Please find below my monthly newsletter.
As always, if you feel that I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01686 610887.
National Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire
Action on Recycling facilities
Following the closure of Potters Yard Recycling Centre in Machynlleth and the Powys County Council consultation which has considered closing further recycling centres in Newtown and/or Welshpool, we must be reassured that we will have access to recycling facilities without some residents having to make a potential return journey of over 80 miles to use a recycling facility provided by Powys County Council. It is therefore encouraging to learn that the Council’s Cabinet has recently (7th February) given the recycling centres in both Newtown and Welshpool a reprieve for at least 12 months.
However, I am concerned at the long term prospect that these sites will have to operate on reduced opening hours and that it may be the case that the council will revisit the prospect of closing further recycling centres in North Powys next year. There are serious concerns that this could result in an increase in fly-tipping and a reduction in recycling rates in the area.
In my view, the law should be changed to ensure that everyone has access to a recycling facility within a reasonable distance from their home and I was therefore pleased to have been drawn in a ballot to debate any subject of my choice on the floor of the National Assembly just a couple of weeks ago. I decided to debate the challenges of recycling which face businesses and residents in Mid Wales and you can read my contribution in the debate here.
I am also encouraging everyone to answer a short online survey on recycling which can be found at https://www.russellgeorge.com/recycling-survey to make their views known.
You can also obtain a paper copy by calling my office on 01686 610887.
Rubbish Collection Timetables
Powys County Council has also confirmed that it will not issue a new refuse collection timetable due to the cost of producing fifteen different variants of the three weekly cycle. New timetables will only be issued if there is a change of collection day in the future. I am aware that collection day information can be obtained from the council's website, but many don’t have access, and as we now only have collections every 3 weeks, the council should be making it easier for residents. In my view, I don’t think people expect a glossy document - a simple leaflet which could be photocopied and delivered by waste operators as they go about their collections would suffice. I have made these points to the local authority.
The Local Development Plan
Powys County Council’s cabinet has approved the Council’s response to the public representations on its Local Development Plan (LDP). In my view, given the sweeping changes which have been proposed by Powys County Council, all Councillors should be given an opportunity to debate the merits of these further major changes to Powys’ Local Development Plan. I have grave concerns at the top down nature of these significant policy changes emanating from the Welsh Government regarding renewable energy development in the County and whether you’re in favour or against the changes, our local representatives should have been afforded the opportunity to have their say on our behalf instead of simply having the opportunity to rubber-stamp what will be a fait accompli. To read more of my views on the LDP, please visit: https://www.russellgeorge.com/news/ldp-decision-council-cabinet-erodes-local-democracy-and-strips-decision-making-away-elected
Powys County Council fails to respond to formal complaints
I am disappointed that a Freedom of Information request asking for details of how many residents had failed to receive a response to their correspondence from Powys County Council has revealed that the local authority has failed to respond to a number of formal complaints from residents. This is a total abdication of responsibility to those residents and service users who dutifully pay their council tax and expect to have their complaint dealt with, investigated and then given a response in a timely fashion. Year after year, I have to write to the council to highlight the fact that hundreds of people are just not getting responses when issues are raised. Only a fraction of these make formal complaints and they are still not receiving replies. It really doesn’t take much to have the common courtesy to inform people if there is going to be a delay. This is not acceptable and I have raised the issue with the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales who has agreed to contact Powys County Council to see whether it needs some assistance in complying with its own complaints procedures!
Between 30 and 40 properties in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant were affected by flooding following a burst water main which carries water from Lake Vyrnwy to Oswestry and then on to Liverpool.
Flooding is not a new phenomenon for Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant and I had the opportunity of raising this issue in the National Assembly with the Welsh Government, calling for them to step in and put pressure on United Utilities to upgrade its ageing infrastructure which is clearly no longer fit for purpose.
It was 63 years to the day that flooding previously ravaged the village and it appears as though little work has been undertaken in recent years to improve the infrastructure, with reports of pipes fracturing on a regular basis, often over farmland.
Whilst much of this responsibility lies with the United Utilities in upgrading sections of its infrastructure, some of which date from the Victorian era, it is also essential that the Welsh Government reviews its flood risk management policy and does all it can to ensure that utility companies across Wales take steps to invest in their infrastructure and minimise the risk of flooding so that residents are reassured that their homes and businesses are not under immediate threat of a repeat of this devastating incident.
Broadband and Mobile
A major focus for me during January has been the Inquiry into Broadband and Mobile coverage by the National Assembly's Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, a committee which I'm privileged to Chair. We have heard from the regulator, Ofcom, all of the mobile network operators and, we have recently heard from the Welsh Government Minister responsible for the Superfast Cymru fibre broadband upgrade and BT. It remains a significant concern that many rural communities across Montgomeryshire appear to be excluded from the fibre broadband upgrade or, at the very least, are at the back of the queue when it comes to receiving superfast speeds or improved mobile coverage. It is my intention that the Committee's recommendations reflect these concerns and send a clear message to the Welsh Government that it must devote more time, effort and resource to ensure that Powys has a telecoms infrastructure which is fit to support a 21st century Mid Wales economy. Whether connecting with family and friends, helping children to study from home, or driving growth for local businesses, digital connectivity is now critical to our day-to-day lives and Mid Wales can no longer afford to be the poor relation when it comes to fibre broadband access and next generation mobile connectivity.
Better Cross Border Transport Links
Last month, I was also pleased to be able to Chair the inaugural meeting of the National Assembly’s Cross Party Group on Cross Border Issues which discussed the challenges of how the Welsh Government, UK Government and different agencies deal with differing cross border policy priorities when it comes to transport connectivity, be it on rail or road. It was a successful meeting which provided a forum to bring all interested parties together and I hope that the Cross Party Group can continue to contribute to better outcomes for the people of Mid Wales across all policy areas. The next meeting will focus on cross border healthcare which is a hugely important issue as we continue to discuss the reform of NHS services which serve Shropshire and Mid Wales. I firmly believe that services must be retained and strengthened in Shrewsbury which is centrally located to serve the healthcare needs of the wider region and I will actively campaign for this proposal to become a reality. A further meeting of this group in the Spring will also consider the delivery of the basic payment scheme to farmers who straddle the border between England and Wales.
Cambrian Credit Union – Newtown
A couple of weeks ago, I met with the Cambrian Credit Union to discuss ways in which the Credit Union can become more familiar and well known across Powys and North Wales. Cambrian Credit Union is the largest Credit Union in Wales, and as a not-for-profit organisation, they rely on support from their members using their wide variety of savings and loans services. This Valentine’s Day, Cambrian Credit Union have launched a “Share The Love” campaign, which will be taking place over on their Facebook page on Tuesday 14th February. In the lead up, they are asking their members to tell them why they love their Credit Union. So, if you want to get involved, or for more information about the Credit Union, visit their website: www.cambriancu.com or search their Facebook page “Cambrian Credit Union”.
Montgomeryshire farmers enjoy breakfast success
Montgomeryshire farmers have recently opened their kitchens to put the spotlight on the importance of the rural economy and to promote their great Welsh breakfast produce. Two breakfasts were held as part of the Wales wide farmhouse breakfast campaign, one of which I was pleased to attend. The first breakfast was held at Trewythen and was hosted by the Roche Davies family. A further breakfast, which I attended, was hosted by FUW Montgomeryshire County Chairman, Mark Williams, and his wife Helen at Pen Y Derw in Forden. It was good to discuss issues affecting the agriculture industry around the breakfast table, and celebrate locally produced foods such as the Sausages & Bacon which were supplied from award winning Neuadd Fach Baconry in Llandinam. There are significant challenges facing the industry, and events like this which bring about informal discussions between farmers and politicians are crucial.
Senedd tribute to celebrated former Mayor and "Newtonian", David Pugh
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity of marking the life of David Pugh, a former Mayor of Newtown and celebrated local historian, who sadly passed away in January, after a short illness. David was Mayor of Newtown between 1994 and 1996 and he was Newtown’s leading local historian for many decades, instrumental in establishing the Newtown History Group in 1995 and its journal ‘The Newtonian’, both of which continue to flourish today. He also helped establish the Newtown History Group, receiving the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2013, and he was also a prominent member of the Newtown and District Civic Society. David was also a director of the Montgomeryshire Community Regeneration Association and a committee member of the historical Powysland Club. He was a trustee of Newtown Silver Band and held office with the Robert Owen Museum. To watch my 90 second tribute, please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9lgFmq9WAQ
Support for Revive & Thrive Local Legends Campaign
In January, I supported the Revive & Thrive Local Legends Campaign which calls for towns and villages across Powys to recognise those people who are doing good in their community and nominate them in the Revive & Thrive Local Legends Campaign. This national campaign, delivered by Montgomeryshire based regeneration company Revive & Thrive, strives to highlight those passionate about the places in which they live and about their community’s future prosperity. To find out more, visit the Local Legend area of www.reviveandthrive.co.uk
Forthcoming Door step Advice Surgeries
I hold advice surgeries in my Newtown and Welshpool offices most Fridays and I will also be in the following areas on the following dates. If you would like to meet with me, please contact me on 01686 610887 to make an appointment.
Saturday 11th February – Forden
Friday 17th February – Montgomery
Saturday 18th February – Penegoes
Saturday 18th February – Machylleth
Wednesday 22nd February – Llanidloes
Thursday 23rd February – Afda, Cefn Coch
Friday 24th February - Llangynog, Penybont Fawr, Llanwddyn
Thursday 2nd March – Llanymynech
Saturday 4th March – Trefeglwys
Saturday 11th March – Kerry