Statement on Plaid Cymru Leadership

Today, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM issued this statement on video for party members as well as in writing to the party’s AMs, MPs and Coucnil Leaders.

“A few weeks ago, Leanne invited a debate on the leadership of Plaid Cymru – the party of Wales, a debate that could lead to reaffirming her leadership or starting a new chapter in the history of the party.

“Since then there’s been much discussion about the merits of such a debate. Supporters and members of the party from all parts of Wales – from the south Wales valleys to the north and mid-Wales, from the west to Cardiff – have encouraged me to allow my name to go forward. That encouragement has come from people at all elected levels, but mainly from ordinary party members, including some who, I’m quite sure, will back Leanne!

“And that’s the point – this should be a constructive debate, a positive one that can energise the party and the country, and it’s in THAT spirit that I am accepting the nominations. And in the spirit of real excitement and passion about the future of our country.

“So let’s discuss different visions, different styles, and different ideas. My commitment is to Wales, and to a fairer and more prosperous future for the country. Plaid Cymru HAS to lead the way to that new, confident Wales, and over the coming weeks we can discuss openly and democratically how best to deliver the most effective and most exciting leadership for the party and the nation.

“Thank you, and I look forward to it.”

Update from Dŵr Cymru – water in Llanddona

I’ve just come off the phone with Dŵr Cymru Chief Executive Chris Jones to discuss the latest in relation to the properties without water in Anglesey. Many of you have been in touch, and I have been in constant contact with Dŵr Cymru. I now understand that there are around 200 properties still affected – a figure that is, of course, still worrying, but I had the opportunity to discuss Dŵr Cymru’s response and the work being done to restore the supply.

First of all, it is very important for me that the most vulnerable people get all the support, and I urge you to phone 0800 052 0130 to report any special needs that you or your family member or neighbours have. I’ve been given a commitment that all possible help will be given.

I also understand that bottled water is going to continue to be distributed in Llanddona and Llangoed to the people who have no water.

The big question is obviously ‘when will the supply be back?’. Well, it’s certainly hoped that properties will be reconnected by tonight. The system itself is now ‘pressurized’ again, but some specific properties on sub-networks are still without water due to ‘air blocks’ in the system, or perhaps because water is still leaking from some pipes. It is hoped that all water supplies will be back by tonight, but Dŵr Cymru are nervous about giving a concrete promise in case problems take a little longer to sort out in certain properties.

Please keep in touch with my office on e-mail or 01248 723599 if there are any specific issues that you would like to discuss.

I am grateful to the local Plaid Cymru Councilors in the Seiriol ward for their work for their constituents in this area which has suffered.

AM seeks update on Menai crossing plans

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth this week asked the First Minister to provide an update on plans for a third crossing across the Menai Strait.

During FMQs, Rhun received confirmation that they are still on time to complete the project in 2022. He further asked about Welsh Government’s discussions with the Grid and the importance of consulting fully with local people regarding possible routes. Speaking in the Senedd, Rhun said:

“I’m pleased that, in our pre-budget agreement, we secured funding to develop this project, which is needed not just because of the frustrations for people because of delays in crossing the bridge but in order to provide resilience for the crossing between Anglesey and the mainland.

“In June last year, I made an appeal to ensure that the National Grid should make a financial contribution towards the bridge rather than wasting £100m or £200 million on a tunnel under the Menai Strait. Now that the completion date, rather than the commencement date, is 2021-22, can we take that as a sign that the National Grid have agreed to make this contribution and that we are seeking a model to achieve that? Can I also be given an assurance the consultation on the proposal will be as broad and as full as possible with the constituents of Anglesey?

In his response, the First Minister replied:

“There is no kind of agreement as yet. I raised this with the Grid about two to three years ago. At that time, we wanted to consider with them how we could develop a crossing for the Menai. At that point, they weren’t interested. Things have changed since then, but we’re not in a position where we can say, ‘There is an agreement’. By May of next year, of course, we will announce the route that we wish to take so that the bridge can be built. By then, of course — way before then, we hope — we’ll be in a position where we know what the grid’s position will be, and what kind of contribution they wish to make to the crossing.”

My response to the National Grid’s Pylons Consultation

Dear Sir / Madam,
I write in response to National Grid’s consultation on the north Wales connection, and to reiterate my opposition to the proposed plan to erect a new line of pylons across Anglesey.

You will already know from my response to previous consultations, and several conversations and correspondence with the Grid, that I strongly favour finding an alternative solution and that I support putting cables underground rather than overhead. Having spoken to a number of local residents and organisations, and having attended several public meetings on the subject, I know that this is the opinion of the majority on the island, and elected representatives at every level – myself as Assembly Member, the local MP, MEP, and Anglesey’s Councillors – have all spoken unanimously against pylons.
In spite of the strong local opposition and the fact that previous Grid consultations showed clearly that the large majority of people did not favour pylons, it is extremely disappointing that the Grid is still concentrating on this option. There has been no compromise, and there is not enough evidence that other options have been seriously considered.
It seems that the cost is the key factor for National Grid rather than the technical factors regarding putting cables underground. However, I believe that the cost to the people of Anglesey of having a new line of pylons would be heavy and unfair. The Grid seems to be asking the people of Anglesey to pay to provide the rest of the UK with the cheapest possible transmission option. People on Anglesey would be paying through the reduced value of their homes and the tourism industry – worth £250m a year to the island – would be under threat. I strongly urge you therefore to make a more detailed cost analysis before coming to a decision, and I’m disappointed that this has not already been done, considering the impact on the people and economy of Anglesey. Ofgem recently agreed to my request to ask Grid to conduct such an assessment, and I look forward to seeing its results.
In addition to the economic impact, I believe that grid should give more consideration to the environmental impact of new pylons. National Grid recently announced they’ll spend hundreds of millions of pounds undergrounding cables in the Lake District to reduce the environmental impact. Anglesey deserves no less. Anglesey may not be a National Park, but the island is a UNESCO Geopark and blessed with several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and our natural beauty is as important to Anglesey as it is to any National Park.
I note the Grid’s decision not to put cables over the Menai Straits. The truth, of course, is that they had no intention to put overhead cables over the Menai Straits from the beginning as they knew they would not get permission to do so. I don’t believe that building a tunnel for cables is the best option. There would be less environmental impact through having the Grid contribute towards the cost of a new bridge, to dual the present Britannia Bridge, by putting cables on that new bridge. Spending maybe £150m on a tunnel now, and another £150m on a bridge in coming years would be a scandalous waste of public money when two birds could be killed with one stone.

Also, if the Grid chooses not to put cables across the Menai Straits to protect the natural environment of the Menai area, isn’t the same thing true of the need to protect the natural environment of Anglesey as a whole, by undergrounding across the whole island?

Another argument is that of resilience. I believe that the intention of putting two rows of pylons next to each other raises a question of resilience in terms of connection to the Wylfa Newydd power plant. A number of possible factors, such as bad weather or an accident, could lead to losing the connection. Putting cables underground would prevent that.
I ask you once again to consider the concerns of local residents and to make the necessary investment in an alternative solution that would not have such a negative impact on the island’s environment, scenery, tourism and economy. According to the Grid, the cost would be an additional £400m – a small sum in the context of electricity infrastructure investments like this.
Yours sincerely,
Assembly Member for Ynys Môn

Meeting with NatWest managers to express opposition to Anglesey bank closures

I met with senior NatWest managers today to express my opposition to the decision to close branches in Amlwch, Holyhead and Menai Bridge.

I said there is an obvious pattern here of banks – not just NatWest – pulling out of small towns, and that banks need to remember that it’s their customers that allow them to make profits. I argued that they should conduct full assessments of the likely impact of branch closures BEFORE considering doing so – not AFTER Decisions are made.

I sought assurances about maintaining levels of service, including services to businesses through the Post Office, and in terms of cash machines. They agreed in revisit the decision to close the Menai Bridge cashpoint as this would leave no other 24 hours cashpoint in the town centre.

I feel for hardworking NatWest staff on Anglesey, I was assured that they hoped that there would be no compulsory redundancies.

“I asked, of course, for the bank to reconsider their decisions, but it is clear that mitigation will be the only considerations now including the creation of new post of Community Banker on Anglesey, strengthening services through the Post, and visits by mobile branches. But this is clearly not enough. Action must be taken somehow, by Governments and the industry itself, to protect financial services in places like Anglesey. We are rapidly losing them.

Anglesey Nappy Collection Service

Anglesey AM Rhun ap Iorwerth commented:

“After contacting the Council regarding the nappy collection service, I have now received a positive response from them, showing that they have listened to our concerns – they have now changed the policy to collect children’s nappies up to the age of 4 rather than 3, and if there is a need for a longer period, then parents or guardians can let them know. They’ve also confirmed even though they need to know the child’s age, they will not need a copy of the birth certificate. Thanks to everyone who contacted the office.”