KEITH DAVIES, Labour Assembly Member for Llanelli, has confirmed that he will not be standing for the party at the next Assembly Election in May 2016.
Mr Davies was elected in 2011, when he beat Helen Mary Jones by 80 votes.
The Herald caught up with Keith at his constituency office in Queen Victoria Road, Llanelli where we asked him a number of questions based around his life in politics.
With regard to Assembly Members, we asked Keith whether he thought that with fewer AM’s than there are members of Carmarthenshire County Council, there was a risk that AM’s time was spread too thinly. Responding, he told us: “I would like to see the number of AM’s increase because the workload has increased. The Assembly is now passing laws, which do not have to be approved by Parliament. But looking at your question another way, there are two different aspects to consider. There are committees of the Assembly, and you can only be on two or three of those, and there are cross-party groups which focus on single issues and draw together members from all sides of the political debate. I am off to Brussels on Wednesday and Luxembourg on Thursday. We are going to have discussions on European funding and we are going to have discussions with the European investment bank. Wales could gain if we have more involvement with the European Investment Bank.”
He continued: “Meanwhile, I represent the assembly in meetings on items like sex trafficking. I was amazed at the amount of trafficking that takes place right across Wales. It is a complex issue and the proceeds of organised crime also contribute to sex trafficking.”
We asked Keith about the impact of Labour’s General Election defeat in May on Wales, particularly whether the people of Wales are doomed to suffer at the hands of a Conservative government. Answering, he offered a trenchant view: “People are suffering now. You will have seen the anti-austerity marches over the weekend. We will have £12billion in cuts and that is unacceptable and I think the electorate have been shocked.”
However, Keith was more upbeat about Labour’s chances of recovering from its shattering defeat: “The Labour party is increasing its membership in every constituency since the general election. We have had 2,000 people join the Labour party in Wales following the election.”
He was particularly keen to draw a distinction between London and Welsh Labour in Cardiff Bay: “Whatever happens in Westminster the Welsh Labour government is trying to help people in poverty. You’ve got things like the independent living fund, which Westminster got rid of. We kept that in Wales. We have Flying Start and Communities First and we are trying to help get people out of poverty and back into education and work.”
On education, Keith told The Herald that he was optimistic about Wales’ education system. A former teacher, inspector and Head of Education for a local authority, he told us: “I am slightly suspicious of the Pisa results. GCSE results are improving in Wales. One of the problems we have had over the years is that academic subjects have been pushed and vocational subjects have been ignored. The Donaldson report will look at the complete curriculum. We are all different and children who have different strengths and weaknesses must have a choice. The curriculum should not tie them into a particular course of action.”
As a proud Welsh speaker who made his career before politics in education, Keith Davies was particularly passionate about the advances he had seen in Welsh-medium education: “I can go back a few years within Welsh medium education. I remember Lord Haycock telling us that trying to stop Welsh education is like trying to stop a steamroller. We opened a new Welsh medium school in Glamorgan every seven years. We have Welsh speaking schools in Llanelli and we may have another Welshmediumcomprehensive in Llanelli. Ever since I worked in Glamorgan I have supported the Welsh language. We now have our own language and our own education system in some areas where the Welsh language had almost disappeared. I have been able to give as much support to the Welsh language as possible.”
On the future of Llanelli in any reorganisation of local government, Keith favoured a merger to the east with Swansea, over reintegration within Dyfed Mark Two: “I have already said this to Leighton Andrews. I believe that the Gwendraeth Valley, the Amman Valley and Llanelli should be in with Swansea. The majority of people in this area would prefer if we moved in with Swansea and Port Talbot. We are in such close proximity to hospitals like Morriston and Singleton and that is somewhere we could be treated.”
Closing on a personal note, Keith told us that he was proud to have worked with SOSSPAN to retain a doctor led accident and emergency department at Prince Philip Hospital and his part in the fight to retain two local care homes within his constituency.
“It has been a privilege to represent my home constituency since 2011, championing Llanelli town and speaking up for everyone from Cross Hands to Kidwelly, Bancffosfelen to Burry Port. Throughout my working life, I have encouraged young people to work hard and reach their full potential. I believe now is the right time for the next generation to have the opportunity to represent the Llanelli Constituency.”
Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June
ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.
A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.
An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.
The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.
Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”
If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.
All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.
It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.
Please check for local arrangements.
Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.
Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.
Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.
“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”
Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.
They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS
Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”
“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”
Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.
The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.
Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre
LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.
In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.
This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.
RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”
“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”
“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”
“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”
“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”
“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”
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