Plaid vow to recruit 1,000 doctors
Friday 11th October 2013, 12:10PM BST.
Plans have been launched to create 1,000 more doctors’ jobs in Wales – via a 20p levy on sugary drinks.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood believes her homeland has become the laughing stock of Europe – with the health service in crisis and claiming that more people live below the poverty line than in Romania.
As well as targeting to get Wales’ NHS in a better condition, the former probation officer is also pledging to cut household bills by creating a not-for-profit energy company and slash business rates.
Other policies announced by the 41-year-old at her party’s annual conference included solving the housing crisis by introducing restrictions on second home ownership and stop “unwanted” benefit claimants from affluent areas of England getting cheap homes in Wales.
She said: “The Welsh Government I will lead will introduce a sugary drink levy of up to 20p per litre.
“We will employ 1,000 more doctors with the monies raised, bringing Wales up to the UK average and reducing the need to take services further away from people.
“This is Plaid Cymru’s alternative to hospital centralisation.
“We are told that hospital services have to be closed because there aren’t enough doctors.
“We will provide more doctors so that those services can stay open and stay safe.
“If a thousand more doctors sounds over-ambitious, consider this.
“With them, Wales would be brought up to the just UK average.
“So we must have those extra doctors.
“And a Plaid Cymru government will deliver them.”
Ms Wood has been at the helm for Plaid for more than 18 months – a time in which the party managed to retain its Ynys Mon constituency seat after former leader Ieuan Wyn Jones quit the Assembly to head a new science park in north Wales.
However, the nationalists still have ground to make up if they are to realise their dream of winning the next Assembly election in 2016. Last time around, they lost four seats and saw the Welsh Conservatives usurp them as the Senedd’s second largest party.
It culminated in Plaid launching an internal review and re-think of how to win over voters – with recommendations including broadening its appeal to English-speaking voters.
Since taking the helm, Welsh learner Ms Wood said she wanted to win in all parts of Wales and has made advances to woo over business owners as well as previous non Plaid voters.
During her 45 minute-long conference speech, she spoke of the rising cost of living – and highlighted a 73% rise in profits of the “Big six energy companies”.
“People in Wales pay more for their electricity than customers in England and Scotland,” she said. “Our country produces more electricity than it uses. If markets are failing the public, then it’s time the public took back the market.
“What we need for the energy market in Wales is what we did when the privatisation of Welsh Water failed. Dwr Cymru was set up as a not-for-dividend company. It has re invested its profits keeping customer bills down.
“People have even been known to have water bill rebates. It has been a successful model. And that is why we are calling for the establishment of a non-profit Glas Cymru-style entity ‘Ynni Cymru’/ Energy Wales.”
She said such a company would buy gas and electricity at wholesale prices and “then sell direct” to “Welsh consumers and businesses”.
She added: “This could be set up by the government as an arms-length company. Surpluses will be split between protecting consumers from volatile wholesale prices and an expansion of energy efficiency measures.”
Ms Wood also urged the UK Government to cut VAT on energy immediately.
“Too many in fuel poverty can’t afford to wait until 2015,” she said. “Cutting VAT on energy would save each household £60 each in the next year. And it should be done now, before the Winter freeze sets in.”
The 300 or so crowd listening to Ms Wood, who spoke in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, also had their attention drawn to the 190,000 households in the rental sector.
“In Wales over the last year rent has on average risen by 5%, well above the UK average,” she said.”This is completely unsustainable. I am therefore announcing our intention today to reintroduce rent control for the private rented sector during the next Assembly term.
“The Party of Wales wants to see living wages for Welsh workers, but we also have to see living rents that do not eat up a family’s entire disposable income. Because people have the right to a decent home at an affordable price.”
She said that Plaid would also introduce legislation to give county councils the power to restrict second homes ownership in designated areas of Wales.
“We’ll also seek to end the policy of using Wales as a cheap source of housing for the unwanted benefit claimants of affluent areas in England,” she said.
“Plaid Cymru will require local authorities and registered social landlords to give clear priority to people with genuine local connections. We should not stand silent and accept this social engineering.
“Its just not fair on anybody to send people without work to places where there are few jobs. We cannot allow London and the affluent south east of England to export its poverty and its problems to Wales when we have so many of our own that we need to address.”
The Rhondda-based AM – who frequently repeated her party’s new slogan “Wales First” several times during her speech – also said a Plaid government would cut business rates paid by businesses with a rateable value of less than £15,000 and businesses rated below £10,000 will no longer pay non-domestic rates.
Ms Wood also was keen to talk up Plaid’s recent £100 million draft budget deal with the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Labour-run assembly government.
The University of Glamorgan graduate said part of that deal would lead to a pioneering new treatment for prostate cancer patients, using so-called “Da Vinci” robots.
However, Ms Wood was less than complimentary about her political rivals in the Senedd – and reserved her most stinging criticism for Carwyn Jones’ ruling party.
“The poverty of our politics in Wales at the moment is a national embarrassment,” she said.”A First Minister refusing to answer direct questions. Government Ministers refusing interviews, yes, refusing to be scrutinised by the media.
“The farce of ministers holding up placards against their own policies. It makes us a laughing stock.”
She also renewed her calls for the voting age to be lowered to 16 as well as insisting Plaid was the “party of peace” – mentioning its opposition for military intervention in Syria – and reaffirming its pro-European agenda.
“That is not to say that we sign up to all aspects of the European Union in its current form,” she remarked.”We want to see more co-operation, more redistribution. And we want Wales to be on a level playing field, so that we are not reliant on hand-outs, so that we can stand on our own two feet.”
Welsh Labour laughed off Plaid’s policy suggestions – branding them as not being credible.
A spokesman said that in order for Plaid’s sugary drinks levy to pay for 1,000 doctors every man woman and child in the country would have to consume over 135 litres per year.
“Linking the promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle, in order to pay for improved medical services, is a not sensible way forward,” he added.
“This ill-thought idea shows how out of touch and out of ideas Plaid are.”