Tag Archives: kirsty williams

Kirsty Williams on re-opening schools in Wales

It was good to see Welsh Education minister, Kirsty Williams, fronting a press conference yesterday on the re-opening of schools in Wales.

In contrast to Boris Johnson’s plans for England, which have generated widespread concern, Wales is taking a more cautious and devolved approach. All schools there will re-open on 29th June, staggering attendance to ensure that only a third of pupils will be on site at any one time. Schools and councils will decide how that is to be implemented locally, phasing in the scheme to suit local conditions.

Term dates will be adjusted, with a week’s extension to the summer term and a two week half term break in October.

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Kirsty Williams outshines Williamson with her guidance on Wales school re-opening.

Education spokesperson Layla Moran has often expressed her frustration with the Government for the mess it is making over re-opening schools.

If only there was a sensible Lib Dem Education Secretary.

But wait. There is. In Wales.

Our Kirsty Williams has been giving Gavin Williamson a masterclass in how to set out a comprehensive, detailed plan which keeps people on side and gives them enough time to do what is necessary. It’s the perfect example of competence, clarity and calm.

She said:

As Education Minister, I will make the decisions on how and when more pupils in Wales will return to school. Today I am sharing further information on how those decisions will be reached.

“Nothing would make me happier than seeing our classrooms full again. But I want to be clear that this framework does not – and I will not – set an arbitrary date for when more pupils will return to school. Setting a date before we have more evidence, more confidence and more control over the virus would be the wrong thing to do.

“This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing operation. These changes will be complex, with many different considerations. I want the working document to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback.

“I am sharing this today to be as transparent as possible. I want everyone to know the extent of the issues related to the next phase.

“When we are ready to move into that next phase, I will ensure that there is enough time for preparation and for staff to carry out any necessary training.”

In drawing up her decision framework, she is consulting with a wide range of stakeholders including unions, teachers and education providers.

Kirsty is being open and transparent about her approach and sets out the basis on which she will make her decisions in the Decision Framework document. 

In its foreword she writes:

This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing the operations of schools or other providers.

For example, in allowing time to plan ahead, there are a series of connected decisions. We will work towards the next end-of-cycle review, but I can also guarantee that the ‘next phase’ won’t start midweek; there will be preparation and training time for teachers, and we will work with local authorities to ensure the necessary cleaning and hygiene operations and products are in place.

I can guarantee that an increase in operations will be a phased approach. I do not expect that schools or other education settings across Wales will be open for all learners, from all years, all week, anytime soon.

I am sharing this working document, and framework for decisions, to show the extent of the issues related to the next phase. I want it to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback from the education family, including parents and carers, children and young people.

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27 January 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: UK access to crime databases at risk post Brexit
  • Welsh Liberal Democrats welcome landmark for Welsh education
  • Liberal Democrats challenge Minister on Met facial recognition surveillance

Liberal Democrats: UK access to crime databases at risk post Brexit

Following reports that the exchange of key security information is at risk post Brexit, due to concerns over Britain’s record in protecting personal information, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

Our police rely heavily on co-operation with our EU partners to identify criminals and bring them to justice. It’s incredibly alarming that these government scandals threaten to undermine that co-operation, making us all less

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21 January 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Tories’ new counter-terror plans undermine civil liberties
  • Welsh Lib Dems: Every child has a right to RSE
  • Govt must invest to demonstrate it values teachers
  • Welsh Lib Dems: UK Government must rethink Withdrawal Bill
  • Lib Dem peers win vote to protect child refugees

Tories’ new counter-terror plans undermine civil liberties

Responding to the Government’s announcement of new counter-terror legislation, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

If you could stop terrorism by passing illiberal new laws, the Conservatives would have ended it ages ago.

It’s less than a year since the Conservatives passed their last piece of unnecessary, reactionary legislation in the name of combatting

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13 January 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Treasury must act on rural ATM charges
  • UK facing worst slowdown since aftermath of financial crisis

Treasury must act on rural ATM charges

Jane Dodds has joined Kirsty Williams AM and Cllr James Gibson-Watt in calling for the UK Treasury to take action to abolish transaction charges at rural ATMs.

Transactional charges are becoming increasingly common across Wales as more and more banks cut back on support to ATM providers, meaning the running costs are being passed onto the customers. The ATM at Hay Post Office is the most recent local example of this, with customers now being charged 99p per transaction.

Jane Dodds, Leader …

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13 January 2020 – the overnight press release

Welsh Lib Dems reducing infant class sizes

The Welsh Liberal Democrats’ Infant Class Sizes Fund has been found to be ‘making a real difference’ a new report published today has shown.

The £36m Infant Class Sizes Fund is a Welsh Lib Dem policy that was implemented as part of the Progressive Agreement between Kirsty Williams and the First Minister. The policy targets schools that would most benefit from smaller classes, such as those with high levels of deprivation.

The report shows that the percentage of all infant classes and learners in classes over 30 has reduced since the introduction of the grant, with …

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Vince Cable MP reflects on recent events and some holiday reading


Jane Dodds applauds helpers at Brecon – Photo by Callum Littlemore

I heard the good news about Brecon and Radnorshire having disappeared for some R&R as soon as Parliament closed, and the new Lib Dem leadership was settled. I was delighted with the result not just for Jane Dodds and our campaigners – who fully deserved it – but for an excellent colleague, Roger Williams, who didn’t deserve to lose back in 2015. Our victory is testament also to Kirsty Williams, our AM, who kept the Lib Dem flame, and local party, alive through the years of exile.

I enjoyed my three visits to the constituency as party leader for more than the politics. I had memories of a mis-spent and romantic youth as a mountain guide in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons; an idyllic second honeymoon in a hotel below Pen-y-Fan; and several literary fests at Hay. Jane helped Rachel and me to locate a stunning B&B in ‘the oldest house in Wales’, a farmhouse and restored annex reached through three farm gates high up a hillside on the banks of the Wye and serving food which would not have been out of place in a top restaurant. A great by-election in more ways than one.

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Helping parents with the cost of school uniforms is a great campaign

For an example of the real difference Liberal Democrats in government can make to peoples lives, look no further than the announcement by Kirsty Williams of new guidance on school uniforms in Wales.

There’s no doubt that the cost of school uniforms can be a real issue for poor families and the tendency of some schools to make arbitrary decisions which put up the cost are an example of how arbitrary decisions by the state can adversely affect people lives.

The Children’s Society have issued several reports on this, highlighting the high costs caused by schools which have over complicated uniforms …

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30 April 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Four Seasons collapse shows social care crisis unfolding on Tory’s watch
  • Gosport investigation vital to ensure justice is done – Lamb
  • Free sanitary products to be available in Welsh colleges
  • Lib Dems: A vote for Labour is a vote for Brexit

Four Seasons collapse shows social care crisis unfolding on Tory’s watch

Responding to the news that one of Britain’s largest care home groups, Four Seasons Health Care, is on the brink of administration, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

For the many thousands of residents and staff at the Four Seasons Health Care, the news that the group is set to go into administration

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Kirsty Williams extends help to disadvantaged children in school

Welsh Lib Dem education secretary Kirsty Williams has announced an increase in funding for disadvantaged children in school.

The announcement will provide support to an additional 14,000 learners.

Introduced in 2018, PDG-Access helps families cover the costs of school uniform, sports kits, as well as equipment for activities outside of the school. To receive the support, learners must be eligible for free school meals.

Currently, PDG-Access is worth £125 per eligible pupil entering reception class in primary school or Year 7. Today’s announcement means the scheme will be extended to include Year 3 and Year 10, and provide funding for looked after children (LAC) in every compulsory school year. Eligible families of Year 7 pupils will receive £200, instead of the current £125; relieving some of the increased costs associated with starting secondary school.

Extending the PDG was a key part of the Progressive Agreement between the First Minister and Kirsty Williams.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:

The Pupil Development Grant (PDG) is a key Welsh Liberal Democrat policy that supports our most disadvantaged pupils. I am delighted we have been able to extend the policy further to support families with the cost of uniforms and school equipment.

This, alongside Kirsty Williams’ pledge to introduce statutory guidance to reduce the cost of schools uniforms, will go a long way in supporting families.

Kirsty  said:

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5 April 2019 – today’s press releases

It’s been a pleasant evening in our small, but perfectly formed, village. There’s been beer, some splendid homemade sausage rolls, and a quiz (our team won!). Sadly, the real world has a nasty way of reasserting itself…

  • Brake: Yet another desperate move from a failing PM
  • Pupil Decelopment Grant Access extended to support more families
  • Breakdown of talks with Corbyn signals closing time for May’s Deal

Brake: Yet another desperate move from a failing PM

Responding to the news that the PM has written to the EU calling for a short extension of Article 50, already rejected by the EU, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom …

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12 December 2018 – today’s press releases

So, another day when much has happened, but little has obviously changed. It’s a bit like ‘Waiting for Godot’, in that Brexit is supposedly coming, but never actually seems to turn up…

  • Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions
  • Agreement Reached Between new First Minister and Kirsty Williams
  • Lamb: Labour’s abstention on cannabis vote ‘deeply depressing’

Cable: Conservative spat won’t resolve deepening divisions

Responding to the reports that the Prime Minister will face a vote of confidence in her leadership, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Theresa May’s deal is a total mess and is the latest backdrop for yet another Conservative meltdown over

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The rest of us can learn from what the Welsh are doing with education….

Two recent press releases have caught my eye. As PPC for North Devon, a rural economy where, on average, schools get £300 less per pupil than in the rest of England, I am keen on education reform. Key to that is ensuring good teaching and supporting our teachers.

So I was pleased to see that Welsh Lib Dem Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced the single biggest investment in Wales’ teachers since devolution. This is through a groundbreaking £24m package to help teachers deliver Wales’ new curriculum. Kirsty says,

This major investment shows how highly we value teachers’ professional learning. It is an investment in excellence and we are aiming for nothing less than a wholesale reform of how teachers learn; a process that starts from the moment they begin initial teacher education and goes right the way through their career.

The National Approach to Professional Learning (NAPL) will focus on flexible ways of learning that don’t disrupt the school day. A much more accessible blend of learning will be available through Wales’ regions and universities. This will encompass learning outside the classroom, online learning, classroom learning and coaching.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented,

This announcement is yet another example of the transformational reforms the Welsh Lib Dems are implementing in our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to creating a Wales where every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential and determine their own destiny. This funding will help us realise this vision.

Not only are the Welsh investing in teachers, but they are also protecting rural schools.  Kirsty Williams introduced a new, stronger code last week which includes a presumption against the closure of rural schools. This is part of a wider Rural Education Plan which also includes a Small and Rural Schools Grant.

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12 November 2018 – today’s press releases

This feature is now back on UK time, and so, here’s what we’ve got for you this evening…

  • Welsh Lib Dems Investing in Teachers
  • Brexit can be stopped but Corbyn must get out of the way
  • Ed Davey: Hostile environment must be completely scrapped
  • Brake: Corbyn must listen to Brown

Welsh Lib Dems Investing in Teachers

Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced the single biggest investment in support for Wales’ teachers since devolution through a groundbreaking £24m package to help teachers deliver Wales’ new curriculum.

The National Approach to Professional Learning (NAPL), announced today by the Education Secretary, will focus on professional learning and …

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1 November 2018 – today’s press releases

We’ve got a veritable torrent of press releases today, starting with an example of the Party being rather more radical than Labour…

Cable: £1.3 billion for higher-rate payers should be used to reverse welfare cuts

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will be voting against the Government’s plans to raise the higher-rate tax threshold to £50,000.

The policy – announced in Monday’s budget – will cost an estimated £1.3 billion pounds next year, money which could instead be used to reverse cuts to Universal Credit or end the benefits freeze a year early.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince …

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WATCH: Kirsty on introducing inclusive sex education in Wales

Kirsty Williams is the Lib Dem representative in the world of Government at the moment and she’s doing great liberal things. This week, she announced that Welsh schoolchildren will receive inclusive sex and relationship education from the time they start school.

From Walesonline

The new version – which will see the topic become relationships and sexuality education (RSE) – places an emphasis on “forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships”.

Announcing the change the Welsh Government added: “Learners will also be given a much broader understanding of sexuality that is fully inclusive of LGBTQI+ learners and includes wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse, and respecting diversity.

“The decision to change the focus of this area of study to relationships and sexuality, as well as the decision to make it statutory, reflects its immense importance in terms of how learners understand themselves, each other, their community and society.”

Watch Kirsty talking about it below:

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Liberal Democrats mark World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.

For me it’s a day to reflect on how far we have come since I started to suffer from mental ill health as a child. Forty years ago, nobody understood the desperate, isolating, all-engulfing Depression that I couldn’t shake off, that took every ounce of my energy just to get through the day. I remember trying to talk about it to a friend once, and she scared the living daylights out of me, telling me I’d be locked up in a hospital if anyone found out.

There was the exhausting anxiety which punctuated every day – not helped by the fact that round every corner there might be another bully lurking to shout “Yak” at me. That’s what they called me at school. I just wish I’d had Google then to reassure me that, whatever my tormentors meant, these beasts were actually kind of cute.

My teens were a struggle and because I didn’t get the help I needed, I either didn’t cope very well or developed some fairly unhelpful strategies to deal with it. Comfort eating for one.

We can perhaps be a little bit proud of ourselves as a society that four decades on, we are at least attempting to tackle the stigma around mental health, so that no young person need fear that they are going to be locked up.

However, we should also be ashamed that this new openness has not been accompanied by the provision of sufficient support services for people with mental ill health.

There is one area I want to focus on – the transition from child to adult mental health services. Once you get into the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, you can actually get some pretty reasonable support. It’s arranged in a fairly logical way with consultants, psychologists and nurses working together to support young people. Unfortunately not every young person who needs help can get it at all, and most have to wait far too long.  It is not uncommon to wait for more than a year to even see a specialist.

Mental health issues generally aren’t resolved overnight, so you have a year of turmoil while you are waiting to be seen and, maybe another couple of years of reasonably intensive support – and then you turn 18. All the effort put into helping you is now at risk as you are put into the virtually non-existent twilight world of adult mental health services which are disparate, insufficient and as suitable for the scale of the problem as  trying to surf the Atlantic on a My Little Pony lilo.

This country is being robbed of the talents of some wonderful individuals simply because it does not invest in the services they need to stay well.

Even the most cruel and heartless government should surely recognise that the cost of not supporting these people is enormous to both our economy and our society.

I’m incredibly proud that Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb have done so much to improve mental health services and tackle the stigma around mental health. One of the most horrible things about the run-up to the 2015 election was the almost certain knowledge that Norman wouldn’t be mental health minister any more.

Today, Liberal Democrats have been marking Mental Health Day in a variety of ways:

Kirsty Williams made this video highlighting mental ill health in the workplace:

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LibLink: Kirsty William: It’s not about whether we charge tuition fees. In Wales, we’ve found a third way

The one Liberal Democrat left in national government, Kirsty Williams, has written an article for the Guardian in which she sets out what she is introducing in Wales – a plan to help students with living costs which will support part time and postgraduate students too:

The new support package in Wales will cover those who start their course in 2018/19, wherever in the UK they choose to study. Every student will be entitled to support equivalent to the national living wage. This means that eligible full-time students will receive maintenance support of £11,250 if they study in London and £9,000 per year elsewhere if they live away from home.

This will be delivered through a mix of loans and grants, unlike in England where zero maintenance grants are available. Very small, limited grants are available in Scotland, but they too are currently reviewing the system.

Welsh students from the lowest household income will receive the highest grant – £8,100 in their pocket, and more in London. Our estimates suggest that a third of full-time students will be eligible for that full grant.

Furthermore, our data shows that the average household income for a student in our current system is around £25,000. Under the new system such a student will receive around £7,000 a year in their pocket.

However, potentially the most radical element of our reforms is to provide equivalent support for part-time and postgraduate students. Wales will be the first in Europe to achieve this. For the first time, part-time undergraduates will receive similar support for maintenance, pro-rata to their full-time counterparts.

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Kirsty Williams on the “divisive” political atmosphere

Former Welsh Lib Dem Leader Kirsty Williams has spoken out about the unpleasant divisiveness of our political atmosphere after one of her team was racially abused and she had the unsettling experience of a man making a shooting gesture and telling her Liberals should be shot.

From Wales Online:

Describing the change she has seen since the EU referendum, she said: “I think ever since the Brexit vote I think politics has become very divisive in a way I haven’t witnessed in all these years and I think in some ways that has unleashed something where the country is very, very, very divided and that’s to be regretted and unfortunately I don’t see how that divide is going to be healed.”

Acknowledging the responsibility of politicians to take care in the language they use, she said: “I think all politicians at all times need to be mindful about how they express their arguments.

“There are legitimate arguments to be expressed but words are powerful and the influence politicians have is powerful and therefore there is a responsibility on all of us to be very mindful about how we conduct ourselves and the language we use.

She described what had happened to her volunteer and the effect that has on people:

“Unfortunately it just seems that this kind of discourse is becoming the norm. We’ve had a volunteer racially abused this week.

“She feels that she can’t go and deliver any leaflets because she was racially abused while just out delivering leaflets.”

The volunteer was someone who wanted to “do her bit in support of the values she believed in and unfortunately feels she won’t be able to do that again”.

The AM fears such experiences will stop people from getting involved in politics.

“That’s the issue, isn’t it,” she said. “Why would people want to put themselves and potentially their families through this?

Read on to find out how she reacted to a Conservative sign being planted in her hedge.

I do agree with Kirsty that politics can be pretty vicious at the moment. I am not sure it’s any worse than when I started out back in the 80s, though. It did calm down for a while in the late 90s. It used to be Labour who were the worst. Power came too easy to them and they responded with an aggressive arrogance to anyone who tried to take it from them. 

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Today at Welsh Conference

Welsh Liberal Democrats gather in Swansea this weekend for their first Spring Conference since the disastrous election last year which saw them lose four of their five AMs. The party has had to pick itself up from that heartbreaking and thoroughly undeserved defeat. It has re-organised its resources and is ready to fight the Council elections in May. They also have the only Liberal Democrat Minister standing, in Kirsty Williams, who is doing a great job as Wales’ Education Secretary. Below is their agenda for the day.

They are having discussion sessions with their party spokespeople, motions on students and the community, ending the right to buy and community banking and  a long debate on their council elections manifesto. The details are below.

Morning session

09:15 Opening of Conference
9:40 Party Spokespeople: Cllr Peter Black: Finance, Local Government, Heritage, & Housing Jane Dodds: Communities & Social Justice

10:00 Topical/Emergency Motion

10:20 PM1: Students and the Local Community

Conference notes:

  1. The positive impact of students and universities on the local economy
  2. The transient nature of student communities
  3. The tensions that can arise between long-term residents and the changing studentpopulation

Conference believes:

  1. Collaboration between groups leads to the most effective and sustainable solutions to the issues and challenges transient communities face
  2. That it is the responsibility of students, landlords, and local authorities to keep the local areas tidy
  3. More can and should be done to improve community relations between long-term and student residents

Conference calls for:

7. Local authorities to work with students unions and universities on a variety of projects including:

  1. Creating an information pack for students and landlords detailing what resources are available to them within the community. This can include material and adverts from local businesses and groups, guidance on contacting the council, guidance around bin collection and local events.
  2. Informing students of their rights as renters through online materials and workshops
  3. Run community building projects such as Cardiff Digs and Love Bangor
  4. Promote and work with Communities 1st and similar groups
  5. To recognise work done by students in the local community through the useof Higher Education Achievement Report or other award schemes

10:50 PM2: Standing up for our Local Communities

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Kirsty Williams on building last year’s elections and building an education system that inspires pride and confidence

Kirsty Williams has been speaking to the South Wales Argus about her role as Education Secretary in the Welsh Government. She has great ambitions for the role.

I want to have an education system that the profession are proud of and parents and learners have confidence in.

That is quite a high bar, and she wants to work in partnership with those groups, unlike a certain former English education secretary whose tenure in office seemed to alienate everyone.

I am confident that by working together we can achieve my ultimate goal, which is to have a first-class education system for Wales and one which people around the world will want to come and look at, what were the changes we undertook and what were the reforms we put through that led to that system.

But I can’t do it on my own. I can only do it in partnership with parents, learners and educators.

What was it, though, that inspired Kirsty to get involved in politics as a young woman?

Growing up in Llanelli, Ms Williams cited watching family members working in the steel industry lose their jobs and seeing a lecture by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Roy Jenkins, later a Lib Dem peer, as one of the biggest influences on her political development.

“I just remember listening to the lecture and thinking ‘I can’t say it in the same words he can but that’s the kind of community and society I want to live in’,” she said.

Being brought up in a family where politics was discussed and debated sparked her interest:

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What do you do when you want to distract from your party driving the country off a cliff?

Well, if you’re Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew R T Davies, you point out to anyone who will listen that Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Secretary voted in accordance with Liberal Democrat policy in the Article 50 debate in the Senedd as if this should be some sort of issue.

Labour AMs were whipped to vote for Article 50 to be invoked.

Davies argues that this broke cabinet responsibility. The BBC has the story:

The Liberal Democrat AM voted with Plaid Cymru against Article 50 despite the Labour group opposing the motion.

Mr Davies suggested some Labour AMs were “sore” over the Senedd vote.

Mr Jones’s spokesman said it was recognised the Lib Dems were in a different position on the matter.

Article 50 of the European Union Lisbon treaty is the trigger that would allow UK ministers to start the process to leave the EU.

The UK government wants to set Article 50 in motion by the end of March.

Mr Davies himself campaigned for Vote Leave at the referendum last year – his group joined Labour and UKIP in voting against the Plaid Cymru proposal in the Senedd on Tuesday.

Only 10 AMs supported the motion to oppose Article 50 being triggered without assurances over the single market, versus 46 against.

The vote if passed would have been advisory and would not have affected the process.

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Conference Countdown 2016: Looking forward to Lib Dem Disco?

For those of you heading to Conference in Brighton this weekend, I hope word has reached you by now that Cambridge Lib Dems are once again hosting the hugely enjoyable Lib Dem Disco in association with UK Music.

It was such fun last year that even Buzzfeed was astounded.

This year will see defending champion DJ Jo Swinson taking on the challenge from Kirsty Williams, Simon Hughes and the ALDC’s own Abi Bell. As before, your MC for the evening is one Julian “J Huppz” Huppert.

Things kick off at 10:30pm in the Balmoral & Buckingham Room, Hilton Metropole, Brighton on Saturday 17th September.

Please note that in previous years a special online discount was offered. This year tickets are all £10 each. We would like to apologise if this was incorrectly stated elsewhere. Naturally you can trust this now that you’ve read it on Lib Dem Voice!

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In Full: Kirsty Williams’ challenge to Welsh universities over Brexit

This week, Kirsty Williams, the Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Secretary, made a speech at Cardiff University about the challenges facing the sector caused by Brexit. She called on universities to strengthen their links to the community at this very difficult time. Here is her speech in full.

Prynhawn da pawb. Good afternoon everyone.

Thank you Colin, and many thanks to colleagues here at Cardiff University for hosting this event today.

It’s great to be here in the Postgraduate Teaching Centre, where professionals from industry and masters students mix and study in the same great location. It is a real state-of –the art facility, one which reflects ambitions to engage strongly with the local and global economy.

One of Cardiff University’s main purposes is to “contribute to the social, cultural and economic development of Wales”. It says so in the university charter (so it must be true…!)

Such civic ambition, in common with our other universities, was the product of a national, political and educational awakening.

As the Aberdare Committee of 1881 noted, there was a “widespread desire for a better education system in Wales” in the second half of the 19th century. The establishment of our own university colleges was central to the fulfilment of that desire.

I know that ambitions for an even better education system in Wales are shared, and demanded, across the country even now. Our national mission is to ensure that all citizens benefit from an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards. I am ambitious, and optimistic, about our collective ability to shape a system that is modern, excellent and innovative.

Universities are critical to that national mission. They should be open and outward-looking, connecting the civic, social and economic.

I want to take the opportunity today to share some thoughts on the role of universities as civic institutions.

  •   The challenge and necessity of civic engagement following the EU referendum;
  •   The role of universities as stewards of community, city and country;
  •   And the importance of innovation, a start-up culture and international links.

    Just before I move on, I’d like to congratulate the sector in Wales for achieving it’s highest-ever student satisfaction level in the National Student Survey last month – outperforming England in fact.

    Although we don’t take the narrow view of students as just a set of consumers, delivering the best possible student experience is a fundamental priority.

    BREXIT NEXT STEPS

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Kirsty Williams on supporting teachers, pupils and students: her vision for Welsh education

Kirsty Williams has been talking to Wales Online about her plans on education secretary. Here are some of the best bits:

On supporting teachers

She used tact and sensitivity, unlike some education secretaries in Whitehall. You are not going to get anything done in schools without getting teachers onside.

“I think there is some excellent practice,” said Ms Williams.

“I think that there are schools and other education institutions that are doing amazing work and children that are having a great education experience, but my concern is that it is not universal.

“There are too many variables between schools – even between schools that find themselves in the same local authority.

“What I want to do is focus on making sure that good practice, that undoubtedly exists within the system in Wales, is shared and adopted by all schools so all of our children, regardless of where they live, have access to the very best education.

“What I have been struck with in recent weeks is that the profession in many areas does not feel valued and I want to raise the status of the teaching profession.

“We are going to be asking a lot of them, it is they that will make the difference to school standards in Wales, not me in an office in Cardiff Bay – so we need to support them to do the job that we expect of them.”

Curriculum reform

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Holding Kirsty to account

When set against the backdrop of our worst performance in a National Assembly election, Kirsty Williams’ elevation to the Welsh Cabinet is nothing short of remarkable. It is no exaggeration to say that she is one of the most powerful Assembly Members in the Senedd Chamber; she may be a lone Welsh Lib Dem voice, but the power to make or break the Welsh Government is hers.

With Kirsty’s support the Welsh Government can command 29 votes, the same as the opposition (less the presiding officer and deputy). A tied no confidence vote results in the presiding officer voting in favour of the status quo. Simply put, Labour’s First Minister Carwyn Jones loses his insurance policy if he doesn’t keep Kirsty onside.

The Welsh Party overwhelmingly endorsed the agreement at a special conference by more than 4 to 1. It is a huge, huge gamble, but it has nothing left to lose. With a Cabinet post comes profile, coverage and exposure that a sole backbench Lib Dem would never have. If you think the Party struggles to get coverage at the UK level, our Welsh coverage is next to nil outside of an election. Frankly, it gives the Welsh Liberal Democrats relevance in Welsh Politics when we should, according to our vote share, be irrelevant.

Without an Assembly group from which to take counsel, or to hold her to account, it also places Kirsty in a very powerful position in her relationship with the Party. With the Party’s endorsement under her belt, she can effectively operate as an independent and take decisions as she sees fit. So what measures will she be judged against, and who will hold her to account?

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+++Breaking: Welsh Special Conference to debate whether Kirsty Williams should enter Cabinet as Education Secretary

Kirsty Williams 2We knew last weekend that Kirsty Williams was talking to Welsh Labour about accepting a Cabinet position and now we know what it is and what she will be bringing to the Cabinet table, subject to the approval of the Welsh Party at a Special Conference on Saturday.

From the Welsh Liberal Democrat website:

Kirsty Williams and the First Minister have reached a Progressive Agreement between the two parties to work together in Government.

The First Minister has invited Kirsty Williams to serve as Cabinet Secretary for Education and subject to ratification by the Welsh Liberal Democrats this weekend, she has accepted.

The agreement enables the implementation of key Welsh Liberal Democrat policy priorities that the party campaigned on during the recent election, ensuring that:

Infant class sizes are reduced to a maximum of 25;
There are more nurses, in more settings, through an extended nurse staffing levels law;
20,000 extra affordable homes are funded;
A new ‘Rent to Own’ housing model is introduced;
Mental health discrimination is ended.
Members of the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be asked to endorse this agreement at a Special Conference will take place this Saturday (21 May).

Commenting on the invitation to be Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams AM said: “Government in Wales has entered a new era. Where there is common ground, we must have the confidence and ambition to work together for the good of its people.

“The test of our new approach is not the warmth of our words, but our commitment to get things done.

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Could Kirsty Williams end up in the Welsh Cabinet? Should she?

After Wednesday’s fun and games in the Welsh Assembly, it has emerged that Kirsty Williams has been approached about possibly taking a seat in the Welsh Cabinet.

From the BBC:

BBC Wales also understands Mr Jones has discussed appointing Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams as a cabinet minister.

Meanwhile the Welsh Tories suggested they will not support Leanne Wood for first minister again without a deal.

Neil Hamilton, UKIP assembly group leader, called on the smaller parties to “stick together” against Labour arrogance.

The Plaid Cymru leader was backed by the Conservatives and the seven UKIP AMs, as well as her own party,

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It all kicks off in Wales…

I suspect there may be a bit of buyers’ remorse setting in amongst the Welsh electorate soon if this afternoon’s shenanigans in the Welsh Assembly are anything to go by. Call me bitter if you like, but I think that swapping a conscientious Liberal Democrat group with its heart absolutely in the right place with a whole bunch of UKIP is not the wisest thing they could have done.

I go out for a couple of hours expecting that when I return, Carwyn Jones will have been elected First Minister. The only alternative would be for Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams, the Tories and UKIP (who have just ditched their Welsh leader and elected Neil Hamilton, yes, THAT Neil Hamilton as leader of their Assembly Group to gang up and outvote Labour. Then they could all govern together. That wouldn’t be awkward at all.

Incredibly, that, believe it or not, is what happened. Not Kirsty, of course. She was much too sensible, as you would expect.

That meant that the vote for First Minister was tied leaving an unholy mess for Elin Jones, the brand new Presiding Officer in her first session in the chair, to sort out. 

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Kirsty Williams stands down as Leader of Welsh Lib Dems

Kirsty WilliamsKirsty Williams has announced that she is standing down as Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, following the bruising results in the Assembly election. She explained here:

I can’t tell you how much of a privilege it has been to serve this party as leader over the last eight years, but with that privilege comes responsibility. Despite our best efforts, and a positive campaign, it has not been enough.

And for that, I must take responsibility.

In these new circumstances, the party will want to reflect and consider the way

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