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Drakeford and Price hail ‘real progress’ in first year of co-operation agreement

The deal was signed by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price a year ago (Adam Davy/PA)
The deal was signed by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price a year ago (Adam Davy/PA)

A report marking the first anniversary of the Welsh Government’s co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru has highlighted initiatives including free school meals in primary schools and a crackdown on second homes.

The three-year deal, which was signed by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price a year ago, covers 46 commitments.

These include universal free school meals in primary, expanding free childcare to two-year-olds, combatting the numbers of second homes in the country, and reforming the Welsh Parliament.

As part of the first year, an additional 45,000 primary school children have the option of a free school lunch every day following a rollout in September.

Under the scheme, all primary school children and more than 6,000 nursery-age pupils attending a maintained school will be eligible for free school meals by 2024.

Mr Drakeford and Mr Price spoke at a press conference in Cardiff on Thursday to mark one year of the agreement.

The First Minister said “real progress” had been made on a range of commitments, while Mr Price insisted the parties are “making a difference”.

However, the Welsh Conservatives have called for the agreement to be ditched, with leader Andrew RT Davies saying it had led to “one disastrous proposal after another”.

Mr Drakeford said: “We have focused on those commitments which will help support people during this cost-of-living crisis.

“We will continue to work together on those areas, set out in the agreement, where we have common ground over the next two years.

“I look forward to continuing to make a difference for people in Wales in these difficult times.”

Mr Drakeford described how the agreement had been made during the coronavirus pandemic, dealing with the consequences of Brexit and a climate emergency.

He said those challenges remain, with the additional issues of the war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, and with the UK in recession.

“Despite those difficult times, we have remained committed to the co-operation agreement,” Mr Drakeford added.

He said the deal had resulted in the “first steps” being taken towards funded childcare for all two-year-olds, introducing a package of measures to address high numbers of second homes in some parts of Wales, and proposals for a sustainable farming scheme.

Mr Price told the press conference that the deal is delivering “progressive and radical policies for our nation”, including universal free school meals for primary children and Senedd reform.

“We have a positive, constructive relationship and as you can see from what we’ve been able to achieve in the first year of the agreement – in a challenging and difficult context – we’re working well together, positively and constructively, for the people of Wales,” Mr Price said.

He thanked the football team of Wales for showing “what it truly means as a nation to be together stronger”.

Mr Price described the agreement as a different way of working, charting a “more positive course for Wales compared to the disarray we have seen from the UK Government over this past year”.

But Mr Davies claimed the agreement is not in line with the wishes of the public.

He said Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru have brought in “one disastrous proposal after another”, including 20mph speed limits, tourism taxes and creating more politicians in the Senedd.

“The priorities of voters have been completely ignored, with NHS waiting lists sky-rocketing beyond anything seen elsewhere in Britain, the blocking of a Wales-specific Covid inquiry, and school standards, public transport services, and pay packets all diminishing,” Mr Davies said.

“Only the Welsh Conservatives would do what the Welsh people want and need – bin this plan for more politicians and instead focusing on growing wages, tackling waiting lists and building the roads we need so we can get Wales moving again.”

The party said the universal free school meal scheme means taxpayers will be feeding the children of millionaires, while proposals for a tourism tax would put one in seven jobs at risk.

It added the agreement had not tackled NHS waiting times, a Wales-specific Covid-19 inquiry, improving Welsh schools, increasing pay or rail capacity.