AM SETS OUT 32 POINT PLAN FOR LOCAL ECONOMY

The economy of the Llanelli constituency can get better, but only if people are bold and work together; that’s the message of a new economic plan launched by the AM for Llanelli, Lee Waters.

The AM, who sits on the Assembly’s Economy & Infrastructure Committee, has been working on the plan since his election more than two years ago. Entitled ‘Bwrw ymlaen’ (Pushing forward), the report makes 32 recommendations and is subtitled ‘Towards an Economic Strategy for the Llanelli constituency’.

“The whole reason I became an Assembly Member was because I refuse to believe things have to be this way. We can make things better for Llanelli. But it’s not quick, and it’s not easy. And I can’t do it alone. By publishing this report I hope to get the council, the Welsh government, local organisations and businesses to work together to find a way through these difficult times” Lee Waters said.

The plan makes suggestions for actions on economic development, transport, energy, digital and Llanelli town centre.

The 32 point plan includes:

Encouraging big local organisations to buy local – Based on the example of Preston Council, working with our largest institutions (Carmarthenshire County Council, Hywel Dda Health Board, Pobl housing association, Dyfed Powys Police and local schools and colleges ) to increase the volume of procurement spending sourced locally and regionally.

Create Tech-hub for food production – Welsh Government should create an Institute for Precision Agriculture in area to improve farm productivity, reducing pollution and develop software and robotics for export.

Local green energy – Creating a plan for the development of community energy infrastructure to cut bills, keep profit in the local area and clean the environment.

Boosting public transport  – Working with Council and Welsh Government to re-regulate bus services to ensure services are reliable and routes serve every community.

Better mix of shops in towns centre  – Council should offer vacant space in the town centre to new traders at affordable rates, and encourage internet based traders to set pop-up showrooms so people can see before they buy.

Creating local car clubs to allow people to share ownership of electric cars, and a robust network of electric vehicle charging points throughout the constituency.

Bring banks back to the High St – Welsh Government should create a community bank, with the facility to deliver face to face services in areas where banks have withdrawn.

Encourage Activity Tourism – Target tourists interested in coast and country activities anddevelop a plan to ensure that we have facilities to meet the demands of these new visitors.

Lee Waters added:

“We are living through very challenging times. Brexit, the proposed closure of Schefler’s and the potential unravelling of the Delta Lakes development are gloomy developments. But I passionately and profoundly believe that we can turn things around. And that the key to our future is within us.

That’s why, this week I’m publishing my ideas for an economic strategy for the area outlining actions I think should be taken to rejuvenate the constituency, from Kidwelly to Tycroes, and Llanelli to Pontyberem.

There are enormous strengths in our local economy – we host national and international expertise in manufacturing, construction, transport & logistics, and sport – expertise that can be harnessed to energise positive change.

People look for simple and quickanswers, there are none. The decline of our economy has taken place overgenerations and it will not be quickly reversed. The actions required go farbeyond the role of an Assembly Member, and I will use what influence I have totry and take forward positive change”.

The report is available here.

DIGITAL EXPERTS CALL FOR A SYSTEM REBOOT

Wales needs a Chief Digital Officer and a Minister for Digital with authority right across the public services, a Digital Strategy that ensures problems are addressed from the point of view of the member of the public who will be using the service, and a team of specialist digital ‘squads’ that can be called upon to help organisations develop workable solutions.

Those are the main recommendations of an expert panel that has today delivered its report to the Welsh Government.

Led by Labour backbencher, Llanelli AM Lee Waters, the panel includes Monmouthshire Council Chief Executive Paul Mathews, and the current Chief Digital Officer of Homes England, Dominic Campbell, amongst a very well regarded group of digital and public service experts. The panel was established at the end of October by Welsh Government Ministers Julie James (Leader of the House and Chief Whip), Vaughan Gething (Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services) and Alun Davies (Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services).

“At the moment there a gap at the top – very few of the leaders of our health boards, local authorities and senior civil service can be said to be confident digital leaders. In fact, most don’t feel embarrassed to admit they don’t really understand it. They will often talk about Digital as an off-shoot of IT. It’s not the same thing, technology is one of the ways digital change is implemented, the key bit about digital is designing services that work for people” panel Chair Lee Waters said.

“We need to use digital to enable us to ask for what we actually want, rather than how to put up with what systems we are given. This is a big change agenda. It will require real leadership and team working to get it to work. But if we don’t there’s a real risk that our public services get left behind” he added.

The panel makes six recommendations to the Government:

  • Design public services around the needs of the user
  • Establish clear digital leadership in Wales
  • Develop and introduce digital service standards
  • Identify skills and capability gaps and develop a plan to close them
  • Create an approach to incentivisation and spend controls
  • Agree a clear and ambitious timetable for change demonstrating pace and scale

Lee Waters said:

“A series of reports over the last three years have set out a consistent picture of Welsh public services failing to capture the potential of digital approaches to improve outcomes.

Whilst some Councils have introduced things like putting its parking services online, and text reminders of bin collections, many are way behind. In the same way some parts of the NHS are innovating, in Morriston hospital for example the kidney dialysis service allows patients to make decisions about their treatments by giving them digital access to their information through their smartphone or computer. Other parts of the NHS are still in the pre-digital age – hospital appointment letters are still routinely posted, and it’s not possible to access services online.

The danger is that citizens expectations are being transformed by online services from Netflix and Youtube, to Amazon and Paypal. If health, local government and other services fail to keep up with these changing demands, it could seriously undermine support for the values of public services in the future”.

The report calls on the new Welsh Government to take three immediate actions:

  • Appoint a Minister with lead responsibility for Digital
  • Agree a digital declaration committing to new ways of working across Welsh public services
  • Create a CDO for Wales within six months

The report is available here and in accessible format here.