KEN Skates returns to the backbenches of the Welsh Parliament following a cabinet reshuffle.

First Minister Mark Drakeford gave thanks to Mr Skates who leaves his role as minister of economy, transport and North Wales to focus on strengthening Welsh Labour links in the North Wales region.

This is said to be in preparation for next year’s local government elections and the next UK Parliamentary election.

The newly reappointed Clwyd South MS will also look to strengthen Labour links between North Wales and North West England.

After the news was announced, Mr Skates said: "Being re-elected as Member of the Senedd for Clwyd South is a huge honour. It has been a privilege to work with constituents over the last ten years to improve and champion our area, and I will continue to work as hard as I possibly can.

"This week I informed the First Minister of my wish to step away from Welsh Government. After eight years in government, now is the right time.

"Clwyd South has always remained my number one priority, and my decision will enable me to spend more time in the constituency, focusing on local matters, as well as further strengthening the Party’s position in North Wales and further afield.

"I will continue to be a loyal supporter of First Minister Mark Drakeford and our Welsh Labour Government from the back benches.

"Above all, I will spend the next five years focusing relentlessly on helping the people and communities of Clwyd South as the local Member of the Senedd."

Paying tribute to Ken’s service, the First Minister said: “Ken has been a real strength in Cabinet and a voice for North Wales. He will continue speaking up for North Wales and for Welsh Labour but in a different role. We will miss his energy and passion.”

Vaughan Gething will become the nation’s new economy minister whilst Lesley Griffiths takes up the responsibility for North Wales.

The Labour leader continued: “Vaughan becomes Economy Minister at a crucial point in time – the pandemic is not just a public health emergency but also an economic one.”

The new Welsh Labour Government will have a distinct focus on climate change, new green jobs and recovery from the pandemic.

Mr Drakeford said: “The new Cabinet is ready to get to work to set Wales on the path to recovery out of this long pandemic, which has cast such a shadow over all our lives.

“There will be challenges ahead of us – the pandemic is a public health and economic emergency with long-lasting impacts on all our lives – but this is a talented and committed team, determined to make a positive difference to Wales and for Wales.

“We will use all our efforts and energies to create a stronger, fairer and greener Wales, where no one is held back or left behind.”

The new Welsh Labour Government in full:

• Mark Drakeford - First Minister

• Mick Antoniw - Counsel General designate and Minister for the Constitution

• Rebecca Evans - Minister for Finance and Local Government

• Vaughan Gething - Economy Minister

• Dawn Bowden - Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip

• Lesley Griffiths - Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd

• Jane Hutt - Minister for Social Justice

• Hannah Blythyn - Deputy Minister for Social Partnership

• Julie James - Minister for Climate Change

• Lee Waters - Deputy Minister for Climate Change

• Jeremy Miles - Minister for Education and the Welsh Language

• Eluned Morgan - Minister for Health and Social Services

• Julie Morgan - Deputy Minister for Social Services

• Lynne Neagle - Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing