It is a huge privilege to have been re-elected for a third term as the Member of the Welsh Parliament for our area. I would like to thank the people of Montgomeryshire for returning me with a significantly increased majority. It was a positive and fair campaign from all sides and I have huge respect for the other candidates who stood in this election. I look forward to representing Montgomeryshire over the next five years, and continuing to work closely with our MP, Craig Williams.
I was delighted that my own party returned sixteen members, which is the highest ever number of Welsh Conservatives to be elected to the Senedd. I was particularly pleased to see James Evans elected as the Member of the Senedd for Brecon and Radnorshire and I look forward to working closely with James for the residents of Powys.
The Welsh public firmly rejected independence, overwhelmingly backing parties who support the Union. I have spoken to so many people over the last few months including families, workers, and businesses who want to see both the UK Government and the Welsh Government working together closely to end the confusion over different Covid-19 restrictions. This is something which I will continue to call for.
The makeup of the new Senedd is: 30 Labour, 16 Conservative, 13 Plaid Cymru, 1 Liberal Democrat. Even though the election result did not quite give the Labour Party a working majority in the Senedd, the result did give Mark Drakeford a mandate to be reappointed as First Minister and lead a new Welsh Government.
Russell George MS
Member of the Senedd for Montgomeryshire
Current Covid-19 Restrictions
I very much welcome that Wales moved to Alert Level 2 last month. As a result of a successful UK vaccination programme, this has meant we can see the further reopening of our society and economy.
The next Welsh Government review is on Friday 4th June, and I very much hope that the Welsh Government will move to alert level 1. If we do, alert level 1 will mean that nightclubs and adult entertainment venues would remain closed but the vast majority of venues will be permitted to open under relaxed restrictions. For example, wedding receptions and funeral wakes will be permitted to have 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Please click here to view what alert level 1 will mean in full.
You will still be required to follow social distancing rules with people you do not live with or who are not in your extended household and will still need to wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces so this won't change.
We will know later this week if we will move to alert level 1, or if this decision will be delayed until the following review date later in June.
For information on the current alert level 2 restrictions, please click here.
New Role as Shadow Health Minister
During my campaign, I highlighted my ambition for our local health facilities to be prioritised. I was therefore delighted to have been appointed last week with the new responsibility of Shadow Health Minister.
I have very much enjoyed my role as the Welsh Conservative Spokesperson for the Economy and Infrastructure over the past five years, and you can be sure that I will continue to champion the importance of supporting business as I will continue to take a keen interest in this area.
Our health service has had its most difficult year in its existence, and it is only with the hard-work and dedication of our NHS professionals and care staff that we have been kept safe. It is essential that they are given the facilities which they need to provide the care that they want to give.
Unfortunately, prior to the pandemic, we saw waiting times in Wales double, and targets for treatment in A&E and cancer continued to be missed or were not met at all. I will be looking to work constructively with the Welsh Government but will also provide new ideas and scrutinise the Welsh Government in tackling waiting times in particular. The Welsh Government also needs to invest in health facilities in Mid Wales, including a new state of the art community hospital.
Our local health board has submitted plans for a new health facility and community hospital for Mid Wales. I will be taking this up with the new Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS. I had pursued this with previous Ministers and I will now be looking to meet with the new Health Minister to lobby for approval of these plans and for the new facility to be delivered.
Powys Vaccination Update
Last Friday, I had my first update meeting since the election with Powys Teaching Health Board, along with other local politicians, and there is positive news to report.
Powys currently has an extremely low rate of Covid-19 infection at just 1.5 people per 100,000. Some weeks back it was much higher and above the Welsh average. We clearly want to keep this rate low.
The Powys Teaching Health Board area also continues to have the highest vaccination rates in Wales for first and second doses. Both rates are also ahead of the rates for England. Every adult in Powys should have had or been offered an appointment for the first dose. If you are over 18 and have not had, or been offered an appointment, then you should contact the health board and you can book in by clicking here.
Information about track and trace is available here.
I used my first opportunity while questioning the re-appointed First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS, to re-examine business support. Generally, I believe both the Welsh and UK Governments have offered decent business support throughout the pandemic.
However, the latest round of business support offered by the Welsh Government has been totally inadequate in my view, and it just frustrates business people even more when the Welsh Government keeps making the claim that it is providing the best business support in the UK.
Many businesses are receiving considerably less than on offer in England & Scotland. Strict criteria in Wales also continues to exclude so many Welsh businesses that desperately need support. During my question to the First Minister and Health Minister last week, I asked for the criteria and level of support to be re-examined.
I have provided a helpful link which provides information on up to date support which the Welsh Government and UK Government offer here.
Also, our tourism and hospitality sector is particularly important to Mid Wales and I was pleased to undertake my first visit following the election to Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway station (picture below) where we discussed the opening up of our tourism industry as well as the need for current restrictions to be changed to support the sector and tourism in Mid Wales.
I will continue to lobby for further business support, particularly for the hospitality sector which has been hit hard.
Extending Full Fibre Broadband
Both Craig Williams MP and I welcome plans by Openreach to extend full fibre broadband to more communities in Montgomeryshire. Exchanges in Caersws, Newtown, Machynlleth, Llanidloes and Forden will be upgraded, enabling access to full fibre broadband for 8,809 premises. I will keep you updated as further information becomes available on the rollout plan.