The economy has risen to the top of the agenda in conversations I’ve been having with members this week. People are worried about jobs and, for some, the changes to the furlough scheme are leading to ruthless redundancies and increased resort to Universal Credit – particularly amongst those with zero hours contracts.
Cardiff is particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of the pandemic. There have been forecasts of unemployment in Cardiff being more than 50 per cent higher for at least two years, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility. The hardest hit sectors will likely be hospitality, leisure and retail – sectors that drive so much of the economy in our city.
These are also sectors that have attracted more part-time and flexible workers – often women and people just gradually coming back into the workforce while juggling other responsibilities. The likelihood is therefore that job losses will fall most heavily on the most under-represented and insecure groups. Worryingly in recent weeks key brands with big presences in our city like John Lewis and WHSmith have announced plans for redundancies.
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Much has been done by Cardiff Council to mitigate the impact of social distancing measures and Welsh Government continues to provide critical support where it can.
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However it is clear that the tapering of furlough is the key catalyst of redundancy announcements. This tapering is causing anxiety to millions and should be reversed.
As the pandemic looks set to continue to impact our daily lives and create challenges for business for some time to come, UK Government should reinstate and extend the furlough scheme at its pre-August level.
This would give businesses the confidence to retain staff and to provide continued income protection for millions of workers no matter what sort of trajectory the pandemic takes.
If and when the economy gets going businesses will require furlough less and less. Nevertheless, for sectors particularly vulnerable to localised, unpredictable lockdowns and to protect Cardiff against catastrophic levels of unemployment the UK Government should keep the full safety net of furlough in place for the foreseeable future.
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I had some great conversations today with members in Pentwyn and Llanederyn about education.  There was some important feedback on driving up standards in schools, but the focus was not exclusively on children’s education.  Instead I spent more time discussing the need for more and better access to adult education and lifelong learning in Wales.

I couldn’t agree more.  We need to look at education policy as far broader than schools.  Revolutionising the provision of adult education should be a central part of our national mission as we respond to the economic challenges approaching Wales.

 

There are potentially some quick wins.  The lockdown has allowed online learning to become a more accepted and respected educational medium.  With the right regulatory framework, quality control and incentives from Welsh Government, that familiarity with learning at home or at a work place could instigate a boom in online training that could rapidly accelerate adult learning take-up in Wales.  We need to grasp that opportunity.

 

Alongside that should be an improvement in affordability of study.   Thanks to the work of Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams Wales has one of the most generous and progressive post-graduate support packages.  However we need to go further to improve affordability and access.  It is likely that the costs of delivery of all teaching could fall as a result of greater numbers participating in online provision.  That saving should be passed on to learners to increase access to courses, and Welsh Government should ensure that universities and colleges are funded appropriately to innovate in ways that drive down the costs of participation in learning.

 

But there is one measure that would, in my opinion, drive greater take-up of adult learning more than any other: a switch to a 4 day week.  This is a profound shift in the way our economy functions, but it has the potential to revolutionise work and change our society for the better.  As the number of jobs required in our economy potentially reduces as a result of COVID (and more fundamentally driven by automation and AI) we need to consider how we might better share the work around more evenly.

 

Crucially, a 4-day week would open up time in the week for people to devote to education and training to upskill for future economic changes.  Or the time might be devoted to caring responsibilities or other priorities or passions.

 

A 4-day week is a profoundly liberal idea that puts more power back in the hands of people to shape their own lives.  For that reason it is a radical change that I would welcome.  But specifically in the context of turning Wales into a society that fully embraces lifelong learning, members were unanimous today that providing additional time in the week would be the most significant incentive to take up further training or learning.  We need to champion the idea now more urgently than ever.

 

Let’s make a difference; let’s make time for learning by championing a 4-day week.

Liberal Democrats believe everyone is entitled to a first-class education.
In Cardiff Central Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for expansion of Cardiff High School to ensure that more pupils within the catchment area who choose to go to Cardiff High can get a place.
Thanks to our previous campaigns Liberal Democrats secured in 2017 a commitment from Cardiff Council to expand Cardiff High and funding was secured from Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams as part of the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools programme.
However the problem of oversubscription has continued and parents and pupils were devastated to learn last year that the expansion would not be delivered until 2023. This year, yet again, over fifty children within catchment area have failed to secure a place at the school.
The expansion can not come soon enough. Yet with the difficulties presented by COVID-19 that 2023 date looks challenging. Cardiff Liberal Democrats are calling for the programme to be accelerated and have launched a petition here: https://www.cardiffld.org.uk/chs
As someone who lives in the Cardiff High catchment area with three children who will all potentially face the difficulties of gaining entry to the oversubscribed school, I fully support that campaign.
Sadie School
As your candidate for Cardiff Central I would champion the Cardiff High expansion plans and ensure they are delivered as quickly as possible, and certainly not allow the programme to be delayed beyond 2023.
Let’s make a difference; let’s deliver first-class education for all.
A zero-carbon future is an electric future. As well as the electric products we rely on today, in a decarbonised world we will be plugging in more electric transport, heat and industry to the grid. This switch is only possible and environmentally sound because of the rapid expansion in renewable electricity.
A decade ago we could barely imagine 10% of our national electricity demand being met by renewables, yet in 2019 that figure was 37% and rising. Renewables now regularly make up more of the electricity mix than fossil fuels and in coal generation has been all-but phased out of the UK power system. The UK has led the way in deployment of many of the technologies that have scaled up quickly to meet the challenge – particularly onshore wind, followed by offshore wind. As I regularly remind colleagues the first commercial scale offshore wind farm in the UK was delivered here in Wales. That industry now goes from strength to strength delivering green jobs and investment in Wales and across the UK.
But in order to keep this progress going and to hit our legally binding commitment of net-zero emissions by 2050 (Lib Dem policy is 2045) we need all forms of renewable electricity – large scale and small scale.
Here in Cardiff we have examples of smaller scale projects being delivered by Cardiff Council like Radyr Weir and the new solar farm under construction on Lamby Way.
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These projects will be a vital part of the electricity mix. The question is whether there is an opportunity for more schemes to go forward if the council did more to engage local communities in Cardiff with these projects? While it is right for the council to take the construction risks for these sites, there seems to be an opportunity for the Council to offer local people an opportunity to invest in these projects. By doing so it might free up capital for the council to seek the next scheme, but might also encourage community energy groups to take a more active role in delivery of renewables in Cardiff. I know, for example, that there is an ongoing discussion about rooftop solar on leisure centres to be explored across the city – could a collaboration between Council, energy groups, and Better finally secure a renewable energy scheme that communities across the city could take a direct interest in?
I’ve worked in renewable energy for over a decade and it is an absolute privilege to work with superb teams delivering some of the larger scale projects that have transformed the electricity system of Wales and the UK. As a candidate I would champion delivery of more renewable electricity schemes in Wales, and look to ensure that we delivered as much as possible in Cardiff, working in partnership with Cardiff Council and local communities.
We owe it to future generations (including my campaign team!) to work faster and harder to make a clean electricity future a reality.
Let’s make a difference; let’s deliver green, clean power that is made in Cardiff.
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Continuing the transport theme, members in Penylan today were highlighting the need to do more to support switching to electric vehicles (EVs).
 
It is clear that many people will remain reliant on cars, but by switching to EVs (and with renewable electricity delivering a third of our electricity and rising) we can combat climate change and clean up our polluted air.
 
People want to make that switch. However Wales has thelowest number of EV charging points per person in the UK. It’s a scandal. Emissions from transport in Wales have barely reduced in the past 30 years, and despite declaring a climate emergency the number of EV charging points in Cardiff and across Wales is pathetic.
I managed to track a couple down in Cardiff today – great to see them but a city with a population of 300,000 needs more than 50.
 
If we want to hit net zero emissions we have to deliver charging infrastructure that is accessible for all – whether you live in a flat, shared accommodation or have onstreet parking. EVs can not be a preserve of those wealthy enough to afford to install a charger themselves or those with designated parking space. This change needs to bring everyone in Wales along with it and happen in every community across the nation. That kind of infrastructure delivery programme needs imagination and massive investment from the Welsh Government. As such if prioritised it could deliver a much needed jobs and economic stimulus.
 
For 3 months we experienced what it is like to live in a city that is not smothered by air pollution. If we invest in EV charging infrastructure now, we can look forward to clean air again, as well as addressing our ongoing contribution to climate change. That is exactly the sort of change I will be fighting for as your Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate in Cardiff Central.
 
Let’s make a difference; let’s deliver EV charging that’s accessible to everyone.

Parts of Cardiff have undergone a transformation in response to the COVID crisis.  The promotion of active travel options through introducing safe cycle lanes and pedestrianisation is very welcome.

However speaking to residents and traders it’s clear that the changes to our city present challenges in terms of maintaining footfall and ensuring the new layouts and removal of parking work for everyone:

In Roath, the balance is also challenging.  On Wellfield Road a very exciting scheme that had been promoted as improving cycle and pedestrian safety has been substantially undermined by poor communication with traders and weak enforcement.  Local people are doing a fantastic job supporting businesses but without social distancing and with such proximity to traffic it’s not clear whether the current layout is safe or sustainable:

20200721_130750Nevertheless, there are some positives.  I heard from members in Cathays today how much they welcome and support the continued roll-out of properly safe cycle lanes.  I share their enthusiasm.

However the new funding for cycle safe infrastructure from Welsh Government – a meagre £38m for the entire nation –  is completely inadequate to deliver the extensive network of improvements required to allow people to feel safe on a bike in our city.  To put this in perspective this is the same budget as is proposed for one road scheme currently being considered in Cardiff.

If selected I would prioritise securing long-term capital funding to deliver a programme of investment in a proper network of cycle lanes.

Let’s make a difference: let’s make our roads safe for cyclists.

Listening and Learning

To make a difference to people’s lives in Cardiff, we have to win.

Yet, for the past two elections we have come third in Cardiff Central.

To win again we cannot offer more of the same.

To win again we must listen and learn.

During this campaign for selection, I will be touring our wonderful communities on a nextbike, speaking to people about the issues that matter to them.

Only by reaching out to people, listening to what they have to say and offering fresh ideas that are meaningful to everyday life will we win the trust of voters in Cardiff Central again.

I’ll be posting about my meetings and reflections on this blog, on Facebook and on Twitter so please check in over the next few weeks to see what we learn.

One of the proudest moments of my life was singing the Olympic Anthem at the London 2012 Closing Ceremony.  Being part of that event was a great privilege as it showcased the modern, outward-looking, engaged, thoughtful and successful nation that we are.  A bright future lay ahead.

The political failures that followed 2012 have been eclipsed by the monumental challenge we now face to rebuild following the coronavirus pandemic.

I have no doubt we can do it.  But let’s use this opportunity to reform and reshape our economy and society so that it addresses the challenge of climate change, break down the vested interests and put power back in the hands of citizens.

We need meaningful economic and constitutional reform in our country.  Radical change is required to put citizens and communities back at the heart of wealth-creation and decision-making.  If we can achieve that aim, I believe we can heal the divisions that have opened up in our communities and move forward to a more balanced and stable prosperity.

I want to hear the ideas that you have to achieve that goal, which is why I will be listening to you over the next few weeks.  Please get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

An exciting future seemed possible – even likely – on that evening in London in 2012.  It is the job of politicians to listen to how we can recapture that narrative of unity, deliver on that promise, and I intend to make it a central part of my mission.

Arguing from the Heart

Can we Lib Dems sometimes be too focused on the detail and forget to show our passion?  Can we be too captured by the pursuit of a logical answer and forget to show our rage?

I will admit that I expected Remain to win the EU Referendum in 2016.  I was convinced that the economic arguments for greater trade, investment and jobs within the EU would prevail over the emotional calls for sovereignty and control that the Leave side put forward.  I got it very wrong.

Waking on 24th June 2016 and hearing the result, I felt the pain in my heart not my head.

This made me realise instantly how we had simply failed to adequately express the emotional reasons why we believe in EU membership – the feeling of solidarity I have with people from across the UK and across the continent; the ability to enrich our communities by sharing freedoms with those people; and it is the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that the UK and EU brings to problem-solving across borders.

From then on I have always believed that we must become better at communicating our values with passion.  We must be able to make our case on emotional grounds.

We believe passionately in making a difference to our communities.  However to win the trust of our communities to make that difference to their lives we must argue our case from the heart, from our values and from our experience and beliefs, and leave the economic forecasts for the spreadsheet junkies.

I can remember my first science project when I started comprehensive school in 1991. It was to look at the way carbon dioxide caused the greenhouse effect.  I was no scientist (and am still not!) but the simple explanation of the insulating effect of CO2 and the resultant global warming made sense.  The more I thought about it the more illogical it seemed that we would voluntarily drive our species (and every other species on the planet) towards trying to survive in a hotter and hotter planet.   It seemed obvious to me that this should be something everyone would be trying to sort out.

I qualified as a solicitor in London in 2006, and realising I was now one of the people who had the responsibility to use my skills to find solutions, I started working in renewable energy in 2008.  Since then I have spent a decade working in different technologies within the clean tech and renewable energy sector, from innovative energy storage companies to large utilities delivering enormous offshore wind farms.  I moved out of the legal team in 2016 to work on the commercial and project management aspects of offshore wind projects for the company that has delivered a third of all of Wales’ renewable energy.

My passion for taking action on climate goes beyond my profession.  I have been campaigning for more investment in environmental technology and a green new deal since the noughties – my wife and I travelled to Copenhagen by train to protest at the Climate Summit in 2009.

In recent years I have been inspired by the achievements of campaign groups, NGOs and the renewables industry itself in raising the profile of the climate emergency, and promoting the need to act faster and more effectively to avert temperature increases of 1.5 degrees.  I’ve been particularly inspired by Greta Thunberg whose peaceful protest, eloquence and bravery has created a new generation of activists who will ensure that we keep up the fight for rapid climate action.  I was a part of the Liberal Democrat working group devising the party’s most recent policies intending that once in government, we can deliver exactly that.

As a citizen, activist or candidate protection of the environment and combating climate change will always be at the front and centre of my mission.

 

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