Carwyn Jones, Labour leader and First Minister for Wales, was grilled this morning about devolution and the future of public services in Wales.

In a brief television interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Jones defended his decision not to ring-fence the NHS, and maintained that the Wales Job Fund would tackle what Marr described at “unemployment black spots”.

Carwyn Jones AC

Carwyn Jones, courtesy of Flickr

“I do not believe for one moment health has been ring fenced in England,” he said. Mr Jones highlighted the 7.5% decrease in Wales’ health budget.

“We can only do what we can with the money that we get,” he said.

Mr Jones said of unemployment: “There is no one answer. The last thing you do is remove the future job fund – taking away the scheme that helped them the most seems ridiculous.”

He claimed the Wales Job Fund would create 4,000 jobs for young people.

Marr tried to rustle Mr Jones’s feathers by asking him if he felt Wales had to “march in step” with Westminster.

“We have a business-like relationship with the UK,” Mr Jones replied. “We want to shield people from the worst effects of cuts. We do things in Wales not because we want to be different for the sake of it or to be awkward,” he maintained.

Marr also suggested that Welsh universities would become “second class” and “pound saver” universities if they decided against raising their tuition fees.

Mr Jones explained he did not want to price “talented young people” out of university, and reminded Marr that some universities would be able to raise their fees if they met certain criteria.

The council’s strategy was unclear, grit bins were not sufficiently refilled, and the snow’s dry and powdery texture made it difficult to clear, an independent Snow Report has revealed.

Photo: Katey Pigden

The report, carried out by a management and transport consultant, critiqued Cardiff Council’s handling of the snow in December, and made recommendations for the future.

The report, written by Brian Smith, was published on Friday, and examined both the planning and the recovery period.

The report described the snow, which blanketed parts of Cardiff with up to 20 centimeters, as “very dry… quite powdery, with a low moisture content, meaning the salt pre-treatment did not have the usual effect in readily turning the snow into slush.” It also maintained that heavy traffic coupled with these conditions made it difficult to use snow ploughs effectively.

Read the article in full at The Cardiffian

More than 10,000 uniformed police officer posts will disappear by the end of next year in England and Wales, Labour Party research suggests.

The coalition government has maintained that frontline jobs can be protected, despite the 20% police budget cuts by 2014-15 ser by the Comprehensive Spending Review.

But Labour Party research, which gathered figures from 42 police authorities in England and Wales – except the British Transport Police – suggests the party claims cannot be realised.

It says a total of 10,190 police officers are to be cut.

Police #3

Photo: Flickr

Shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “Cutting so fast and so deep into police budgets is crazy. It is completely out of touch with communities across the country who want to keep bobbies on the beat.

“How do they think it helps the fight against crime to force so many experienced police officers onto their pensions or trained police community support officers on to the dole, leaving the rest of the force overstretched as a result?

“Chief constables are being put in an impossible position. They are working hard to fight crime, but the government is pulling the rug from underneath them.”

Based on October’s CSR, it is estimated 1,600 jobs could be lost across Wales’ four forces over the next four years.

South Wales Police . CN06DDY . Ponypridd Town Centre .05th-July-2010

Photo: Flickr

South Wales Police alone faces a £47m funding gap over the four years, which equates to 688 officers and staff whose jobs could be lost.

Unison Gwent Police branch secretary, Linda Sweet, said last week that compulsory job losses look unavoidable. On Friday February 4, she predicted 350 jobs would be cut from the force.

At the end of January, Police Authorities Wales (PAW) agreed to collaborate in key areas to cut costs to try to maintain front line services.

Think tanks have warned that police cuts may have disastrous consequences. In January, Civitas said criminals are less likely to get caught, as police numbers are cut over the coming years.

The report, 2011: The start of a great decade for criminals? said “a nation with fewer police is more likely to have a higher crime rate”.

Similarly, the head of the Police Federation warned last September that proposed cuts would leave the public less safe. Paul McKeever, the federation’s chairman, said the most vulnerable in society would be worst hit, and predicted crime levels will go up.

It’s been a tumultuous year for British politics.

The 13-year Labour reign came to an end, and for the first time in 36 years Britain witnessed a hung parliament. David Cameron and Nick Clegg married in the Downing Street rose garden, promising “new politics”, and Ed Miliband became the youngest Labour leader since World War II.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg

In recent months protesters have taken to the streets to vent their hatred towards the rise in tuition fee rises and the slashing of EMA. The coalition darling, Vince Cable, fell from grace this week after divulging too much to what he thought were two constituents.

Tuition Fees Protest

Political memoirs have proliferated, as Brown, Blair and Mandelson reflect on their time in government. Britain witnessed the first televised leaders debates, followed by ‘Clegg-mania’ and a more American-style election culture. As Michael Jeremy, ITV’s Director of News, Current Affairs and Sport, told students during his lecture last month, this was an unprecedented event which has totally transformed the way voters engage with politics. After 15 drafts and countless compromises, Clegg Cameron and Brown finally took to the stage and debated in public. Hailed by Jeremy as a “success for a democracy”, the debates are probably the most significant development in coverage of British political life.

So what does the future hold for those walking the corridors of power?

Miliband will be pressed to formulate an alternative strategy, after being mocked by the Tories on a weekly basis in the panto that is Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Lib Dems are likely to come under increasing pressure from voters, as they backtrack on the promises they made on the campaign trail. Accused of being “held hostage” by the coalition government, the Lib Dems will need to carve out their own identity, and restore people’s faith in the party, which many predict will split and splinter. Clegg looks set to be in dire need of some tweezers.

Meeting in Downing Street

The Tories’ concept of the “Big Society” has gone down like a lead balloon, with widespread confusion about what the idea actually means. Eric Pickle’s desire to empower “communities” and cut the red tape has raised eyebrows, as the logistics of the plans come under scrutiny. It does, however, look set to dominate the 2011 agenda.

CPP_Conservative_party_344

The brutality of the VAT rise and cuts to local government will come to fruition next year, as thousands more lose their jobs and homes.

Who knows what the future holds for our politicians, but it will be fascinating to see the melodrama unfold. ‘Clameron’ is keen to convince voters we’ve moved into an era of “new politics”, but voters don’t seem to have bought it. The public’s opposition has dominated the news agenda in recent months, and the sense of betrayal is mounting. But of course voters have a short memory, and it remains to be seen whether the newlyweds will be forgiven at the next ballot box.

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