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.