THINGS are hotting up in Wales, as politicians from every party begin courting the media in order to try and convince the public that they really are the best people to run the Welsh Assembly Government.
Llanelli has seen numerous visits from party leaders in recent weeks including a right Welsh punch up on BBC’s Question Time with Nigel Farage thrown in for good measure.
A few days after her much-praised appearance on the BBC’s flagship programme, The Herald caught up with Plaid leader, Leanne Wood and the Llanelli Plaid Cymru AM candidate Helen Mary Jones following their visit to the Calsonic Kansei factory.
HOW MUCH POWER FOR WALES?
Plaid have launched their manifesto. They want Wales to get same powers as Scotland and also similar funding an additional £1.2billion each year. We asked just how much control of its own affairs Plaid Cymru wants for Wales.
Leanne Wood told us, “There are many aspects of our lives which are under devolved competence but there are still a lot of areas which are not devolved to Wales. It makes sense for us to have as much control over our own affairs and to take as many decisions that affect our lives as possible. Plaid Cymru will use every opportunity to push to maximise powers for Wales.”
Helen Mary Jones said that Plaid had to be more creative with powers. She said: “As well as trying to maximise the control we will have it is also about being creative about the powers we already have and looking at how we can mitigate against some of the worse of the damage.”
Helen Mary Jones continued: “None of us like what the Conservative government is doing, but rather than just complain about it, which I am afraid we have seen too much of from the current leadership of the Welsh Assembly Government, we should be thinking about what we can do differently.”
THE SYSTEM NEEDS TO CHANGE
Plaid’s manifesto also supports scrapping the Bedroom Tax. Helen Mary Jones told us: “One of the big issues in Llanelli is the benefits system and the changes it is undergoing.
“There are things devolved governments can do to protect people against those benefit changes and the example for me is the action the Scottish Government took over the bedroom tax. They said they could not stop Westminster imposing the bedroom tax but they could tell local authorities and housing associations that they would never have to evict anybody because of it and we will top up your budgets to make sure you don’t.”
Plaid Cymru has not shied away from targeting the wealthy in order to find additional funding to support their plans. Their manifesto calls for a restoration of the 50p income tax rate for earnings above £150,000, an increase in National Insurance contributions for higher earners and a tax on sugary drinks.
Tax dodgers also come in for scrutiny and Leanne Wood gave an overview of how she believes that the biggest fraudsters are getting away with tax avoidance. She said, “I think an awful lot of emphasis to date has been on benefit fraud and there has not been enough emphasis on the tax fraud by major corporations and the very wealthy. I would much prefer the HMRC to go after those people to close those tax loopholes and to do everything possible to enable small businesses to be free to do as much as they possibly can.”
CHANGES TO LOCAL SERVICES
We asked if changes needed to be made at local authority level in Wales away from perceived officer led authorities. Helen Mary Jones homed in on the recent Welsh Audit Office (WAO) report on Carmarthenshire County Council and said: “We have just seen the recent WAO report that says the new administration is making a difference in the way Carmarthenshire is spending its money and prioritising. That shows we are beginning to move away from an officer led authority.”
Plaid’s Llanelli candidate continued: “There are always going to be huge challenges and there are always going to be restraints. There is money you can spend on capital and you can’t spend on revenue. If you put money from reserves into revenue this year that is great but what do you do the next year. One of the things we are able to do is bring together executive board members together with people in the community who are facing challenges.
“It is a bit like trying to turn round an oil tanker. It is not going to change overnight. I think that the WAO report shows that we have started to travel in the right direction as an administration.”
EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION
Plaid Cymru are scheduled to launch their election campaign this week and so we asked about education in Wales, one of the key issues.
We began asked Leanne Wood why Wales seemed to be lagging behind in some surveys: “I think it is because the government we have had have been complacent. We have had the same party in government for 17 years, although there have been coalitions as well.
“If you look at the Pisa results we are way behind. That affects not just children’s individual life chances but employers of the future whether they make a decision to come to Wales or not. Improving our education is essential.”
Leanne Wood continued: “Plaid Cymru will be launching our election campaign this week. There is a great emphasis on education from cradle through career. We are investing in the very early years but also making sure people have a range of choices when they get to fourteen, fifteen and sixteen so that the academic route is not the only option but that there are serious vocational options as well. We also want to invest in teachers because we believe the excellence in our education system will be provided by those who are the experts in the system; that is, the teachers.
“At the moment they have so much pressure on them to perform through inspection systems that don’t work. That is another area of our educational policy. We want to reform the way that schools are inspected. When Plaid Cymru was in the One Wales government we put forward a policy that every school would have access to a nurse so that children’s health and well being and mental well being was to be a major part of their schooling experience. That is something that can be built on and in terms of mental health there is room for enabling the school to support children. School has the potential to identify problems early on. All of this requires investment and prioritisation.”
Giving her reasons for the apparent deficit in Welsh education’s performance against international measuring criteria, Helen Mary Jones told us: “I think it is because successive Welsh Governments have taken some steps but they haven’t been followed through.
Helen Mary continued: “The innovative early learning models that were introduced were the right things to do but it was not followed through. The teachers have not all been properly trained. Not all the schools have the physical facilities for the children to be able to be learning through play. All political parties at the Assembly signed up for that because the evidence was there that that kind of innovative teaching young children is what delivers the best learners. You can’t learn if you are unhappy.
“A proper delivery of the early years curriculum starts with the child being warm comfortable happy and well and it goes fro there. The principals are all there but there has been a failure to deliver. It is the story of this Labour administration. When it comes to delivering it hasn’t happened.”
NO! TO UKIP COALITION
UKIP are on the rise and their candidates cannot be ruled out of getting some seats. We asked Leanne Wood if she would consider a coalition with UKIP if they did win a number of seats.
Leanne Wood answered with an emphatic ‘No! Not under any circumstances whatsoever!”
The Plaid leader observed: “I think they will take some seats because the electoral system enables that. It makes it more likely for them to gain seats. With the backdrop of the European referendum debate that is territory that is helpful to them.”
On the positive aspect of campaigning, Leanne Wood rallied her candidates and supporters: “It is up to us as Plaid Cymru to put our message across. We are working very hard in all communities making sure our candidates are out knocking doors explaining why a vote for Plaid Cymru is in their interests much more than a vote for UKIP which is a vote that will work against them in the long run.”
Asked for her thoughts on UKIP’s chances in Llanelli Helen Mary Jones took the long view: “Plaid may have been a political party in the past that people who wanted to protest against the mainstream system had gone to.
She continued: “It comes back to what Leanne said and it is about talking to people and convincing them that something better is possible. I have never heard anybody saying they are voting for UKIP because I like this about them. It is all about what people don’t like or what they are frightened of.
“I don’t know how well they will do in the first past the post in this constituency. It will be a tight fight between us and Labour. UKIP may pick up regional votes and it is up to us to make sure that happens as little as possible.”
LABOUR’S HEALTH APPROACH ‘FLAWED’
We asked Leanne about Labour’s handling of the health service: “Our view has been that the Labour’s NHS centralisation programme is deeply flawed. It does not take account of the distances people have to travel or the low car ownership and the problems we have had with the ambulance service. That is not to denigrate ambulance workers it is a lack of investment in all health services that has got us to the place we are in.
“It is why Plaid Cymru has spent so much time putting forward proposals to attract extra doctors and to train extra doctors. The government tell us that centralisation has been driven not by a lack of money but a by lack of staff. It is Welsh Labour’s inability to have planned and organised that staff over many years that has left Wales in a position where we have fewer doctors per head of population than all but three other EU countries.
“Investment in our staff is the key in terms of health services. What Plaid Cymru has said is that when we have enough staff to ensure safe services then we will reopen those services that have been lost in our hospitals.”
Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash
A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.
New Year – new start – for two seals released back into the wild
Two grey seal pups have been returned to the wild for the New Year following months of RSPCA rehabilitation.
They were released at Port Eynon, Gower, Swansea, on 3 January as the sun rose – just days into 2021 – by RSPCA animal rescue officer Ellie West and RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben – who caught the beautiful event on camera. One seal had been originally rescued from Abereiddy in Pembrokeshire – the other from Trevone in Cornwall. They were both found in distress, underweight and with injuries.
Ellie said: “This was such a lovely release – to see them both enter the sea happily where they belong with the sun rising in the distance was just glorious. It was a lovely way to start the new year.”
The seals had been transferred to the Welsh coast from RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Hastings the previous day and had spent the night at the RSPCA Llys Nini Branch seal unit.
“These two pups – nicknamed BB8 and Luke Skywaker – have been in the fantastic care of RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre who have given them the best rehabilitation over the past few months. It’s always fantastic to hear when they have put on the appropriate weight and can be released back into the wild,” added Ellie.
Ellie had been involved in the initial care of the seal rescued from Abereiddy Beach back in October.
“He was a weaned pup that had pretty much moulted out all his baby white lanugo coat, so he was fully weaned, but he was found quite underweight, lethargic and had the snotty face of a sickly pup,” she said. “He also had a lump on the top of his neck.
“He was reported to myself and Keith and we asked Welsh Marine Life Rescue (WMLR) to attend who very kindly collected him and cared for him for a few days until we were able to transfer him to the wildlife centre.
“Once again we want to thank WMLR for all their assistance, expertise and all their hard work this past season. We could not do what we do without them.”
At RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre the seal had the lump removed under anaesthetic by the vet team.
The second seal from Cornwall came into RSPCA care in November and weighed just 16.3kg. The seal had suffered a few small wounds and was a bit wheezy, with centre staff treating him for lungworm and administering antibiotics. When he left the centre the seal – who was named Luke Skywalker – weighed a healthy 40kg.
Before release, the seals were given identification tags in their hind flippers for ID purposes. The RSPCA often receives good feedback from sightings – and the scientific results received reveal that seals that go on from rehabilitation survive in the wild.
The RSPCA advises that if members of the public spot a seal on a beach that they think might need help, the best thing is to observe them from a distance and do not approach them.
Seals are wild animals and have a nasty bite. Never try to return a seal to water yourself, as you may put yourselves and the seal at risk by doing this. It is also advised they keep dogs away from any seal and keep them on leads on beaches that have seal colonies too.
It’s not unusual for a seal pup to be alone, as seal mums leave their pups very early on in life. So if the seal pup looks fit and healthy and shows no signs of distress, it should firstly be monitored from a safe distance for 24 hours.
If you see a pup whose mother hasn’t returned within 24 hours, is on a busy public beach, or if you think the seal may be sick or injured, please stay at a safe distance and call the RSPCA’s advice and cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. An unhealthy seal pup looks thin (but not bony) with a visible neck, like a dog.
There is more information on the RSPCA website about what to do if you see a seal or pup on the beach alone.
If you have an animal welfare concern or find an animal in distress please call 0300 1234 999.
This winter, the RSPCA expects to rescue thousands of animals from neglect, cruelty and suffering. Already this Christmas we received more than 44,000 calls to our cruelty line but the calls to our rescue line are not stopping so neither will we. To help our rescue teams continue to reach the animals who desperately need us this winter, visit www.rspca.org.uk/xmas and Join the Winter Rescue #JoinTheRescue
Community Midwife home for Christmas after 85 day battle with COVID-19
|SHARON GEGGUS, a community midwife from Llanelli is home for the holidays after a three month battle with coronavirus.|
Sharon began to feel unwell in September, experiencing shortness of breath and a high temperature.
As these symptoms persisted and her condition began to worsen, she was admitted to Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli on 16 September, with a temperature of 41°C.During her stay, she credits the support of her family and the staff at Prince Philip Hospital for helping her get through the ordeal. Speaking of her experience in hospital, Sharon says: “I was sedated for about five weeks, but I was told that the staff were playing music for me. They had contacted my family to find out what my favourite songs were, and they would play those.
“It was really hard but the hardest times I didn’t really know about – my family were the people going through it. I can’t stress how well the staff looked after me. I used the iPads provided through the hospital to keep in contact with my family and the staff would also help me phone and communicate with my family.
“The ITU staff and the staff on Ward 9 where I went for rehabilitation were amazing. I’m a community midwife myself and I would obviously treat someone how I wanted to be treated – but they really went above and beyond.
They would sit and chat with me when I was feeling down and they made sure I was in contact with my family all the time, even letting me hang up pictures of my family on my wall.”
Sharon was clapped out of the hospital on 10 December, 85 days after being admitted. Even though she is home, the road to recovery isn’t over.
She says: “There’s still a long way to go but I’m getting there. I can get around using a walking frame and only need oxygen when I’m really moving about. It’s so nice to be home, I think you just sort of relax a bit and move around more and just feel better for being back with your family.”
Reflecting on her experience, Sharon offered this advice to others with COVID-19: “Keep in touch with your family as much as you possibly can, it’s what got me through. I wouldn’t really know what else to say, just keep positive and keep in touch with your loved ones, that’s what really helps.”
News1 week ago
Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash
Sport2 weeks ago
Wales Women building cohesion at start of big year
Politics2 weeks ago
Call to replace the Lords
News2 weeks ago
New Year – new start – for two seals released back into the wild
Politics2 weeks ago
North Wales Commissioner to stand down
Sport2 weeks ago
Scarlets’ late surge sees off Ospreys
Sport2 weeks ago
Scarlets slay Dragons
Politics2 weeks ago
Taskforce returns empty homes to use