WREXHAM AM Lesley Griffiths has been dropped as Welsh Government health minister in favour of a professor from Cardiff.
But Ms Griffiths, who has been under fire for weeks because of proposed National Health Service changes in North East Wales and elsewhere in the region, remains a member of the Labour cabinet at the Senedd.
She takes over the local government portfolio from Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant. He now becomes minister for housing and regeneration.
First Minister Carwyn Jones, in a surprise reshuffle yesterday, appointed Professor Mark Drakeford, a Cardiff AM, to replace Ms Griffiths.
The first minister kept three of his most high profile ministers in their jobs: Leighton Andrews stays as education, Edwina Hart keeps the economy brief and Jane Hutt continues as finance minister. Mrs Hart will be the minister for economy, science and transport – inheriting responsibility for transport from Mr Sargeant.
No one was dropped from the cabinet and apart from Prof Drakeford the only other promotion to the top table was Alun Davies – the new minister for natural resources and food who was previously the deputy minister for agriculture.
Mr Jones said: “Jobs and growing the Welsh economy remain our number one priority, but we will also work tirelessly to improve the delivery of our public services.
“My commitment to do everything we can to stand up for the people of Wales, particularly in these challenging times, remains firm.”
He added: “I am delighted to have such a strong and committed team who share my vision of a strong and vibrant Wales, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”
Prof Drakeford’s promotion was the first appointment to be announced. It comes at a time when the NHS in Wales is planning potentially controversial changes to reorganise hospital services.
The health portfolio is one of the biggest jobs in the cabinet with a departmental budget of almost £6 billion.
Mr Drakeford, elected Labour AM for Cardiff West in 2011, was previously chairman of the assembly’s cross-party health and social care committee. A professor of social policy at Cardiff University, he was an adviser to former First Minister Rhodri Morgan and succeeded him at Cardiff West.
Labour won power at the last assembly election in May 2011, although it fell one seat short of an outright majority.