I would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas and would particularly like to thank Lily-May Andrews from Churchstoke for designing my Christmas card which you can see below.
I hope you enjoy reading my final newsletter of 2021 and as always, if you would like further information on anything which may not be mentioned in this newsletter or would like my support on any other matter, please don't hesitate to contact me on 01686 610887 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Russell George MS
Member of the Senedd for Montgomeryshire
Update on Covid-19 & Vaccination Programme
There still remains uncertainty around the impact of the new Omicron variant but, as a result, the booster vaccination programme was extended during November.
All adults over 18 will now be offered a booster jab. For information on the booster rollout in Powys please click here.
For more information on the vaccine rollout relevant for our area, please click here.
The Welsh Government has made further changes to NHS Covid passes. If you are over 18, you now need a pass to enter theatres, cinemas and concert halls. The introduction of Covid passes and the more recent extension of Covid passes is not something I have supported, as I don’t believe that the Welsh Government has provided sufficient evidence that the passes are required or reduce the spread of the virus.
I have also raised a number of concerns with the Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS, including residents’ concerns about difficulties about obtaining a Covid pass, and I've raised concerns that the helpline does not have sufficient capacity. The Health Minister has since informed me that it is now easier to contact the helpline which is on 0300 303 5667.
Challenges of Climate Change
The challenges of climate change are significant and sustainability is at the centre of the UK Government's decarbonisation drive to meet our net zero target by 2050, something I care strongly about.
I was pleased to attend COP 26 in Glasgow last month as part of a delegation from the Senedd to discuss these challenges with other politicians from around the UK and the world.
Whilst much more needs be done, I do think the conference was a success and kept within reach the trajectory of a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperatures. This was the first occasion where there has been a worldwide recognition that we will never get climate change under control as long as our power stations are consuming vast quantities of coal - the single biggest cause of carbon emissions and it was pleasing to see that the companies that build a quarter of the world’s automobiles have agreed to stop building carbon emission vehicles by 2035. Developed nations also agreed to provide enhanced and additional support for activities addressing loss and damage associated with the effects of climate change. A coalition of more than 130 countries has also been built to protect up to 90 per cent of our forests.
Of course, COP 26 does not complete the job but it does demonstrate the collective will of participating States on this most pressing of issues and a commitment to a shared global response to tackle the climate crisis.
Also, ahead of COP 26, my colleague, Craig Williams MP, and I attended a presentation at a Day of Action event in Newtown held by Climate Action Newtown which marked the mid-point of the COP 26 Conference.
Growing Together Campaign
I was pleased to have been invited by the National Farmers' Union for Wales to visit Rheinallt Wigley's farm near Machynlleth to plant an oak tree, kindly supplied by Coed Cadw - The Woodland Trust in Wales, as part of NFU Cymru’s Growing Together campaign.
Against the background of ambitious targets to increase tree cover in Wales to help mitigate and adapt to the challenges presented by climate change, the Growing Together initiative promotes a philosophy to future tree planting in Wales which advocates more trees integrated into farming systems – rather than replacing farming systems, allowing food production, farming, trees, nature, landscapes and rural communities to thrive.
Farmers have such an important role to play in tackling climate change and I am delighted that the Woodland Trust and NFU Cymru are working together. The tree planting scheme will offer opportunities to create green jobs and support the farming industry with additional income. Tree planting should take place in appropriate areas, and it was further helpful to have a discussion regarding the planting of trees by large multi-national companies which threaten the future of Welsh agriculture.
My thanks also go to Rheinallt Wigley for his kind hospitality and I was pleased that this tree was planted in memory of Geraint Wigley, Rheinallt's father and previous NFU Cymru County Chairman who sadly passed away in May.
Decision on Future of Schools
I was delighted that Powys County Council’s Cabinet took the decision last month to keep Churchstoke Primary school open.
I firmly believe that this is the right decision, particularly given the new and future housing developments in the area. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the community on the campaign to keep the school open.
It was good to meet with parents over remote meetings and in person when I have attended Churchstoke to discuss this matter. It seems that the Council will now be looking at a wider review of the schools in this area and I will remain in contact with Powys County Council to ensure that I am kept informed of the review’s findings and any future proposals which may impact the Churchstoke community.
It has, however, been announced that Castle Caereinion Church in Wales School will close from August 2022. I know this will be a huge disappointment to those in the community who have concerns about this. During this process I have been in contact with the Council to raise some of the specific concerns.
In particular, I have asked for clarity on the free school transport provision for pupils in the Castle Caereinion catchment area. On 26th November, I again re-iterated my queries as I believe that following this decision to close the school, the free transport policy should be applied fairly and reasonably in light of this decision.
Supporting the work of Nursing in Wales
Last month, I was pleased to be able to sponsor an event at the Senedd supporting the work of nursing in Wales and was particularly pleased to meet and speak with nurses from Powys and who work in Montgomeryshire. The event was supported by the Royal College of Nursing Wales (RCN) who had arranged for nursing staff from across Wales to meet with Members of the Senedd.
The event was also an opportunity for the Royal College of Nursing Wales to highlight a number of their priorities and campaigns.
According to the RCN, nursing staff in Wales are short of 1719 nurses and that because of staff shortages in Wales, nurses need to work 34,284 hours of overtime every week to care for patients.
The RCN are also asking the Welsh Government to extend current legislation to allow for appropriate nursing levels across inpatient mental health and community nursing units in Wales.
The event recognised the hard work which nurses continue to do and the vital role which they play in our NHS. Nurses work extremely hard, and they deserve to work in environments which are adequately staffed. Understaffing not only poses a risk to patients but to the staff as well. I believe that the Welsh Government must address these vacancies and help create a better work environment for nurses.
Shop Locally this Christmas
Small businesses are the beating heart of the local economy and it’s vital that we do all we can to protect them as we work to recover from the pandemic.
Not only do they create jobs for local people, but they are also heavily involved in communities and provide innovative and diverse services to local economies across the country.
Local businesses came together on Sunday 5th December for a Christmas Market in the Pryce Jones building in Newtown with homemade items, arts & crafts and more (see picture above). It was also Small Business Saturday on 4th December which champions our small and local businesses. I would urge everyone to shop locally this Christmas to support our small businesses but shopping locally can of course be done all year round.
I believe that the Welsh Government must also provide economic support and an environment where businesses can flourish and grow by opening up procurement to small businesses and matching the UK Government’s pledge to slash business rates by 50% for next year.
Ministers in Cardiff Bay have the power and the funding to support our businesses and I hope they will do this to benefit small businesses across Montgomeryshire and the whole of Wales.