Sunday, August 13, 2006

Another blow to rural life!

From 31 July it has no longer been possible to buy TV saving stamps from the Post Office. A savings card has been introduced which can be topped up at Paypoint outlets only and not the Post Office.

Now yet another service previously available in rural Post Offices has been relocated to larger villages if not towns.

Electricity companies who are changing domestic meters to swipe cards are making savings cards redundant and obliging customers to obtain key cards which, it seems, cannot be topped up in Post Offices. Residents of Llanwddyn, for example, were assured that top up facilities would be available within 3½ miles of their Post Office but in fact a journey of 9 miles is required to the nearest point.

It is well known that many rural Post Offices located in shops indirectly help the shops to remain viable by attracting customers to make purchases while also undertaking essential business in the Post Office. Any reduction of services offered by the Post Office can have only a detrimental effect on the villages which make up such a proportion of the communities in Montgomeryshire.

Some joined-up thinking between the various agencies involved is urgently required.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Powys Health Board Owes Us An Explanation.

On 6 June I attended a meeting with Mr Andy Willams, Chief Executive of the Powys Local Health Board, in Llanfyllin and was pleased with the categorical reassurance he gave during his presentation of the Board’s Consultation Document “Doing More, Doing Better” that there would be no changes in the Board’s commissioning policy regarding Powys residents who are normally referred for treatment to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or the Orthopaedic Hospital in Gobowen. Indeed Mr Williams was clear that neither of those English Hospital Trusts would be solvent without the contribution made by the Powys Local Health Board (approximately 10% in each case).

It came as a surprise therefore to see that Mr Chris Mann, Chairman of the Board, is already proposing changes to the service in the model set out in “Doing More, Doing Better” even before it has been adopted! John Howard, Chief Executive of the Montgomeryshire Community Health Council has spoken of “a huge degree of faith [required] from the people of Powys” towards these plans. He can say that again! Surely what is needed now is for the Local Health Board to come back to the public with definitive long-term plans so that Montgomeryshire residents can see where they stand.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the current uncertainty is that some hardworking fundraisers are finding it difficult to continue their work because of suspicion regarding the Health Board’s plans. Sadly throughout the country there are a number hospitals under threat of downgrading or even of closure which were built with funds raised from public subscriptions alone and the contribution of Welsh people to raising funds for the Royal Shrewsbury and Orthopaedic Hospitals should not be forgotten. The Health Board owes it to us all - patients, prospective patients and fundraisers - to clear up this confusion as soon as possible.
Repeal the Government of Wales Act!

The Government of Wales Act, passed on 25 July, far from settling the democratic process in Wales “for generations at least if not for ever” (as Peter Hain hopes) should be repealed as soon as possible as it makes us 4th class citizens in our own land.

Both the Northern Ireland Assembly (when it meets) and the Scottish Parliament have far more control over their own affairs than the Welsh Assembly and, given that Westminster, with an in-built majority of 529 English MPs out of a total of 646, virtually functions as an English Parliament that means we in Wales have less responsibility than any legislature in the UK over even the handful of matters which have been devolved to any degree at all.

Take, for example, the building of new nuclear power stations. Both the NI and Scotland Assemblies could refuse planning permission but not we in Wales. In fact the UK government could force one on us and the minister who would currently take the decision on our behalf could be a Scottish MP! Even laws proposed unanimously by the Welsh Assembly can be blocked in five different ways by Westminster. What sort of democracy is that!

As a matter of natural justice and of human rights we in Wales should have the same legislative powers as NI and Scotland. We deserve to be treated as 1st class not 4th class citizens.