Thursday, February 13, 2014

Give businesses in Wales the same support as in England

Businesses hit by storms and flooding should be given a three-month break from paying rates. The move is urgently needed to help companies get back on their feet. Businesses have been hit doubly hard – firstly through damage thanks to the floods and the storm, and secondly they’ve seen  a sharp drop in trading either because people very sensibly have stayed at home during the bad weather, or because they’ve had to shut their doors for safety reasons. According to retail analyst Springboard, footfall in Wales plummeted 18.6% year on year on Monday and 17.7% on Tuesday. As an example, Debenhams closed two stores early in Bangor and Llandudno because of high winds and today other stores will be shut across the region while insurance assessors check for damage.
The road network across North Wales and north west England was brought to a virtual standstill on Wednesday night because of the high winds – the area around the Britannia Bridge has become a giant lorry park. That is also affecting deliveries in and out of Wales – both of items to customers and supplies into retailers and companies.  The rail network across North Wales has also been severely affected.
In the Parliament this week, at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron vowed to waive business rates for three months and English companies can also defer VAT, PAYE and corporation tax for the same period.
We need similar action on business rates now from the Welsh Government businesses hit by storms and flooding should be given a three month break from paying rates.  The UK Government's help on VAT, PAYE and Corporation tax will help.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Statement on the reshuffle

Tonight I have travelled to North Wales because my region is being battered by storms that is where my focus is.  Many residents have suffered damage to their homes and their businesses and I have seen on my journey the emergency services working flat out, council teams out clearing roads, and I know the Red Cross are helping stranded Lorry drivers in Bangor affected by the road closures to Anglesey.  My constituents should know that I may have lost the title "Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs" but I have not lost my voice or my brain.  I intend to continue to use both to speak up for my constituents and my region, as I have done throughout my time in the Assembly.  Those living in rural communities will still benefit from the knowledge and experience that I have gained whilst shadow minister for rural affairs and I will continue to speak up for the needs of rural communities and North Wales, many of whom are without electricity at the present time or who have been cut off with transport problems across the North Wales region.

Tomorrow me and my staff will be focusing on providing support to those who need it.  Businesses and homeowners affected by the storms and floods should contact their local bank branches as many of the UK banks are offering assistance to those who have been affected, including mortgage interest holidays, and business loans for those businesses affected by floods.  My office will be open tomorrow to assist those that need it and I receive emails 24 hours a day.  I shall be remaining in the region next week to ensure that we provide all the support and help that is needed.

I call upon the Welsh Government to follow the lead of the UK Government and to extend business rate relief to businesses affected by the flooding and storms.  That is an immediate step which can be taken which would provide support and help to those businesses that have been affected.

Questions about tax are not relevant to the vast majority of my constituents at this present time, and if others wish to concentrate on the question of tax - that is a matter for them.  I took a position which I believe to be the right one, and the debate will no doubt be conducted in the future when it is more appropriate.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pontcysyllte to Cardiff

WALKING across the Pontcysyllte aqueduct on Monday morning gave me a bird’s eye view across Wrexham and parts of Flintshire, and into England – it’s a good job I’ve a head for heights.

Thomas Telford’s masterpiece of engineering, 126ft high and 1007ft long, is one of the Wonders of Wales. But this Grade I listed, Unesco-protected World Heritage Site isn’t just a place of history, it’s also somewhere with a great future.

I’ve been involved in discussions about regenerating an area around Trevor, near the aqueduct. There is a huge economic opportunity here, both in continuing to bring in tourists, and in helping people find a home they can afford.

It would involve a new marina with berths for tourist boats and also residential berths for people who live on narrow-boats. It’s an affordable way for many to live in their own home, in a popular area where there are few homes to rent, or to buy.

My stroll along the Llangollen Canal bank was to accompany supporters of Enough Food For Everyone If…. This campaign wants action to end world hunger, with action to stop tax avoidance by multi-nationals. In the Third World last year $160bn was lost in tax avoidance.

Enough Food is also calling on Wales’ AMs to ensure the money we spend supports fair trade, tax transparency and environmental sustainability. I understand their concerns about ending this unfairness. It’s frustrating to know the world produces enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough food.
The campaign is also pressing for the UK to use its Presidency of the G8 and the Enniskillen Summit in June, to urge other rich countries to meet their longstanding promises of spending 0.7% of GNP on aid - the UK is the only member of the G8 to spend this amount on global aid.  This shows the commitment of the UK Government to helping the poorest in our world.  This is not without controversy as many people here question why we are spending that money abroad and not at home, but some of the people being helped live on less than a £1 a day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Airline Delays and your rights

Last summer I blogged about the problems of JET2 for passengers on flights with the company, and the fact that there were particular problems with cancelled flights being referred to as "delayed" flights.  Two recent Judgements have improved consumer rights in this area.  For delays the "Tui Travel" case established that where a flight has been delayed for more than 3 hours passengers will be entitled to compensation.  The Civil Aviation Authority have updated their advice for passengers which can be accessed here

For a Guardian article which outlines further information

It is time now for Airlines to give their passengers the compensation they are properly entitled to.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Marine Conservation Zone U-Turn

John Griffiths has been forced to put a hold on his proposals for MCZ's.  His department received 7000 responses, and reading between the lines has been totally overwhelmed by the opposition to the proposals which would have had far reaching consequences along the Welsh Coast, with huge potential impacts on the Tourism and Fishing sectors.

Particularly embarrasing for Welsh Government was the fact that in the last 5 years in Marine Protected Areas NO enforcement action has been carried out.  At least  "not to their knowledge" which is the worrying answer I got in an FOI request.

My consultation response has been uploaded to other websites, or a copy can be obtained from my constituency office as it runs to some 9 pages, but I thought you might like to know my conclusions, posted here.

"In conclusion, I would recommend the following course of action:
1. A moratorium should be placed upon the MCZ implementation process pending further research and evidence gathering on the socio-economic impact of MCZs in the areas identified;

2. An integrated environmental, fisheries and socio-economic assessment is conducted before any further action is taken by the Welsh Government. Only after the results of such an integrated and holistic assessment are analysed can the foundation upon which effective management of the MCZs be developed;

3. The Welsh Government fully takes into account the proposals contained within the WFA Striking the Balance document."

All in all it is another embarrasment for Environment Minister John Griffiths, whose department churns out consultations like confetti.  What is clear both from my response, and from the many coastal communities was that "environment" sections of Welsh Government had not been talking to Fisheries..... leading to an awful mess, and yet another "task and finish group".  Something tells me that the delay to 2013 may indicate a desire by the Minister to push the whole thing off to the new Natural Resources Wales Body, and wash his hands of the whole mess.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Healthcare reorganisation of community hospitals

Yesterday I was at two BETSI meetings held in Flint, and I was there to see the local people of Flint who had come out to support their Community Hospital.  I have also been at meetings in Colwyn Bay, Prestatyn and Rhyl.  Rhyl has already seen the closure of the Alex Hospital.  Prestatyn, Flint and Colwyn Bay are facing closure of their community hospitals, with services being concentrated at other sites accross North Wales.  The Health Board is promising what it calls "Home Enhanced Care" which will allow greater investment in care at home accross North Wales.  The figures last night were that it costs abouts £924,000 to keep Flint Community Hospital open, with the hospital having a 160 in patient addmissions over the course of the year.  The Health Board are arguing that they need to provide a greater consistency of care accross North Wales.  The problem is that 5 years ago, when there was a raft of closures of community hospitals accross North Wales improvements in care were offered, and the argument then was that better care would be offered in the home. People are just not convinced that they are going to see those improvements.  Aligned with this are proposals to move level 3 neonatal intensive care to Arrowe Park in Liverpool.  I have blogged about these proposals in earlier posts.  I have raised with the Health Board the statistics which show that infant mortality in Anglesey is 6.7 and Denbighshire is 7 when the Welsh Average is 4.3, the fact that the Health Board wishes to move neonatal intensive care should be a wake up call, as it will mean the downgrading of services at Glan Clwyd, and the loss of specialist Doctors who have experience with the smallest of babies, who can not talk and tell Doctors what is wrong with them.  This is likely to mean the loss of 5 Senior House Officer Doctors.  What can you do?  Get involved, respond to the consultation email the Health Board at  if you dont fight to retain local services, you will loose them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Betsi Consultation on Intensive Care for Babies. What they dont know

The Betsi Health Board have launched their consultation.  I sat in on two of their meetings today in Rhyl and was really concerned about their approach to Neo Natal intensive care services.  This is called a "level 3" service.  The proposal is to move the beds to Arrowe Park in Liverpool.  This will mean a massive journey for patients from the more rural parts of  North Wales and the more Western part of North Wales, with the possibility that mothers will be seperated from their babies, if they are not well enough to travel.  Not only that, but it will also mean that parents will potentially be seperated from their existing children.  What was not clear was that Arrowe Park is in fact in a position to offer better care.  It appears that Glan Clwyd has one on one nursing with special intensive care babies, Arrowe Park does not.  Arrowe Park does have more consultants, but it doesnt seem to have the 5 Senior House Officer Doctors that are present at Glan Clwyd.  Furthermore what Betsi has not told the public is that if the level three service moves, so will the ability to train the Senior House Officer Doctors.

Betsi knew that the Deanery (responsible for decisions on training) have said that this will happen.  What does it mean for the public in North Wales, it means a downgrading of the maternity services available, it means that Betsi's sums are wrong on the savings that they will make, as they will need to employ additional consultants or non SHO Doctors, and it will mean a key service being shut down in North Wales.  Get involved with the consultation.  Write to me with your objections and I will pass it on as to retain the service it will need public support.  More worryingly, the answers given in the earlier meeting were not the same as in the later meeting, I have got that on the record and will be submitting FOI's to Arrowe Park, as clearly Betsi dont know the current level of cover, or arrangements because they are having to check them after parents from the charity Cuddles challenged the Health Board's assertions.