Welcome to my February 2024 Newsletter
January proved a busy start to the new year for Montgomeryshire, with mixed news. I would strongly urge you to respond to the final phase of the Wales Air Ambulance consultation, and I have set out how you can do this.
As ever, if you want an update on something not mentioned in my newsletter, or I can help in another way, please email me or call my office at 01686 610887.
One last push to save Welshpool’s Air Ambulance Base
The final engagement stage on the future of air ambulance bases and operations has now begun. It runs until February 29th. This is our last chance to show a strong and united local voice to save Welshpool’s base. I urge you to complete the questionnaire.
I have produced an update on the latest position, with details of how you can respond, and I have included my answers to the questionnaire. I hope my answers help you to complete the questionnaire also. Please click the link below.
Craig Williams MP and I, with others in the local campaign team, believe Option 6, which sees all the four current bases remain open, is the best option for us in Mid Wales and for Wales as a whole. This option would ensure our local base remains open. An overwhelming response in favour of this option is our best chance of retaining Welshpool’s base.
Supporting Farmers and Rural Life
Farmers are being asked to do more for less, with reduced support from the Welsh Government. The industry is now at breaking point.
Several critical issues need to be addressed. Firstly, the Welsh Government's proposed budget for the upcoming financial year with its substantial 13% budget cuts to the rural affairs portfolio needs to be amended.
The Welsh Government needs to also reconsider the ‘Sustainable Farming Scheme: keeping farmers farming’ consultation, given the current strength of feeling in the industry.
Another growing area of concern in recent years has been the increasing pressure on farming business from government regulation. Compliance with complex regulations can be both time-consuming and expensive, making it difficult for farmers to focus on their core activities.
The rallying cry is clear: no farmers, no food. The agricultural sector is intricately woven into the fabric of Welsh culture, language, and our economy. Now is the time to rally and protect Welsh agriculture, preserving not only our farmers' livelihoods but also the essence of our countryside.
Newtown Job Losses
In January, we learned of plans for up to 98 job losses at Nidec's Control Techniques in Newtown, as a result of changes in market conditions.
Craig Williams MP is working closely with the UK Government to help the staff affected, and I have discussed the need for support with the Welsh Government Minister. Nidec have promised comprehensive redundancy packages for workers, support packages and to first pursue voluntary redundancy.
We're reassured that the company intends to retain its current position as one of Montgomeryshire's leading manufacturers and exporters, but clearly needs to do everything possible to assist those impacted.
I was pleased to be joined in the Senedd in January by Montgomery Young Farmers to mark the launch of their report into the positive impact of the Young Farmers movement.
The YFC is one of the largest youth movements in Wales, supporting young people between the ages of 10 and 28 to develop a host of skills, tackle rural isolation and raise money for charities, amongst a host of other benefits.
It was great to welcome Alun, Ffion and Katie to the Senedd. Montgomery YFC currently has over 600 members across the county which makes it one of the biggest YFC’s in Wales.
Young people really are the backbone of the rural community and I hope the Montgomery YFC continues to grow.
Securing Free Childcare for Working Parents
In England, from April 2024 all working parents of two-year-olds will be eligible to receive 15 hours of free childcare per week. From September 2024 this will be extended to parents of 9 months old babies and older, and from September 2025, the hours of free childcare will be extended further, to 30 free hours per week.
In Wales, it is the responsibility of the Welsh Government to put in run childcare schemes such as what is in place in England. Whist a scheme which is called Flying Start is in place, the different offer means that working parents of two-year-olds in Wales will not be eligible to receive 15 hours of free childcare per week as is available in England.
I raised this with the responsible Welsh Government minister last week.
I pointed out that in England, all working parents of two-year-olds will receive 15 hours per week of free childcare from April of this year. I went on to ask the Minister to confirm that this will be the case in Wales.
I was disappointed that the Minister couldn’t make the same commitment as has been made by the UK Government for parents living in England. I have had many local people contact me questioning why the Welsh Government's own scheme which is called Flying Start does not provide the same offer. Further, people rightly question why support in Wales is dependent on where you live and your postcode, rather than being available to all.