‘We cannot afford to lose Caernarfon HGV test centre’ says Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru AMs and MPs are continuing to press on Welsh and UK Government to act and overturn the decision to close the HGV test centre in Caernarfon, which threatens the livelihoods of numerous businesses across north-west Wales.

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth raised concerns with Welsh Government directly this week, and the party’s MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams, met with the Minister of State at UK Government’s Department for Transport to discuss the importance of retaining the Caernarfon test centre.

Both, together with Plaid Cymru’s Arfon AM Sian Gwenllian, were quick to act as news of the centre’s planned closure was confirmed recently, and have continued the campaign to have the decision overturned with crucial interventions this week.

Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport Ken Skates AM responded to Mr ap Iorwerth’s question, outlining he had sought clarification on the DfT’s proposals, but the Plaid Cymru AM urged Welsh Government ‘to go further than that’, adding:

‘In August last year, following concerns raised with me by my constituent, Huw Williams, who trains HGV drivers on Ynys Môn, I wrote to the DVSA, pointing out to them that they had a lack of capacity in Caernarfon as things stood.

‘What companies like Huw Williams’ had found is that they couldn’t get enough slots in the centre in Caernarfon in order to test those people who they were training. That tells me that we needed to grow and strengthen the centre, so you can imagine my huge disappointment in hearing that the intention now is to close the test centre.

‘There was a suggestion that they would seek another site in Caernarfon, having closed the current site. That’s not how things should be done. If the DVSA agree that there is a need for a centre in Caernarfon, then they must find a new site in Caernarfon or in that area now, not after the closure of the centre.

‘Welsh Government must do everything it can to urge the UK Government to change this decision, because we can’t afford to lose that centre.’

Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon Hywel Williams met with the UK Government’s Minister of State at the Department for Transport this week also, and said following the meeting:

‘I welcome the opportunity of meeting with the Minister of State at the DfT to press upon her the importance of retaining the DVSA test centre in Caernarfon.’

‘From those directly impacted by the closure threat to the wider Gwynedd haulage industry, there are legitimate concerns about the potential effect of the closure on local businesses.’

‘It is unacceptable that the DVSA can consider closing important local facilities without any consultation whatsoever, when the livelihoods of the area’s driving instructors are at stake.’

‘The Minister of State at the DfT agreed to take the matter up directly with the DVSA, and I am providing her with a brief explaining the detail of local businesses’ concerns.’

Plaid slam ‘scandalous’ A&E waiting times as records reach worst ever

Plaid Cymru has launched a scathing attack on Labour after figures showed the worst A&E waiting times yet for January.

The number of patients spending more than 12 hours in A&E in Wales was the highest on record again in January.

6,882 patients in total faced long waits which was 226 more than in December.

The Welsh Government’s targets say that no patient should be waiting more than 12 hours.

The figures also show that 83.5% of patients were waiting less than six months to start hospital treatment – the lowest proportion since December 2015 and lower than the 95% target.

Plaid Cymru AM and Shadow Minister for Health Rhun ap Iorwerth said that patients and staff were ‘paying the price’ of Labour mismanagement.

Paying tribute to the ‘heroic work’ by frontline NHS staff, Mr ap Iorwerth said the latest figures were ‘a scandal’ and that poor performance was down to the NHS being ‘poorly managed and poorly planned’ by Labour.

Mr ap Iorwerth said that Plaid Cymru would invest in preventative services and would ‘transform’ the NHS for the future. He added that the party when in government would ‘improve workforce planning and work conditions’ and would bring back community hospitals and NHS beds.

The shadow minister said that ‘things had to change’ and that only a Plaid Cymru government could bring about that change.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said,

“Month by month the figures for A&E waiting times keep getting worse and it’s patients and staff who pay the price.

“I pay tribute to the heroic work done by frontline NHS staff under increasingly difficult circumstances and shocking mismanagement from Labour.

“These latest figures are a scandal. A&E waiting times are at their worst ever. . Doctor numbers are low compared with most of Europe. Targets have been dropped or missed.

“Poor performance can’t be blamed on under-funding alone. Spending per head on the NHS is above most English regions, and several Scottish regions. The simple truth is that our NHS is being poorly managed and poorly planned – and the responsibility lies at Labour’s door.

“Meanwhile, we can’t trust the Tories whilst they cut and wreck the NHS in England and flirt with its privatisation – to the detriment of patients.

“People deserve better. Plaid Cymru will invest in services to prevent ill health from taking place in the first place, transforming the NHS for the future. We’ll improve workforce planning and work conditions to help recruitment and retention of NHS and social care staff. And we’ll bring back Community Hospitals and NHS beds.

“Things can’t do on like this. Things have to change. It’s only a Plaid Cymru government that can bring that change.”

Ynys Môn AM urges Welsh Government to move to secure vital research vessel’s long-term future

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth has urged Welsh Government to act once more to secure the long-term future of the Prince Madog Research Vessel, as it could conduct vital research for years to come to the benefit of Wales.

Mr ap Iorwerth has campaigned for some time to have the Prince Madog secured as Wales’ National Research Vessel, as its future beyond 2021 is uncertain, due to Bangor University’s lease with P&O Maritime for use of the vessel expiring next year.

The vessel, moored in Porthaethwy, can help conduct vital research, which is why the Ynys Môn AM campaigned for two years to have Welsh Government commission the Prince Madog for research projects. As a result, in August 2019 a contract was signed for Welsh Government to utilise the ship for 100 days’ work to fulfil its marine and fisheries evidence requirements.

This has secured the vessel’s future in the short term, but in a question to the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, this week, Rhun ap Iorwerth urged Welsh Government to act to secure the vessel’s long-term future and avoid this vital asset being lost.
Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“I am very grateful for the Government’s response when I did draw Ministers’ attention to the risk that the capacity of the Prince Madog to do marine research work could be lost because of the concerns about the future of the vessel, which is moored in Menai Bridge in my constituency.

“That 100 days’ work certainly has been crucial in terms of ensuring the future of the vessel in the short term, but I would like to draw the First Minister’s attention to the fact that 2021 isn’t very far away now, and that we now need to work in order to secure the long-term future.

“I appeal for a pledge from Government to commit to having negotiations on extending that contract, securing ecological, energy and food research that could be crucial for years to come. The clock is ticking and Government has a crucial role to play in securing the vessel’s long-term future.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford responded:

“May I thank Rhun ap Iorwerth for that question, and thank him for the information that he gave us back in 2019 about the future of the Prince Madog?

“The contract that we have at present—we are just in the first quarter of the contract. I hear what Rhun ap Iorwerth is saying about the ticking clock, and I am certain that people at the university will acknowledge the fact that we have worked closer with them.

“We wish to continue with that collaboration and we want to jointly plan with them a service that will help us all in Wales towards 2021 and beyond.”

Ynys Môn AM hosts meeting with Sport Wales and FAW Trust regarding all-weather pitches in Holyhead and Amlwch

Two key organisations have met with Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth this week as he continued to push for the development of new all-weather pitch facilities in Holyhead and Amlwch.

The Ynys Môn AM met with representatives from Sport Wales and the FAW Trust in the Assembly this week to discuss the possibility of developing all-weather pitch facilities in both communities, taking the campaign forward having regularly met and discussed the need for these facilities with community groups in both areas over recent months.

Mr ap Iorwerth will be meeting again with community groups from both areas in the next few weeks, and will also be looking to arrange an opportunity for Sport Wales to meet with the groups directly to discuss the need for these facilities.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“I’ve had a very, very good meeting this week with representatives from Sport Wales and the FAW Trust regarding the possibility of developing all-weather pitch facilities in Holyhead and Amlwch.

“One very important thing is that they clearly see Anglesey as a top priority for them in delivering all-weather pitches, and they agreed with me that both areas put forward a very strong case for needing these facilities.

“I will be meeting again with community groups from both areas in the coming days and weeks, and I’ll also be looking to arrange a meeting for clubs from both areas to discuss the projects further with Sport Wales directly.

“Sport Wales and the FAW Trust are very keen to work with me on this. It takes time to do things like this, but the key thing is where we’re heading, and that is towards all-weather pitches in Holyhead and Amlwch.

“It is going to take a lot of work and a lot of collaboration from Sport Wales, the FAW Trust, the County Council and so many others, but let’s get there.”

Local AM Rhun ap Iorwerth pledges to “get behind the daffodil” for Marie Curie this February.

Ynys Môn AM, Rhun ap Iorwerth has pledged to encourage constituents to donate and wear their iconic Marie Curie daffodil throughout February and March to help the charity’s Nurses provide vital care and support to people living with a terminal illness and their families.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM joined forces with Marie Curie Chief Executive Matthew Reed alongside Marie Curie Nurses at an event at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday 5th February to help launch the Great Daffodil Appeal, Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign.

As well as lending his support to the appeal, Mr ap Iorwerth is also encouraging the people of Ynys Môn to help the charity raise more money than ever before by simply giving a donation and wearing a Marie Curie daffodil pin, available from volunteers across Wales, Marie Curie shops, Superdrug, Spar, Hotter Shoes and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group.

The Great Daffodil Appeal is now in its 34th year and the charity highlighted its Pontypool-based Information and Support Line service during the event.
Whether you have practical questions or just want someone to talk to, the trained team on the Marie Curie Information and Support Line are here to listen and give you the information you need. The line has recently expanded to include Marie Curie Nurses who support people to better understand treatment options and symptoms, giving them reassurance, confidence and comfort.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said: “Funds raised through the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal help provide care and support to people at a time when they need it the most, be that through a Marie Curie Nurse at home or in a hospice, or by speaking to the charity’s Information and Support line. I hope the people of Wales will join me in supporting people affected by terminal illness across the country by proudly wearing their Marie Curie daffodil throughout February and March.”

Simon Jones, Director of Policy and Public Affairs for Marie Curie, added: “To have the support of Rhun ap Iorwerth makes a huge difference to Marie Curie. With their help we are able to raise awareness about what we do and reach more people who need us.

“Our services rely on charitable donations, so I’d like to express a heartfelt thank you to everyone who gives a donation and wears a daffodil pin this February and March. The money raised from the Great Daffodil Appeal will help Marie Curie Nurses provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness, and their loved ones, in homes across Wales, as well as in the charity’s Cardiff & the Vale Hospice in Penarth.”

Awards were also presented to volunteers from across Wales for their dedication and support of Marie Curie.

To volunteer for Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal and give out the charity’s daffodils pins in return for donations visit mariecurie.org.uk/collect or call free on 0800 304 7025.

Plaid Cymru: ‘Troubled Health Board Betsi on notice – without improvement now, get ready for a major shake-up’

Plaid Cymru AM for Ynys Mon and Shadow Minister for health Rhun ap Iorwerth has said that he would be willing to split up troubled Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board if the board shows no improvement soon.

Paying tribute to NHS workers, the Shadow Health Minister said that the people of north Wales had “lost patience and trust” with Betsi Cadwaladr health board – and the Labour Welsh Government that’s in overall charge.

Mr ap Iorwerth AM said that he had no desire to pursue reorganisation for its own sake but had “concluded” that there may “be no option but to split up” the failing health board – and that “more and more people in and around the NHS” agreed with him.

He said he would be willing to take that step if he were to become the Health Minister after next year’s Senedd elections.

Mr ap Iorwerth said that “all eyes” were now on the board, on the executive and the Labour Health minister to “prove” that things could be turned around to avoid taking that step.

Plaid Cymru AM for Ynys Mon and shadow minister for health Rhun ap Iorwerth said,

“Confidence had been lost in the ability of Gary Doherty to achieve the progress needed in Betsi Cadwaladr after almost five years in special measures. In fact, in many areas, things seem to be getting worse.

“Whilst having nothing but respect for dedicated health workers, the people of north Wales have run out of patience and lost trust with Betsi Cadwaladr health board – which is in direct partnership with this Labour Welsh Government.

“Things must change and faith must be restored that Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board is fit for purpose.

“I have no desire to pursue reorganisation for its own sake but I’ve certainly concluded, and more and more people in and around the NHS tell me they agree with me, that there may already be no option now but to split up this failing health board.

“A step, as things stand, I would be willing to take if I were to become Health Minister after the election.

“All eyes are on the board, on the executive and on the Labour Health minister to prove that things can be turned around to avoid that.”

Plaid Cymru push Welsh Government to deliver on Electric Vehicle pledges after two-year wait

Welsh Government’s failure to turn spending pledges into reality poses some very serious questions about their commitments to tackle climate change, according to Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth, who raised concerns about the delays in investing £2m the Party of Wales secured towards Welsh Government developing a vehicle of publicly owned Electric Vehicle charge points.

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth has been vocal in making his support known for encouraging an electric vehicle revolution, raising questions in the National Assembly calling for more investment in EV infrastructure, and campaigning for Welsh Government to act in a manner that shows they’re taking this new technology seriously.

The £2m towards the development of a ULEV charging network was secured by Plaid Cymru in 2017 as part of a budget deal with the Labour Welsh Government, but to this day just half of that money has been spent and the Plaid Cymru AM raised his concerns with Welsh Government this week.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“Welsh Government is at a very early stage indeed in terms of the investment that should be happening on a wide scale in terms of a charging network for electric vehicles. In our budget agreement two years ago, Welsh Government agreed to a Plaid Cymru request to invest £2 million in a national charging network.

“I have to say that it’s been a cause of great frustration for me, having succeeded in reaching that agreement, to see these delays in spending the money. Two million pounds wasn’t much as it was, but it was very important to have that funding in place in order to give this sector a boost.

“Spending only half of that throughout the whole of Wales on public charging points in two years is proof of the Government’s failure in turning spending pledges into reality.

“If that’s their attitude towards the charging network, doesn’t that pose some very grave questions about the pledges made more broadly now in terms of tackling climate change and the willingness and ability of Government to turn those plans into reality?”

Ynys Môn AM calls for investment in eradicating homelessness after death of local man

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth has paid tribute to Paul Daniel Hughes, a homeless man whose body was recently found in Llangefni, in the National Assembly for Wales, and urged Welsh Government to invest properly to eradicate homelessness so that tragic cases like Mr Hughes’ passing cannot occur again.

Mr Hughes lived in a tent on the banks of the Afon Cefni for a number of months before his death after being kicked out of a hostel for stealing a sandwich from one of his housemates.

He had previously admitted to stealing, simply so that he could go to jail and get a roof over his head, after being made homeless following the death of his mother.

Plaid Cymru AM Mr ap Iorwerth paid tribute to Mr Hughes, saying:

“I am truly saddened to learn of the passing of Paul Daniel Hughes, a homeless man who felt like he had nowhere to turn because of the situation he was in, with very little support available to him to lift him out of the difficult circumstances he found himself in.

“My team actively sought to help Paul but numerous referrals to local organisations and authorities and interventions failed to bear fruit because of the crippled public services we are forced to work with these days.

“Paul’s death is a reminder that any and all of us can fall on hard times, and when people do face such difficulties they must have all the support they need to help them recover.

“Paul was a man who genuinely wanted to turn his life around. Dealing with a society and support system that has been ravaged by cuts to resources and funding designed to help with situations like this means that the system utterly failed him.

“It is because of people like Paul that we must invest properly in eradicating homelessness, and nothing but an increase funding available for this is acceptable.”

Change in Betsi personnel “isn’t enough” says Plaid as Chief Exec steps down

Gary Docherty leaving his position of Chief Executive by end of this month

Plaid Cymru have said that simply changing the personnel in the troubled Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in north Wales “isn’t enough in itself” after it was announced that the Chief Executive of the board, Gary Docherty, would leave his position by the end of the month.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Plaid Cymru shadow minister for health said that after five years in special measures a change in the personnel wouldn’t be enough.

He added that the situation in Betsi was “symptomatic” of a wider problem within the Welsh NHS and that the Labour government should “take responsibility” for its poor performance including A&E waiting times, centralisation and loss of local services.

Mr ap Iorwerth said that the NHS needed “real change” and that it was only Plaid Cymru who could deliver that adding that “patients and staff deserved no less”.

Plaid Cymru AM for North Wales Llyr Gruffydd said that Mr Docherty’s departure was “the right decision” and that the board should have seen “greater improvement in his four years in charge”.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Plaid Cymru shadow minister for health said,

“After five years in special measures, change in personnel in the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board simply isn’t enough in itself.

“The situation in Betsi is symptomatic of a wider problem impacting our NHS. It is the Labour Welsh Government who are in charge and they must take responsibility for the poor performance, worsening A&E waiting times, centralisation and loss of local services. It has to stop. We need real change and Plaid Cymru can deliver that. Patients and staff deserve no less.”

Plaid Cymru AM for north Wales Llyr Gruffydd added,

“This is the right decision and long overdue. I called for Mr Docherty to go in the Plaid Cymru debate on NHS performance last week and I’m glad to see this has he’s gone. We should have seen greater improvement in his four years in charge.”

Welsh Government must address second home tax loophole, says Ynys Môn AM.

A loophole that enables people to register second homes as business premises, escaping council tax and costing Local Authorities greatly in business rate relief is costing councils dearly and needs to be addressed, says Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth.

At an event in Rhosneigr recently, the Plaid AM said constituents raised the issue of ‘red bins’ with him, explaining that ‘When people register their holiday homes as businesses, they have their domestic bins changed for business ones—red ones. There are more and more of them in the village. It’s wrong—they’re not paying their taxes’.

Raising this matter once again with Welsh Government, having regularly raised concerns in the Assembly previously, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“In November 2018, the former First Minister told me that he didn’t believe there was a loophole here. The finance Minister, Rebecca Evans, also said, ‘I’m not sure that I would agree that there’s a loophole in the law’.

“Certainly, it should be illegal to buy a second home and then be able to avoid paying the taxes that other full-time citizens of that same community do have to pay and still expect to receive the same services. What the red bins story tells us is that this is becoming more and more visible and people are getting angrier and angrier about it.

“Now, this Government won’t agree that there is a loophole here. Will you agree that there is a small mistake in legislation currently that has consequences that may well be unintended, but that has to be addressed in the name of fairness and in the name of providing local authorities much-needed revenue that is otherwise lost?”

After explaining the process regarding registering second homes as businesses or dwellings, Welsh Government Minister Julie James added:

“If it’s not being let out and it is classed as a small business, and what you’re saying is ‘It’s not being let out, it’s being used as a second home’, and the person has done that—that’s a fraud. So, that’s a criminal offence and would be prosecuted.

“We have asked all authorities in Wales for any evidence of that, and we have not been provided with any. We’ve asked the valuation office to conduct an audit of the ones that they’re aware of, and they have not come up with a single one that hasn’t legitimately changed across and hasn’t been able to provide the evidence necessary to sustain that.

“Now, I’ll say it again: if you’ve got evidence that that’s happening, let’s have it, and I’ll do something about it, but so far, at this point in time, we have anecdotes of all sorts, including in my own authority and everywhere else, but we have no actual evidence at all that that’s actually happening.”