2019 draws to a close
A BUSY, EVENTFUL YEAR
Well it has been a busy, eventful year – and there is no hiding from the fact it was stressful at times – and for Labour supporters and representatives it ended with the disappointment of the UK General Election. The work of our Welsh Government and as Assembly Members continues as our election is not until May 2021.
Yet, amongst all those major political events, I have been delighted by the continuing welcome offered to me by the local community, groups and businesses as I continue my work as the local Assembly Member – speaking up for local communities – and happy to support so many of the wonderful events that happen around the constituency.
As I said in the wake of that recent election result I take some comfort from being able to continue my strong working partnership with Gerald Jones MP. I know we will continue to carry out our usual surgeries, street surgeries and work across the constituency in the year ahead.
Help and Support
I am always conscious that my constituency team carry out much of the detailed and hard work in support of constituents. I may be the name on the top of the letterhead, but it is the efforts of Hayley, Gareth and Matt that help to deliver results on casework. Thanks to them.
That same casework keeps me grounded as we try to help resolve complex problems around housing, homelessness, mental health, health and care problems, transport, employment and welfare (the list is not exhaustive!).
As your Assembly Member I support a wide range of local and national causes and campaigns. For example during the year it was very pleasing to play my small part in securing access to Cystic Fibrosis drugs for local constituents. I have been pleased to offer support for a wide range of local projects and please do not hesitate to get in touch about your projects.
Room for Improvement
Sadly during 2019 I became more heavily involved with failings in both Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. It goes without saying that both organisations have significant room for improvement in the year ahead.
Great Local Talent
Whether in choirs, performing arts, sports or other aspects of local culture our communities are full of talent. I have the chance to enjoy events across the constituency and thank you all for your marvellous efforts and entertainment.
I have been pleased to note progress on several issues. The new bus station is under construction in Merthyr, newer train rolling stock with increased capacity was introduced to the Rhymney line, Sharp Clinical opened their new promises in Rhymney and EE, growth at Elite Paper Solutions, the extra staff recruited at General Dynamics, attractions like Bike Park Wales continue their success, and a number of community projects made progress. These offset some disappointing news, not least the job losses at Hoover and Triumph Furniture.
I became a member of the Valleys Taskforce in Spring 2019 and was pleased to support Deputy Minister Lee Waters in bringing a fresh focus to delivery of some key projects. As a result money was allocated to Cyfarthfa park, and some grants awarded for local foundational economy projects in a package of support across valleys communities.
I am a member of three committees and the evidence we take and the visits we make really add to my detailed understanding on the implementation of Government policy. I always appreciate the opportunity to see and hear at first evidence that this year included: schools funding, rough sleeping, empty properties, wellbeing in schools, the administration of welfare policy and much more.
During the Autumn I was made the Chair of a new Assembly Standing Committee on Assembly Electoral Reform. After a period of preparation I anticipate that the New year will start some six months of debate about the future shape, size and voting system for the Senedd.
I also thank those organisations who arranged events for me to sponsor in the Senedd including Electrical Safety First, Your Medicine Your Health, Brain Tumour charity, Frauds and Scams and more.
I am also pleased to have had Ministers and Deputy Ministers make visits to the constituency and to hear at first hand about some of the opportunities/challenges in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.
Delivering in Government
On the political front I am delighted to have supported the Welsh Government as we continue to deliver the promises we made at the Assembly elections in 2016. I think this is very important and with the next Budget just published we will have:
- Funded the childcare offer for the working parents of three and four year olds, and started to explore the next steps in providing a good start in life,
- Allowed those people who need to enter residential care to keep £50,000 in savings,
- Supported 100,00 all age apprenticeships,
- Funded the New Treatments Fund – cutting the access time to innovative medicines,
- £580 million invested in small business rate relief scheme,
- £100 million targeted for schools improvement work.
The Welsh Budget for 2020-21 will see us go further in delivering more affordable homes, stepping up the fight against poverty and taking action in relation to the threats of climate change. As Tory cuts are reduced it will also see more money become available to help our hard pressed local councils.
Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister Mark Drakeford AM elivereed the annual Keir Hardie lecture
Senedd Cymru – The Welsh Parliament
Members of Senedd Cymru
Which brings me to one of the changes that will happen next year. The National Assembly will become known as Senedd Cymru – the Welsh Parliament.
As AMs we will change to become known as Members of Senedd Cymru (MSC).
I am approaching the point where I will have visited all local school s at least once during this term of the Senedd, and have recently enjoyed a number of Christmas concerts and join successful projects like the “Heddlu Bach” in the Upper Rhymney valley.
I always value the opportunity to speak to children from local schools, to share in their successes and discuss the professional challenges facing teachers and support staff across the constituency.
This time of year provides me with a chance to recharge the batteries a little and this year that will be very welcome as I enjoy Christmas with my first grandchild.
But I know that many public service workers and emergency responders will continue to work, care and respond 24/7 and I thank you for your work. There are also many sectors like retail where this is a busy time of year, so best wishes to you as well.
A quick review of the year cannot hope to cover all the activities I have enjoyed, or taken up, as your local AM – Member of Senedd Cymru (MS) / Aelod o Senedd Cymru (AS).
However I can promise to continue speaking up for our communities and trying my best on your behalf during 2020.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Best wishes to you, and your family for the year ahead. Blwyddyn Newydd dda i chi gyd.
Member of Senedd Cymru
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney