Betsi Cadwaladr Whistleblowing Report must be shared – Plaid Cymru

Plaid AMs call on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to act transparently on an independent report into Speech and Language Therapy services in North Wales.

Serious concerns have been raised that an investigation report relating to clinical governance and patient safety issues within the Speech and Language Therapy department in BCUHB has not been shared with those who raised concerns.

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth and Arfon AM Sian Gwenllian say there should be full transparency. Various issues relating to SLT services were first raised in 2014 by a former member of staff, with another concern lodged via the Safe Haven process in 2016, leading to an independent investigation.

Mr ap Iorwerth wrote to the Health Board on 31st July 2019 asking for the report to be shared and received a response from Chair, Mark Polin, stating that contributors to the investigation will have done so in the expectation that this was a confidential process, and that the Board intend to release the conclusion of the reviewing officer and his recommendations for action.

Contributors have had no communications since, despite the report being finalised in April 2019, an FOI request reveals.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

“It’s important that every public body acts transparently when serious concerns are raised, and it is clear that on this matter, complainants are deeply disappointed with the Health Board’s handling of the matter so far.

“If the Board assign a member of staff to form a set of recommendations based on the report without sharing its content with those who lodged complaints – even a redacted version – how can those individuals be sure that issues are being dealt with openly and transparently?”

Sian Gwenllian AM added:

“We know that children who don’t get the help they need with their communication can experience lifelong impacts on their education, employment, mental health, well-being and so on.

“As AMs, we’ve come across a number of cases where children have had prolonged waits for therapy, or have experienced unsuitable therapy – one case identifying a prolonged wait for therapy in Welsh, for example.

“Whilst pleased that this investigation was conducted, we now must see its findings in order to move the service forwards.”

A former member of staff within SLT services in BCUHB who lodged the concerns said this report ‘is far too significant to be buried’, adding:

“The investigator himself described writing the report as a mammoth task. 32 individuals contributed – many at significant risk to themselves – regarding a systemic concern about poor services to children.

“There is significant concern regarding the careless waste of staff resources as well as a blind, target-driven culture where managers’ interests trumped the interests of children and families. This is no run-of-the-mill HR concern, it is a clinical governance issue.”

Welsh Government must tackle Local Government funding crisis, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Welsh Government must do more to tackle the immense pressures Local Authorities in Wales are facing after a decade of austerity, Plaid Cymru’s Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth has said.

After suffering real-terms cuts to their budgets over a number of years, Local Authorities in Wales are facing pressures of over £250m for the coming financial year, and Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Economy and Finance Rhun ap Iorwerth believes Welsh Government has to do more to aid Councils across Wales cope with these pressures, or risk further cuts to vital services.

In a question to Welsh Government Finance Minister Rebecca Evans in the National Assembly for Wales on Wednesday, Mr ap Iorwerth asked for assurances that a real-terms increase in funding for Local Government for the coming year would be prioritised, to which the Minister replied in noting Welsh Government wants to give the ‘best possible settlement’.

Warning of the possibility of further cuts to essential services, Mr ap Iorwerth responded, saying:

“Welsh Government saying they want to give Local Government the ‘best possible settlement’ doesn’t fill me with confidence, and I’m fairly sure that it won’t give Councils across Wales much confidence either.

“In the past a flat settlement for Local Government has been sold as good news, but it isn’t. Anglesey County Council say they will need £6m just to stand still. That is the reality of the situation.

“Councils are facing pressures of over a quarter of a billion pounds in the next financial year and with budgets previously having being cut with discretion, there is nowhere left for councils to go now without cutting children’s services and education and we cannot afford to cut those areas.

“Anglesey County Council had to make the difficult decision to increase council tax by up to 10% last year. They cannot think about increasing it by the same amount next year, and many other councils are facing the same problems.

“We cannot go back to Welsh taxpayers and ask them to fill in the gap, because there is already incredible pressure on them – Welsh Government must give more funding to Local Government to solve this funding crisis.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth hails ‘victory’ as Welsh language driving theory test revision material soon to be available online.

A move that will enable more Welsh-speakers to revise and prepare for their driving test online through the Welsh language has been welcomed by Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth this week, having raised the matter with Welsh Government.

Theory tests have long since been available to complete in Welsh, however the lack of availability of Welsh language online revision resources has meant many Welsh speakers have opted to revise and take the test in English instead.

In a question to Welsh Government Minister Eluned Morgan today regarding this matter, it was confirmed that Welsh language revision material would be made available online before the end of the year, with the possibility of developing a Welsh language revision app also mooted.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“This is a matter that I have been involved with for some time, going back to 2014 when I was in discussions with the Driving Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) on the subject of Welsh language theory tests and the availability of revision materials.

“The tests have been available to be conducted in Welsh for some time now across the country, but as the revision material has not been available online in Welsh what has happened is people have chosen to revise in English and do the test in English too.

“I am pleased that steps are now being taken to rectify that and look forward to seeing the materials being made available for Welsh-speaking learner drivers at the end of this year.

“I received a letter in January 2015 outlining proposals to re-examine the potential costs and benefits of developing an online theory test practice service in Welsh. It has taken four-and-a-half-years since then, but I will take this news as a small victory.

Ynys Môn AM questions First Minister regarding free swimming scheme reform.

The reforming of a popular scheme offering free swimming to children under 16 years old on Ynys Môn could have very significant implications for leisure services on the island, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth has warned.

A new free swimming scheme is set to replace the present one, but it will see Anglesey’s budget for the activity cut in half, leaving a five-figure black hole in the County Council’s leisure budget, at a time when finances are already stretched significantly due to cuts.

The island’s AM Rhun ap Iorwerth raised this matter in the Assembly chamber on Tuesday afternoon in a question to First Minister Mark Drakeford, outlining the situation in Anglesey and how Local Authorities across the country have used grants such as this to help balance the books in a time of austerity.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“There are significant implications regarding the current scheme coming to an end. Rightly or wrongly, this scheme had become a key part of how Local Government pays for its leisure services because of the unsustainable cuts that have been made to their overall budgets in recent years.

“The budget for free swimming in Ynys Môn under the reformed scheme would see the Council receiving only half of the current funding and they simply can’t fill that gap of some £30,000.

“We have to see a commitment from Welsh Government to deliver extra finance for Local Government in real terms for the coming year across the board, but on free swimming in particular it is important to consider the additional value of such funding in terms of the health benefits lessening future strain on the NHS and what impact this decision has on future generations.

“The First Minister said that four new schemes will be taking place on Anglesey as a result of this reform and I will be keeping a close eye on what benefits these new initiatives bring to the island.”

Plaid Cymru blasts Yellowhammer as “crash out double whammy” for Ynys Môn

Plaid Cymru has accused the UK Government of “contempt” for Ynys Môn after the Operation Yellowhammer documents failed to mention the island at all.

Aled ap Dafydd, the party’s Westminster candidate in Ynys Môn, said the document is a “double whammy” for the island, because of the devastating effects of a crash out Brexit, and because it makes no assessment at all of the impact on Holyhead.

The island’s Assembly Member, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said the lack of an assessment of how a crash out Brexit would affect the island means the government is doing nothing to mitigate the effects of a “catastrophic” crash out.

Mr ap Iorwerth warned that a crash out Brexit, and failing to prepare for it, risks a severe downturn in trade through Holyhead, a loss of jobs, as well as potentially turning Ynys Môn into a car park for stacked up lorries queuing to travel between Holyhead and Dublin.

Operation Yellowhammer, the government’s assessment of the impact of a crash out Brexit, was published Wednesday, after MPs passed a motion before being prorogued, demanding its publication.

The document warns of food and medicine shortages, severe delays at ports, fuel price rises, and civil disorder in the event of a crash out Brexit.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy and Finance Minister and Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“The Yellowhammer document shows how little the UK Government cares about Ynys Môn. The document shows the government’s own assessment of how devastating a crash out Brexit would be, with shortages of food and crucial medicines.

“Severe delays at ports would cause huge disruption on our island. A crash-out Brexit risks a serious downturn in trade through Holyhead and a significant threat to jobs, quite aside from the fact that if lorries have to queue up to travel between Holyhead and Dublin, we risk seeing Ynys Môn turned into a car park.

“And on top of that, the document fails to make any assessment at all of how a crash out Brexit would affect Ynys Môn. What that surely means is that the UK Government is doing absolutely nothing to mitigate any of those effects.”

Plaid Cymru Ynys Môn Westminster candidate Aled ap Dafydd said:

“The release of the Yellowhammer document is a double whammy for Ynys Môn. Not only are the devastating effects of a crash out Brexit laid bare but the UK Government has showed complete contempt towards the people of Anglesey.

“By making no assessment whatsoever of the impact on Holyhead and congestion on the island, this reckless UK Government has proved yet again that it knows little and cares less about Ynys Môn and its people.

“I will protect Ynys Môn from the chaos of Westminster. There is no deal as good as the deal we currently have: frictionless trade and an outward-looking Wales in the European Union.”

‘It’s time to rebuild as an independent nation’ – Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid Cymru Shadow Economy Minister addresses ‘positive step’ of Welsh Independence in Brexit debate

The shameful episodes taking place in Westminster with UK Government determined to press for an October 31st Brexit ‘do or die’ are a ‘constitutional outrage’, according to a motion jointly tabled by Plaid Cymru and Welsh Government for debate in the National Assembly for Wales today.

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth AM argued this point, stating that the UK Government’s recent actions serve as a stark reminder of the significant dangers of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, citing clear evidence of the ‘particular and acute harm’ dropping out of the EU would cause.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“Today we are pleased to present a motion that declares the recent actions of the British Government a constitutional outrage, and also serves as a reminder of the grave dangers of leaving the European Union without agreement.

“There are warnings about the threat to jobs. Warnings of chaos from the Federation of Small Businesses. Warnings from recruitment companies – that Brexit is already causing shortage of workers in some sectors, and many, many more warnings of the like.

“Whilst I’ve always opposed any Brexit, the evidence is clear about the particular and acute harm of a no deal Brexit … but it’s not just us in Plaid Cymru saying that.”

The Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Economy and Finance also made an impassioned pitch for Welsh Independence as part of his contribution to the debate, adding that the matter must now be on the national agenda to offer opportunity and freshness to the country.

Adding his belief that it is time for Wales to rebuild as an independent nation, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“There is a positive step open to us as a small nation – and it must be on the agenda. It’s long been on our agenda of course, I’ve always supported independence, not as an end in itself, but as a means to forge a new future to set a new direction for Wales.

“Independence is an emotive word. It can be misused and twisted, but we know what it means for Wales, and to me it conjures up opportunity, freshness. Challenge? Yes, but also real hope.

“Brexit is isolation. The birth of a Welsh state is internationalism and partnership – within a British and European context. Brexit is exclusive. Welsh independence is inclusive. My dream is for Wales to build its future as an equal to others. No better. Just equal.

“Brexit builds walls. Building a new Wales is about building bridges. I could develop a real pride in being of these British Isles if Wales were an independent country. Our neighbours in these islands are our friends.

“What we have witnessed over these Brexit years: the lies, the intolerance, and this latest shameful episode of undermining democracy, does make me ashamed to be a part of this rotten British state. It’s time to rebuild.”

Take Orb Plant into public ownership to save local jobs – Plaid Cymru

Responding to the news of the closure of the Orb Electrical Steels base in Newport, Plaid Cymru shadow minister for the economy Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said,

“This really is devastating news for the workforce and their families, and its terrible news for steel-making and the wider economy of Wales. Orb is a specialist steel maker, which could be a major contributor to potential emerging industries in Wales including renewable energy and electric vehicle production.

“I’ve repeatedly called for a major summit on Wales’s economic future. This is further evidence of why it’s more important than ever to have the clearest possible focus on the threats facing us, and the opportunities that need to be sought out at this time of unprecedented uncertainty.”

“Plaid Cymru is asking Welsh and UK Governments to investigate all possible interventions – from joint investment to even taking it into public ownership, such is the importance of keeping this specialist capability.”

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales East Delyth Jewell added,

“This is terrible news for the committed steelworkers and my heart goes out to all affected by today’s announcement. The Welsh Government needs to do all it can to try to save these jobs and should consider taking the plant into public ownership, as the specialist products the plant produces could play an important role in the development of the strategically vital renewables sector in Wales.

“They should also demand an immediate top-level meeting with Tata chiefs in order to press on them their responsibility to uphold prior commitments they’ve made to their workforce, since it was only last year that workers agreed to accept less generous pensions provisions in exchange for a guarantee they could keep their jobs. While I understand that workers will be offered a chance to relocate, this simply isn’t possible for many who have deep roots in the area and lack the financial means to uproot their lives at short notice.

“There are questions to be raised once again about how the Welsh Government appears to have been caught unaware by an announcement of job losses within the manufacturing sector in Wales, and I will be asking for an explanation from the Economy Minister about what he’s been doing to try to protect these jobs over the past few months.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth welcomes strong prospective candidates for Westminster Elections

Four nominations to become Plaid Cymru’s Ynys Môn Parliamentary candidate.

Ynys Môn is guaranteed an excellent candidate to become Plaid Cymru’s Member of Parliament after four individuals put their names forward for the role. Aled ap Dafydd, Carmen Smith, Carwyn Jones and Vaughan Williams will be asking for the support of Plaid members on the island at a special meeting in Llangefni on September 14th.

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“With British politics in crisis and Westminster on the brink of collapse, it is more important than ever that we have a strong representative to fight for us, and in Aled, Carwyn, Carmen and Vaughan we are guaranteed that.

“I am grateful to the four for offering their names and thus allowing such a high standard of campaign and choice of candidate. I look forward to an interesting and important debate about the future of Anglesey and the future of Wales, and of course we will all unite then to support the chosen candidate, as we work for a Plaid Cymru representative to speak up for us in London once again.”

Ynys Môn AM welcomes new research collaboration for Prince Madog Vessel

News of a partnership between Welsh Government and Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences to utilise the Prince Madog Research Vessel has been welcomed by Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth, who has led the campaign to secure the vessel’s future.

Bangor University’s research vessel, the Prince Madog will be used to gather data from the seas around Wales which will assist Welsh Government to fulfil its marine and fisheries evidence requirements.

An agreement is in place between Bangor University and P&O regarding the future of the vessel until 2021, but what future the Prince Madog has beyond that time is unclear at present, which led to Mr ap Iorwerth proposing last year that the vessel be adopted as Wales’ National Research Vessel following the conclusion of the current agreement.

With the announcement of this collaboration between Welsh Government, P&O and the University, the Assembly Member is hopeful that this news can lead to a more long-term collaboration going forward that would further secure the vessel’s future use.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“This news is the result of a long-running campaign to secure the future of the Prince Madog, which is an iconic sight on the Menai Strait and a symbol of excellence of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences.

“Whilst this initial collaboration between Welsh Government, Bangor University and P&O is for two years, I hope that it can be the start of a long-term partnership which can go some way to unlocking the potential of Wales’ incredible marine environment.

“The Wales marine area includes valuable and varied natural resources that can provide significant economic and social opportunities and contribute to the well-being of the nation and of future generations. But, in reality, we know virtually nothing about those resources.

“We have the resource that we need to change that: the Prince Madog. I’m delighted to see Welsh Government realising and securing the potential of this vessel for the future in carrying out this vital research, working in collaboration with the excellent team at Bangor University.”

Rural Payments Wales delays deeply concerning, says Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

A crisis surrounding significant delays from Welsh Government in making hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of payments to farmers on Anglesey is deeply concerning, according to the island’s Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth AM on the eve of the Anglesey Agricultural Show.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Economy and Finance has met with farmers, union members and agents regularly over recent months and raised concerns with Welsh Government on their behalf regarding delays of up to five months in processing payments, with a total of over £200,000 believed to be owed to the island’s farmers.

Mr ap Iorwerth called the situation a crisis, adding his belief that Welsh Government has been far too slow in dealing with this issue, with the prospect of a devastating No-Deal Brexit also causing concern to the island’s farmers.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“I am deeply concerned regarding the significant delay in making payments to Welsh Farmers. A number of famers, union members, and their agents have been in contact with me over the last few months regarding the unacceptable delays they are facing in receiving these essential payments.

“I have written to Welsh Government and I am concerned that they are far too slow to respond to what is a crisis for the farmers involved. One agent representing farmers on Ynys Môn has told me that over £200,000 is owed.

“Cash flow is important to any business and where payments are delayed it can have a very real impact on day-to-day operations and business planning for Anglesey farmers.

“The crisis is compounded by the fact that a No-Deal Brexit appears to be ever more likely, which would have a devastating impact on farms and rural Wales in general, and farm businesses need to be on as firm a footing as possible as they head into this Brexit unknown.”