A glimmer of hope in a challenging world - the role of collaborative politics in Wales
A collaborative budget that will deliver free school meals to all primary school pupils in Wales is something worth celebrating, writes Sian Gwenllian MS
This article was published in Nation Cymru on Sunday 6 March
This week, the Welsh Government published its budget and with it the culmination of months of co-operative working between Plaid Cymru and the Government – with the result being tangible, life changing policies for thousands of families across Wales.
It is by working together that people and communities make a difference. In the same way, working together across party lines ensures we can achieve so much more.
Behind the scenes, I and fellow Plaid Cymru representatives have been working with the Government to bring about positive and tangible changes to the everyday lives of people and communities across Wales.
And true enough, at its heart, this budget secures a whopping £200 million investment in free school meals for all primary school children.
This pledge has been a central part of Plaid Cymru’s policy offering for years and is now taking centre stage and highest priority within this budget.
Feeding children should never be a source of debate and here that principle is put into practice.
So, from September this year, thousands more children will receive free school meals. And, on top of the commitments secured through the Co-Operation agreement, the budget also secures additional funding to extend free school meals provision for all eligible children in the school holidays to the end of the summer.
With food costs, and the cost of living in general, fast increasing, the continuation of this policy that has been in place during the pandemic will ensure some of our most needy families are going to receive the crucial support they deserve.
But take the Co-operation Agreement more generally.
It really does deliver for the whole of Wales, and for the benefit of all our communities. For example, there will be £11 million for the Arfor scheme - a direct boost to the economies of the west. And there are concrete steps to tackle the housing crisis that blights every community – north to south – as well as sowing the seeds of a national care service that will ensure access to care for everyone, free to everyone.
As we look to tackle and mitigate the impact of the climate emergency, this budget will enable us to work together towards establishing a publicly owned energy company for Wales – Ynni Cymru – to expand community-owned renewable energy generation.
In addition, there will be significant investments, including an additional £48 million, plus £102 million of capital funding, to strengthen our national resilience and tackle flooding. This is in addition to commissioning an independent review of the response to the flooding caused by extreme weather in Wales during winter 2020 and winter 2021.
The creative sector, too, has suffered greatly due to the pandemic. That’s why there will be an additional £27 million over the next three years to support culture, media and broadcasting. This will assist us as we prepare to bring powers for broadcasting and communications home to Wales.
As a package, this is a budget that shows how working together can make a real difference to the lives of people and communities in every part of the country. There are a series of investments that address social inequalities, tackle climate change, and build back from the pandemic as we face the major challenges of the future together.
It is a tangible and practical demonstration of our commitment to help the most vulnerable in our society; putting our principles into action through this national budget.
Politics is not perfect, but this new way of doing co-operative politics to make people’s lives better will make a difference to the lives of many communities and people up and down the country and presents a glimmer of hope in an increasingly challenging world.