THE LAST few months have been tumultuous for the whole country.
We have had Assembly elections, resulting in the virtual wipeout of the Liberal Democrats and the election of UKIP to the Senedd; the vote to leave the EU; the departure of David Cameron; the selection of Theresa May as PM by default; resignations from the Shadow Cabinet; the sacking of major figures from the actual Cabinet; and now a Labour leadership election which was preceded by 172 Labour MPs voting they have no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn.
You’d almost think it was like House of Cards – or possibly snakes and ladders.
The Herald spoke to Nia and asked her for her thoughts on all things Corbyn. Nia was Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, until resigning from Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, saying she lacked confidence in her Leader’s ability to achieve the sort of unity needed for electoral success.
We began by asking her about Owen Smith’s leadership challenge.
She said: “We want a satisfactory outcome. We want a strong Labour party that can actually face up to Theresa May, the new Prime Minister, and hold her and her team to account and also provide a real alternative for people in a general election. At the moment we feel we that we haven’t been able do that.
“We have tried very hard to make things work this year. We have to sometimes make really difficult decisions.
“Of course, it is not very nice for us at the moment. We really do hope to come through. I am certainly be going to be supporting Owen Smith. I think he is a new generation of very direct politicians. He tells you exactly what he thinks to your face. I think that is the sort of person we need to be really up front and taking Labour politics, sticking up for people and really taking that out to people.”
We asked why she had put her faith in Jeremy Corbyn if she did not believe that he possessed the qualities to be leader.
Nia reflected: “I think the truth of the matter is that many of people who supported Jeremy Corbyn last year and voted for him realise that, although we appreciate the ideas he has brought and the energy that he has brought and some of the enthusiasm he has engaged in with young people in particular, the fact of the matter is that we need a lot of qualities to drive that forward as a leader of the party. We have not seen that this year.
“It is very difficult I think to be catapulted from a rebellious backbencher to being in charge of an enormous organisation. I don’t think he really enjoys that side of it.
“What we need now is someone who can communicate with the party and bring everybody inside the party together and outside of the party in terms of taking the message not just to our supporters but across the whole spectrum of voters. If we are going to actually help people in Britain we need to help people from all walks of life. We need to have a programme of government that appeals to a wide cross-section, just as Sadiq Khan did in the London elections.”
On the machinations surrounding the voting system for the election of her Party’s leader, she said: “We have always had a six month rule that you have to be a member. It is a pity that we did not stick to that rule last summer.
“I am more worried about the opening up of a period of 48 hours for supporters to join up. I am suspicious that there could be people who have joined up to do us down in some way. They are called supporters and they do have a vote in this election.
“Obviously we are looking very carefully to make sure that there are not people there who stood against us in elections. That would be completely ridiculous We have a sneaky feeling that there will be people who will try to sneak in who do not have the interests of the Labour Party at heart.”
When what would happen if Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected, Nia was cautious: “I think that would be for us to decide then. The important thing at the moment is the debate inside the party about how you actually put your ideas into practice and what sort of leader you need to do that.”
First two cases of coronavirus in Carmarthenshire confirmed
THE FIRST two cases of coronavirus have been found in Carmarthenshire, the Welsh Government announced today.
The two patients in the Carmarthenshire local authority area had recently returned together from northern Italy.
It comes as the Hywel Dda Health Board which serves the area opened two centres to test for coronavirus, one in Cardigan and one in Carmarthen.
The health board announced it had opened the testing centres to “help protect the health of our communities”, while also saying that centres could be opened in other areas across the health board.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, confirmed that a total of nine patients in Wales had tested positive for coronavirus (COVID -19) today, bringing the total to 15.
Council unveils ambitious housing plan
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has unveiled major plans to build more council homes and further improve its existing housing stock, including an ambition to move towards ‘carbon neutral homes’.
Executive Board approved an impressive Carmarthenshire Homes Standard (CHS+) business plan this week (February 24, 2020) in a commitment to build on a £286million programme it has already delivered to bring council homes in the county above the Welsh standard for social housing.
Pending Full Council approval in March, the council has outlined its intentions to commit £49million to continue the CHS+ programme whilst developing a new standard to further improve the energy efficiency of their homes, aiming to cut and off-set carbon emissions to ensure homes are warm, cheap to run, and easily adapted to cater for people’s changing needs.
As part of this vision, the council is planning to improve the fabric of houses so that they become more energy efficient. It will also harness off-grid sustainable energy solutions, such as wind and water, and has committed to planting 1,000 trees to off-set carbon emissions.
The council has also made a new commitment to invest £52million building more homes over the next three years as it works towards returning its housing stock to levels last seen in the 1990s.
The new programme will link to the council’s wider strategic regeneration initiatives, including developments in the Tyisha area of Llanelli, town centres and key rural towns.
The administration’s previous promise to deliver 1,000 more affordable homes is just 15 homes short of the target it set itself for 2021, including the completion of its first major new-build development since the 1970s in Pembrey, and the phase-one completion of a second development in Bynea.
Cllr Linda Evans, Executive Board Member for Housing, said the investment would not only improve living conditions for existing tenants and provide more quality affordable homes for local people, but will also contribute to providing employment and training opportunities in the local construction industry.
“The plan is very ambitious – we are building new homes and working with tenants and key partners to ensure Carmarthenshire is at the forefront of the decarbonisation agenda,” she said. “Carmarthenshire is one of three authorities working with Welsh Government to look at measures to decarbonise our homes, and this work will start in the next few months.
“The fact that we have been able to invest in our homes, we’ve been able to build suitable homes and adapt homes for people and their families is very impressive – there’s more to do, but we are ready to take the challenge. It’s a very exciting time.”
Delivery of the council’s ambitions depends on an average rent increase of 2.7 per cent, working out at roughly £87 a week for a two-bedroom home – the second lowest rent level for social housing in Wales and significantly lower than private rented accommodation.
The council will also seek £6.1million from the Welsh Government’s major repairs allowance fund.
Llanelli: Notice of Motion follows school transport concerns
A NOTICE OF MOTION will be discussed at Llanelli Town Council on Wednesday (Mar 4) following the concern of many parents over the loss of school transport for their children.
The motion will be proposed by Shahana Najmi, Town Council Leader and Councillor for the Lliedi Ward and seconded by Sean Rees, Llanelli Town Councillor for the Glanymor Ward.
The motion reads as follows: “Recent changes to UK legislation have led to the cancellation of many paid-for school transport with the consequence that many Llanelli school children are now expected to walk many miles often along unsuitable routes to get to School.
“This has only highlighted the need for change to how school transport is delivered. We believe that all children whether they pay or not should be able to access safe and effective school transport to enable them to get to and from school to a point safe and a reasonable distance from their home.
“We therefore write to the Ministers for Transport and Education at the Welsh Government to ask them to support a new School Transport Policy here in Wales that complies with UK legislation and ensure that children here in Llanelli are not expected to walk miles to school in often adverse weather conditions and often on unsafe and unsuitable walking routes.
“We also write to Carmarthenshire County Council to ask them to do all in their power to ensure that children in Carmarthenshire have access to appropriate school transport and consider all options available to them to ensure acceptable provision.”