So… austerity is over? So the UK Government proclaimed as it published its Budget last week. Well, let me tell the Conservative Chancellor that it doesn’t look or feel over from where I’m standing. Our local council here on Anglesey is still facing unprecedented pressures. The budgets of most of its departments have been savagely cut over the past decade, with education and social services being spared as much as possible. Well, without drastic action there’ll be no choice but to cut further. Earlier this year, Nottinghamshire Council effectively declared it was bankrupt, and I fear local authorities here in Wales will be in similar situations without a sharp injection of resources.
The Welsh Labour Government as chosen not to take the pressure off them with its funding decisions, too, and in my new role as Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Finance Secretary, I’ll be meeting the Cabinet Secretary for Finance this week and asking, in light of that UK budget, for help to be given to our councils to breathe easier as they head into winter and face up to the new financial year.
There was no easing into November for any of us as strong early winter winds blew across the island over the weekend. Thankfully, the storm wasn’t too fierce this time, and the accompanying rain didn’t cause too many problems. But damage caused by storms over the past year have put us on notice of what climate change has in store for us. This week’s public meeting I’m chairing in Llangefni is a chance to quiz the Council, Natural Resources Wales and Dwr Cymru about steps that have been taken since the recent flooding in the town (I’ve chaired a similar event in Dwyran, too). People need reassurance, and I’m grateful to the council for taking concrete steps (literally) to protect Llangefni with the building of a new wall north of Pont y Plas.
In Holyhead, it was the winds of storm Emma that raged earlier this year. The town’s marina was wiped out, and as we approach the second meeting of the reconvened Port Users Group this week (which I go-chair with the island’s MP), I’m calling for sleeves to be rolled up to bring back the marina in a newly strengthened and more resilient form. The loss of the marina facility has been an economic blow, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to spark some progress towards its redevelopment.