Column by Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP for the Glamorgan GEM:
Firstly, I want to congratulate everyone at Barry Town United for qualifying for the Europa League and express how proud we all are of their achievements this season. Gavin Chesterfield and his team have done an excellent job and I wish them every success going forward.
On the key issues impacting the Vale, last week the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee discussed the proposal to introduce parking charges. I sent comments to the Committee, strongly setting out my opposition to charges. We have learned that the charges would do little in terms of bringing in revenue for the local authority but would present a major challenge to local traders.
Businesses in Cowbridge, Llantwit Major and Barry, particularly on Barry Island, have worked hard with the local authority to build a destination for visitors, which attracts people and creates jobs. Barry Island recently featured in the Department for International Trade’s prospectus for investment opportunities at a global summit. We need to continue to embrace opportunities and resist throwing up barriers to investment and progress.
I’m pleased that Councillors at the Scrutiny meeting listened to our concerns and recommended changes to the proposals. However, readers should note that this is only one step in the process and the fight against parking charges isn’t over yet.
Another matter that is causing deep concerns to teachers, parents and governors as we enter the new financial year is the underfunding of local schools and the consequences this has on school budgets. I have serious concerns about the current state of school funding in the Vale of Glamorgan by the Welsh Government, which puts the Vale at the bottom of the funding table. That’s why I have written to Jane Hutt AM to ask that she works with me and others on a cross-party approach to tackle this issue.
The Welsh Government’s funding formula works against the Vale, compared with other local authorities in Wales. The data sets that are being used are 20 years old, again prejudicing against the Vale.
I have tried once before to organise a cross-party campaign to the Welsh Government seeking a change. Unfortunately, the response from other political parties at that time was disappointing, to say the least, and the Welsh Government’s reply was that to change the formula, all 22 local authorities would have to agree. Clearly, this is highly unlikely to happen when some would become worse off – even if more equitable.
The Welsh Government also said that they were merely passing on Westminster cuts to schools. This is wholly wrong. Within the first six months of becoming the Secretary of State for Wales, I negotiated a new funding formula with the Treasury and with the Welsh Government. Wales now received £120 for every £100 spent in England. Mark Drakeford, the then Finance Minister agreed at the time that it was a fair settlement.
In the meantime, this remains an issue and presents a significant challenge to local schools. I will again try to organise a cross party campaign to seek changes and I am hopeful that we can achieve a positive outcome for pupils in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Finally, at the end of this month I’m running my 8th London Marathon to raise funds for Dementia Revolution and Guide Dogs Cymru. Although recent events have meant that I haven't quite managed to keep training on track, the thought of supporting these charities and the incredible work that they do will no doubt get me over the line.
I’ve been working with both of these incredibly important charities recently and I’m really looking forward to playing a role supporting them.
Please support these excellent causes here: www.virginmoneygiving.com/aluncairns