Mark Isherwood AM

Brexit Minister questioned over preparations the Welsh Government has made for UK’s exit from EU

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has questioned the Counsel General and Brexit Minister this week over what preparations the Welsh Government has made for the UK’s exit from EU.

Speaking in the Assembly Chamber yesterday, he said: .

“Of course, the UK Government's requirement to seek an alternative deal is only because Labour voted down the previous deal three times in the House of Commons. How do you respond to the statements made earlier this month by the South Irish Sea Trade Director for Stena Line, the Port Authority at Holyhead, a Mr Davies, who, when asked if there will be disruption, said, 'Yes, I think there will be for the first day or two, just because of uncertainty, but this will be very short term. The traffic flow through Holyhead as it stands, and with the plans in place, I don't foresee any problems. There is the Welsh Government emergency plan on the A55 - I don't see it being used myself’?”

The Minister responded: “I think on the point about the port of Holyhead, he will know from the statement that the Minister for transport made in the Chamber yesterday that we've been working with the port to ensure that we have plans in place in order to manage disruption as best we can in the event that there are tailbacks. He will also know that we are looking at those in the context of information that has been provided more recently from the UK Government to ascertain that we have arrangements in place. But I would just say to the Member, obviously, we very much hope that the arrangements are not required and that, if they are required, they work effectively.”

ENDS


“UK is now far better prepared for Brexit than in March, the original Brexit date”

Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Mark Isherwood AM, has responded to warnings about the implications of Brexit, and in particular a no deal Brexit, in the Senedd this week and hit out at Labour and Plaid Cymru for “prolonging the chaos and uncertainty in order to overturn the Referendum and stop Brexit”.

Responding to the Statement by the Minister for Housing and Local Government: ‘Preparing our public services in Wales for a 'no deal' Brexit’, Mr Isherwood referred to the Auditor General’s assessment that “most public bodies across Wales are clearly taking their ‘no-deal’ Brexit planning seriously” and quoted South Irish Sea Trade Director for Stena Line, the Port Authority at Holyhead, who has said the UK is now far better prepared for Brexit than in March, the original Brexit date, and that “some of the worst fears that could have become a reality” are not going to be borne out.

Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Isherwood said:

“You referred to the Auditor General for Wales's report, 'Preparations in Wales for a "no-deal" Brexit', published last Friday. Of course, he says that ‘planning for a no-deal Brexit across Welsh public services has continued to accelerate’. How, therefore, do you respond to the key challenges that he identified, facing public service leaders across Wales, in this revision of his February report? These being: to sustain collective working; strengthen communication with the public; enhance independent scrutiny, where those charged with the governance of Wales's public bodies need to enhance their oversight and scrutiny of Brexit preparations; to be collectively ready to respond to the unexpected; and to plan and prepare for longer-term impacts. The Auditor General, in his assessment, published last Friday, for a 'no deal' Brexit said that 'most public bodies across Wales are clearly taking their "no-deal" Brexit planning seriously. Many have significantly ramped up their activity since summer 2018'.

What assessment have you and colleagues therefore made of the £1.4 million from the EU Transition Fund so far provided to Local Authorities by the Welsh Government to help them plan for Brexit, both in terms of impacts and adequacy? Whilst the impact of EU migration on the Welsh public sector workforce is listed as a concern of the Welsh Government in its 'No Deal' Brexit preparation document, the Auditor General found that the risk of staff suddenly leaving in a 'no deal' Brexit or any other was limited, and that public services 'thought the workforce risks were more medium to long-term’. However, the UK Government has been working to minimise any potential medium to long-term risks through the EU Settlement Scheme.

“The UK Government has guaranteed, in the event of a 'No Deal', to cover all European Regional Development Funding that would have been covered under the 2014-20 programme. This provides certainty and clarity to local communities and will allow them to continue to access important funding routes. So, how will the Welsh Government therefore ensure that Local Authorities continue to take advantage of this funding?”

Speaking outside the Chamber, Mr Isherwood added:

“Although Wales voted to leave the EU in 2016, Labour and Plaid Cymru Members keep stating that voters didn’t know what they were voting for. Voters tell me that they feel insulted by this. They backed Brexit again in the European Parliament Elections three years later and the majority voted for Parties who want to leave the EU in August’s Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. As Prime Minister Johnson has said, “the more our friends and partners think that Brexit could be stopped, that the UK could be kept in by Parliament, the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need". Labour, Plaid Cymru and their fellow EU-fundamentalists are prolonging the chaos and uncertainty in order to overturn the Referendum and stop Brexit. As a North Wales resident recently stated in their local paper, “we have been very patient, but our patience is at an end”.

ENDS


“Ensure public agencies carry out their duties and responsibilities to disabled people”

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to ensure that public agencies carry out their responsibilities to disabled people.

Mr Isherwood raised the matter in the Chamber this week when calling for an Oral Statement following the Written Statement issued by Jane Hutt AM, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, on 19 September, 'Action on Disability: The Right to Independent Living'.

The ‘Action on Disability: The Right to Independent Living’ Framework and Action Plan aims to tackle the barriers which may hinder disabled people’s participation in society on an equal basis with others and replaces the previous ‘Framework for Action on Independent Living’, published by the Welsh Government in 2013.

Previously, Mr Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to take action to ensure that Flintshire County Council fully understands what the new Framework and Plan means, so that it meets its duties to disabled people.

In this week’s Business Statement, he again raised concern that the legislation and guidance as currently drafted is ignored by too many public service providers.

He said:

“The Written Statement says the Framework sets out how the Welsh Government is fulfilling its obligations under, amongst other things, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. Its Part 2 Code of Practice refers to, or ‘recognises that disabled people can achieve their potential and fully participate as members of society, consistent with the Welsh Government's Framework for Action on Independent Living’, expressing ‘the right of disabled people to participate fully in all aspects of life’.

“So, for example, we need to know if and when the Code is going to be amended to reflect the new guidance, and how public service providers will be apprised of that, where too many still ignore the Code as currently drafted.

“In that context, finally, the new Action on Disability Framework Plan says that Welsh Government would ‘develop a British Sign Language (BSL) national charter for delivery of services and resources’. However, as I stated here in February, the British Deaf Association is calling for Local Authorities and public services in Wales to sign up to their Charter for British Sign Language and to make five pledges to improve access and rights for Deaf BSL users in Wales, where presently, at that stage, only two Local Authorities in the whole of Wales had signed up.

“So, let's work with, hopefully, the community, adopt the Charter they have designed, and encourage all public service providers in Wales to sign up accordingly. I think we need that Statement in this context relating to those two examples, but also many more where further clarity is required.”

The Finance Minister and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans AM, said she would ask the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip to provide Mr Isherwood with a response to the various issues he raised regarding the Framework.

ENDS

“Support forgotten heroes striving to bring North Wales historic industrial infrastructure back into use”

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has today called on the Welsh Government to support local groups in North Wales who are striving to maximise the economic and social regeneration benefits of bringing historic industrial infrastructure back into use.

Speaking in today’s debate on Historic Industrial Infrastructure across Wales, Mr Isherwood said “North Wales is blessed with a rich and diverse network of historic industrial infrastructure” but that “forgotten heroes in local groups battle daily the practical and financial challenges of bringing such infrastructure back into use”.

Calling on the Welsh Government to support them better, he said:

“Instead of Welsh Government ownership, they seek real partnership with Governments in exploring and delivering the practical opportunities for re-opening such infrastructure.

“After the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was awarded World Heritage status in 2009, the Welsh Government stated that it was creating a working group to establish North East Wales as a joined-up visitor destination around this, with the Third Sector represented by Glandwr Cymru, the Canal and River Trust.

“We are still waiting a decade later - and other third sector heritage groups tell me that they have not been engaged.”

“Speaking here last year, I referred to the Channel 4 screening of the final episode of its Great Rail Restorations series, promoting the wonderful railway setting between Llangollen and Carrog, but, now going to Corwen as well, and the efforts of all those involved.

“As I then said “we still need a joined-up tourism offer with through ticketing, enabling regional visitors to extend their stays and have the fantastic time we know they can have”.

“Llangollen Railway had repeatedly stated that they would like to embark on joint ticketing with the bus companies and other railways within their area.

“Their through-ticketing proposals also relate to wider Destination Management and to Destination Offers which develop visitor experience by partnering with other venues and industrial heritage attractions in the region.

“Llangollen Railway are one of the biggest employers in the area and the only standard gauge Heritage Railway in North Wales.

“They are extending the line to Corwen and building a new station in Corwen as their western terminus, which will both open up Corwen Town to many more visitors and help local people travel between Llangollen and Corwen. This Project has been entirely volunteer-led, with professional support as and when required.

“The Glyn Valley Tramway was a narrow gauge railway connecting Chirk with Glyn Ceiriog and the Glyn Valley Tramway Trust are working towards a recreation of the Tramway from Chirk.

“Speaking here in 2014 and last year, I called on the Welsh Government to consider supporting the re-opening the rail line from Gaerwen to Llangefni as a heritage connection.

He added:

“I have worked for many years with the Brymbo Heritage Group and Trust, which works to promote the industrial history of Brymbo and adjacent areas, and develop the site as a visitor attraction including the Ironwork core buildings and Brymbo Fossil Forest.

“Shotton Point represents an important part of the Heritage of Deeside, particularly in relation to Steel making.

“The Victorian Society included the former office building of John Summers Steelworks, including its iconic, Grade II listed, Clock Tower, on its 2018 Top 10 Endangered Buildings List.

“I recently visited the non-profit Enbarr Foundation in Queensferry to discuss their exciting ‘Shotton Point’ John Summers site project, bringing local people, businesses and community organisations together to plan, develop and build the future of the site.

“The area between Wrexham and Mold , where I live, was once the site of many collieries. The Llay Miner’s Heritage Centre is dedicated to telling the story of the coal mining industry in north-east Wales.

North East Wales Heritage Forum celebrates, conserves and promotes the Region’s rich Heritage.

“The Roman’s mined Lead at Halkyn, Sandstone was quarried at Gwespyr and industrial initiatives centred on the Greenfield Valley, ranging from copper to cotton, are an exemplar of the Industrial Revolution.

“I commend the guided heritage walks through Greenfield Valley and visits to its Heritage Park.

“I also attended Northop Heritage Group’s History Day on 21st September, which ranged from coaching routes to brick making in Buckley.

“Later this month Theatr Clwyd’s Promenade Performances of the Mold Riots 150 years ago remember the social unrest after two coal miners were sentenced to prison for attacking the Manager of Leeswood Green Colliery, which influenced the future of Policing of public disturbances across Great Britain.

“It is now time for the Welsh Government to turn words into action by bringing all this people-power together to unlock the potential for regional industrial heritage-led regeneration”.

ENDS


AM challenges Welsh Government over perception that progress is being made in the Integrated Autism Service

North Wales Assembly Member and Chair of the Cross Party Autism Group, Mark Isherwood, has challenged the Welsh Government this week over the Health Minister’s Statement regarding the progress being made in Autism Services.

Speaking in yesterday’s Business Statement, Mr Isherwood called for a Statement or Debate on the Health Minister’s Written Statement on ‘Improvements in autism services’, published last week, in which he discredits the benefits of the Autism Act in England and states “'There is no equivalent to the progress we are making in Wales in the Integrated Autism Service”.

Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Isherwood said:

“I call for a Statement on improvements in autism services. On 23 September, a week ago yesterday, the Health Minister issued a Written Statement with that title, which merits an Oral Statement or even a Debate in Welsh Government time.

“It states, for example: 'Some see the answer is to introduce autism legislation, but we know that in England where the Autism Act was passed in 2009, this has not achieved the benefits that were promised'.

And, it says: 'There is no equivalent to the progress we are making in Wales in the Integrated Autism Service'.

“However, the National Autistic Society in England tell me that there has been significant progress in having a diagnostic pathway under the Autism Act there, with many more people presenting for diagnosis. Every area has an autism lead, and the last report said that the number of autistic people who have been found eligible for social care is up, and more diagnosis pathways are specialist autism ones. The wider Autism Community has asked me to challenge the perception that progress is being made in the integrated Autism Service where, for example, we don't have any information from it that measures outcomes for autistic people who have accessed the service, and much more besides, but I haven't got time to go into this now. It does merit time to ask appropriate questions accordingly.”

In her response the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans AM, said: “ In terms of autism services, I know that the Minister had received reports on two independent reviews on autism—one that related to children and young people's neurodevelopmental services, and then a second that looked at the integrated autism service. He accepted those recommendations and set out how he would move forward on those. But he has said that he's commissioning a review to ensure that services are meeting people's needs and that money is being invested where it is needed.”

Speaking outside the Chamber, Mr Isherwood added:

“When members of the Autism Community asked me to challenge the perception that progress is being made in the Integrated Autism Service, where we don’t have any information from it that measures outcomes for autistic people who have accessed the service, they also told me that in relation to the neurodevelopmental waiting list, there are significant delays for diagnostic assessment, that the Health Minister recently provided information to the Children, Young People and Education Committee which suggests that only 44% of children and young people in Wales are receiving a diagnostic assessment within the stated waiting time target of 26-weeks, and that although his Written Statement says that AMs ‘wanted to see our reforms being delivered at pace’, the Autism Code and the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Code are both now subject to delay”.

ENDS


Welsh Government urged to help people with Motor Neurone Disease get their housing adaptations quickly and easily

North Wales Assembly Member and Chair of the Cross Party Group on Neurological Conditions, Mark Isherwood, has called for a Welsh Government Statement this week on support for people with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), emphasizing the need to get home adaptations for people with MND done quickly and easily.

Speaking in yesterday’s Business Statement, Mr Isherwood referred to calls made by the Motor Neurone Disease Association for a faster and fairer process for people with MND needing home adaptations.

He said:

“I call for a Statement on support for people with Motor Neurone Disease. Last week, the Motor Neurone Disease Association launched their 'Act to Adapt' report on housing adaptations for people living with Motor Neurone Disease, pointing out that people with MND need their home adaptations quickly and easily, so that they can live safely, independently and with dignity. Their calls included for national Governments in England and Wales to review the funding distribution formula for Disability Facility Grants, taking into account levels of disability and income, housing tenure and regional variations in building costs; for Governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to review the means test to address key identified problems; and for national Governments, including Wales, to include target waiting times for urgent and non-urgent works in transparent and measurable standards for adaptations, and to monitor against those targets.”

The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans AM, told Mr Isherwood to write to the Health Minister with regard to the concerns he raised.

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