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Vaughan Gething to increase free childcare if he becomes First Minister

Pic: BBC

In his quest to become the next first minister of Wales, Vaughan Gething has pledged to enhance free childcare services for families.

This commitment was announced during the launch of his manifesto in Wrexham on Saturday.

Additionally, Mr. Gething has vowed to alleviate congestion on the M4 corridor, boost the number of apprenticeships, and address the issue of unsafe coal tips, which he referred to as a “scourge.”

Alongside Education Minister Jeremy Miles, Mr. Gething is competing to succeed Mark Drakeford, who is set to step down in March.

Ahead of his manifesto launch at Coleg Cambria, Mr. Gething told BBC Radio Wales that “Welsh Labour has already delivered the best childcare offer in practise in the UK,”.

He went on to say “childcare really does matter to working parents” and that “not everyone can rely on informal childcare”.

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“I want to expand [childcare provision in Wales] so more parents with younger children can access the Childcare Offer,” he said. 

“It does require more resources, it does require a change in the money we receive, and that requires a change at the UK level.”

Pressure has mounted on the Welsh government to align its childcare proposals with those of the UK government in England.

Additionally, if elected as first minister, Mr. Gething has committed to implementing infrastructure enhancements aimed at reducing congestion along the M4 corridor.

He emphasised his intention to bolster transportation connections throughout southeast Wales by implementing the recommendations outlined in a 2020 report commissioned by the Welsh government, which suggested an £800 million investment in public transport.

Speaking at the manifesto launch, Mr. Gething expressed his desire to increase public involvement in transportation-related matters.

“I actually think it’s really important for the public to have greater engagement in why we’re designing a different future, to both meet the challenges of climate change, but also our social challenges and how we feel connected around the world that we live in, and of course, for the future of the economy,” he said. 

“So I think it’s really important that with more engagement that we have to show that we are listening to people, I think that really matters.”

In his manifesto, he made several additional commitments, including an effort to increase the number of apprenticeships despite recent cuts in funding for them. He also vowed to address the “scourge” of Wales’ 2,500 disused coal tips, with one in seven classified as high risk.

While expressing a dedication to expedite the construction of social housing, no specific target was set in the manifesto. Furthermore, there was a promise to establish a “fully functioning environmental governance body” tasked with holding the Welsh government accountable for issues such as sewage spills.

Mr. Gething highlighted his intention to prioritize funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), replacing the EU funds previously received by Wales, directing it towards apprenticeships to enhance job prospects and boost the Welsh economy. He asserted that he had obtained a “commitment” from UK Labour, indicating that a future government led by Sir Keir Starmer would “repatriate” the funding to the Welsh government.

Jeremy Miles is set to unveil his manifesto later this week, and the announcement of the winner is scheduled for March 16th. In the leadership contest within the Welsh Labour party, Mr. Miles has garnered support from a majority of Senedd politicians. However, he expressed frustration on Friday when Unite, Wales’ largest trade union, declared its endorsement for Mr. Gething, citing Mr. Miles as “ineligible” due to his lack of experience in “elected lay office as representatives of workers.”