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Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire
State of the Roads Survey 2018
Potholes and poorly maintained roads are a frustration for us all. As well as making our journeys uncomfortable, they can seriously damage our vehicles as well as damaging the Mid Wales economy and society as a whole.
A fifth of all roads in Powys (19.6%) are considered to be in a poor condition, the worst average in the whole of Wales and to be brutally honest, it will take many years for all of these issues to be fully rectified. There are limitations to what local representatives such as councillors and AMs are able to do unless there is a political desire and a significant increase in funding to address the outstanding issues. Indeed, recent reports have claimed that it would take 24 years and hundreds of millions of pounds to clear the backlog of road repairs across the country.
So, while it is welcome news that the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Local Government, Alun Davies AM, has recently announced a one-off £30 million injection in funding to local councils which is designed to improve the state of roads in their respective areas, it is a drop in the ocean compared to the significant pressures which large counties such as Powys are under.
Powys covers by far the largest land area of the Welsh local authorities. It accounts for the highest proportion of all A Trunk roads (27 per cent), B and C roads (21 per cent) and minor surfaced roads (12 per cent), resulting in an overall 16 per cent of the total road length of Wales. Therefore, my view is that we deserve a much bigger slice of the cake when it comes to central government funding. Regrettably, the established highway allocation formula simply fails to recognise the vast geographical area which Powys covers and the unique challenge which this poses in maintaining our roads as Powys only received £2.4 million or 8% from the £30 million pot. This must change to ensure that Powys has adequate funding to make significant improvements to our highway network.
The National Assembly's Economy & Infrastructure Committee, which I have the privilege to chair, will be shortly conducting an inquiry which will look at the state of roads across the whole of Wales. In addition, the Committee will also look at the viability and value for money of major construction projects such as the Newtown Bypass.
Running alongside this Inquiry, I’m keen to know your views about the road network in our area.
The "State of the Roads" survey can be viewed and completed by visiting my website: www.russellgeorge.com/stateoftheroads
Information on how to report defects with the local road network can be found by visiting the Powys County Council website: www.powys.gov.uk/en/roads-transport-parking/
Two important Health Consultations
Changes to Health Services in West Powys
Hywel Dda University Health Board have recently launched a public consultation until 12th July 2018 on proposals for changes to health services in Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Their health services include Bronglais Hospital.
The consultation includes three proposals for changes to acute hospital services and all three proposals refer to the continuation and strengthening of services at Bronglais Hospital.
A range of public events will be taking place at which residents will be provided key information on the proposals, including how it will work and potential challenges. This includes an event in Aberystwyth on 18th May and in Machynlleth on 18th June.
A consultation website has been launched where you can find our more and share your views: www.hywelddahb.wales.nhs.uk/Hddchange
Powys Teaching Health Board are also keen to hear from you on how these proposals might affect you and your community and you are encouraged to send your views email@example.com
Changes to Health Services in Shropshire
A formal 14 week formal public consultation is set to begin on May 30th on the future of health services in Shropshire which serves the east of Montgomeryshire.
It will feature two options:-
The preferred option which has been put forward includes the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital becoming an Emergency Care site and the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford becomes a Planned Care site.
The second option is that the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford becomes an Emergency Care site and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital becomes a Planned Care site.
This is one, if not the most important consultations that the people of Mid Wales need to respond to – so I would urge you to get involved and have your say when consultation is launched. I will provide further updates in future newsletters.
Cambrian Credit Union aims to reach more people
Earlier this month, I visited the Cambrian Credit Union team to learn more about how recent changes are allowing them to reach more people in North Powys.
In agreement with Powys County Council, the Cambrian Credit Union, which trades as Cambrian Savings and Loans, serves its members from the libraries in Welshpool and Newtown.
Open from 9.30am – 1pm, the credit union operates three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) at Newtown Library on Park Lane and two days a week (Monday and Wednesday) at Welshpool Library on Brook Street.
The Credit Union offers services including instant access adult and junior savings accounts, personal loans and the Engage Pre-Paid Card and provided almost 3000 small loans to people across North and Mid Wales in the last financial year.
I hope that this new way of working will allow the Cambrian Credit Union to more easily serve the dispersed population of rural mid and north Wales. This is to be welcomed following recent closures of high street banks in rural areas of North Powys.
Not only does the credit union help local people save an estimated £1 million compared to the cost of the same loans from typical door step or sub-prime lenders, it also supports the local economy by employing local staff as well as buying goods and services - ensuring that all of the money stays in the local community.
Mid Wales GP recruitment crisis
For my part, it's important that we pay tribute to our local GPs, nurses and healthcare professionals; they do an outstanding job in often difficult circumstances.
However, when I speak to local people here in Mid Wales, while patients are generally pleased with their local GP practice, there is specific concern with how long patients have to wait to receive an appointment.
One of the most pressing issues is GP recruitment. This is rapidly becoming a crisis for the NHS across Wales, placing our general practitioners under severe strain.
There are a number of practices in Montgomeryshire attempting to recruit GPs, including in Newtown, Llanidloes, Glantwymyn and Montgomery.
Not only are they working under considerable pressure, they have also been burdened with the increasing cost of medical insurance. GPs have been warning of a crisis for years, and the issue of reforming their contracts continues to cast a long shadow over the profession.
The new figures, which reveal that the number of registered GPs working in Wales is at its lowest since 2013, further emphasises the need for systemic, long-term planning of the Welsh NHS, including action to improve recruitment and retention initiatives for frontline staff.
This is an issue which I raise in the Assembly on a frequent basis and I will continue to do so.
Championing Dementia Friendly Communities
I was pleased to join Alzheimer’s Society Cymru and Boots UK at an event in the Senedd to recognise and celebrate the work of Boots staff in supporting the Dementia Friends movement, and to help bring more awareness and understanding to this condition.
As part of its continued commitment, Boots UK marked the achievement of having a ‘Dementia Friend’ in every Boots store in Wales, and highlighted the fantastic efforts of local Dementia Friends Champions.
I met with Gareth Bevan, Boots UK's Area Manager for Mid Wales, who was recognised for his commitment to being a Dementia Friend and caring for those affected by Dementia in his local communities within Mid Wales. I have known Gareth as being the Manager of Boots in Newtown before moving to his new role and I was pleased to celebrate his role as a Dementia Friend.
Gareth also encourages his team to learn about the initiative and how to be part of a growing network of people creating dementia friendly communities together across Wales. The event highlighted how the smallest of gestures can make such a difference to families and Gareth can be very proud of how he has embraced this initiative with such energy and is now practicing it on a daily basis through his interactions with customers.
At the end of last year, I met with Station Couriers in Newtown with Ceri Stephens from the Mid Wales Manufacturing Group to discuss the Mid Wales Growth Deal.
More business units needed to support growth
Last week, I had the opportunity of questioning the Cabinet Secretary for Economy in an effort to find a potential solution to the shortage of commercial units in North Powys so that businesses can develop and expand their operations.
The Welsh Government has already invested in places to accommodate companies such as Zip-Clip, Invertek Drives and Charlies stores which has been beneficial to the Welshpool area. In addition to this, they have also recently sold seven acres of land in Abermule to Powys County Council who intend to construct small, high-quality, advanced business units as part of the site. However, I would like them to go further.
I'm therefore pleased that the Cabinet Secretary fully recognised the issue and, like me, sees the potential of a Mid Wales Growth Deal as a way of providing a solution to the shortage of advanced of speculative commercial units.
We have a strong manufacturing and engineering industry throughout the Severn Valley and I am keen that the Welsh Government continues to support this sector to grow.
I’m particularly pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has agreed to meet a number of local businesses with me, to learn more about the issues which they are facing. I would encourage businesses to contact me if they are experiencing difficulties in growing there business as a result of lack of commercial accommodation or sites available.
The Rotary Club "Big Rough Sleep Out"
On Friday 18th May, I will be sleeping in a cardboard box at Newtown College campus as part of the Rotary Club's "Big Rough Sleep Out" to raise awareness of homelessness both home and abroad.
Homelessness and rough sleeping doesn’t just affect big cities and funds raised from the evening will be split between local and international organisations. In particular, the Rotary Club expect to support the Newtown Foodbank, Ponthafren Association, The Wallich and Shelterbox but there will be others.
If you would like to sponsor me, please get in touch and all funds raised will be split between local and international organisations.
More details are included on the Newtown Rotary Club's Facebook page.
Door Step Advice Surgeries
Last Saturday, I was pleased to carry out a door step advice surgery in Llanfair Caereinion (pictured above) where I enjoyed speaking to local residents. We had some great weather and over 30 people completed one of my surveys and we had lots of good conversations about local issues.
Next month, I will be in Llanerfyl on 2nd June and I will be in Tregynon on 7th July so if you would like me to call by your home, please let me know.
I will also be in the following areas for advice surgeries in the near future. Please call 01686 610887 for an appointment.
Friday 11th May (11.00 – 13.00)
Saturday 12th May (10.00 – 11.00)
Thursday 31st May (17.30 – 19.30)
Llanerfyl Door Step Surgery
Saturday 2nd June (10.30 - 12.30)
You can also make an appointment with me in either my Newtown or Welshpool office most Fridays.
You can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01686 610887.