

    Shopworkers’ trade union leader John Hannett has warned the Government not to impose huge bureaucratic burdens on retailers by having different Sunday trading regulations in every local authority area across England and Wales.

    His comments come after the Business Secretary yesterday announced the Government’s intention to table an amendment to the Enterprise Bill to devolve Sunday trading laws to local authorities and allowing councils to “zone” any relaxation. The changes will only apply to large stores because small stores (under 3,000 square feet) are unrestricted and already free to open as long as they like.

    The Government has not yet published the detail of their proposals, however a BIS press release indicates that they will allow 306 different councils to change Sunday trading in their area.

    John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Although the Government hasn’t revealed the consultation responses, five months after it closed, I can assure them that devolving Sunday trading is not welcomed because it would create chaos in the retail sector, tying up business in red tape as they try to operate in over 300 different regulatory regimes across the country.

    “The chaos is made much worse by allowing local authorities to create zones of different opening hours, which we predict will lead to legal challenges against councils as they discriminate against competing retailers based on where their shop is located. Different regulatory regimes across the country gives retailers yet another headache in an already difficult trading environment. MPs would be wise to reject this unpopular and unworkable devolution of trading hours.

    “If the Government really wants to help retailers, they would cut overheads by reforming business rates, lower prices for customers by reducing VAT and help councils lower car parking charges for shoppers.

    “The Sunday Trading Act is a great British compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years and gives everyone a little bit of what they want. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family.”

  • Welsh Water keeps prices below inflation and extends help to customers struggling to pay

    Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s average household bill will remain unchanged compared to last year making it the seventh consecutive year that the average household bill be below the rate of RPI inflation.

    The company, with its unique not-for-profit operating model in the water industry and serves customers in most of Wales, Herefordshire and parts of Deeside, is also confirming plans to help even more of its customers who are struggling to pay their bills.  A record 60,000 customers currently benefit from the company’s social tariffs which help reduce bills for vulnerable customers.  Welsh Water’s latest new social tariff, HelpU,  which offers annual savings of up to £250 or 55% on the average household bill, will now be available to customers whose annual household income is less than £15,000 per year (increased from £12,500).

    Delivering another year of below inflation price increase for the average bill – which has enabled the company to keep the average household bill for 2016 at £438 from April – comes after the company delivered its best overall performance last year since being set up as a not-for-profit company in 2001.  This has helped Welsh Water become the best water company in England and Wales for customer satisfaction and customer trust as measured by the UK’s Institute of Customer Service.

    The company is currently implementing its record investment plan for 2015 -2020 with £1.7 billion being invested to maintain and improve services to customers whilst also safeguarding the environment. Such investment includes:

    • £31 million at Bryn Cowlyd to continue to protect high quality drinking water to around 100,000 customers in the Conwy Valley.  The will involve building a brand new water treatment works.
    • £2.7 million on a major project to improve the bathing water quality at Mumbles, Swansea. The work will increase capacity on the waste water network which in turn will improve its performance during wet weather.
    • £5 million to be invested from April 2016 in strengthening drinking water supplies near Llechryd, Pembrokeshire by laying a new drinking water main for the area.
    • Reducing the risk of local sewer flooding which could adversely impact customers and the environment by investing a further £40 million in the innovative RainScape programme in Llanelli and Gowerton over the next five years. This follows a £15 million investment in recent years and is aimed at removing surface water from the sewer network.  There are also plans to roll the scheme out to other parts of Wales over coming years.
    • £120 million across our entire operating area over the next four years upgrading and improving the drinking water network.  The work will benefit nearly one million customers, ensuring they continue to enjoy a safe and reliable water supply for years to come.
    • More than £5 million in Herefordshire which will ensure customers in the area continue to receive a first class drinking water supply for decades to come.  The work involves replacing old iron water mains with new plastic pipes and will improve the security of supply to customers in the area.

     

    Welsh Water’s Chief Executive Chris Jones said:  “We are pleased to keep prices for the average bill below the rate of RPI inflation for the seventh consecutive year.  This continues the trend we have set since 2010 and we remain the only water company to have committed to achieve a decade of below inflation price increases by 2020 whilst also delivering record levels of investment.

    “Our unique not-for-profit model means that we can do more of our customers and this is why we already help around 60,000 customers through our different social tariffs. We want to help even further.  If any customer is struggling to pay with their water and sewerage bills,   we would urge them to contact us today so that we can try to help.”

    Tom Taylor, the Consumer Council for Water’s Wales Chair, said: “We are pleased that Dŵr Cymru’s customers will see no change in their bills for 2016-17.

    “Dŵr Cymru’s HelpU tariff has been supporting low-income customers for almost a year, but we urge any customers who are struggling to afford their bill to contact the company to ask for help.

    “CCWater is also supporting struggling customers by providing an online benefits calculator and grants search tool to help them identify additional income to enable them to pay their bills. The tools are available on our website at www.ccwater.org.uk

  • National Voter Registration Drive

    Local AM, Julie James is lending her support to the third annual National Voter Registration Drive, which kicks off this Monday 1st February and runs until 7th of February.

    With over a million people falling off the electoral register in December, the campaign is designed to encourage young people to vote.

    The drive is organised by the non-party Bite the Ballot campaign, in partnership with a host of collaborators.  They are coordinating a week of social action, calling on people to register to vote and have their say in how Wales is run.

    Ms James AM, is encouraging unregistered voters in Swansea West to check out bite the ballot on Facebook or twitter, and most importantly to register. This can be done by visiting www.nvrd.co.uk.

    Ms James AM said: “The National Registration Drive is a fantastic initiative which achieved tremendous success last year, with Welsh Assembly elections taking place in May, and an increasingly likely 2016 EU referendum, this campaign couldn’t be more timely.

    “It would be great to see the campaign do even better this year, and we can all do our bit by helping on social media.”

    Last year’s drive was hugely successful with 441,696 people registering to vote – 90% of which were online registrations.  The campaign is a reaction to the startling statistic that 10 million people are missing from the register.