Video: Railways on Anglesey

In response to comments by Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth in the Assembly chamber yesterday, Welsh Government admitted to the potential of re-opening the railway to Llangefni, and to Amlwch, but also of improving links to Anglesey Airport.

Speaking at the Senedd, Rhun ap Iorwerth asked Welsh Government to move expediently towards opening the line to Llangefni, and beyond to Amlwch:

“I was pleased when you announced recently that Llangefni was on a list of stations that could be reopened. Can I ask for an assurance that that is still in the pipeline, and can I urge you to move expediently towards what I hope will be a positive outcome on the possibility of opening the line to Llangefni, opening Llangefni station, but also – and crucially – beyond Llangefni and on to Amlwch? Because opening a line to Amlwch really would be transformational for a town that has struggled of late, and we have a unique opportunity here in that we have a line there already and in very, very good condition, which just needs a little bit of upgrading and support from Welsh Government.”

Economy and Transport Secretary, Ken Skates, replied:

“The Member has been passionate about reopening the station at Llangefni, and indeed the line to Amlwch, and it’s something that I am supportive of also. We’re trying to put stations in Wales in pole position for attracting UK Government investment, but, with regard to this specific example, I’d be happy to meet with the Member to discuss progress, if it is being made, because I think it has massive potential in the short term, perhaps, as a heritage line, but in the longer term as a wholescale passenger line.

“I think there is also exciting potential in improving links between the main line and Anglesey Airport.”

Video: My speech in the Plaid Cymru debate on banking

“It’s quite clear that there is a pattern developing, and several Members have referred to it already—this pattern of centralising in a number of regional hubs, and what’s happening on Anglesey is an excellent example of this. On Anglesey, with the exception of Holy Island, it’s only in Llangefni that there will be any full-time bank open at all. Barclays is open part-time in Amlwch, but Holyhead, as the main populated area of Anglesey, has also heard recently that they will be losing their HSBC branch. So, there’s a pattern developing here. The announcements that we’ve heard recently are: closing NatWest in Amlwch, in Holyhead, in Beaumaris and in Menai Bridge, and HSBC going in Holyhead, in Amlwch, in Menai Bridge and Beaumaris recently. It’s not just the banks either, but financial institutions more widely—Yorkshire Building Society in Llangefni is also going to close.

“If I give attention to Beaumaris for a moment, in the same way that we heard from Llyr Gruffydd about services being sucked away, when the announcement was made by NatWest and HSBC about closing in Beaumaris: ‘Don’t worry—Menai Bridge is only four miles away.’ But now we’ve heard that the branches in Menai Bridge are also closing.

“The reason we hear is that there’s more banking happening online; of course, that is factually accurate. There are lots of services available in the post office, we hear; of course that’s also true. But with all respect to post offices that are offering more and more services for paying in and withdrawing funds, the advice, the additional services and the support available through branches is not available. That’s the kind of support that the most vulnerable people do require. I don’t expect to see a return to the days where every small town has every branch of bank, but it’s important to ensure that there are basic financial services available to all within a sensible distance.

“With regard to the consultations taking place, I have a letter from NatWest here about the closure of the Menai Bridge branch saying that there are five ATMs within a mile of the branch, so what does it matter that that particular ATM will be lost? Well, what I pointed out to NatWest was that four of those are on the mainland—one of them in Ysbyty Gwynedd and one of them in Coleg Menai; that is, misleading people by giving the impression that alternative services are available. There aren’t; there’s only one available in Menai Bridge, as it happens, and that itself isn’t in the town centre.
“There are, I think, a number of solutions or perhaps responses that we can look at. I believe that we should be seeking to put the onus on the banking and finance sector to provide a minimum level of access. As I said, that’s not a matter of saying, ‘Let’s have every branch open in every town’ as was the case years ago, but making it a duty for the sector to ensure that there is at least a suitable level of access. Plaid Cymru in the UK Parliament have requested that Government introduces a ‘last bank in town’ status as part of the British Bankers’ Association legislation. And here, of course, I sound that warning that we can’t have a race by the banks to make sure that they’re not the last bank in town.

“Access is vital, and we’ve already heard suggestions about how there could be shared facilities, perhaps including the current established financial sector, plus also the exciting prospect such as a Welsh people’s bank that could give us an exciting way forward, responding to a necessary situation. This is a crisis that we are facing of the haemorrhaging of our financial institutions. This isn’t a pipe dream. When we look at the North Dakota bank and see that it is a hugely profitable bank, able to pump money back into infrastructure projects in North Dakota, where the Government deposits its finances with that bank in order to ensure that there is a continuous flow of money, these are exciting prospects that I believe we can’t afford to ignore. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. We know what is necessary; we need to make sure that we stand up to the haemorrhaging of financial institutions. We cannot continue to let that haemorrhaging go unchallenged.”

Llangefni RFC to take on National Assembly of Wales Team

Ynys Môn AM and Llangefni RFC juniors coach Rhun ap Iorwerth has invited the Welsh Assembly Rugby team to Llangefni to raise money for the Ynys Môn National Eisteddfod 2017.

This will be Welsh Assembly Rugby’s first match in north Wales, and even though Rhun is a member of the team, he’ll be putting on the Llangefni shirt to play against his Assembly teammates.

Looking forward to the match, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“It’s great to be able to bring the National Assembly rugby team up to Anglesey. I look forward to a friendly but tough encounter – and to raising funds for the 2017 Eisteddfod and Bowel Cancer UK.  Being a Llangefni RFC Juniors coach and an Assembly Rugby team member, I’ll have a choice of which team to play for… so I can’t lose!”

Kick off is 2pm on Saturday, 12th November (just a few hours before the Wales v Argentina game). Please come along to support both teams.

Reconsider Courts decision and listen to local views, demands AM

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth is asking the UK Government to listen to local views and reconsider their decision to close Anglesey’s courts.

Following the recent UK government statement that they are to close the courts at Holyhead and Llangefni, despite local opposition during the consultation process, Rhun has written to them to ask them to reconsider. He said:

“The consultation process proved that there was a clear opposition to closure. Out of all the respondents who commented on Holyhead Magistrates’ Court, for example, not one of them was in support of the proposal to close.

“But despite this, and despite the strong case that had been made by elected representatives from various parties at different levels, as well as by local solicitors, magistrates and other court users to keep Holyhead and Llangefni courts, the UK government came to the conclusion that both should be closed.

“Even though they say in their response that they are exploring alternative provisions for Anglesey, they give no details. Surely these should have been explored before the decision was made?

“I still believe that this decision to close will have a seriously detrimental effect on local justice and I have called on them to reconsider the decision and to take the majority of respondents’ views into account.”