Plaid Cymru’s Spring Conference took place at Theatr Ffwrnes in Llanelli on Friday (Mar 4) and Saturday (Mar 5).
The party faithful from across Wales gathered to hear from Plaid’s established politicians and those seeking election in May’s Assembly elections.
EMLYN DOLE: INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
The conference was opened by Plaid Cymru’s Carmarthenshire County Council leader Emlyn Dole, who told the conference that the council had invested in rural Carmarthenshire to tackle poverty and create opportunities.
Cllr Dole told a packed conference hall: “Significant investment is taking place to ensure that the county is well connected and at the forefront of the digital age. High levels of digital connectivity are now in place in Carmarthenshire for us to benefit from in both our home and work lives.
“The scale of the projects is hugely ambitious and transformational giving us the most ambitious capital programme of all the local authorities across Wales. We know that to be successful we have to think big and we have to work closely with the private sector which is what we are doing.
Mr Dole praised the hard work of council staff, saying: “They are people who work hard day in day out to ensure we remain one of the best performing councils in Wales.”
WG FAILS TO ACCESS STEEL FUNDS
Bethan Jenkins AM was up next and launched a blistering attack on the Welsh Labour Government’s failure to help save steel jobs in Port Talbot and help Tata to cut their energy bills. The Plaid Assembly candidate for Aberavon told the party’s spring conference in Llanelli that the Welsh Government had yet to access funds available from the European Commission.
Bethan Jenkins, who met EC officials in Brussels last week, said: “The Commission prizes environmental improvements, and Tata has planning permission for a new power station that would re-use the gases created in steel making to create electricity. Not only would this reduce emissions, it would also slash Tata’s energy bills.
“Tata themselves told me that supporting the company with the power plant would be a way forward. But this wasn’t enough for our First Minster. He poo-pooed the idea from the off.”
Bethan Jenkins also turned her fire on the UK Tory Government, saying that George Osborne and fellow Ministers were stalling on higher tariffs against dumped Chinese steel in Europe.
“Why is it happy to continue to court a country teetering on the economic edge at the expense of our steel industry – a foundation industry? Because if that industry goes, then what is left for manufacturing?”
The South Wales West AM said that the Tories were not even practising the capitalism they preached because they’re were “backing nationalised industry (Chinese) over private business (Tata).”
THOMAS CANES LABOUR ON EDUCATION
Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas AM wasted no time in telling the conference what he thought were the issues holding back the nation’s educational progress. In a forensic analysis of the Welsh Government’s record, he said: “We have had five years of holding the government to account and exposing the vacuity of Labour’s leadership and delivery in Wales. The arrogance of a party asking for a chance to have a decade of delivery when it already had had fifteen years of failure.
“It’s time to say “you’re fired” to Labour’s First Minister, and “you’re hired” to Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru. And if we are hired, what a difference we could make.”
Making a link between poor education and poverty in Wales Simon Thomas continued: “There is no single proven more effective antipoverty measure than education. But a whole generation of our children has been educated under Labour education ministers; in a system described by one of those ministers himself as mediocre.
“We’ve seen standards slip and the economic prospects of our young people dashed. There’s no socialism in abandoning young people to the same fate as their parents and grandparents or tolerating lower educational standards in downtrodden, ex-industrial communities because ‘it’s always been like this’.
The Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire candidate claimed that the present education system under Labour was paralysing its professionals in a straight – jacket of accounting for everything and taking responsibility for nothing; however, he said that there were outstanding exceptions to this rule and many excellent examples of leadership and good teaching.
Setting out his ambitions for the creation of a world class professional education workforce, ranging from classroom assistants to teachers to lecturers and tutors, he continued: “A profession that sets its own standards – for training, for access to the profession and for on-going continuous professional development. Empowering teachers and workers to set professional standards and deliver them.”
If elected he said that Plaid Cymru plans to introduce a ‘teachers’ premium’ as an incentive to maintaining standards and training. Further promises included committing to an extra 50,000 apprenticeships over the next Assembly. Cutting the link to tuition fees and Westminster policy completely and in its place introducing the Wales Learning Bond, which he said will pay for tuition fees wherever a Walesdomiciled student studies. If, however, the student lives and works in Wales within five years of graduation, then Plaid would write off their student loans at a rate of £6,000 per year.
He concluded by telling the conference that it was a particular privilege to have been selected as the candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire for 2016. He said:
“To stand in part of Gwynfor Evans’s old seat fifty years after his ground-breaking by-election victory gives me an enormous sense of history and pride.”
HELEN MARY CALLS FOR ‘A BOLD STEP’
The atmosphere at Y Ffwrnes was certainly warming up nicely in readiness for Plaid’s Llanelli AM candidate Helen Mary Jones, who was next to take the stage. This time it was the turn of the Health Service to come in for a proposed new brush or as Helen Mary put it, “A new Government is essential to improve local health services.”
In an impassioned speech, she told the conference that the continued decline in the Welsh NHS could be halted after May 5 if the people of Wales voted for change.
Developing her theme, Helen Mary Jones told a responsive audience: “Labour is letting our health service down. Staff are doing their best but they need support. Plaid Cymru has practical, costed policies that would bring 150 extra health professionals to the Llanelli area and break down the barriers between health and care, freeing staff from pointless bureaucracy.”
Focusing on Llanelli’s own economy, she said: “Back in our history Llanelli was a great generator of wealth. Our people gave their strength, their health and our beautiful natural environment – mostly to fill the pockets of others.
“Now is the time to harness all that energy, all the creativity that is in our communities. This part of Wales has a track record of making history, of believing in a future for Wales.”
Ms Jones told the conference that Plaid would establish a new Welsh Development Agency, a national commission on infrastructure and removing thousands of small businesses from business rates will be transformation for the Welsh economy.
Helen Mary finished the speech by calling on the people of Llanelli to take a bold step in two months’ time. She said:
“I am asking the people of Llanelli and the people of Wales to take a bold step and elect a Government that believes in Wales, a Government that is ambitious for Wales, a Government that has a vision for our nation and practical plans to deliver that vision.”
Clearly becoming emotional she concluded: “Friends, for too long we have lived under governments that have held us back and kept us down, tacitly accepting that poverty in Wales is inevitable, accepting that it is ok to provide us with public services that are ‘better than nothing’.
“Enough is enough. No more. We need to wake up on May 6 to a new Government, a Government to deliver the change Wales needs.”
WOOD URGES VOTERS TO BACK WALES
The main event on day one was the arrival on the stage of the Plaid Cymru Leader, Leanne Wood. She was introduced by 17-year-old Lucie Wiltshire who is one of Plaid Cymru’s newest members who told the conference that she had joined the party after meeting and being inspired by Leanne Wood and Helen Mary Jones.
Before taking to the stage Leanne Wood had been visiting Hydro Industries Ltd in Llangennech. Speaking about the visit she said that the success of businesses such as Hydro Industries in exporting its goods and services to the world was something that she wants to see replicated more often. Hydro Industries exports its products across the world, including to India and America.
The Plaid Cymru Leader said, “Plaid Cymru wants to sell Wales to the world, and we need to reverse the decline that we have witnessed in the value of Welsh exports.“
The achievements of Hydro Industries in exporting its electrobased technology around the world demonstrates that there is real demand for Wales’ goods and services on the global market. This is exactly the sort of exporting success, driven by our talented, home-grown businesses and entrepreneurs that we want to see replicated across other sectors in Wales.
“Plaid Cymru will do this by establishing a new WDA – Wales Development Agency to work globally and throughout the UK, to boost Welsh exports. Wales has a strong history as an exporting nation, and under Plaid Cymru’s plans to promote Wales, its products and ideas to the world – Wales can become an exporting nation once again.”
The key messages in Leanne’s speech to the conference revolved around the state of the NHS, education and employment.
She said: “This nation, the leading light of the last industrial revolution now lags behind in terms of wages GVA, business start-ups, in fact by almost every measure our economic performance is either stagnant or in decline.”
She asked the conference, Will they give Labour another five years to finish Wales off or will people vote to replace them with a team of people who believe in our country who want to rebuild it and strengthen it? With a team who believes in and wants to support our teachers and health workers.
“So many of you understand that our people have been taken for granted for far too long. You might have given a lifetime of loyalty to one party but you are now asking what you are getting back in return. I would call on all of those people who are feeling this way to get behind Plaid Cymru this time.”
The audience reacted by giving the Plaid leader a standing ovation before she left the stage to embrace the majority of the front row made up of Plaid’s existing and hopeful AMs.
Life saving medical kit for police on the roads
POLICE officers have been given equipment that improves the chance of survival for those injured in a serious crash, as part of Dyfed-Powys Police’s effort to reduce the number of people who die on the roads.
The medical kits are being given to roads policing officers, who are often the first at the scene of a serious crash. They are described as the best available to deal with the type of bleeding they encounter at road traffic collisions, and also in the case of knife and glass wounds, and are the same as those issued to ambulance crews.
Sergeant Owen Dillon, of Brecon Roads Policing Unit, worked with the Welsh Ambulance Service to trial the kit, which he has called ‘simple to use, but effective’.
He said: “We work really hard to reduce the number of collisions on the roads, but unfortunately they do still happen, and people can become seriously injured.”
“It only takes a few minutes for someone to bleed to death, so it’s vital that police officers – who are often first at scene – can deal quickly with any bleeding while waiting for paramedics.”
The equipment has been bought with funding of around £1,000 from the Police and Crime Commissioner. Traffic officers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys will keep the equipment in their patrol cars.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn, added: “Keeping people safe is a top priority for me and this investment will equip officers with the best medical kit possible to deal with immediate life threatening injuries. I am committed to ensuring Dyfed-Powys plays an active role in keeping road users safe.”
Police officers are already trained to use tourniquets and bandages, and the Roads Policing Units who work as part of Op Darwen – the force’s campaign to reduce casualties on the roads – are being given the additional training they need to use this equipment.
Figures show that in 2018, 67 motorcyclists were either killed or seriously injured on roads in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, and men were eight times more likely to be affected than women.
The Welsh Ambulance Service is committed to working in partnership with other emergency services to save lives.
Carl Powell, Clinical Support Officer for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “It is vital that Roads Policing Officers, who are often the first on scene and confronted with serious and life threatening injuries, are supported in preserving life with equipment that is effective in dealing with major bleeding.
“The trauma packs are a proven lifesaving asset and need minimal educational input to be used.”
As part of the Op Darwen, the force is urging motorcyclists to ride safely, and reminding drivers to be vigilant to motorbikes and other powered two-wheelers.
The campaign will run until October, when statistics say the roads are busiest. Roads Policing Units are working across the Dyfed-Powys Police area using a combination of education, engagement and enforcement, to reduce the number of casualties on the roads.
Trimsaran: Male arrested on suspicion of terror offences
OFFICERS from the Welsh Extremism Counter Terrorist Unit (WECTU) have arrested a 57-year-old-man at a property in Trimsaran on Tuesday, June 11.
Armed officers from WECTU, supported by officers from Dyfed Powys Police, attended the property to execute a search warrant.
After finding chemicals at the property, Police arrested the as-yet-unnamed man on suspicion of offences relating to being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
The man remains in police custody, while officers continue their investigations at the property, which remains cordoned off.
A spokeswoman for the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit said there was no risk to neighbouring properties.
She said: “Officers from the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU) supported by Dyfed Powys Police executed a search warrant at an address in the Trimsaran area on Tuesday, June 11.
“A specialist search continues after chemicals were found at the premises and a cordon remains in place. Armed officers were also deployed as a precaution to ensure the safety of officers and the public.
“A 57-year-old man was arrested as a result of the initial search on Tuesday. He remains in custody on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, under section 41 of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000.”
Counter-Terrorism Policing and UK intelligence services have foiled 19 attack plots since March 2017 and are currently running nearly 800 live investigations.
In a statement on the UK’s level of preparedness made on Friday, June 14, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the UK’s Senior National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, said: “Counter-Terrorism Policing and UK intelligence services have foiled 19 attack plots since March 2017 and that we are currently running nearly 800 live investigations, it clearly shows that the UK is still facing an unprecedented level of threat from terrorism.”
Bridgend Ford plant closing next year with loss of 1700 jobs
FORD’S engine plant in Bridgend – which has been operational since 1977 – will close in September next year, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.
The site employs workers from across South Wales, with many more people employed by companies that supply both goods and services to the plant.
Trade union leaders were told the news on Thursday (Jun 6) morning at a meeting at Ford’s Essex headquarters. The company is believed to have pointed at Bridgend’s coast disadvantage in comparison with other sites. Plans are said to include redeployment of employees to other Ford sites.
GMB, the union for Ford workers in Bridgend, has reacted with shock to the announcement, with Regional Organiser Jeff Beck saying: “We’re hugely shocked by today’s announcement, it’s a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend.
“Regardless of today’s announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh Government to find a solution to the issue and mitigate the effects of this devastating news.
“What makes it worse is Donald Trump is in this country talking about a possible trade deal between the UK and the US – yet when the plant closes the new line is likely to be produced in
Mexico by an American company. So much for the special relationship Mr Trump.”
This comes after an investigation by GMB revealed Wales has lost 13,000 manufacturing jobs in just 10 years. The statistics were released ahead of GMB’s Annual Congress, which begins in Brighton on Sunday (Jun 9). They show 13,000 jobs in the sector disappeared between 2008 and 2018 – a fall of nearly 8%. In 2008, Wales supported 168,000 permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs. By 2018, that had slumped to just 155,000.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Business, Russell George AM, said: “After an extended difficult period of uncertainty for workers in Bridgend, today’s announcement was the last news we were hoping for.
“The Welsh Government must act swiftly now to support the workers of the area, and to reassure the world that Wales continues to be a place of automotive excellence.
“With the Bridgend site closing in late 2020 the next step is to attract new business opportunities to the area for these skilled workers.”
Suzy Davies, AM for South Wales West, said: “This is terrible news for the employees of Bridgend Ford and is a devastating blow for the whole area.
“It is crucial today that appropriate support is made available for affected employees during this difficult time. My thoughts are with the families involved, and I intend to extend my full support to those in need throughout the coming months.
“I implore the Welsh Government to do everything within its power to ensure retraining is available to these extremely skilled workers, and to help them find alternative employment with the utmost urgency.”
The plant’s closure come just months after Ford revealed that it would cut the site’s workforce by 370, in the first phase of almost 1,000 job losses, as the company looked to reorganise its European operations. The Bridgend plant makes engines for Jaguar Land Rover, but that contract will end this year, and investment in the new Dragon engine has been scaled back.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “This is devastating news for workers, their families and the wider community. The effects of this decision will be felt across the Welsh economy, but nowhere as acutely as in Bridgend.
“The Welsh and UK Governments must urgently do all they can to support employees, help them find new work and protect Bridgend’s economy. However, we must accept that nothing can stop this being a dark day for Bridgend and the Welsh car industry.
“Ford Bridgend has become yet another devastating casualty of Brexit. This year we’ve already seen Honda announce the closure of its Swindon plant and several car makers temporarily shutdown their factories. How much longer are we prepared to allow this to continue?
“This is yet more evidence we must give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit. Only by stopping Brexit can we save jobs and protect the Welsh economy.”
Assembly Member for Bridgend and former First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Ford intend to shut the engine plant by next September. No reason given as to why it should be Bridgend. The workers deserve so much better than this after all their efforts and hard work. They did all that was asked of them.”
Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, said: “Closure would be one of the most bitter blows for the Welsh economy for more than 30 years. Ford is jewel in the crown of the car industry – which is the hardcore of our manufacturing sector – the implications of this in terms of the supply chain and job losses is very grave.”
The future of the Bridgend site had been questioned for some time, dating back to the ‘One Ford’ plan which was introduced in 2008. From that point, Ford operated as one global company, with Ford UK and Ford Europe no longer designing different cars to the rest of the world. The same car models were then sold worldwide, and further investment went to plants that were the most efficient.
Bridgend was no longer just competing with plants in Cologne and Valencia, but with the rest of world.
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