January 2023 Newsletter
Happy New Year!
I hope you had a good Christmas. I wanted to take time in this first newsletter of 2023 to wish you a happy new year and to also reflect on 2022.
One of the most significant events of the year was celebrating the Queens Jubilee and I was pleased that so many communities held street parties and held events. Sadly, in September, we received the sad news of the death of Her Late Majesty The Queen. Her sense of duty, hard work, commitment and dedication to our country and the Commonwealth was without parallel. Over many glorious decades, she represented the best of our nation's values. Tributes across Montgomeryshire were poignant and touching. I was pleased to be able to offer my own reflections in a special Senedd session.
We are also aware of the significant economic challenges in the UK and around the world, the impact of increased prices and the cost of living. I know 2023 is going to continue to be a challenging time.
I want to use this newsletter to focus on several key areas that I was involved with last year and take the opportunity to look at developments into 2023. I have provided a summary with a link on each item which provides greater detail on each campaign.
As your member of the Welsh Parliament, I continue to work closely with Craig Williams MP and together we have developed a strong working relationship that I hope benefits Montgomeryshire.
If I can help you with an issue or concern, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me by email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Wales Air Ambulance
There was widespread concern and upset in August when proposals leaked that would see Welshpool's Air Ambulance base close.
Since then, there have been petitions launched, widespread press coverage, and I have raised our serious concerns with Welsh Government Ministers in the Senedd.
The public engagement process begins on the 9th of January, and I will be keeping people updated through a number of channels about how to put forward your thoughts and views.
Improving Healthcare Locally
People regularly contact me about lengthy waits for ambulances, issues getting referrals to specialists and time lost in treating conditions because of waiting lists. My office and I continue to support people on a one-to-one basis.
I continue to press ministers in the Welsh Government hard to take responsibility and improve services for Mid Wales which too often feels left behind.
I have continued to raise and push for progress for a new Hospital and Health Hub in Newtown to better improve services and access for patients across North Powys. I am pleased that further progress has been made in 2022.
Education & Fair School Transport
It has been good to be able to welcome local schools to the Senedd again in 2022.
I know that many local people are still struggling with issues relating to school transport. In many cases raised with me, children from the same family are being treated differently which strikes me as both upsetting for the children and not defensible.
In November, we had the prospect raised by Powys County Council of four day weeks for schools. The public reaction against this was united and I hope that the Council will reflect on how strongly people feel about our children receiving the best in-person education possible.
Local Banking Services
2022 was a disappointing year for access to banking services in our towns. Barclays Banks branches in Welshpool and Newtown were closed in September and a further closure was announced of the Lloyds branch in Welshpool. Both Craig Williams MP and I have met with the banks, and although Barclays Bank agreed to continuing with a presence in each of the towns, it will clearly not be the service that has operated previously.
We were however pleased with plans for a LINK Bank branch in Montgomeryshire, where services from multiple banks can be accessed. Craig and I continue to work with LINK, and we hope to being able to provide more news on this soon. You can read more about this new model by reading the full update.
Local Transport Infrastructure
Good transport links are essential for all our communities.
Throughout the year, I've worked on individual issues residents have raised on their local roads such as potholes, drainage and resurfacing.
I know that many people - myself included - are seriously concerned by the state of our local rail services. Trains are often cancelled, significantly delayed or terminated at Shrewsbury without proper communication to passengers. As this service is now directly controlled by the Welsh Government, I will continue to press Ministers to deliver important improvements urgently such as the introduction of new trains.
I was pleased to see Welshpool bus station open earlier this year but I know that some residents are concerned about the reduction in buses is some areas of the town.
Better Broadband & Mobile
2022 saw good progress made towards improved broadband and mobile coverage for Montgomeryshire.
The development of the Shared Rural Network - a partnership between the UK Government's Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and four large operators of mobile services - is continuing at pace and in 2023 we should see the introduction of the first of 16 masts.
Masts are planned for Y Fan; Old Hall (SY18); Hafren Forest; Manafon; Rhiwargor; Llangynog; Lake Vyrnwy; Llanwddyn; Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant; Maengwynedd; Llanfyllin; Staylittle; Tregynon and Bettws Cedewain.
Growing Our Local Economy
Throughout the year, I've worked hard to celebrate and champion efforts to increase our local economy.
We've seen a broad range of new funding announced from the UK Government to improve local facilities and business opportunities. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, UK Government Community Renewal Fund and Mid Wales Growth Deal are helping to move projects like the Montgomery Canal Restoration forward.
I've been disappointed this year that the Welsh Government is pushing ahead with its ill-advised Tourism Tax. Tourism is an important growth area for us and measures like this tax will make our area less competitive.
In December, I was pleased to support the 10th annual Small Business Saturday. We all know locally just how important small local shops, cafes and other businesses are to keeping our rural towns and villages alive.