Wales politics

Osborne confident of change at Welsh assembly election

George Osborne
Image caption George Osborne says the Tories' message is resonating with voters

Chancellor George Osborne has said he is confident the assembly election will deliver a "breath of fresh air" for Wales.

On the campaign trail in north Wales, he said he was "quite optimistic" about the vote on 5 May.

It was time for a change of government in Cardiff Bay, he said on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Labour outlined proposals for the economy, Plaid offered help for first-time buyers and the Lib Dems promised to improve schools.

Speaking on a visit to the Airbus factory in Broughton, Flintshire, Mr Osborne accused the assembly government of failing to produce a manufacturing strategy.

"I don't think Wales has been well served by the government in Cardiff and we've had a change of government in Westminster, I think it's time we had a chance of administration in Cardiff Bay as well," he said.

He said the election on 5 May was not a referendum on the Westminster government.

"It's about who governs Wales through the Welsh assembly, who represents the Welsh people in the assembly and it's an incredibly important election for Wales," he said.

Despite Labour leading in opinion polls, he said the Conservatives' message was "resonating" with voters. His party won 12 seats at the last election in 2007, later increased to 13 by a defection.

Mr Osborne said: "I'm quite optimistic not just about the next couple of weeks, but the poll itself on election day and I'm confident that Wales will have that breath of fresh air that it needs."

Meanwhile, Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones said his party would create an environment for businesses to prosper in what Labour called an "ambitious vision" for the economy.

Opponents have attacked Labour-led assembly governments for failing to improve the Welsh economy.

Figures published in February showed the performance of west Wales and the Valleys had fallen further behind the European average, despite receiving billions from the EU.

Labour said it would aim to keep as many people in work as possible by building on the ReAct and ProAct schemes which were launched to save jobs during the recession.

It would invest in strategic east-west transport links and work with providers to help ensure all businesses in Wales have access to fast broadband, Labour said.

'Big opportunities'

"Wales is open for business and there are big opportunities for the Welsh economy and for businesses in the coming years," Mr Jones said.

"Jobs and the Welsh economy will be my over-riding priority in the next assembly term."

The Welsh Liberal Democrats said they would plug a funding gap which sees councils in England spend an average £604 more per pupil on education than authorities in England.

The party said it had "carefully costed" plans that would target additional money at the children who need it most.

Cardiff Central Lib Dem candidate Nigel Howells said: "Labour and Plaid have failed our children who are now paying the price for the gross underfunding of schools over the last decade."

Plaid - which will launch a cinema advertising campaign over the Easter weekend - said it would help people get a foot on the housing ladder with a rent now, buy later scheme.

It said the policy would allow people to pay rent below the market value and contribute towards a deposit for those who want to buy properties.

Plaid housing spokeswoman Jocelyn Davies said: "In the face of severe budget cuts, the next government needs to find ways of financing more, and a greater range of, affordable housing."