Assembly Voice: 4 October 2017

18th September 2017 marked 20 years since the Welsh devolution referendum.  Many of us will never forget that night, with its nail-bitingly narrow final vote. However, it is good to see that support for devolution has grown across Wales since.

Looking back, we can clearly see the difference devolution has made to Wales despite the impact of public sector austerity imposed by the UK Government.

The list of achievements is long, with Welsh Labour delivering for Wales and for Cynon Valley. For my column this month, I have picked out a few personal highlights.

Since devolution, Wales has embarked on the biggest school building programme since the 1960s, worth £1.4 billion since 2014 alone.  This has seen investment in schools and colleges in Cynon Valley of over £100 million – the highest of any constituency in Wales!

The Welsh Government has attracted international praise for its support programmes which have helped Wales through the global economic recession. Bold policies like Proact, React and Jobs Growth Wales have created new opportunities for young people in particular, 17,000 of whom have benefited from new jobs.

It is good to see that devolution has led to a position where spending on health and social care in Wales is higher per head than it is in England. Innovative laws tackling the impact of smoking and creating an opt-out system for organ donation have improved public health. Welsh Labour has also ended the scandal of people on low incomes having to go without prescription drugs because they can’t afford to pay for all the items their doctors say they need, by introducing free prescriptions.

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act has created a new framework for our understanding of the finite resources in the world around us. Devolution has also seen improved recycling rates here in Wales. 20 years ago, Wales recycled 4% of its waste but now we recycle, reuse or compost 64%, making us the third best country in the world.

I believe the next 20 years of devolution will see even further improvements to our country, and our community.