Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ambulance Crisis in Montgomeryshire

It would be easy to forget, amidst all the furore over the NHS Welsh Ambulance Trust, that the men and women who staff our ambulance stations are doing a sterling job and that they themselves are as much concerned about the conditions they are having to work in as we, the general public, are.

Since May I have visited one of the ambulance stations (Llanfyllin) which was highlighted last weekend on three separate occasions to talk to the crew and on each occasion was struck by their expertise and by their commitment to their job. However they are being asked to work under conditions which both the NHS Welsh Ambulance Trust and the Powys Local Health Board deem unacceptable.

The station is closed completely between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. each morning during which time the local on-call firemen, who have been trained as First Responders, provide First Aid though not paramedic cover. However, if at any time the ambulance from Welshpool is called out the Llanfyllin ambulance crew has to take their vehicle to Welshpool leaving the whole of north east Montgomeryshire, including the accident blackspot of Pistyll Rhaeadr, without any emergency vehicle cover at all.

It is no wonder that the rural target time of 18 minutes for emergency response by ambulances is being missed so often but it is no fault of our dedicated crews. Brian Gibbons, the Labour Assembly Health Minister, needs to get to grips with this situation and stop treating those of us who choose to live in the countryside as second-class citizens.
Plaid’s Montgomeryshire Team Gets Grilled!

Labour has made a mess of the Assembly and shouldn’t be trusted with the new powers it will receive in 2007. That is the message that three of us - all Plaid candidates in the 2007 Assembly elections - will be taking around Montgomeryshire in the next few months.

Nerys Evans and David Senior (first and second on the list for Mid and West Wales) and I (Montgomeryshire candidate) will be holding a series of “Grill the Candidates” sessions in the coming months which will be open to members of the public.

Labour has made the Assembly a talking shop. They haven’t used their existing powers responsibly and have been content by and large to follow the party line dictated by London. Plaid aims to change all that by using the new powers from 2007 in a responsible and sensible way for the benefit of all the people in all parts of Wales.

Plaid has chosen a great team to represent Montgomeryshire. David Senior is a Welshpool Town Councillor and Nerys Evans, a political officer in the National Assembly, at 26 really does represent the up-and-coming generation of Welsh people who have confidence that the Assembly, in the right hands, can deliver for the people of Wales. If people wish to vote for another party in the constituency they can put Plaid as their first choice on the Regional List in the certain knowledge that we have a team which is dedicated to improving schools, hospitals and roads as well as stimulating private enterprise in Montgomeryshire.

The “Grill the Candidates” meetings start in the Railway Inn Penybontfawr on 19 September and continue in the Raven, Welshpool on 28 September, Plas Dolerw Newtown on 9 November and Plas Dolguog on 18 November all starting at 7.30 p.m. There is a warm welcome to the public of all political persuasions and none.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Another English solution to an English problem!

The Labour Party really needs to get its energy policy sorted out.

While Labour at Westminster wants Wales to build more nuclear power stations Labour in Cardiff is pressing for more and bigger wind farms but not, it would seem, in their own back yard as the Labour AM for Conwy, Denise Jones, apparently opposes the 300 turbine off-shore Gwynt-y-Mor project.

How simpler it would be if we in Wales could decide ourselves what to do with our own natural resources. Currently Wales generates about 36,000 GWH per year (about 10% of the UK total) but consumes only about 21,000 GWH. The Labour government in London wants us to increase production to about 45,000 GWH. There might be a case for this if the wealth generated stayed in Wales and was used by those communities where the natural resources were found in the first place as happens in Norway where remote communities often have first class school and recreational facilities because they receive the profits generated by the sale of hydro-electricity in their region.

Far from sensitive community-based alternative means of energy production, however, Labour in both London and Cardiff want to foist either nuclear power stations or massive wind farms onto the landscape or seashores of Wales.

This is an English solution to an English problem. Energy production should be totally devolved to the National Assembly and the many sensitive, community-based schemes such as the wood fuel heating project for the school, Community Centre and 29 homes in Llanwddyn should be the template for the future.
Hands off our water!

After 2 weeks' unseasonally heavy rain in Montgomeryshire we may be forgiven for thinking that the drought orders in the South-East of England have nothing to do with us.

The Government of Wales Bill, however, currently going through Westminster specifically forbids any future Assembly government from making use of Welsh water in any way which affects the "water resources, supply or quality of water in England".

Indeed not only will the Assembly Government not be able to profit from one of Wales' natural resources (and an increasingly valuable one) but there will be nothing to stop water companies in England from obtaining compulsory access to water sources in Wales since the required legislation will go through Westminster and not Cardiff. Another Lake Vrynwy or Llyn Tryweryn cannot be ruled out so watch out Dolanog and Cwm Nant-yr-Eira - they could get you yet!
British Values? Don't make me laugh!

When English schools come to the chapter on Fair Play in their textbook on British Values I hope that there will be room for an alternative point of view, in the interests of fair play, you understand.

If there is then maybe it will include reference to the fact that the Government of Wales Bill currently going through Westminster specifically excludes any future Assembly Government from profiting from the sale of Welsh water, one of our natural and increasingly valuable resources, to England. English companies, though, could obtain compulsory orders from the Westminster government to gain access to Welsh water sources.

And when they come to the chapter on Democracy I hope they will be told about their Leader who, against the wishes of the natives, is forcing on them more nuclear power stations and a re-structuring of their police forces. They may also learn about the rules for electing representatives to the National Assembly which even their own Electoral Commission regards as undemocratic.

This "British Vales" book should be a scream!

And why do English schools have to learn about British values? Haven't they got any of their own?
Police Powers should be devolved to Cardiff

Dyfed-Powys Police has the best crime detection rate in the country. It recently seized a large haul of drugs in Pembrokeshire and in August 2001, the time of the BNP rally, coped with the largest threat to public order in Montgomeryshire since the Chartists Troubles of 1839 yet the Home Office and Peter Hain want to reform it on the basis that it cannot cope with drug-trafficking and terror threats. In addition the Westminster government wants us, the taxpayers, to pay for the £40m this pointless exercise will cost.

The wishes of the people of Mid and West Wales are being totally ignored in this matter. Responsibility for policing should be devolved to the National Assembly with the requisite level of funding so that the people of Wales alone decide the future of the police forces in Wales.
Labour is failing Montgomeryshire on Health and Transport

Health and Transport were the main issues raised at the latest meeting of the Plaid Montgomeryshire Constituency Committee.

Members were distressed to hear of Rhianwen Emberton and Jessica Regan, two local cases of patients who seem to have been discriminated against because they live in Wales.

Brian Gibbons, the Health Minister for Wales, has a lot to answer for. No patient in Wales should struggle to obtain a drug or wait longer than strictly necessary for treatment just because they live a mile or so this side of the border. Powys is unique in Wales in not having a District General Hospital and Brian Gibbons needs to make sure that money is available to treat those patients who have to travel to England for treatment.

Members also discussed a paper received from transport expert Angus Eikhoff concerning a direct rail link between Newtown and Cardiff. This may not be a flight of fancy as the Assembly is looking to develop new rail links and members decided to press the Assembly to fund a feasibility study into the project.

It may be some time away but we must look at ways of increasing sustainable energy consumption as well as increasing non-road traffic through the county. We have the highest proportion of second-car owners in Wales here, not because it’s a luxury but of necessity and any way in which we can encourage cheaper alternatives in the long run must be justified. In addition we desperately need better North-South links in Wales and this could provide a real solution to both passenger and light freight needs.