Please find below my monthly newsletter to update you on my work on your behalf in the Senedd and around Montgomeryshire.
As always, if you have any comments on the situation unfolding in Ukraine, any of the other issues in this newsletter or if you would like to raise other matters with me on which you require my support, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone by calling 01686 610887.
Russell George MS
Member of the Welsh Parliament for Montgomeryshire
Support for the people of Ukraine
Our thoughts will be with the people of Ukraine as they face the deeply troubling Russian invasion.
We must all stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and join with the many Russian people who have also condemned the unacceptable aggression instigated by President Putin.
These actions, which have once more brought war to Europe, are already having a devastating effect, and have rightly been condemned by democratic nations all across the world.
We must all be resolute in standing behind the Ukrainian Government so that it can preserve its place as a free and democratic country and we must now provide all the support required to achieve that goal and assist the refugees that all wars inevitably create.
Mr Putin must be left in no doubt at all that the democracies of the world will not stand by and let his aggressive actions go unchecked. If we do, it might be Ukraine today, but somewhere else tomorrow.
It has been encouraging to see local communities across Powys enquiring about how they can offer help and support.
Last Thursday I met up at the Senedd with several leading charities and the organisers of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) for Wales.
The overwhelming advice is that a cash donation, is far more helpful than items, which would need to be transported.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is set up to respond to large-scale disaster hit countries without the capacity to respond. The DEC brings together 15 leading aid charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently. The DEC will be helping to co-ordinate the UK public's response to support the people of Ukraine. The UK Government has also committed to match pound-for-pound up to £20 million donated by this public appeal.
DEC member charities are on the ground in Ukraine and in the bordering countries, bringing vital lifesaving aid to those in need.
To donate, please visit bit.ly/DECUkraineAppealFV
Update on Covid-19
All remaining Covid restrictions will end, and free mass testing will end on the 28th March in Wales.
The legal requirement to wear a face covering in many indoor public places has already come to an end.
At is stands now, people are no longer legally required to wear face coverings in a range of indoor places, including cinemas, churches, theatres, community centres, museums and gyms. However, face coverings will continue to be a legal requirement for adults and children aged 11 and over, unless exempt, in all retail settings, on public transport and in health and care settings up to the 28th March.
From 28th March, most people with symptoms will no longer be able to get PCR tests, and free lateral flow tests will end from June.
I'm also pleased that after 19 weeks in operation, the requirement for people to access certain businesses through vaccine certification has come to an end.
Originally used to access large-scale events, nightclubs, and similar venues, before being extended to cinemas, theatres and concert halls, I have presented the view to the Welsh Government that they are coercive, ineffective, and costly to business. I have not been provided any proof to show that they worked in either limiting the spread of coronavirus nor increasing uptake of the vaccine.
For more information and the latest updates on Covid-19 regulations in Wales, please visit the Welsh Government website here.
Recent Flooding caused by Storms & The Clywedog Reservoir
The three recent named storms (Dudley, Eunice and Franklin) occurred in quick succession and caused significant flooding issues across Mid Wales.
Approximately 115mm of rain fell on already saturated ground between 18th and 21st of February resulting in some record river levels along many parts of the River Severn and Vyrnwy.
I extend my sympathies to those who have been impacted by flooding damage across North Powys including but not limited to communities in close proximity to the Argae near Llandrinio, Pool Quay, The Wern, Arddleen and Llandinam.
The local flooding incidents have shown the strong community spirit across Mid Wales. Flooding of property is always disruptive, but so much more sad when homes are flooded as we have seen.
You may also be aware that I have been challenging the management of the Clywedog Dam and Lake Vyrnwy reservoirs for many years. I was pleased to join the meeting organised by my colleague, Craig Williams MP, with the UK Government Parliamentary Under Secretary for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Rebecca Pow MP, to discuss the extremely important and pressing issues of flooding in Montgomeryshire.
The Minister, Craig and I met with key community representatives, and stakeholders from the Environment Agency; Natural Resources Wales; Severn Trent and United Utilities where we fully discussed the policy position regarding the operating rules for reservoirs, which have been unchanged since 1979.
From my and Craig's perspective, there clearly needs to be a review of whether or not these rules reflect today’s ever changing weather patterns, and I am very hopeful that the discussions will now result in a full review of the current operation regulations at the Clywedog reservoir while protecting the country’s water supply and regulating the Severn with flood mitigation measures.
Damage to the Cambrian Line
I have been constantly keeping in touch with Network Rail about the damage caused by Storm Franklin to the Cambrian line.
Fast flowing floodwater completely washed away the ballast supporting the track at twelve separate locations along a half-mile stretch of railway, just south of Welshpool.
Network Rail's engineers were on site last month using drones and specialist equipment to assess the scale of the damage, and the line between Welshpool and Newtown has had to be closed while repairs are carried out.
Transport for Wales, who operate all services on the line, are operating replacement road transport between Shrewsbury and Newtown. Rail services towards Machynlleth start at Newtown. Road transport currently operating can be found here. It is hoped that repair works will be completed by 4th April.
Measures to support cancer patients in Wales
Last month, I led a debate in the Senedd calling on the Welsh Government to do more to support those undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy to alleviate the negative side-effects of treatments, allowing patients to focus more on their recovery without having to worry about extra costs of other treatment such as dental care.
Current cancer treatment times suggest that Welsh cancer services are not catching up on diagnosis and treatment. In November 2021, just 58% of patients newly diagnosed with cancer started their first definitive treatment within 62 days of first being suspected of cancer – far below the target of 75% and the second lowest on record since June 2019.
Meanwhile, cancer waiting lists in Wales continue to rise, with nearly 1-in-3 patient pathways taking over a year to treat.
I also called on Welsh Government Ministers to publish a workforce recruitment and retention plan for cancer specialists and a full cancer strategy which will set out how Wales will tackle cancer over the next five years after years of understaffing in the sector.
Given the prevalence of cancer, the people of Wales demand and deserve treatments that meet their needs, bringing them into line with the performances of services elsewhere in the country.
I was pleased the Minister for Health and Social Care, Eluned Morgan MS, agreed that much more is required to be done to support cancer patients and those waiting for treatment.
Pressure continues on Fast-Tracking Road Works
The Spring Bank, Golfa road closure will now come to an end at the earlier date of 30th March.
Many thanks to the 357 people who responded to my residents' survey on the roadworks that are taking place on the A458 between Welshpool & Llanfair Caereinion.
The survey followed huge frustration because of the three-month closure.
Main issues of concern raised in the survey were: access for emergency vehicles; the impact on businesses; the cost of fuel for those regularly using the diversion; and road safety on official and unofficial diversions.
The results of the survey were forwarded to the Welsh Government in an effort to fast-track the completion date of the roadworks. I have continued to have regular dialogue with the Welsh Government and the Minister responsible.
The date for completion of the works was April 14th but I had confirmation that the road closure will be removed 2 weeks ahead of the original date on the 30th March. Works will continue after the date, with 2 way temporary traffic lights.
The above picture was taken last week when my colleague Craig Williams MP met with contractors on site.
Much thanks to the local town and community councils and County Councillors for keeping up the pressure.