19-YEAR-OLD Stefan Ryszewski was Born in Felinfoel, Llanelli and attended Ysgol Y Strade. A fluent Welsh speaker, he is studying law at Swansea university.
So far, you might think,the above is not exceptional in and of itself. However, Stefan is the Welsh Conservative party’s nominee to stand for the Llanelli seat in May 2016. We began by suggesting that the public could think Stefan very young to be an AM.
Confidently, he responded: “People trying to encourage young people to become interested in and get into politics. It is strange that when young people do become interested and do get involved, the same people seem critical or wary. “We have to encourage young people into elected positions, otherwise how are we going to encourage our youth to get involved and engaged in politics? I have always taken a keen interest in local issues in Llanelli. I am a local lad and it would only be for Llanelli that I would like to stand. I studied politics to A level in school and that galvanised my interest.”
Llanelli is a Labour stronghold and we suggested that Stefan faced a tough task. Stefan shot back: “In Westminster, maybe, but it is not so much in the Assembly. It is only a majority of about 80 that the Labour Party has over Plaid Cymru. Yes, it is going to be tough and I am going to have to face challenges, but I am a local person and I want to show them what the Conservative message is all about.”
The Welsh Conservatives have never had much luck in Llanelli and so we asked Stefan whether he would be following the message from Westminster or from Wales. He told our reporter: “We will be giving a message from the Welsh Conservatives and the manifesto that we will bring out in due course. There will be issues we won’t agree on with the Westminster Government but you will also find that within the Labour Party.”
Stefan has tweeted that he was in favour of air strikes in Syria, what had made up his mind to support the call for military action? He said: “ I saw the people that were against the air strikes offering no alternative. They sat back and said they didn’t agree with air strikes but they didn’t offer an alternative for what the government should do. I voice my opinion, but as an Assembly candidate the discussions has to be on devolved issues. I would have voted for the air strikes if I was an MP but as an AM we don’t have that power to launch air strikes.”
The Herald asked Stefan what he believed were the issues facing the people of Llanelli. He was clear and targeted the cuts to public services which have taken place over recent years: “The issue facing the people of Llanelli are the cuts in the education budget. It is £18 million over three years. Yet the Council keeps on coming out with vanity projects. The Council’s priorities are all wrong.
“With our policy as Welsh Conservatives we would directly fund schools. That would be equivalent to £214 extra per pupil per school. It would probably be more when we consider the cuts that come into place. We want to give children in Wales the best opportunity in life. I know the issues the Welsh language faces here in Llanelli and I believe in aspiring to have the means to better yourself. I don’t think we suffer from a lack of ambition, I believe it is a lack of ambition from our elected representatives. Maybe people will see aspiration in a young person like myself. It is not fair to say the people lack ambition.”
An ambitious Strategic Plan has been produced for the next fifteen years. We asked Stefan for his view: “I welcome investment into Llanelli and Carmarthenshire but we need to look at priorities. We are seeing these cuts coming into areas like health and education. The discussion needs to take place with the people of Llanelli and Carmarthenshire.
“We welcome jobs and growth but we need to give local businesses the opportunity to grow. If every business in Wales took on one extra person there would be no unemployment in Wales. “I take a keen interest in local politics and I have never seen this Strategic Plan document. I think that Plaid are hypocritical. Their campaign was based on free parking. They are now in a position to do so and we have been offered free parking between 3 and 5 o’clock. A lot of people will be picking their children up from school or just coming home from work at that time.
We need to offer people two hours free parking when they want them so they can come into the town and make their purchases. We showed Stefan some of the figures the Council is using to underpin its Strategic Development Plan and asked if he was impressed:“I would much prefer to see existing successful local business people getting first bite of any investment opportunities. We need to support local people and local businesses to grow. The figures we are seeing do not add up. I think we must welcome tourism but I am skeptical about where they obtain the figures in this document from. I will be making a request to find out more about them.”
The County Council plan to cut litter picking in Carmarthenshire but claim in the Strategic Development Plan that Llanelli will be cleaner as a result of their vision. We asked Stefan for his opinion: “We have had a lot of complaints about litter in streets. The council did respond but we shouldn’t have to complain to them. I will be doing litter picks as a candidate myself to show support for the workforce and show that we do need these people to clean our streets.”
We asked Stefan what he thinks is the key priority for Llanelli: “Not enough is being done to bring local businesses into town. I would like to see young people getting opportunities and as a Welsh Conservative Government we would abolish business rates of rateable businesses up to £12,000. We do need to give young people from whatever walk of life the means to go out and start up their own business. We need to make use of our existing empty buildings and help the town centre. We know the out of town developments have killed the town. We need to start promoting the town centre.
Stefan will be up against Lee Waters (Lab), Helen Mary Jones (Plaid) and Sian Caiach (People First). and he was diplomatic with his assessments of them: “I see them as all very strong candidates. Helen Mary has been an Assembly Member in the past with a track record. “I have my doubts over the town centre and Prince Phillip hospital. I would like to sit down with the candidates and discuss how we can work together for Llanelli. We will differ but that is all part of a good debate. I would like to discuss what our vision and share ideas. Llanelli really does need someone local and someone who is going to fight for Llanelli.
“ My Grandfather came over here after the war and my whole family live here. I am not from the landed gentry. Llanelli has never been a Conservative seat but I am here for a long time and hopefully I can change that.” Stefan was also very definite about what the County Council should be focusing their attention on. He said, “Parking is a real issue in the town and we need more free parking especially for elderly people. We need to give councils the opportunity to freeze council tax.
“It has risen here in Carmarthenshire by a substantial amount and yet services are still being cut. There are calls for savings but we need to make the council more efficient and accountable. The council tax is not there to put up just to raise money. “We need the best people we can get to run our councils. I would welcome more people from Llanelli on the executive board. I think that the council should be led by our elected councillors and represent us.
The executives have refused to cut their wages by 10% and that is a huge concern to me. They use the word ‘savings’ but they are CUTS. “They are using those cuts to fund other projects. It is all well and good making savings but we need to ring fence health education and the local economy. However the council tries to dress things up, a cut is a cut.”
Labour and Plaid unveil a deal for Government
ON MONDAY (November 22), Labour and Plaid Cymru announced an agreement to stitch up the Senedd for the next three years.
Amid much self-congratulation, Adam Price and Mark Drakeford hailed their success at reaching an agreement.
Labour promises to deliver the bits of its Manifesto with which Plaid agrees and considers delivering the bits of Plaid’s Manifesto that it finds unobjectionable.
WHAT THEY SAY
A joint press release says: “The agreement is a joint policy programme covering 46 areas, ranging from the delivery of free school meals to all primary school pupils; a commitment to take immediate and radical action to address the second homes crisis, to long-term reform of the Senedd.
“This is a new form of political working arrangement. The two partners – the Welsh Government and the Plaid Cymru Senedd Group – will work together to jointly develop and oversee the delivery of the policies covered by the agreement over the coming three years.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The Welsh Government has an ambitious Programme for Government, which it will deliver over this Senedd term. But we do not have a monopoly on good ideas, and we will work with progressive parties where we have shared and common interests to benefit people in Wales.
“This Co-operation Agreement brings the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru together to respond to some of the most pressing issues facing Wales today, such as climate change and the energy and cost-of-living crisis.
“We can achieve more for people in Wales by working together, and the Co-operation Agreement is both a response to the external challenges we face and a chance to build on the opportunities in our future. It will also help us secure a stable Senedd over the next three years, capable of delivering radical change and reform.
“These commitments build on our shared values of social solidarity, a sustainable planet and a vibrant democracy.”
Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru, said: “Almost a quarter of a century ago, people in Wales voted for self-government for Wales, with a promise of a new type of politics.
“They placed their trust in a new democracy with an instruction to work differently – inclusively and co-operatively.
“The challenges we face require real ambition to deliver radical ideas. The fallout from leaving the European Union, the legacy of the pandemic, and the UK Government’s determination to erode the Senedd’s powers all increase the need for transformational change.
“Taken together, the bold policy pledges will unite Wales and benefit every generation, from all primary school pupils receiving free school meals to a national care service, free at the point of need.
“I am pleased this pioneering Co-operation Agreement is founded on common ground on a range of issues that will make a long-lasting difference to people’s lives.”
As part of the agreement, a publicly owned energy company for Wales could be created to encourage community-owned renewable energy generation; there will be further investment in flood defences and new measures to strengthen the Welsh language and support for young people’s mental health.
This is a bespoke agreement – it is not a coalition; Plaid Cymru Members will not be joining the Welsh Government as Ministers or Deputy Ministers. Plaid Cymru will appoint a designated lead member for the agreement. Committees of Welsh Ministers and Plaid Cymru designated members will be established to agree on issues covered by the Co-operation Agreement.
Funding has been put in place as part of the Co-operation Agreement and reflected in the draft Budget published in December.
All issues outside the Co-operation Agreement will be handled in the normal course of political engagement.
THE FALL OF ADAM:
FROM HIGH IDEALS TO BASE REALITY
Before May’s election, Adam Price spoke about his “despair” at the prospect of five more years of Labour Government, of Labour’s failures in Wales, and how Wales deserved better.
It turns out what he meant was that he was happy to support Labour in exchange for many things Labour said it was going to do anyway.
The prospect of last week’s Welsh Food Bill (supported by Plaid) ever hitting the statute book has taken a massive step backwards. Instead, there’s likely to be a continuation of the current Welsh Government strategy of discussing whether to consult before talks about holding talks.
Labour hailed its thirty seats in May’s election as a massive endorsement for its policies. Voters rejected those policies in large parts of Wales, where the fight for seats was between Plaid and the Conservatives.
Bolting strong anti-Labour sentiment in traditionally Plaid supporting areas did not end well for Plaid after the One Wales Government.
It is hard to see the crustier members of the Party of Wales reconciling themselves to backing Labour in a Senedd many of them regard as not speaking for their concerns about language, culture, and rural Wales.
Setting unionism aside, the divide between rural Plaid voters and the Conservatives is a lot narrower than Plaid in Cardiff Bay would like to accept.
However, the signs that the parties would reach an agreement have been obvious for some time, notably at First Minister’s Questions.
Over recent weeks, Adam Price’s questions to Mark Drakeford played out like a charade.
The Plaid leader repeatedly invites the Labour leader to comment about the awfulness of the Westminster Government, and the Labour leader obliges and agrees with Mr Price about how awful it is.
The searching scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s actions one might expect from the Plaid leader has been from Mr Price’s questions.
All of which suggests both he and Mark Drakeford are more concerned about what Westminster is or isn’t doing than what the party in power in Wales is or isn’t doing.
It’s all been rather like the occasion when Margaret Thatcher, faced with short-term political difficulty, was asked by Pembrokeshire’s former MP Nicholas Bennett to list her Government’s achievements.
As someone who prides himself on his command of language and speech-making, Mr Price seems to have reconciled himself to the idea that it’s better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
When it comes to political idealism against political reality, Mr Price has shown himself a pragmatist.
With 45 Senedd members, Labour plus Plaid, the numbers stack up arithmetically to increase the number of MSs and change the electoral system.
The losers in such a change, Plaid and Labour calculate, will be the Conservatives.
Increasing the number of Senedd members has long been a Labour goal. In the last Senned term, Labour lacked the numbers to make the change: now it does.
An increase in the number of Senedd members works only if a larger Senedd gets things done and gets them done faster and better.
Labour’s record on introducing primary legislation to the Senedd is weak. For example, it is still wrangling over the scope of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act passed in 2015, two Senedd elections ago.
There is, however, an issue that might cut through any proposed enlargement: public opinion.
Plaid’s and Labour’s recent rhetoric could come back to haunt them.
For the last two years, the Labour Government has lamented the powers being stripped away from it by the Conservative Government in Westminster.
Adam Price has agreed that the Conservatives have stolen powers and breached promises over finance at every turn.
If, as Labour and Plaid claim, the beastly Westminster Parliament is stealing away its power to do anything, the question arises as to why – with fewer effective powers at its disposal – Wales needs more Senedd Members.
A larger Senedd will not hinder a Conservative majority government in London from doing what it wants, and it would be neither more nor less legitimate than the current arrangement.
The result of sixty out of eighty Senedd members complaining when nobody’s listening will be no different than forty-five out of sixty.
A larger Senedd will not mean more powers in Cardiff unless Westminster grants them.
A larger Senedd must mean smaller (and possibly fewer) County Councils.
A larger Senedd might also mean a more openly centralised approach to Wales’s shambolic and chaotic health and social care provision.
The powers the agreement allows the Welsh Government to use are ones it already has – ones a Conservative Government granted it.
Wisely, the Welsh Conservative response to the deal does not over-egg the constitutional pudding.
It emphasises priorities for the Government over the party’s too-frequent claims of ‘constitutional chaos’.
A spokesperson said: “This deal fails to deliver on the priorities of the people of Wales.
“It does nothing to address the crisis in our NHS; nothing to improve our ailing Welsh infrastructure; and nothing to fire up our sluggish economy.
“Prioritising more politicians and constitutional reform over action to secure treatment for the one in five on an NHS waiting list or improving take-home pay for the low paid is appalling.
“Yet again, Plaid has betrayed its voters with another deal that cements a failing Labour administration into power for years to come.
“The message to voters is clear; vote Plaid, get Labour, and vote Labour, get Plaid. Only the Welsh Conservatives can deliver the real change that Wales needs.”
Llanelli animal rescue centre handed grand boost
AN ANIMAL rescue centre in Llanelli has received a financial boost as it gears up for its busiest time of the year.
Many Tears Animal Rescue in Cefneithin has received a £1,000 fillip from Persimmon Homes West Wales.
The money comes as part of the housebuilder’s Community Champions scheme. Each and every month Persimmon donates up to £64,000 to good causes across the UK.
The centre rescues unwanted animals and offers life-saving treatment and operations.
Sylvia Van Atta, who founded Many Tears Animal Rescue with her husband Bill, said: “We’re delighted to receive this generous donation from Persimmon Homes.
“We give animals hope of a new life when sometimes they have only known a life of misery, neglect and cruelty.
“On average, we rescue and rehome 3,000 dogs a year, which is an incredible achievement for a small charity.
“When dogs come to us they are seen by a vet and then placed in foster homes around the country, which helps them to acclimatise into a home environment. From here, they go onto their forever home.
“Our running costs are very high so donations like this from Persimmon make the world of difference.”
Sharon Bouhali, sales director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “We’re pleased to be able to support Many Tears Animal Rescue with this donation.
“The number of animals they help each year is very impressive indeed. I wouldn’t like to think what would happen to these animals otherwise as I know the council run rescue centres are under tremendous pressure.
“All of this has been exasperated by the number of people who bought dogs during various lockdowns, only to decide later on they couldn’t look after them properly.
“We wish Sylvia and her team well for the future.”
Persimmon is preparing to start work on stunning new homes on Aberavon seafront. Househunters can now register an interest by visiting www.persimmonhomes.com or calling 01639 509 055
The centre for building social action opens community food store in Burry Port
IN RESPONSE to the rising cost of living and environmental issues facing society, The Centre for Building Action (CBSA), in partnership with Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council have opened a Community Food Store on Station Road in Burry Port.
The store provides the community with weekly access to great quality, healthy food for only £3.50 pr week; food which normally retails at between £15 and £20.
The food is sourced from a variety of suppliers with a large element of it being surplus food from supermarkets that is still within its sell by date. This is supplemented by food sourced at low prices from whole sellers plus seasonal vegetables harvested from the CBSA’s own growing schemes.
As well as being a low-cost way of shopping it also offers a low impact alternative to members of the community concerned about the environmental impact of waste. It makes use of surplus food provided by FareShare and local food stores and any product that is not used is sent to CBSA’s community composting site in Machynys or used to make hot meals for donation, so there is little or no waste from the store.
Michael Theodoulou, Chief Executive of the Centre for Building Social Action said ‘As a social justice charity, it’s vital that we’re able to support communities with life’s basics and this store does just that.
It gives the local community access to great quality food at accessible prices, which is so important given prices are rising across the board and benefits are being cut, causing people a huge amount of anxiety’.
During the height of the pandemic, with funding provided by, WCVA’s Third Sector Emergency and Recovery Funds, CBSA in conjunction with the Town Council were able to roll out a food delivery scheme to people experiencing hardship and isolation. Building on this work it was delighted to receive funding from the Peoples Postcode Trust, that facilitated the move to Station Road.
Huw Thomas, the Town Clerk said ‘Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council are partners in this initiative in that they offered a home for the project during its initial set up, and we continue to support its work particularly with the recruitment of volunteers and signposting to its services’.
Deputy Mayor, Cllr Karen Morris said ‘It was important for the Town Council to partner on this project because the Store is offering something that is needed in the community; access to high quality, low cost food. Many of the families living here are concerned about making ends meet and putting food on the table, and the Store helps to alleviate those concerns. It also provides a no waste, low impact alternative to regular shopping’.
Thanks to the team of amazing, enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers that support the service, the Burry Port Community Store is open from 11am – 5pm every Tuesday and often has a queue of people waiting for it to open. Burry Port resident Paula Regler visits the store each week and said ‘The Store is a great help in making our pension money go a bit further. We take what we need to for the week and it helps us make ends meet’.
If you would like to find out more about visiting the store, or if you would like to support the Store by making in kind donations please visit the store between 11am – 5pm on Tuesdays.
The Store is located at 38 Station Road, Burry Port, SA16 0LP. Or you can call Emma on 07932 998849 for more information
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