Councils need more Government support to protect rural schools: Plaid Leadership Contender

Ynys Môn AM and candidate for the Leadership of Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth, has unveiled proposals to help keep schools at the heart of our communities.

Mr ap Iorwerth says he has sympathy with councils that are working to ever tighter spending limits, whilst coming under pressure from Welsh Government from a number of conflicting directions.

He said: “Welsh Government wants to give the impression that it is protecting rural schools by devising a new ‘code’ that councils will have to follow before closing schools. I welcome any genuine attempts to help smaller schools, but at the same time as this code is being developed, Government policy is urging moves towards larger schools, and crucially a code not backed by additional resource is a smokescreen.”

He added: “As First Minister I would want to support Councils in trying to find new and innovative ways of keeping schools open within their communities, and I particularly favour the creation of multi-site ‘Area Schools’, with one Head and one Governing body sharing costs and setting common goals and standards across the different sites, but crucially allowing more communities to keep their primary schools.

“This ‘new deal’ for rural school clusters won’t stop all school closures, but it will empower Councils to look for innovative answers, will help deliver standards in a small-school setting, and properly resourced will mean that rurality is embraced and not seen as a burden.”

Mr ap Iorwerth said he’s not opposed entirely to the principle of merging schools where there are no other options, and that there are instances where some schools become unsustainable educationally and financially due to low pupil numbers. However, he wants councils helped to ensure closures become a last resort.

A Nation for our Youth

As students in Wales receive their GCSE results today, Rhun ap Iorwerth has outlined some of his plans to support young people

On exam results day, Plaid Cymru Leadership Candidate Rhun ap Iorwerth has congratulated Welsh students on their success and has outlined his ‘Young Wales Plan’ that would put youth welfare at the heart of Government decision-making.

Speaking on results day for GCSE and other exams, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“Congratulations to those who received their GCSE and other exam results today after all their perseverance and thank you to the teachers and school staff for their support and hard work with the students. I wish them all the best as they make decisions about their future.

“Giving young people the opportunity to reach their potential is something that’s very important to me. I strongly believe in the ability to give educators freedom to raise and realise the aspirations of Wales’ young citizens.

“And I want to put youth welfare at the heart of everything in Government. That is why, as part of my leadership campaign, I have published my intention to create a new comprehensive ‘Young Wales Plan’ to support young people.

“The Plan will include steps to promote and look after physical and mental health through education and leisure, and will give our young people a real chance to set the agenda, including through our new Youth Parliament in Wales. I would establish a new ‘Young Wales’ information and citizenship service, learning from the ‘Young Scot’ scheme in Scotland.

“I want our young people to be excited about growing up in Wales, and feel that they have the best possible support to reach their potential, academically, at work, in health and socially.

“And the intention of my ‘Bring your Skills Home’ strategy would be to try and give every opportunity to those who have left for education and training to come back home and contribute to Wales’ future.”

Plaid Cymru’s youngest MP, Ben Lake, has given his support to Rhun in the Leadership race. He said:

“Rhun has outlined an exciting vision, and of particular importance is the prominence he gives to the future of younger generations. I am in no doubt that Rhun has the passion and ability to inspire the widespread support necessary to realise such a future. I am pleased to support his candidature for leader of Plaid Cymru.”

Rhun uses Assembly statement to wish happy birthday to Holyhead Centre that has put Anglesey on global sporting map

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth used a 90 second statement in the National Assembly this week to praise the work of Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre.

Rhun had attended the Centre’s 50th Birthday celebrations at the Trearddur Bay Hotel over the weekend, which was also a chance to celebrate the success of star lifters Gareth Evans, Hannah Powell and a host of others, and pay tribute to the club founder and Commonwealth medalist Bob Wrench (who was unfortunately not able to be there, but sent a message read out by Ray Williams).

This week, Rhun made a statement at the Senedd praising the work of the Centre in the local community as well as on a global stage. He said:

“Thank you for the opportunity to wish a happy birthday to an institution that’s made a huge contribution to health and fitness on Anglesey, and which also happens to be a centre of sporting excellence of worldwide renown.

“One of the highlights of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was Welsh weightlifter Gareth Evans’s stunning gold medal-winning performance. His lifting was immense, but just as impressive was the passion he showed in running over to his coach, Ray Williams, to celebrate. Ray himself had realised a dream as a coach, but before coaching, he himself had won gold for Wales at the 1986 games in Edinburgh. Ray had been introduced to lifting by Bob Wrench, a bronze winner in the Christchurch games in 1974, and it was Bob who had the vision to establish the Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre 50 years ago.

“A high-school sports teacher, not only was he hugely talented at weightlifting, he could see what lifting could offer to the area’s young people, many of whom would otherwise not have such opportunities. Ray and Gareth were among thousands to benefit. To give you an idea of HAWFC’s success, Ray himself has coached lifters to 97 gold medals of youth and senior at Welsh and international levels. But it’s the community aspect of the club that’s just as important. This is a centre with its doors open to ALL.

“So, happy birthday Holyhead and Anglesey Weightlifting and Fitness Centre, and a long life to an institution that’s done so much for its community and, through its excellence, has done so much to put Holyhead and Anglesey on the global sporting map.”

AM asks for support for Holyhead Marina and for lessons to be learnt after storm Emma response

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth today asked Welsh Government for an update on the clean up work at Holyhead following storm Emma at the beginning of the month.

However, he was disappointed with the response, considering the environmental and economic impact of the damage, and the concerns still being expressed by the marina and local people about the clean up effort.

In his question to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs at the Assembly today, Rhun ap Iorwerth asked:

“Looking back, I think there are some serious questions about the speed of the response to what happened in Holyhead. I think it’s quite clear that there was, and remains, a grave environmental issue. So, perhaps you could update us on whether, on reflection, there was a missed opportunity to get in early, to deal with the environmental impacts of what’s happened. And what lessons have been learned, in terms of making sure that, if there’s disagreement about who exactly should take over, Welsh Government can step in, or your relevant bodies?

“Secondly, looking forward, because that’s crucial now, we do need assurances about what is happening. I’ve heard reports this morning of people returning from sea to Holyhead for the first time since the events, and being shocked at what hasn’t happened up to now. We need assurances on rebuilding the marina, on help for individuals and businesses that have been affected, and of course on the need to step up in terms of the environmental clean up, of which there is a lot yet to do. Because this still is a desperate situation in Holyhead.”

He later added:

“This was another disappointing response from the Cabinet Secretary regarding how Welsh Government and its agencies reacted to storm Emma’s destruction in Holyhead. Those working in the marina, those who have lost boats, and those who have been to Anglesey’s north west beaches themselves to clear up polystyrene because of their concern about the environmental impact tell me that the response was not quick enough, that there was confusion over who should be doing what and that the problem still remains today.

“I appreciate the Cabinet Secretary’s consideration about possible financial support for public infrastructure repair, and environmental damage clean up, but I was really hoping for more leadership on Government on this, especially considering the impact on the environment and on the local economy in Anglesey.”

Electricity Connection should respect Future Generations Act, says AM

Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth yesterday quizzed Welsh Government about the role of the Well-being of Future Generations Act in developing electricity infrastructure in Anglesey.

Rhun said that an underwater or underground connection, rather than new overhead pylons, would safeguard the interest of the people of Ynys Môn now as well as future generations, and that this was what the people of Anglesey are asking for. He pointed out that we have a Future Generations Act in Wales and this connection plan should only happen in accordance with the principles of that Act.

Speaking in the Assembly chamber, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“The National Grid intends to have a new electricity connection across Anglesey with the cost being the main, if not the only, factor in deciding what kind of connection that will be. What they intend to do, therefore, is to go for the cheapest possible option, which is pylons above ground rather than undergrounding, or placing cables underwater, which is what we on Anglesey would want to see.

“Going underwater or underground would safeguard the interests of Ynys Môn now and for future generations, and we do have a Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 here in Wales.

“You’re the Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for the implementation of that Act. Are you willing to give a commitment that you will work with me and others such as campaigners against pylons to urge the National Grid, Ofgem and the UK Government, who will ultimately make the decision, to ensure that this connection plan can only happen in accordance with the principles of this important piece of legislation passed in this place.”

In his response, the Cabinet Secretary responsible replied:

“I know of the work that you have done in the context of the island on this issue. We as a Government are working more closely with the local councils on the issues that he has alluded to.

“I was pleased to see a statement from the National Grid…on well-being where they state, in the context of the Act,

‘While these do not specifically place requirements on the National Grid or the development of new transmission lines, National Grid believes that the aims of the Act are important and deserve consideration.’

“So, there is some recognition there by the National Grid of the impact of the Act. The Act is binding as far as the local council is concerned. The Secretary of State will be influenced by it. I hear, of course, what the Member says about under grounding and over grounding and the Welsh Government’s starting position is that under grounding is the preferred option, but there will be discussions that will be needed and the local authority and Welsh Government will be involved in them as we seek to maximise the benefits for the island while mitigating the impacts of these developments.”

Speaking after the exchange in the Senedd, Rhun ap Iorwerth added:

“I will be meeting National Grid in the near future to discuss this matter further with them. Even though the Act is not binding on them, it is important that the principles of the Act are respected.”

Local AM Rhun ap Iorwerth pledges to make “every daffodil count” 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 care and support to people living with a terminal illness.

Rhun ap Iorwerth joined forces with Marie Curie Nurses Amy Law, Sue Thomas and Ruth McGhee at an event at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday 6th February to help launch the Great Daffodil Appeal, Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign.

As well lending his support to the appeal, Rhun ap Iorwerth is also encouraging Ynys Môn people 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, Poundworld, Hotter Shoes and Wyevale garden centres.

Rhun ap Iorwerth 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. 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, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Wales, 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.”

Make Every Daffodil Count and volunteer to support now: mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil or call 0800 304 7025*.
For more information on how to get involved in the Great Daffodil Appeal, please 0800 304 7025.

Picture caption: Rhun ap Iorwerth pictured with Marie Curie Nurses Amy Law, Sue Thomas and Ruth McGhee

Rhun ap Iorwerth calls for halt to privatisation within Welsh NHS

More Welsh NHS services are being outsourced to a private company, revealed Plaid Cymru Chief Whip Rhun ap Iorwerth, deputising for Leanne Wood during First Minister’s Questions.

Dialysis services in Wrexham Maelor are due to be privatised “under First Minister Carwyn Jones’s watch” he said, with £700,000 of savings coming from “staff entitlements to sickness pay, holiday pay and pensions”.

The discussions are thought to involve the outsourcing of the service to a private company such as ‘B Braun Avitum’, which already runs the dialysis services in Ysbyty Gwynedd and Alltwen.

The service could be transferred to a private company within a matter of weeks and is out for tender through the Welsh Government’s “Sell2Wales” procurement notice. Under the privatisation plans, staff are outsourced to a private company and are no longer entitled to NHS-level terms and conditions.

Rhun ap Iorwerth pointed out that a two tier health system was growing under the Labour Government, with patients being encouraged to consider paying for quicker treatment or diagnosis because of long waiting times.

Speaking after FMQs, Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“It’s extraordinary that the Labour First Minister of Wales is allowing creeping privatisation of NHS services under his watch.

“Labour’s 2016 manifesto pledged that the ‘NHS will be modernised but not privatised’, but given this example of privatisation and the recent winter crisis, it seems to be more a case of ‘privatised but not modernised’.

“It’s also becoming clear that unduly long waiting times are creating a two-tier health system, where those with the ability to pay are able to have operations within a reasonable timeframe, but those relying on the NHS face long waits that could potentially affect their final health outcomes.

“This is not about ideology, this is about ensuring that providing Welsh patients with the care that they need is the priority rather than allowing private companies to make a profit by picking away at important NHS services. It’s also about protecting hard-working staff, who are already in a stressful job, facing reduced terms and conditions.

“It’s time the Welsh Government came forward with a long-term plan for a sustainable Welsh NHS.”

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.”

Rural dementia care discussed at National Assembly meeting

Plaid Cymru Assembly Members met with charity Alzheimer’s Society Cymru in the National Assembly to discuss the future of dementia care in rural Wales.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“At last year’s Royal Welsh Show, I helped launch the Alzheimer’s Society report on delivering dementia care in rural Wales, but very little seems to have happened since to suggest Government has taken that report’s good ideas on board. Simon and I will continue to work with the Society to ensure that the needs of rural Wales are genuinely reflected in Government policy and action. Dementia care isn’t ‘one size fits all’.”

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Plaid Cymru Mid and West AM Simon Thomas commented:

“The challenges that are experienced by those with dementia in rural parts of the country are often heightened by a fundamental lack of services designed to tackle it.

“I am grateful for the work of Alzheimer’s Society Cymru. The society’s report on Dementia in rural Wales describes the experiences from the point of view of those affected, which is of a critical importance in highlighting the pitfalls in transport, support services and general public awareness – ensuring that things cannot continue the way they are.

“I will be raising these issues with the Labour Government and relevant County Councils to echo the concerns of the Society I am particularly concerned by the lack of provision of residential nursing beds.”

Sue Phelps, Country Director for Wales added:

“Alzheimer’s Society Cymru is campaigning for a better deal for people affected by dementia living in rural areas. We are grateful to Simon Thomas AM and Rhun ap Iorwerth AM for their time in speaking with us about the issues people are facing and look forward to working together to ensure the Welsh Government’s new dementia strategy will deliver tangible improvements for people affected by dementia across rural communities in Wales.”

Young homeless from Anglesey share thoughts with AMs in Cardiff

A group of young people from Anglesey travelled to the National Assembly in Cardiff this week to take part in a debate on Youth Homelessness.
 
The debate, which was sponsored by Anglesey AM Rhun ap Iorwerth, was organised by Bangor Universtity PhD student Natalie Roberts and Dr Julia Wardhaugh, working with Digartref Môn, with the help of a grant provided by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account through Bangor University
 
A number of young people from Anglesey, who are currently living in supported accommodation, came to speak to Assembly Members from different parties about issues affecting them.
 
Speaking after the event, Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth said:
 
“It was great to be able to welcome young people from Anglesey to the National Assembly today to take part in a debate on youth homelessness.  We discussed a number of issues, from social housing to the Supporting People programme, and I would like to thank them for sharing their experiences and ideas with us.”
 
Co-organiser Natalie Roberts said:
 
“I think this has been a very exciting and important project, that I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of. The young people involved have worked well as a team to prepare and present the presentation covering issues that they are passionate about. We feel the debate was successful and would like to thank the Assembly Members in attendance for listening and responding to the issues that were addressed.  Ultimately, we would like to see some of our ideas taken further and perhaps having an impact on future homelessness policy in Wales.”
 
Some of the young people who took part also commented on their experience.
 
Phil Corrie said “The debate enabled us to have a voice in a debate setting and to gain feedback from AMs.  If we have impacted just one subject relating to homelessness, we have made an impact.”
 
Josh Lloyd commented “Homelessness is a critical social issue and needs recognition. It is a growing concern and something needs to be done”.
 
Camilla Zirniauskaite added “I think the debate started a very important conversation about the very complex and difficult issues. I think that as a team we got our points across and were able to show the AMs why these issues were important”.