20mph: We got message wrong, Labour's Vaughan Gething says

2 weeks ago 20

20mph marking on roadImage source, Getty Images

By David Deans and Mark Palmer

BBC Wales

The Welsh government got its communications wrong on its landmark 20mph speed limit policy, a contender to lead Welsh Labour has said.

Vaughan Gething said ministers must "listen and not lecture" the public.

He and his rival were interviewed live on BBC One's Politics Wales programme on Sunday.

Jeremy Miles promised to "buy or build" new sites to address orthopaedic waiting times, suggesting councils would help fund them.

Meanwhile he said that the proposal to ask farmers to plant 10% of trees on their land is the "right policy".

Mr Gething said he would be willing to listen to the sector's calls for the policy to be eased.

The issue is one of several to have prompted protests by farmers in recent weeks.

Economy Minister Mr Gething and Education Minister Mr Miles are competing to win the support of Labour members and affiliates in the race to replace Mark Drakeford.

The winner of the contest will become the next first minister.

Neither candidate says they would reverse the controversial 20mph speed limit policy, which applies on roads in urban areas with street lighting.

A review is under way of the guidance used by councils to decide which roads should be exempted.

Image caption,

Vaughan Gething said ministers needed to listen and not lecture on speed limits.

'Broad support'

Mr Gething claimed there was "broad support for the general principle of slower speeds in estates where there are children are, and near schools".

"Our challenge I think has been in the roll out of 20mph we have got some of the communication side wrong.

"And it's important to show that we've listened on that as well.

"The review of the guidance is important. I've regularly said I thought that in itself isn't going to be enough.

"The point I'm making is the principle is the right one about wanting slower speeds on lots of roads but we have to listen and not lecture."

Image caption,

Jeremy Miles said councils could be involved in centres to bring down orthopaedic waiting times.

Waiting times

Jeremy Miles' manifesto promises to establish dedicated centres for knee and hip replacements to clear waiting list backlogs.

In an interview Mr Miles said it would be a "collaboration between health boards and local councils who have the power or access to capital funding to make this happen".

"These centres are off site so they are protected from the pressures which being in hospital otherwise bring to them".

He said it was different from existing projects to address waiting times that are already under way.

"You do need to either buy or build new sites for that to happen," he said.

While councils fund social care, they do not currently provide health services.

Welsh junior doctors are planning to take strike action over the Welsh government's 5% pay offer - an offer lower than that in England and Scotland.

Mr Gething acknowledged that NHS staff had seen a real terms cut in pay saying the "elastic has snapped" for many of them.

"What we've got to be able to do is to continue to sit down with the BMA, and other health service unions, to look at our longer term commitment to pay restoration and the honesty of what we can do within the budget framework we have now and moving forward," he said.

'Farmers'

Mr Miles said that all parts of the Welsh economy had to respond to the climate change "emergency" and that included the agricultural sector.

A new subsidy is being introduced for farmers aimed at rewarding "sustainable" food production and practices that help tackle climate change and nature loss.

To be eligible for the payments farms must ensure 10% of land is planted with trees and 10% is treated as wildlife habitat.

Farming unions argue this will be unworkable for many and the scheme's checklist of requirements will mean more paperwork.

Mr Miles said the targets for planting trees were "much more flexible than they appear" but when asked if this could be relaxed, he replied: "No, I think it's the right policy. But there is flexibility within that policy to manage it sensitively. So the right tree can be planted in the right place."

A consultation is underway. Mr Gething did not rule out potentially reducing the 10% requirement.

"I'm prepared to have the conversation with farming unions as they're having with [rural affairs minister] Lesley Griffiths," he said.

Analysis by Gareth Lewis, BBC Wales political editor

Mr Miles' and Mr Gething's appearance started on the premise that they and their policies are quite similar. And for many viewers it may have ended there too.

There was an awareness of the (many) issues they might face. But perhaps not many details on how to deal with them.

If you - or one of your loved ones - is one of the 20,000 people waiting more than two years on the NHS, there was no target timescale for when you might be seen.

Neither candidate committed to extra cash to solve the junior doctors' strike either.

And what about two of the other big issues Wales faces at the moment - overall NHS waiting lists and the steel industry.

Their plans might founder on the hard rock of reality.

Mr Miles' idea for the former appeared at one point to rest on plans to buy and build more sites in collaboration with councils - not a quick fix by any measure.

Mr Gething cried foul at suggestions that he was being disingenuous to suggest one of Port Talbot's blast furnaces could remain open, but Tata Steel executives have already publicly made clear that it can't.

Perhaps the difference comes down to approach? Exemplified this morning on two issues - tress and 20mph.

A slightly more conciliatory Mr Gething with his olive branch to farmers of talks on tree-planting requirements. A harder line that the target isn't changing from Mr Miles.

And that communications mea culpa from Mr Gething on the speed limit - in fairness Mr Miles wasn't asked.

Then again Mr Miles promised to be an "inclusive" leader.

Confused? Don't worry: You're probably not one of the 100,000 or so people who get to make the choice.

Who they pick will be revealed to us all on 16 March.

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