Please find below my monthly e-newsletter for the month of October.
During recent months, I have been pleased to be able to resume face-to-face advice surgeries and meet a range of residents and businesses to hear about their issues and concerns in an effort to resolve them.
If you would like to meet with me face-to-face or arrange a suitable time for a telephone conversation, please contact my office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 01686 610887.
As always, I hope that you find this edition of the newsletter useful and informative.
Russell George MS
Member of the Senedd for Montgomeryshire
Debate on the challenges which the Welsh Ambulance Service is facing...
Ambulance Service needs additional support
Last week, I led a debate in the Senedd calling for additional support for the Welsh Ambulance Service.
The Ambulance Service is in a crisis situation sadly; this is the case here in Powys and across Wales. Throughout the summer, I received many examples from people experiencing long insufferable waits for an ambulance and hours wasted with people stuck in the back of one, as hospitals have no beds to offer, leading to a shortage of emergency vehicles on the road.
Our Ambulance Service needs our full support so in the debate I called for a number of actions which I believe the Welsh Government should take in the short and medium term.
Across Wales, there have been 47,871 lost hours because of the delays in moving people from ambulances into hospitals in the first six months of this year and just over half of red calls – the most serious emergencies – reached their patients within the eight-minute target this July.
Many will be aware from recent articles in our local media of the situation, such as a lady who was suffering from a heart attack, and was advised by the ambulance call centre to ask a family member to take her to hospital as there were no ambulances available.
The understaffing of the Welsh NHS, something which continues to this day as 3,000 roles go unfilled right now, is a huge problem for the ambulance service.
We need a medical school to support us in Mid and North Wales, road upgrades, and a more equitable spread of local government funding.
In the debate last week in the Senedd, I put forward proposals to the Welsh Government and called on them to bring forward a comprehensive plan to retain social care staff and increase bed capacity to help with hospital transfers and set out a clear plan and timetable for raising the wage of care workers across Wales. We also need to support over services to reduce the need for people to present themselves to A&E. This is in addition to utilising other public services, like the Armed Forces and introducing a plan for the rapid recruitment of paramedics.
Update on Covid-19 Vaccination
I continue to be updated from Powys Teaching Health Board on the progress of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
If you are eligible for a booster then I’m told you will normally receive an invitation 6-8 months after your second dose. More information is available on the booster programme page, which includes information about the health board's reserve list.
The Welsh Government has now adopted the recommendation from the JCVI to offer a third dose to certain individuals with immunosuppression.
This is different from a booster. If you are offered a third dose you will normally also be offered a booster in six months' time.
One dose of the Covid-19 vaccination is also recommended for everyone aged 12-15. Invitations are under way to 12-15 year olds for appointments beginning early October through to November. More information is available by visiting the 12-15 year olds page.
Further details on the booster delivery plan in Powys are likely to be available next week. You can keep updated using the above links, but I will also report back more comprehensively in my next newsletter.
Rethink of School Transport Policy
I have continued to meet with people to discuss issues around the council's plans for schools and education, but have recently presented my view on the council's school transport policy.
This year, I have seen an increasing number of people coming to my office raising issues concerning Powys County Council’s provision of free home to school transport. The current policy needs to be revised and updated.
With Powys County Council’s ongoing and up and coming decisions regarding what it refers to as ‘schools transformation’, which includes some schools being considered for closure or school language categories changing, it is important that their transport policy is regularly revisited in order to ensure fairness and transparency.
Powys’ Home to School Transport Policy should allow all pupils and families to be treated fairly, regardless of faith or language choice. The process should also allow for individuals’ unique circumstances to be taken into full consideration before decisions are made.
Clearly, free home to school transport comes at a cost to Powys County Council and so it is also fundamental that the Welsh Government, when funding Powys County Council, take on board the rurality of Powys and the increased costs of providing home to school transport here. This is something which I have raised regularly with Welsh Government Ministers and taken up again last month with the council.
Macmillan Coffee Morning
I’m always pleased to support the Macmillan Cancer Support team in Wales, particularly as we have just marked the charity’s annual Coffee Morning fundraising event.
Macmillan, alongside our NHS and other partners, work tirelessly to do whatever it takes for people with cancer.
They are doing so at a time when the disruption caused by Covid-19 means demand for the charity’s services is high, while its income is down.
I’m very proud to help support Macmillan’s coffee morning, and to help let people know that this important fundraising event is still going ahead.
I would encourage anyone to get involved, and to organise or contribute to a local coffee morning in the way that suits them best.
Mid Wales Growth Deal
This month, the Growing Mid Wales Board was asked to consider the basis for a final Mid Wales Growth Deal Agreement which will signal the end of the development phase with focus shifting to developing the initial set of programmes and projects.
Developed from the "Vision for Growing Mid Wales", the current proposal for the Mid Wales Growth Deal has a potential to generate capital investment of between £280 and £400 million over the next 10-15 years, generating a projected estimate of up to 1,100 jobs and a range of £570 - £700m to our local economy over time. It will play a vital role in unlocking and attracting further investment from the public and private sectors.
I have been a long-time advocate of pushing for a Mid Wales Growth Deal. The committee which I chaired previously in the Senedd made recommendations for the deal, which the Government later accepted. The investment will bring real growth and new opportunities to Mid Wales and will be used in areas such as digital infrastructure, transport, agriculture, tourism, all areas which are of huge importance to Mid Wales and will matter even more as we emerge from the other side of this pandemic.
I would have liked the process and decisions of getting to this stage to have been quicker, and I’m keen to see a final deal agreement in place and that we get to a stage where we can see the details of specific projects.
What is particularly pleasing is that the UK and Welsh Governments have closely worked together on securing this deal, in conjunction with the two local authorities (Ceredigion and Powys). I am pleased that we are now one huge step closer to seeing exciting projects for Montgomeryshire and Mid Wales become a reality.