Friday, October 27, 2006

Text of Speech given to Save Llanidloes Hospital Rally Saturday 28 October 2006

I should very much like to thank Mr Crisp and the Save LLanidloes Hospital Action Team for inviting me to speak today and I want to say that Plaid Cymru in Montgomeryshire and I, as the Plaid candidate in Montgomeryshire, stand alongside you because we who live in Montgomeryshire know that the trend to downgrade or close our hospitals, our schools and our libraries is part of a creeping trend towards centralising services in the bigger towns which will lead to the inevitable death, sooner or later, of our rural communities. Forget about trying to attract people into viable communities if there are no schools for our children, no libraries for leisure and education and no hospitals for our sick. If we do not stand up today for our local services then in a generation we will find that large swathes of Montgomeryshire are like parts of central France – depopulated, deprived and devoid of any community life.

I should like to congratulate you on your attendance today but we have to make a big, big noise because we need to be heard today not just in LLanidloes, where the people know we support them, but throughout Montgomeryshire. We want the people of Newtown to hear that we support them in the loss of their Birthing Centre and the overnight GMS service. And we support Welshpool hospital as it tries to keep open its kitchen to prepare fresh meals for patients instead of warming up frozen ones.

But we also need to raise our voices today so that they will hear us in Bronllys because that’s where the decision will be made on 29 November on how far to go with this plan and we need to make sure that Andy Williams, Powys Health Chief Executive, hears that we in Montgomeryshire have a proud tradition of caring for our ill as close to home as possible. Andy Williams are you listening because while it may be only 15 miles to Newtown from LLanidloes it’s another 8 to Staylittle and that 8 will take you as long as the 15 to Newtown. Sometimes I think decisions like this are made by people who can’t read maps – they think the landscape is all flat and straight like a piece of paper and can’t see the hills and valleys inbetween.

This document is called Doing More Doing Better. In Plaid Cymru we call it Doing Less Doing Worse and we reject its premiss and we reject its conclusions and we say to Andy Williams - Start Again. Go back to the drawing board. We reject the Loss of Day Hospital facilities in Llanidloes hospital, of Out Patient services, of GP beds, of X Ray facilities and of the Birthing Centre. Get up to date population figures Mr Williams not those from 2003, and work with other agencies which make up the patchwork of rural support in Montgomeryshire.

But it doesn’t matter how loud we shout today, even if our voice carries to Bronllys, because Andy Williams still won’t hear us. And do you know why? Because the architect of this plan doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of his actions because he doesn’t even live in Powys. He lives in Carmarthen. And bless him his local health board – and this too shows what happens when a committee gets divorced from reality - wants to downgrade the large District General Hospital in Glangwili in Carmarthen and do the same to Withybush in Haverfordwest and build a new one inbetween which will also be the main hospital for people from Cardigan. Do you know the Pembrokeshire/Carmarthenshire border?! There is no “inbetween” except Whitland and then you will be contending with all the holiday traffic in the summer.

But today we will make our voice heard in Bronllys and in Carmarthen and in Haverfordwest and in Bronglais, Aberystwyth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Prestatyn, Llandudno, St Asaph, Builth Wells and Knighton and stand side by side with all these communities in their fight to retain local health services.

And finally we need to make ourselves heard in Cardiff Bay. Brian Gibbons, Rhodri Morgan, Carwyn Jones are you listening because we will not be treated in Montgomeryshire as second – class citizens. Rhodri Morgan do you want Montgomeryshire to survive? If so why is Powys County Council being funded as if wages here were equal to the average in Wales when in fact they only come to 76% of the Welsh average? And why is it facing a further 10% cut its budget in 2007 – 2008? Brian Gibbons are you listening? The health economics of the M4 corridor just don’t work in Montgomeryshire and Powys Local Health Board has to be funded accordingly. Get your priorities right for the WHOLE of Wales Rhodri or pass over the government of Wales to people who really care for it. And Carwyn Jones are you listening because if you scrap Tir Mynydd in 3 years there will be no upland farming left in Wales in a generation.

Can you make yourself heard today in Cardiff? If so then just one more thing – can you make your voice heard in London too? Goodness knows we pay enough tax and I’m fed up of paying Scandinavian-level taxes for US-level public services. It’s time we said to Tony Blair “Sort out your priorities Prime Minister”. I for one do not want to spend between 25 and 40 billion pounds on an “independent” nuclear “deterrent” if it means that the only places where a mother can give birth in the whole of Montgomeryshire in 2007 will be in Welshpool hospital or at home!

Since 1999 the London government has tried to fund Wales more and more each year as if it had the average wage of the UK instead of the 79% we actually have. Plaid Cymru has calculated that since 1999 Gordon Brown has effectively robbed us of £1.1bn. Our share in Powys of that would be £48m. That’s your money and my money. Raise your voices today and tell Bronllys, Cardiff and London – the people of Montgomeryshire united in a good cause will never be defeated.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What's Rhodri Morgan got against Opera?

What on earth was Rhodri Morgan talking about last week when he said in the Western Mail that cultural opportunities "will be open to the many, not reserved for the privileged few"?

Mr Morgan needs to get out a bit more! In Montgomeryshire, where the average wage is 76% of the Welsh average, the sole theatre, Theatr Hafren in Newtown, "gratefully acknowledges" the funding it receives from the Arts Council of Wales and, of 49 performances it is hosting in its Autumn season, only 8 (4 of plays, 2 by orchestras and 2 by dance companies) could be termed "high-brow". In fact the most expensive tickets of the season are for "The Counterfeit Stones"!

The sinister tone of Mr Morgan's remarks, however, is clearly revealed when he states that, when the Arts Council under Labour becomes politicised, he will "take on vested interests". This usually means the WNO for being so "elitist" but just what does Labour have against opera? Many of the plots champion the poor but resourceful ordinary people and many of the best tunes in Mozart and Verdi for example are variations of folk tunes. I can personally recommend the £5 seats in the opera at the Wales Millennium Centre to Mr Morgan and, even if he were to pay for the most expensive seat in the house, it would still be less than his dinner in a restaurant on a Saturday night.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Threat to Rural Post Offices

I am appalled at the latest proposal by New Labour in their attack on our Post Offices. To remove the ability to receive benefit and pension payments via the Post Office Card Account system is a callous move which befits the Thatcherite obsession of New Labour.

Under New Labour 4,000 Post Offices have closed and industry experts estimate that as many as 10,000 of the remaining 14,000 could close unless there is urgent action. This would have a devastating effect on communities across Wales and the rest of the UK.

The Federation of Sub Postmasters is therefore organising a lobby of Parliament on the 18th of October. The event is part of the Federation's ongoing campaign calling on the Government to deliver a sustainable future for the post office network. Federation representatives will deliver the national petition to the Government. Thousands of Sub postmasters and their customers will attend a rally at Westminster Central Hall, followed by a mass lobby of Parliament.

Plaid Cymru has also initiated a petition to coincide with that of the Federation, and we have collected thousands of signatures Wales-wide, as well as organising public meetings to inform constituents about the threat to local services if Post Offices are closed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Closing Llanfair Library will be a disaster not only for the town but for the surrounding areas and will leave a whole swathe of Powys between Welshpool and Machynlleth without a basic community service.

I have written to the County Librarian, Ms Tudfil Adams, and have urged her to consider the effects of closing the library in a town like Llanfair which has both primary and secondary schools and has well below average internet uptake. Families and older people who need this public service most will find it most difficult to replace from their own incomes.

Unfortunately a mobile service will not come close to replacing the existing facilities and in any case might end up costing the same as the current library, £7,000 a year. Llanfair residents have been fighting for years to retain services in the town and are fed up at being treated as if they were a suburb of Welshpool.

I am supporting the Town Council and Mrs Viola Evans, Town and County Councillor, in their efforts to arrange an Open Day when residents can call and see just what the library has to offer these days.

Monday, October 09, 2006


“Dobry wieczor. Witamy na naszym zebraniu”. This was how I greeted the audience at the opening of Plaid’s public meeting in the Raven Inn, Welshpool, on 28 September.

I want to get away from the mistaken idea that you have to speak Welsh or be Welsh to vote for Plaid Cymru. It doesn’t matter if you come from Welshpool, Wolverhampton or Warsaw and it certainly doesn’t matter what languages you can or cannot speak, if you live in Wales then Plaid Cymru is your local party.

The meeting heard from Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid’s leader in the Assembly, that a Plaid government in Cardiff would support graduates who stayed to work in Wales by helping them to pay off their student loan. “The cost of living and the price of housing in Montgomeryshire are forcing many of our graduates to look elsewhere for jobs” said Mr Jones. “Plaid Cymru will help them to stay in their communities and stem the “brain drain” from Mid Wales”.

Nerys Evans and David Senior, Plaid candidates for the Mid and West Wales seat, gave their support for the Save Llanidloes Hospital Campaign. “Rural Wales is under attack from the Labour Assembly Government” explained Miss Evans. “It wants to concentrate services like health and education in the bigger towns and is undermining the family farm unit by threatening cuts to Tir Mynydd. Plaid Cymru stands by local communities who deserve a decent level of public service”.

The so-called Manchester to Swansea trunk road grinds to a standstill in Llanymynech and Newtown and peak time jams are adding up to an hour on drivers’ journeys. No wonder it is so difficult to get people to invest in Montgomeryshire because for businesses time is money. Mid Wales deserves a decent transport infrastructure and a Newtown bypass would be a good start.

Plaid Cymru supports integrated transport and is pressing for more investment in rail and bus links as well. The Labour Assembly Government has neglected Montgomeryshire badly and the elections on 3 May 2007 will be a chance for long-suffering Newtown residents to show their disapproval. Newtown is at the centre of both north-south and east-west links yet both are totally inadequate for the current volume of traffic

Monday, October 02, 2006

Shameful closure of two Birthing Centres

One of the most serious effects of the round of cuts in Montgomeryshire hospitals announced last week by Powys Health Board is the loss of the birthing centres in both Llanidloes and Newtown. These facilities provide a homely and welcoming perinatal environment and their loss could reduce the options of giving birth in Montgomeryshire to Welshpool or a home birth!

The National Childbirth Trust estimates that 85% of the costs of a birth (in hospital or at home) are those of the midwife so closing these valued birthing centres will save Powys Health Board very little money. Also the increased likelihood of stress by giving birth further away from home and in more stressful surroundings is likely to increase the incidence of trauma and raise costs even more in the long run.

In addition Powys Health Board's cuts are based on a population projection worked out in March 2005 since when there has quite clearly been an increase of young workers from the EU accession countries including some young couples who may well require perinatal services in the near futrure.

The economics of the health service along the M4 corridor just do not apply to Montgomeryshire and it is time that the Labour Assembly Government funded these maternity services to give Montgomeryshire mothers the help they deserve.