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.
Wales’ hospitality sector will prepare to re-open outdoors from 13 July
The Minister signalled the first phase of a planned reopening for bars, restaurants and cafes with outdoor spaces following a rapid review of the sector.
A final decision about outdoor re-opening will be made at the next review of the coronavirus regulations on 9 July and will depend on whether rates of coronavirus are continuing to fall.
Future decisions about indoor re-opening will be made later and will depend on the success of the first phase of outdoor opening.
The Minister will today also confirm the timetable for re-opening outdoor visitor attractions and the partial opening of the tourism industry in Wales for the remainder of the summer season.
If the requirement to stay local is lifted in Wales on 6 July, outdoor visitor attractions will be able to reopen from Monday.
And, subject to the forthcoming review of coronavirus regulations on 9 July, the tourism sector is preparing to re-open self-contained accommodation.
The Minister will today confirm the date that owners of self-contained accommodation can accept bookings is being brought forward to 11 July from 13 July, to help with the pattern of Saturday-to-Saturday bookings.
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said:
“Tourism is a vital part of the Welsh economy at a national, regional and local level. I’d like to thank all our industry partners for working with us to carefully reopen the visitor economy.
“A successful, safe and phased return will give businesses, communities and visitors confidence to continue with the recovery of the visitor economy.
“We ask everyone who travels to and around Wales to enjoy their time here, but always to respect local communities. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Wales – but we want everyone to Visit Wales Safely.”
Guidance to help businesses in Wales’ visitor economy has been published this week. Further guidance for cafes, bars and pubs will follow.
Visit Wales has also worked with the other national tourism organisations on a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide reassurance as the sector works towards reopening.
The Good To Go industry standard and supporting mark means businesses can demonstrate they are adhering to the respective government and public health guidance; have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and checked they have the required processes in place. The scheme is free to join and open to all businesses across the industry.
Folly Farm are ready to welcome back its loyal annual pass holders from 8 July and will open to all on 13 July.
Zoe Wright, head of marketing at Folly Farm, said:
“We’ve been preparing for our re-opening for several weeks and are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Folly Farm, safely.
“We’ve been hugely encouraged by the support we’ve received from our visitors and our local community. Lots of local accommodation providers have been sharing our staying safe re-opening guide ahead of their guests returning.
“We’ve got lots of measures in place to keep our visitors, staff, animals and our wider community safe, including the essential pre-booking of visits so we can limit visitor numbers and provide even more space across our 120-acre site. As an animal attraction, we’re naturally geared up to offer and encourage regular handwashing but we’ve added hand-sanitising stations across the park too.
“Our animals provide a fun way to encourage visitors, especially the younger ones, to follow our social distancing signage with paw prints marking out a safe distance in queuing areas and penguin and pig themed arrows for our one way systems.”
Sean Taylor, Founder & President of Zip World is making preparations to open on 6th of July and said: “As one of North Wales’s biggest outdoor tourist attractions, there is a huge responsibility in the way we restart our operations. We have a strong sense of community and have an important role to play in rebuilding the region’s visitor economy all of which has to be managed responsibly and firmly in line with the current government guidelines.
“We have spent the last few months rethinking the logistics of our operations to keep staff, customers and the community safe. To begin with, the reopening will be a staggered approach by only opening two of our three sites initially and 6 of our adventures. This means a reduction in capacity and we have also introduced robust hygiene regimes, clear wayfinding & signage, PPE and the use of tech where possible to reduce consumer touch points. There is now a simple 6 steps guide for all customers to follow before and during their visit – this includes signing the waiver online pre visit, contactless payments etc.”
South West Wales Virtual Open Day 8 July
Welsh local authorities, schools, colleges and work-based learning providers will be hosting a series of Virtual Open Days for Year 11 pupils for the first time this month.
An event specifically for pupils from Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Llanelli, Swansea and Powys will be held on Wednesday 8 July and will cover a series of sessions on post-16 options including A Levels at sixth form or college as well as work-based qualifications.
Jonathan Davies OBE will host the sessions on apprenticeships and traineeships and will be on hand to field questions about how to apply and get the most from industry-led training opportunities.
Other sessions will be led by Pembrokeshire College, NPTC Group of Colleges, Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion as well as Careers Wales and local authorities.
The spread of COVID-19 has not only meant a break in students’ learning, but also the cancellation of many planned events like open days which were scheduled to take place throughout the summer.
Open days are vital ways of helping Year 11 pupils to understand all their options for continuing their education and deciding on the right path for them. It’s also the way pupils make connections with new people and different environments to support them in making their decision.
With no indication yet of when face-to-face events might be able to go ahead again, over 220 schools, colleges and work-based learning providers across Wales are partnering with the Welsh Government to hold virtual sessions for all Year 11 pupils in Wales to make sure nobody misses out.
Organised by Welsh Government and hosted by Working Wales, the Virtual Open Days will enable young people across Wales to discover the options for furthering their education in their area, including what school and college courses are available, as well as training opportunities like apprenticeships and traineeships, and access to careers advice from
Live sessions will be held for each region across Wales from 7 – 10 July, with lots of additional content available throughout the second week of July and beyond. There will also be the opportunity to put questions to local careers advisors and learning providers who know about the provision in your area.
Virtual Open Days will be hosted online, but those without internet access at home will have the option to phone and speak directly with schools, colleges and work-based learning providers.
Welsh Government will be providing information about the full range of Virtual Open Days, as well as links to partner websites and content, on Working Wales where there will also be advice for those students who are unsure of what they want to do next.
Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said: “Now more than ever, it’s vital that young people are equipped with the skills, information and training they need to find fulfilling work.
“If you’re a young person, you may be unsure of what you want to do after school, or whether you want to continue in education at all. Open days can play a vital role in helping access the right education or training, providing a vital insight into the different courses and ways of learning that are available to young people considering their next options.
“Virtual Open Days are a really innovative way to explore options digitally and will help young people in deciding what to do next. Whether you are shielding at home, returning to school to say goodbye for the summer, or are not sure what to do next, our national virtual open days will ensure learners in every region of Wales have the opportunity to engage and
ask questions at this important time.”
Nikki Lawrence, chief executive of Careers Wales, said: “Deciding what the next step is with your education is an important time for young people across Wales and we want to make sure that they are still able to explore the different options that are available.
“During the four days we will be offering additional support from our expert careers advisers who will be available via our live web chat. This will enable young people who are not sure what the next step is to get the advice and guidance they need.”
To find out more about Wales’ Virtual Open Days, call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or go to www.workingwales.gov.wales/start-your-story
25 apprenticeship in the construction industry on offer
Applications are still being taken for up to 25 paid apprenticeships through the Next Steps programme.
Now in its 11th year, Next Steps is open to men and women living in Carmarthenshire aged 16 and over who have an interest in obtaining qualifications in groundworks, carpentry, bricklaying, plastering, electrics, plumbing and painting and decorating. No previous experience is required.
Working in partnership, Carmarthenshire County Council, Lloyd & Gravell, TRJ, Coleg Sir Gar, CCTAL and CYFLE the Next Step Programme is looking for up to 25 people to become professionals of the future.
Successful candidates will have the opportunity to learn through a practical hands-on experience.
The programme has already changed the lives of countless local people – including people who have gone on to set up their own business and win national skills competitions, as well as children and adults with severe disabilities who have benefitted from community projects built by the Next Steps teams.
The successful candidates will commence a minimum two-year paid apprenticeship/training programme with Lloyd & Gravell Ltd, TRJ Ltd, CYFLE or Carmarthenshire County Council starting September 2020.
A basic knowledge of Welsh is required to accomplish this post. Support can be provided on appointment to reach this level. For further information and to download an application form visit https://recruitment.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/wrlive/pages/vacancy.jsf?latest=01007474
Deadline for entries is July 6.
For an informal discussion please contact Jason Jones – 07880 504117
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