19-YEAR-OLD Stefan Ryszewski was Born in Felinfoel, Llanelli and attended Ysgol Y Strade. A fluent Welsh speaker, he is studying law at Swansea university.
So far, you might think,the above is not exceptional in and of itself. However, Stefan is the Welsh Conservative party’s nominee to stand for the Llanelli seat in May 2016. We began by suggesting that the public could think Stefan very young to be an AM.
Confidently, he responded: “People trying to encourage young people to become interested in and get into politics. It is strange that when young people do become interested and do get involved, the same people seem critical or wary. “We have to encourage young people into elected positions, otherwise how are we going to encourage our youth to get involved and engaged in politics? I have always taken a keen interest in local issues in Llanelli. I am a local lad and it would only be for Llanelli that I would like to stand. I studied politics to A level in school and that galvanised my interest.”
Llanelli is a Labour stronghold and we suggested that Stefan faced a tough task. Stefan shot back: “In Westminster, maybe, but it is not so much in the Assembly. It is only a majority of about 80 that the Labour Party has over Plaid Cymru. Yes, it is going to be tough and I am going to have to face challenges, but I am a local person and I want to show them what the Conservative message is all about.”
The Welsh Conservatives have never had much luck in Llanelli and so we asked Stefan whether he would be following the message from Westminster or from Wales. He told our reporter: “We will be giving a message from the Welsh Conservatives and the manifesto that we will bring out in due course. There will be issues we won’t agree on with the Westminster Government but you will also find that within the Labour Party.”
Stefan has tweeted that he was in favour of air strikes in Syria, what had made up his mind to support the call for military action? He said: “ I saw the people that were against the air strikes offering no alternative. They sat back and said they didn’t agree with air strikes but they didn’t offer an alternative for what the government should do. I voice my opinion, but as an Assembly candidate the discussions has to be on devolved issues. I would have voted for the air strikes if I was an MP but as an AM we don’t have that power to launch air strikes.”
The Herald asked Stefan what he believed were the issues facing the people of Llanelli. He was clear and targeted the cuts to public services which have taken place over recent years: “The issue facing the people of Llanelli are the cuts in the education budget. It is £18 million over three years. Yet the Council keeps on coming out with vanity projects. The Council’s priorities are all wrong.
“With our policy as Welsh Conservatives we would directly fund schools. That would be equivalent to £214 extra per pupil per school. It would probably be more when we consider the cuts that come into place. We want to give children in Wales the best opportunity in life. I know the issues the Welsh language faces here in Llanelli and I believe in aspiring to have the means to better yourself. I don’t think we suffer from a lack of ambition, I believe it is a lack of ambition from our elected representatives. Maybe people will see aspiration in a young person like myself. It is not fair to say the people lack ambition.”
An ambitious Strategic Plan has been produced for the next fifteen years. We asked Stefan for his view: “I welcome investment into Llanelli and Carmarthenshire but we need to look at priorities. We are seeing these cuts coming into areas like health and education. The discussion needs to take place with the people of Llanelli and Carmarthenshire.
“We welcome jobs and growth but we need to give local businesses the opportunity to grow. If every business in Wales took on one extra person there would be no unemployment in Wales. “I take a keen interest in local politics and I have never seen this Strategic Plan document. I think that Plaid are hypocritical. Their campaign was based on free parking. They are now in a position to do so and we have been offered free parking between 3 and 5 o’clock. A lot of people will be picking their children up from school or just coming home from work at that time.
We need to offer people two hours free parking when they want them so they can come into the town and make their purchases. We showed Stefan some of the figures the Council is using to underpin its Strategic Development Plan and asked if he was impressed:“I would much prefer to see existing successful local business people getting first bite of any investment opportunities. We need to support local people and local businesses to grow. The figures we are seeing do not add up. I think we must welcome tourism but I am skeptical about where they obtain the figures in this document from. I will be making a request to find out more about them.”
The County Council plan to cut litter picking in Carmarthenshire but claim in the Strategic Development Plan that Llanelli will be cleaner as a result of their vision. We asked Stefan for his opinion: “We have had a lot of complaints about litter in streets. The council did respond but we shouldn’t have to complain to them. I will be doing litter picks as a candidate myself to show support for the workforce and show that we do need these people to clean our streets.”
We asked Stefan what he thinks is the key priority for Llanelli: “Not enough is being done to bring local businesses into town. I would like to see young people getting opportunities and as a Welsh Conservative Government we would abolish business rates of rateable businesses up to £12,000. We do need to give young people from whatever walk of life the means to go out and start up their own business. We need to make use of our existing empty buildings and help the town centre. We know the out of town developments have killed the town. We need to start promoting the town centre.
Stefan will be up against Lee Waters (Lab), Helen Mary Jones (Plaid) and Sian Caiach (People First). and he was diplomatic with his assessments of them: “I see them as all very strong candidates. Helen Mary has been an Assembly Member in the past with a track record. “I have my doubts over the town centre and Prince Phillip hospital. I would like to sit down with the candidates and discuss how we can work together for Llanelli. We will differ but that is all part of a good debate. I would like to discuss what our vision and share ideas. Llanelli really does need someone local and someone who is going to fight for Llanelli.
“ My Grandfather came over here after the war and my whole family live here. I am not from the landed gentry. Llanelli has never been a Conservative seat but I am here for a long time and hopefully I can change that.” Stefan was also very definite about what the County Council should be focusing their attention on. He said, “Parking is a real issue in the town and we need more free parking especially for elderly people. We need to give councils the opportunity to freeze council tax.
“It has risen here in Carmarthenshire by a substantial amount and yet services are still being cut. There are calls for savings but we need to make the council more efficient and accountable. The council tax is not there to put up just to raise money. “We need the best people we can get to run our councils. I would welcome more people from Llanelli on the executive board. I think that the council should be led by our elected councillors and represent us.
The executives have refused to cut their wages by 10% and that is a huge concern to me. They use the word ‘savings’ but they are CUTS. “They are using those cuts to fund other projects. It is all well and good making savings but we need to ring fence health education and the local economy. However the council tries to dress things up, a cut is a cut.”
Llanelli High Street shortlisted for prize
LLANELLI HIGH STREET has been shortlisted in the Government’s Great British High Street Awards, in proud partnership with Visa, putting them in the running for up to £15,000.
After a rigorous selection process led by a panel of independent judges, the high street has been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, which celebrates high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify.
The bid by Ymlaen Llanelli follows research commissioned by Visa in April 2019 demonstrating the positive impact that the local high street has on communities. The research found that nearly three quarters of consumers (71%) in Wales say that shopping locally makes them feel happy, with nearly half (45%) citing supporting local shops and knowing where their money is going as the main reason. Spending time with friends and family (25%) and offering a sense of community (18%) were other reasons cited for why high streets make people feel happier. The research also reveals that half of consumers (50%) feel that their high street gives them a sense of pride in their local community.
High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Congratulations to Llanelli for being shortlisted for the Rising Star Award for this year’s Great British High Street Awards.
“Llanelli high street is a hive of activity, with food festivals, childrens’ days and community get-togethers all part of the local calendar. A great example of how high streets can bring a renewed energy to communities.
“People are happier when they can see their hard-earned cash support local businesses. That is why we are celebrating those that go above and beyond to keep their high streets thriving for generations to come.”
Sundeep Kaur, Head of UK & Ireland Merchant Services at Visa, added: “We’ve seen some fantastic entries for this year’s Great British High Street Awards across both the Champion High Street and Rising Star categories. In particular, the desire to innovate stands out amongst this year’s entries, with high streets adapting to the challenges presented by a rapidly changing retail environment to find ways to thrive at a local level.
“As our research shows, high streets play a vital role at the heart of communities, so this is a great opportunity for those communities with shortlisted high streets to show their support by placing their votes on the Great British High Street website.”
Llanelli High Street is one of the 28 high streets that have been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, identifying high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify. 12 high streets have been shortlisted in the Champion High Street category, which recognises the UK’s best high streets. All 40 high streets are now in the running to win a prize of up to £15,000 to be dedicated to a local high street initiative.
Head Teacher at Primary school in Llanelli suspended
THE HEAD TEACHER of a Welsh primary school has been suspended, it has been confirmed.
Catherine Lloyd-Jenkins, who is head at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes in Llanelli, has been suspended from her duties at the school with immediate effect.
Governors at the school have been unavailable for comment, but Carmarthenshire Council confirmed the news this morning.
It is understood that the chair of the governing body is currently out of the country, and the council would not comment further on the circumstances surrounding the suspension.
The council’s director of education, Gareth Morgans, said: “School staffing is a matter for the Governing Body, however, we can confirm the headteacher of Ysgol Ffwrnes has been suspended.
“It is not appropriate to comment further.”
Mrs Lloyd-Jenkins has worked at Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes for 23 years, taking up a post at the school in 1996.
She has been the headteacher there for almost 20 years, taking over the role in 2000. She has also worked as a peer inspector at Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales confirmed.
According to one local councillor, ‘serious concerns’ have been raised about the school in recent months.
“Local residents and parents have approached us raising serious concerns about the school in question,” said Carmarthenshire councillor Rob James.
“We are in dialogue with senior council officers to assert whether the allegations are credible and what action the council and governors have taken in response to these allegations.”
Dyfed-Powys Police numbers at record low, say Labour
POLICE officers based across the Dyfed-Powys area are now at their lowest levels in the last decade, with over 300 officers being lost across the region, claim Carmarthenshire Labour.
According to a freedom of information request by Carmarthenshire Labour, police officers based across Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are down 42% and are at record lows in both Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
The figures published by Dyfed-Powys Police show that Carmarthenshire has lost 160 officers in the last ten years, Pembrokeshire is down 107 officers and Ceredigion has lost 56 bobbies on the beat.
These figures come off the back of a poor report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that shows the force has gone backwards in the last year, with crime also on the increase.
HMIC’s recent PEEL (Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) report noted concerns about Dyfed-Powys Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime and specifically warned of failures to assess all incidents of domestic abuse.
Carmarthenshire Labour Leader Cllr Rob James claims that the figures show that the current Police and Crime Commissioner is now performing worse than their predecessor.
Rob James stated: “These figures that show a dramatic decrease in police numbers are extremely worrying and reinforce what communities are saying across Dyfed Powys – there are simply not enough police officers in our areas.
“The fact that we now have lower police numbers in the three counties compared to the end of the last Police and Crime Commissioner’s term with crime now on the rise illustrates that the Plaid Cymru Commissioner is failing in his duty to protect our communities.
“We need urgent action to make our communities safe once more, as there is a clear link between the loss of youth provision and cuts to officer numbers, and the rise of crime in our communities.
“There is little evidence that our Commissioner has grasped the nettle over the last three years in tackling this important issue.”
These claims however, have been slapped down by Police and Crime Comissioner, Dafydd Llewellyn. He said that said that Cllr James had misunderstood or misrepresented the information provided to him.
The Carmarthen data have a significant rider attached to them.
The explanatory note reads: ‘It should be noted that the figures for Carmarthenshire police division between 2008 and 2018 are not comparable as the structure of Carmarthenshire division in 2018 has altered to that of 2008 which has impacted upon the figures provided’.
That explanation is expanded upon concerning the Ceredigion data. Regarding them, an explanatory note warns that: ‘[T]he structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded divisionally now come under the HQ remit, e.g. the Road Policing Unit, CID, etc.’.
Dafydd Llewelyn pointed out that note in his response to The Herald: “As outlined in the response to the Freedom of Information request, structures between 2008 and 2019 are not comparable as some sections that were recorded as divisionally based are now recorded under the HQ remit, for example, Roads Policing Unit, CID.”
Dafydd Llewelyn continued: “Since taking up my role as the elected person to represent the many communities across the four counties served by the force, I have increased the overall resource available by 4%. I have ploughed funding into dedicated teams to support front line officers and have invested in resources to support the most vulnerable in our communities.
“I have commissioned services specific to their needs – be that as victims of domestic abuse or young people choosing to leave their homes for reasons unknown to authorities. I will continue to do this. I will not be held to account by numbers on paper alone, but by the difference I can make to individuals’ quality of life.
“I will also use the opportunity I have to campaign for services appropriate to the very specific needs an area the size of Dyfed-Powys Police has and will work with the force to adapt according to those needs.”
He concluded by pointing out: “Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys remain the safest counties nationally and I’m proud to be driving a service that is willing and able to flex and respond, despite the financial challenges faced day-in-day-out.”
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