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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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Plans for Cross Hands Health Centre to go before Welsh Government

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AN OUTLINE Business Case for the development of a Wellbeing Centre to be based in Cross Hands is to be resubmitted to Welsh Government, Hywel Dda University Health Board is pleased to announce.

The business case outlines our intention to develop an integrated health and social care network of services for the Amman Gwendraeth area and the construction of a Wellbeing Centre. If approved, the centre will provide a base for health and care services which will accommodate two local GP practices (Tumble and Penygroes), a library, family centre, community pharmacy and also community police support officers and voluntary sector groups.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we deliver some health and care services. Hywel Dda University Health Board has been working with partners and stakeholders to refresh the business case for the development to ensure that these continue to be fit for our population’s health and care needs both now and in the future.  It is anticipated that the Business Case will be resubmitted to Welsh Government in Spring 2022.

Rhian Dawson, Integrated System Director for Hywel Dda University Health Board and Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “I am delighted that we are now able to refocus on the development of the Wellbeing Centre in Cross Hands. This will not only be an asset for Cross Hands but will benefit Carmarthenshire as a whole. While it is unfortunate that the pandemic has delayed our progress, it has also demonstrated the importance of delivering services as close to home as possible.”

It is anticipated that the Centre could potentially be complete in 36 months from the approval of the Outline Business case. 

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Boris Johnson apologises over latest No.10 party revelations saying it was ‘work event’

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THE PRIME MINISTER says he thought party in March was a ‘work event’ but concedes he should have stopped the gathering on May 20, 2020.

In Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday (Jan 12), he apologised to the public and said that “I wish that things had been done differently on that night.”

But Boris Johnson said that Labour will have to wait for the outcome of an inquiry to know the exact details of what happened that night.

Labour Leader, Keir Starmer said Matt Hancock resigned when he broke the rules, and Allegra Stratton resigned for laughing about rule breaking. Why does the PM think the rules don’t apply to him. Boris Johnson says that is not what he said.

Starmer said the PM originally said he had been assured there were no parties. Then the video landed, and he pretended he was sickened by the parties. Now it turns out he was at the parties. Starmer added that it was his opinion that the public think he is “lying through his teeth”.

Tory MPs objected, on the grounds that MPs should not accuse each other of lying. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, defended Starmer, saying he is talking about what the public think.

Johnson said he does not accept that. He added a laywer should wait for the facts.

Keir Starmer said that he spoke last night to a woman, Hannah, whose father died last May. She met Johnson last year, and Johnson told her that he had done everything possible to protect her dad. Hannah now knows her father’s death certificate was signed on the day of the party. Does the PM understand how she feels?

Johnson said he understands how she feels. He wanted to apologise. But the government has been doing what it can to protect people. It has the most tested population in Europe. And it has had the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, and one of the fastest in the world. Apologising again, the PM said: “Whatever mistakes have been made on my watch, for which I apologise, that is the work that has been going on in Dowing Street.”

Simon Hart MP: We have to get to the bottom of this

Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, and MP for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire, has become the first cabinet minister to publicly express concerns about the latest partygate revelations.  Simon Hart said this morning: “We’re in the middle of an investigation, that was set up by the PM to get to the bottom and to get to the truth about what was reasonable at the time and what wasn’t. It’s frustrating to have to rely on the investigation and we must be careful to not pre-judge that or what the PM will say in a few minutes’ time.

“The one thing I’m not going to do is make light of something that is unquestionably something of a significant public concern.

“I don’t live on a different planet. The frustration and the hurt and indignation and the incredulity that emerging stories like this produce. I’ve got, like everyone, family and friends asking me these questions. We have to get to the bottom of this.

“Judgment will need to be made about what happens next.”

There is some excellent detail about the No 10 party on 20 May 2020 in the Times today. The paper reports that Martin Reynolds, who sent out the email invitation to around 100 staff as the PM’s principal private secretary, became “panicky” in advance of the event, because staff were concerned it was against the rules, but decided cancelling the event would make things worse. The paper reports: “That afternoon, staff began preparations. A row of tables was set up on one side of the garden to act as a bar. In the garden itself more tables were set up in a layout to encourage people to observe social-distancing rules.

“Officials and advisers began arriving shortly after 6pm. While many stayed away, about 40 came. Many took up Reynolds’ suggestion in his email that they should “BYOB” — bring your own booze — taking a trip to the Tesco Express next to Westminster station. The drinks table was well stocked with gin, rosé, red wine and white wine, and guests began to arrive and mingle.

“Two sources said that the prime minister attended, with one saying he was “wandering round gladhanding people”. His fiancée Carrie Symonds, whom he married last year, also attended and was said to have been drinking with Henry Newman, then an adviser to Michael Gove and now a senior figure in No 10.

“The Times has been told that one senior official at the event joked about the risk of surveillance by drones, which was viewed as a tacit admission that the rules were being breached.”

Police in England issued 118,419 fines for breaking lockdown rules between 27 March 2020 and 17 October last year. That included 800 fines in the week when the No 10 party was held on 20 May 2020.

In London 17,745 fines were issued between March 2020 and October last year, including 113 for holding illegal gatherings of more than 30 people.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said: “Thousands of Londoners have been fined for flouting lockdown rules during the pandemic. It would be double standards of the worst kind for the police to turn a blind eye when those in No 10 have done the same.”

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards, questioned the British Government on the floor of the House of Commons this week with regard to the ongoing allegations facing the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

Allegations of a party held by government members and officials during May 2020 continue to plague the Conservative administration, with pressure mounting on the British Government over the past few days.

With an investigation into these claims commissioned, Jonathan Edwards MP questioned the government on what they believed would be an appropriate political sanction should the investigation conclude that a party was held and that the Prime Minister, or other Ministers attended.

The response came that it was not appropriate to comment on this hypothetical situation, and that they would await the results of the independent investigation.

Speaking outside the Chamber, Mr Edwards said: “I have been contacted my several constituents in the past few days outlining their shock, their disappointment, and their anger at the current allegations that this Government faces.

The stories they have shared with me of enormous personal sacrifice, of funerals held over video calls, and of elderly family members unable to see their loved ones in the flesh, have been emotionally powerful, and I thank them for sharing those experiences with me.

Should the allegations of Government Ministers attending a party at this very same period prove to be true, it will fly in the face of the collective struggle that everyday people have endured for almost 2 years now, and it will finally confirm what many of us here in Wales have already theorised: that the political ruling class in Westminster do not care about the citizens that they represent.”

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Llanelli Police Station to temporarily close for improvement work

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LLANELLI POLICE STATION will be closed from Monday, 10th January 2022 and will reopen on Monday, 31st January 2022 for work to improve the building to be undertaken safely.

During this time alternative arrangements will be in place for normal service to continue.

The front office staff will be working from Llwynhendy police station during this period to deal with public enquiries.

The Neighbourhood Policing Team will continue to work from a building alongside the police station and will be accessible as they are now.

Response officers will be continuing to work from the old police station to answer calls for service and will also be utilising Burry Port and Llwynhendy police stations.

The Public Service Point outside the police station will also remain working.

Police can also be contacted online at https://bit.ly/DPP101Online or by email at 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk.

Inspector Mark Davies said, “This level of investment in Llanelli police station clearly demonstrates our commitment to keeping a local policing base in the town and our desire to ensure our facilities are fit for operational use for the future.”

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