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New Shadow Welsh Secretary speaks to The Herald

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‘I will hold the government to account’: Nia Griffith

‘I will hold the government to
account’: Nia Griffith

NIA GRIFFITH MP has been appointed Shadow Welsh Secretary of State to Wales in a shake-up of the opposition frontbench, following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour Leader. We asked Nia how she received the news that she had been chosen to become Shadow Welsh Secretary. She said, “I had a phone call for Jeremy asking me if I would like to serve in his shadow cabinet and then he offered me the post. “It is a great privilege for me taking on the post. It is an exciting and challenging time. It isn’t going to be easy at all. My family and friends are delighted and I would like to thank everybody for all their lovely messages and their kind words.”

Corbyn has defied expectations

 The Herald asked the Shadow Welsh Secretary whether she believed that Jeremy Corbyn would bring a new approach to politics and whether he would survive demonization by the Tory press. She replied, “I think Jeremy has already defied expectations in his resounding victory. He is completely unperturbed by this onslaught from the press and he continues to stand by his principles fight for what he believes in. “He will incur immense wrath and ridicule from some areas of the press. What Jeremy has done is that he has spoken to people who are fed up and who care deeply about things but who have been put off by the convention of presentation. “Today (Wednesday, Sept 16) at Prime Minister’s question time, I think he took the Prime Minister surprise by asking him to adopt a different style to PMQ’s. Already he is showing that you can be strong in a different way by taking up questions that he has asked people to email him and he had 40,000 replies. Of course there will be people ready to criticise but I do think he will bring a very humanitarian approach to many issues.”

The refugee crisis

The role of Shadow Welsh Secretary will see Nia taking on more responsibility for a wider community. We asked her how she will be responding to the refugee crisis as Shadow Welsh Secretary. She told us: “I think the general public were very clear about what they wanted us to do. Yvette Cooper spoke up for us as shadow home secretary and shamed the government about its attitude and the dehumanising nature of Tory rhetoric about refugees. “We need to keep the pressure up. Today we had a statement in the House of Commons on migration. We need to impress on Cameron the need to cooperate with other European countries about what to do with the arrivals in Southern Europe in countries like Greece. Lebanon and Jordan has an enormous number of refugees. “The UN says they do not have the money and they will run out of food so it is no wonder they want to flee the country. It is really important that we keep challenging the government to get a solution at source but we can’t ignore the people who have arrived in Southern Europe as well.”

The justice system

Changes to the criminal justice system have been wreaking havoc in communities across the country. The practice of levying charges against those accused of offences has drawn sharp criticism from solicitors, barristers and judges that they lead those who find themselves into repetitive crime, costing the tax payer more in the long term as they are imprisoned for offences that begin as minor criminal acts. We asked Nia if she would be looking at trying to influence some changes regarding the criminal justice system in particular. Focusing on the justice system in its widest sense she said: “I think there are some very serious issues in relation to justice not least of which, has been the cuts to legal aid. That is the first thing we need to look at in terms of getting justice for people. “We also need to look at the charges being imposed at employment tribunals. We have issues about courts being closed and how easy it will be for people to access justice at all in rural Wales. We have major worries about cuts to police including cuts to the police helicopter. “There is no doubt about it that it is going to be harder and harder for the ordinary person to get access to justice. I will be speaking up for the whole of Wales and I will be visiting many areas of Wales. My experiences in Llanelli inform me and I find that the issues facing us in Llanelli are the same for those in the Rhondda and in North Wales for example.”

Holding the government to account

The Herald asked Nia Griffith what the key issues facing the people of Wales were and which issues she would be focusing on in her new role. She told The Herald: “The key areas of policy in Wales are health and education and they are devolved. Our colleagues at the Welsh Assembly will be driving those forward. “I am focusing on non-devolved issues like Child Tax Credits. The Prime Minister promised he would not make cuts in Child Tax Credits over and over before the election. Well, we can now all see what that promise was worth. That money now is going to be sucked out of Wales. “We are talking about a quarter of a million families in Wales who are going to lose about £1,000 a year. It is going to be taken out of our local communities. That would also mean two hundred million pounds less in our High Streets. Think of the knock on effect that is going to have. “We need to hold the government to account about what’s happening in Wales in the non-devolved areas, that’s my role as Shadow Secretary of State to Wales.” Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “I’d like to offer my congratulations to Nia Griffith and Owen Smith on their appointments. Nia has done a great job as Shadow Welsh Minister already, and this elevation is well-deserved. Her stand-out result in Llanelli in May tells you all you need to know about her campaigning ability. I know that she will make sure that Wales’ voice is heard loud and clear in Westminster. As the first Labour woman to hold the post either in Government or as Shadow Secretary of State, I can’t think of a better person to make that bit of history.”

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Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’

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RESIDENTS in a large part of Llanelli are being put under new local restrictions in a ‘health protection zone’ following a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

The town is seeing a concentrated spread of cases compared with other parts of Carmarthenshire – in the last seven days, 85 positive cases have been identified in Llanelli (151.6 per 100,000 of the population) compared to 24 cases in the rest of Carmarthenshire (18.1 per 100,000 of the population).*

Public Health Wales officials are expecting numbers to continue rising over the coming week.

Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board have worked with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to agree the temporary restrictions at sub-county level to try and halt the spread of the virus.

As of 6pm on Saturday September 26, 2020, residents living in defined parts of Llanelli will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person.

They should not arrange to meet indoors with anyone who they don’t live with, and travel in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will also be limited – people should not leave the area or travel into the area unless it is essential. Travelling in and out of the zone for a holiday is not considered a reasonable excuse.

People are being asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from other people, including collecting children from school, in addition to the rules which already require them to wear a face covering in indoor spaces like shops and on public transport.

All indoor and outdoor visits to residential care homes have also been suspended.

Students may still travel into and out of the ‘health protection zone’ to go to school or college.

People living in the defined area of Llanelli must work from home, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so.

Indoor public spaces such as leisure centres should only be used by people living in the defined area.

Shops will remain open, but people living outside the defined area of Llanelli should avoid travelling to visit them and shop in their own locality wherever possible.

The specific wards covered in the defined area of Llanelli are:

  • Bigyn
  • Bynea
  • Dafen
  • Elli
  • Felinfoel
  • Glanymor
  • Hendy
  • Hengoed
  • Llangennech
  • Lliedi
  • Llwynhendy
  • Tyisha
  • Swiss Valley

Although the pattern of increased positive cases is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Llanelli area where the restrictions have been strengthened, the whole of Carmarthenshire has now been put on alert, with a warning that the tighter restrictions may be extended if cases continue to spread.

Everyone – including those in the defined areas of Llanelli – is being urged to follow the national guidance around social distancing, good hygiene, self-isolation, testing and face coverings.

Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.

“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”

A mobile testing unit has been set up in Llanelli to manage the increased demand by local residents who have any of the Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a change or loss to taste or smell or a new continuous cough.

Reporting of positive cases in the town is fully expected to rise during the next two weeks with the increase in more targeted testing. But this is a positive indicator that cases are being identified and control measures put in place.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before. Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for COVID cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions. The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:

  • Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
  • The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
  • The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)

There should be no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test, as there will be tests available in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 0300 333 2222.

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Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon

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A local sailor based in the Falkland Islands will be taking on the Virtual London Marathon this October to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Curtis Bowen, 24, from Llanelli, South Wales, was due to take on the London Marathon for SSAFA this April, but following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, the race was cancelled. 

Fortunately, the London Marathon team created the Virtual London Marathon in its place, allowing runners to take on the challenge virtually alongside thousands of other runners on the 4th October.

Curtis said: “It was a shame that the London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as planned in April, but I think it is amazing that I am still able to partake whilst being in the Falkland Islands. I’m the first person to ever run the London Marathon in the Falkland Islands.”  

Curtis is currently serving in the Royal Navy, as a Leading Supply Chain Logistician, and has served for four years. His Father also served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years.

The live virtual event on Sunday 4th October will invite runners to run the London Marathon in their own way, joining up to 45,000 runners up and down the country – and across the world – in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, The 40th Race.

Curtis decided to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity after being an avid supporter of the charity and being inspired by his Father, Andrew, who raised over £6,000 for SSAFA. 

I chose to run the London Marathon for SSAFA to challenge myself and raise awareness for a great cause. My younger brother sadly took his own life a couple of years ago and I know that SSAFA are there to support those struggling with their Mental Health. I want to raise as much money as I can to support those struggling within the Armed Forces community.”

“My Father was also supposed to be running the London Marathon this year, but will now be completing the challenge virtually, alongside my brother, Luke, 12,000km away in South Wales.”

If you would like to support Curtis, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Bowen-London-marathon2020

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