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.
Lifeline for cockle-gathers could be on the way after Llangennech rail crash
Plaid Cymru MS Helen Mary Jones has raised the impact on cockle-gathers of the Llangennech derailment last year.
She received an assurance from the First Minister that the Welsh Government was looking at way to help the cockle industry.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty Minister, Helen Mary Jones MS said:
“In the Senedd I congratulated the public services for the way they co-operated around the clean-up after the Llangennech derailment, which, so far, has been very successful. I demanded a life-line scheme to help the cockle gathers.
“I raised with the First Minister issues for two groups of businesses particularly badly affected in the short-term by the derailment.
“One of those was the very important cockle-gathering industry, the other, of course, were farmers who graze animals on those low-lying banks by the river.
“There has been a request for the Welsh Government to consider whether some interim financial support might be made available to the cockle gatherers and the grazers while responsibility for the derailment and long-term compensation becomes a possibility. Many of these are small businesses; they operate on quite low margins and currently in difficult circumstances.
“The First Minister emphasised he was aware of the impact on cockle gatherers and particularly that they were unable to carry out their normal activities while the level of environmental contaminants in the estuary were being surveyed.
“Plaid Cymru believes it must be the polluter in the end that must pay for the damage that has been caused, but the rail accident investigation branch work is not coming to a conclusion quickly.
“The Welsh Government is expecting to receive advice in the next few days whether or not it is possible to devise a scheme through the Welsh Government in which some interim assistance to those industries could be supplied.
“The Welsh Government is keen to obtain that advice from officials in case it is possible, before the rail accident investigation is completed, so they can offer some assistance to those who have been most directly affected.”
The environmental impact of the Llangennech derailment last year was amongst the most significant in Wales since the Sea Empress disaster of 25 years ago.
Monitoring of the site and surrounding area, which includes four sites of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation will continue for many years to come.
UK Budget must take crucial steps to help recovery
LLANELLI Labour representatives are urging the UK Government to take the necessary steps to begin recovery and secure prosperity across all parts of the UK.
Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and MS Lee Waters set out Wales’ priorities ahead of the UK Budget on Wednesday March 3 2021.
They are urging the UK Government to make a series of commitments to Wales, including:
• sustaining UK-wide business support
• delivering welfare and taxation measures to support the most vulnerable
• redressing the historical under investment in Wales on research and development and rail infrastructure
• providing an injection of funding to support the transition to Net Zero carbon emissions
• providing guarantees for Wales’ specific funding pressures
Speaking ahead of the UK Budget announcement, Nia Griffith MP reiterated her calls for continued business support for those on the lowest of incomes. She said:
“It is vital that the Job Retention Scheme and Self Employed Income Support Scheme are retained – not threatened with being removed at the eleventh hour and putting livelihoods at risk. A delay to repayments should also be introduced for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme with recognition given to the self-employed who are facing deferred bills.”
“It is also vital that the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit is maintained and put on a permanent basis, making it available to people in receipt of legacy means-tested benefits. More than 300,000 families in Wales have benefitted from an extra £1,000 a year as a result of the uplift and removing this now would have a detrimental and long-lasting effect on thousands of households across Wales.”
Lee Waters MS said:
“The UK Government should continue to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest in Wales’ infrastructure and public services. Particularly on rail, where we have been underfunded to the tune of billions since the start of devolution, this is the moment where Rishi Sunak can demonstrate his commitment to ‘levelling up’ all four nations of the UK.”
“This budget is a chance to hardwire a greener, fairer way of doing things into our recovery from Coronavirus. We are ambitious about our target of being Net Zero carbon by 2050, and averting the climate crisis which is increasingly affecting Wales through flooding. But to make that transition, we need a step change from the UK Government’s budget that allows us to invest in renewable energy and green jobs.”
Search for Susan Smith continues
THE search for missing Susan Smith is now in it’s third day. She was last seen on Saturday (Feb 27), walking in the Kidwelly area.
Speaking to The Herald, a police spokesperson said: “We are continuing to search for Susan Smith who has been reported missing.”
“The search is continuing today with specialist police officers making house to house enquiries in the Kidwelly, St Ishamels, Ferryside and surrounding areas.
Sergeant Fiona Phillips said: “It is important that we build a picture of Susan’s movements after she was last seen on Saturday and I would appeal to anyone who believes they may have seen her to contact police.”
Susan was last seen 1.30pm Saturday, February 27 2021, walking in the Carmarthen Bay Holiday Village, Kidwelly area. She is known to walk along the beach to St Ishmaels and Ferryside.
She is described as approximately 5ft2 inches tall, petite with shoulder length blonde hair and believed to be wearing black jeans, a black fleece type jacket and navy and grey walking boots.
Any who has seen Susan or anyone who may have information that could help the search is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police, quoting reference 285 of Saturday 27th February.
Police can be contacted either online at bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing email@example.com, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908
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