It’s certainly been cold recently. Fuel poverty is a very real issue for many families in our communities. We cannot easily control the cost of fuel but we can do something positive to help reduce the amount of fuel we use. That is why the Welsh Labour Government is investing a further £104 million over the next four years to increase the energy efficiency of up to 25,000 homes across Wales, helping to cut energy bills and improve the health and well-being of those who need it most. The Warm Homes Programme will focus on using the local suppliers to make these changes. That means creating jobs and developing skills – a real boost to our local economy.
The Welsh Labour Government has also set out a new way of how we build resilient villages and towns focusing on employment and early years. It’s meant to support those who find it hardest to get a job. Although this will involve phasing out the Communities First programme, a legacy fund means some of the programme’s most effective projects continue. I’ll be keeping an eye on the transition and speaking up for communities where the changes will take place. The Welsh Government is spending more on a range of initiatives which are crucial to preventing and cutting poverty. Things like increased investment in apprenticeships, and in the Pupil Deprivation Grant which helps close the attainment gap of children from poorer backgrounds. I’m pleased to say investment in Flying Start and Families First will also continue. Both initiatives provide practical support to thousands of families and their children across the country.
Here in Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Labour Government is making nearly three quarters of a million pounds available to help reduce the risk of flooding to homes and businesses in Little Haven which has been regularly affected by flooding. Climate change and the concreting over of green spaces mean that floods present an increasingly serious risk. The burden of responding to this has fallen on our fire and rescue services. Did you know that they do so voluntarily? From 1 April there’ll be a new duty on our fire services to respond to flooding and water rescue incidents, something the Fire and Rescue services support as it will make this situation clearer. The Welsh Government will also be providing them with an extra £1.8 million to enhance and update the boats, pumps and protective gear that they need to respond with the bravery, professionalism and the dedication they have always shown.