Cost of Living Crisis – a National Emergency
A staggering 45% of all Welsh households, over 600,00 families, are expected to be living in fuel poverty after the energy price cap was raised in April. The Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice Committee report on Fuel Poverty published on May 18th asks the Welsh Government to
- Take emergency action before next winter to insulate the leaky homes of the most vulnerable families who spend over a quarter of their income on heating and food. This takes advantage of the zero VAT on insulation work and materials; Most of these homes are in the private rented sector. Where insulation cannot be installed in time, people need to be given warm packs of e.g. thick curtains, draught excluders, slow cookers to prevent the excess winter death rate going through the roof.
- Deliver a more ambitious and better funded Warm Homes programme to decarbonise all Welsh homes and accelerate the switch to renewable energy.
See https://senedd.wales/media/occhlkio/cr-ld15117-e.pdf for the full report.
The £15bn support package announced by Rishi Sunak on May 26th is a start but a great deal more investment is needed to respond to both the cost of living crisis and the climate emergency.
I used a statement on Housing Quality Standards on May 4th to ask the Minister for Climate Change whether the Welsh Government would use a loan scheme to incentivize private landlords to take advantage of zero-rated VAT on insultation. What would Welsh Government do with rogue landlords who do not comply to the long awaited new Part L building standards.
Julie James said that the Part L changes will be published soon. To incentivise private landlords, Welsh Government will implement the Renting Homes Act and will be considering loans as incentives. Rent Smart Wales will do an awareness campaign for landlords. Welsh Government will try to work with UK Government to get landlords to comply.
NHS Covid Recovery Plan
Eluned Morgan’s NHS Recovery Plan commits an extra £1bn to eliminate the backlog by the end of this Senedd term. In Wales, 20% of the population is on an NHS waiting list. In Cardiff : A new diagnostics centre will speed up the identification of what treatment, if any, a patient needs.
Two new mobile theatres will massively reduce the numbers waiting for cataract operations and treat them closer to where they live.
In the debate I said we have to recognize that Brexit has prevented recruitment of new doctors and nurses from other European countries. I cited the case of a Greek ophthalmologist who decided not to take up a senior appointment because the Home Office refused to allow him to bring his family.
Covid spreading in the community has meant less staff working in the ambulance service and emergency departments. Disease prevention has reduced the throughput in operating theatres.
The staffing crisis in social care means a lot of people are stuck in hospital long after they no longer require medical care. The solution is to push for the real living wage for social care workers and greater recognition of their crucial role.
I supported the Health Minister’s focus on prevention tackling the big killers: obesity, smoking and mental illness. All health board chairs and CEOs will now be accountable for the effectiveness of their action on helping people to live healthy lives for as long as possible, and accelerate recovery from treatment. The path-breaking Wellbeing Centre in Llanedeyrn will need to demonstrate prevention works.
Focussing on Women’s Health
In a debate on women’s health on May 18th, I praised the Health Minister’s courage to make telemedical abortions, pioneered during Covid, a permanent service; in contrast to England.
It is unacceptable that it takes an average of 8 years for a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis; I remain shocked that many GPs and gynaecologists fail to spot a condition that affects one in 10 women. It is not just women’s issues like postnatal and the menopause care that need to improve. Eluned Morgan promises to tackle the poorer outcomes for women in the treatment of heart disease.
An alliance of 3rd sector organisations led by the Fair Treatment of the Women of Wales and the British Heart Foundation was published on May 28th.A statement and Plan by Eluned Morgan will follow in the next month.
The English Football regulator
I asked the First Minister about discussions Welsh Government had had with the UK Government regarding the new football regulator on 3rd May, as many Welsh clubs play in the “English” leagues. In light of the tragic death of Emiliano Sala who was due to play for Cardiff City, I asked the Welsh Government to make representations about cleaning up football to protect players from unscrupulous agents.
The First Minister said that the new regulator was a matter for UK Government, but it affects five Welsh clubs. He highlighted sections of the fan-led review that reported agents have run wild over English football since deregulation, which could not just be costing clubs money, but involve criminal activity including the exploitation of children.
Our world shaped by wars
In May I intervened in a debate to commemorate the Ukraine famine in 1932 to highlight the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera journalist shot by the Israeli army whilst reporting on the Israeli army’s occupation of Palestine; and to acknowledge that we rely on the bravery of journalists on the frontline of conflicts whether it is in Israel Palestine or the Ukraine. It was a Welsh journalist, Gareth Jones, who uncovered the extent of the loss of life from the Ukraine Holdomor famine of 1932-34. Gareth Jones was commemorated in the Senedd on May 11th, along with a celebration of the contribution of Jim Griffiths, MP for Llanelli 1936-1970, who was the first Secretary of State for Wales.
**Senedd Celebration of the life of Hanif Bhamjee**
Lifelong Anti-Apartheid Campaigner
11am Saturday June 11th
**Please let me know if you would like to attend**
Alternatively you may like to join me on a 10 mile sponsored walk for Soweto in memory of Hanif on Sunday 12th JUNE Starts KING GEORGES FIELD adjacent to St. Donat’s Castle, Llantwit Major-at 11.00am. Or you can sponsor me! Sponsorship and Gift Aid form on request.
Local Election Results
Congratulations to all the Welsh Labour Councillors who were re-elected with increased majorities. Warm welcome to our new Welsh Labour Councillors Jess Moultrie and Grace Fergusson Thorne.
Given the popularity of the Welsh Labour Government and the disgraceful reputation of the rule breaking UK Tory Government It was disappointing that Cardiff Central only gained one of the 67 additional Welsh Labour Council seats across Wales. We were 13 votes short of winning a second seat in Pentwyn, and 300 votes short of eliminating the Pentwyn Lib Dems altogether. Those opportunities don’t come very often.
There is general agreement that the Senedd is too small for its increasing responsibilities. A Welsh Parliament with 96 members (currently 60) will increase the level of scrutiny required to ensure we make the best possible use of Welsh taxpayers’ money. This requires legislation to be passed with a two thirds majority of Senedd members.
It is proposed using the revised 32 Welsh constituency boundaries, which apply from next year for the UK Parliament, to create 16 six member seats constituencies all elected by a proportional voting system. The contentious bit is the method of election.
Reforming Our Senedd published on May 30th recommends a closed list system. This removes the power of electors to choose the candidates that best represent their preferences. Both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats favoured a Single Transferable Vote system and the Conservatives seem to have decided to oppose reform outright. The report will be debated in the Senedd on June 8th. See link below for the full report: https://business.senedd.wales/documents/s125657/Reforming%20our%20Senedd%20A%20stronger%20voice%20for%20the%20people%20of%20Wales.pdf
The Learning Disability Action Plan
During a statement on a Learning Disability Action Plan, I praised St Teilo’s CiW School whose recent Estyn report acknowledged that the needs of pupils with ALN are met exceptionally well.
I asked Julie Morgan how the Welsh Government plans to enhance the employment opportunities for young people with learning difficulties. Would they for example consider individual employment plans as successors to IEPs?
I also sought more detail on plans to develop more supported housing in local communities so that those who need extra support can continue to live close to family and friends.
The Minister for Social Care said that employment opportunities for young people with learning disabilities will be included in a detailed implementation plan. Efforts have been made to increase the number of businesses who employ people with learning disabilities.
Additional money will be invested in innovative local housing schemes to support people with learning disabilities.
A petition in support of providing clinical pathways and specialist medical care for people with Tourette’s Syndrome in Wales prompted a debate on the floor of the Senedd. I highlighted the importance of patient-focused services, and listening to parents supporting their children with Tourette’s.
Combatting discrimination in school and the workplace is essential. I used the examples of Prof. Peter Hollenbeck, a world renowned neurosurgeon; and the former Everton and Man United goalkeeper Tim Howard, both of whom have Tourette’s, and very successful careers.
A New Civil Justice Centre for Cardiff
On May 4th, I asked the Counsel General about discussions with the Ministry of Justice regarding new civil courts in Cardiff. The Park Place centre has been criticised by senior legal figures as not suitable for families. I asked what action Welsh Government is taking to rectify this unacceptable situation.
Mick Antoniw met senior members of the judiciary in September and continues to pursue the need for a new justice centre. Unfortunately, Dominic Raab has said there would be no new centre. Mick Antoniw argued that it appeared the only way to get a justice centre fit for the 21st Century was through the devolution of justice issues to the Senedd.
A Women’s Residential Centre in Swansea
On May 25th I spoke about the trauma children face if their mothers are in prison. I praised the work of Jane Hutt to get a pilot Women’s Residential Centre in Swansea as an alternative to incarcerating them in England. The trauma informed approach put forward by Baroness Cawston was agreed by the UK Government over 15 years ago and the outcomes cannot possibly worse than the current expensive and ineffectual approach which rarely leads to rehabilitation. It is hoped that the Swansea scheme which will open in 2024 can be rolled out to other local areas of Wales once it has proved its worth.
Police Patrol Along
I spent an interesting morning with Police Constable Bernie Bond and Sergeant James Munro in policing hotspots around Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn.
They are kept busy by drug dealers, fraudsters and other serious problems. Unfortunately too much of their time is tied up dealing with parking around schools!
I visited St Teilos Community Garden to see the great work of pupils who are growing potatoes, onions, sweetcorn , courgettes kale and strawberries. Head Gardener is Isaac Crumb.
I visited St Davids CiW School to see their school meals in operation. Pupils enjoy a choice of hot and cold meals, but still served in grab bags – a legacy of Covid. There is a lot of work going on across Cardiff to prepare for Universal Free School Meals for all primary pupils which start to be rolled out from this September for the youngest children.
Llanishen Reservoir Works
Following the deliberate draining of the reservoir by the previous owner of the site, it is a delight to see Llanishen Reservoir slowly being restored into an important nature reserve and amenity under the stewardship of Dŵr Cymru. Sailing, canoeing and swimming on the Reservoir should be available from 2024, as well as educational visits to observe the wildlife.