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AM highlights Friars Walk in an Assembly debate
I highlighted Friars Walk and the regeneration of Newport City centre in an Assembly debate this week.
Newport and the surrounding area is looking forward to Thursday of next week with a great deal of anticipation and excitement. The opening of Friars Walk is a huge step forward for the city and has been eagerly awaited. It is the jewel in the crown of a tremendous amount of regeneration - retail, leisure, entertainment, hotel, offices, accommodation and public services. The strong partnership of Newport City Council, the Welsh Government, private companies and third sector organisations is delivering great benefit for local people and is a good example of what can be achieved by working together."
In response the Minister for Regeneration,Carl Sargeant AM, paid tribute to the collaborative work at Friars Walk and cited regeneration in Newport as an example to the rest of Wales.
Concerns raised on future of Magor Post Office
I have voiced his concerns for the future of Magor Post Office amid fears that it could face closure in 2016 as a direct result of the Post Office Limited's 'Network Transformation Process'.
I share the concerns of many constituents who have contacted me regarding the future of Magor Post Office.
"Magor Post Office processes thousands of transactions every week, and is a focal point for the community and collaborative partner with local amenities and businesses. It provides key services including not just to the village itself, but to neighbouring areas like Undy, Redwick, Wilcrick and Llandevenny. For example, the nearest financial institution is over 5 miles away from Magor - without the Post Office many residents in an area with a growing population will feel increasingly cut-off. I feel strongly that this cannot be allowed to be happen.
"I have written to the Post Office Ltd to raise these concerns, and have asked for assurances that this important local facility will be safeguarded."
John Griffiths AM begins countdown to Small Business Saturday in Caldicot
I have marked the countdown to Small Business Saturday by visiting a series of independent businesses on Caldicot High Street in his constituency.
Small Business Saturday, which takes place on the 5th December, is an annual campaign designed to promote, support and inspire small businesses across the UK.
Last year's Small Business Saturday was a huge success, with 16.5 million people shopping in a small business on the day. I hope this year will see a similar show of support for local businesses, including the excellent independent selection of family-run, independent stores in Caldicot.
Praise for Family Information Services
I have praised the good work of the Newport and Monmouthshire Family Information Services in his constituency. The Family Information Service (FIS) - which has a branch in every local authority in Wales - serve as a first point of contact for guidance and information on local services for families and carers, and offer free advice on family finances, training, leisure and childcare services and early years education.
The Newport and Monmouthshire branches of the Family Information Service do great work with families in Newport East. Both Family Information Service branches receive hundreds of enquiries from parents, guardians and carers every month, and I know from discussions with constituents across Newport and Severnside that the support they have received from the Family Information Service has been a great source of assistance.
Important role for 'Time Banking'
I used a question to First Minister Carwyn Jones AM to highlight the important role of 'Time Banking' credits for volunteers. During a debate in the Assembly, Mr Griffiths spoke on the way in which Time Banking offers volunteers access to leisure, entertainment and other services free of charge in recognition of their contribution of the volunteering sector. The First Minister responded by highlighting Welsh Government support for the Time Banking programme in Wales, and acknowledged their important role in incentivising community action and involvement.
I recently met with Spice, who are working with Communities First, local housing associations, Newport County, Newport Gwent Dragons and a local gym to provide leisure opportunities for volunteers on an hour for hour basis where one hour's volunteering gives an individual one hour of credit. It's been encouraging to see Time Banking schemes like these developing in Newport.
Newport AM hails Show Racism the Red Card Fortnight of Action success
I have praised the success of Show Racism the Red Card's 2015 Fortnight of Action, which concludes this Saturday 31st October. The Fortnight of Action - which was marked in Scotland and Wales - is designed as a period of concerted action encouraging participation from all sections of community in celebrating diversity and tackling racial discrimination.
It's been great to see schools and sports clubs across Wales - including Newport County - backing the Show Racism the Red Card Fortnight of Action. The campaign may be reaching its end this weekend, but the fight against racism - in sport and society - is far from over.
Cities like Newport - with a long tradition of multicultural cooperation and tolerance - can play an important role in leading the fight against racism, which has no place in any civilised society.
Steel industry crisis
I pressed Welsh Government Minister Edwina Hart on the crisis facing the steel industry in an Assembly debate.
The mothballing of the hot strip mill at Llanwern and recent closures and job losses across the UK show an industry in crisis. The UK Government demonstrates little sign of understanding the urgency of the situation and even less sign of taking effective action. Steel is a strategic industry for the UK which underpins manufacturing generally. A long term view would put in place necessary support for a viable steel sector of sufficient scale for the future. Welsh Government has an important role in supporting steel including pressing the UK Government to act on energy costs and other overheads as well as unfair competition.
I am very pleased that Edwina Hart has agreed to meet with me and the trade unions at Llanwern to discuss this crisis and the urgent action needed.
Beat Flu Campaign
21/10/15 I am showing his support for Public Health Wales's annual campaign aimed at getting more 'at-risk' people vaccinated to prevent them getting ill with flu, a debilitating and contagious illness that can kill.
I am joining the calls being made by charities and health professionals and is urging people aged 65 or over, carers, pregnant women and those with certain chronic or long-term illnesses to make an appointment with their local GP and get the free flu vaccine.
A major flu immunisation programme is underway throughout Wales to offer free vaccines to individuals most at risk of serious complications from flu, and my message to them is 'Beat flu before it beats you!'
Last year in Wales only half (49.3%) of those in at-risk groups under the age of 65 took up their free NHS vaccination, and we really need to significantly increase the numbers of people being vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of this largely preventable illness.
Commenting, Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said, "A free flu vaccine is available for those in at-risk groups, which includes those aged 65 or over, people who have long term health conditions which puts them at increased risk of complications if they get flu, carers, pregnant women as well as all two to six year olds." For two and three year old children the vaccine will be given at their local GP surgery but for those in reception class and school years 1 and 2 it will be given by health professionals at their school.
It is possible to prevent flu with a simple, and safe vaccination which is offered each year free of charge at GP surgeries and at some community pharmacies for those who are identified as 'at risk'. Such patients risk potentially avoidable, serious infection and health set-backs from flu on top of their current condition.
The flu virus is spread easily via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.
Amongst the biggest group of 'at risk' patients are those from 6
months of age with chronic respiratory disease, such as moderate to severe
asthma, and chronic heart conditions including angina and heart failure. Those
suffering from diabetes, kidney, and liver problems or neurological disorders
(such as stroke and mini stroke) are also at risk.
This list is not exhaustive so, if in doubt, patients are advised to check eligibility with their GP or health professionals.
Funding boost for young people in Wales
16/10/2015 - I welcome the Welsh Government's £11.2 million funding boost aimed at reducing the number of young people in Wales who are not in education, employment or training.
This new round of funding - the second phase of the Communities for Work programme - will support the work of youth mentors and Job Centre Plus specialist employment advisors based in Wales 52' Communities First areas in providing intensive one-to-one guidance and assistance.
This is great news for young people across Wales, including in the Communities First areas in Newport East.
Tax credit cuts slammed
16/10/2015 - I strongly oppose the UK Government's plan to cut tax credits.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) warn that reductions to tax credits, which come into effect in April 2016, will leave 3 million British families £1,000 worse off.
Since their introduction in the early 2000s, tax credits have played a key role in securing one of the biggest reductions in child poverty since the Second World War. In my constituency of Newport East nearly 4,000 working families with children receive tax credits; many of whom will be affected by the UK Government's planned changes to tax credits. David Cameron has reneged on his election campaign promise not to cut tax credits - a betrayal of the 'strivers' he once claimed to support.
14/10/2015 - I spoke of the impact of the Bedroom Tax on my constituents during an Assembly debate this week.
One consequence of the UK Tory Government's pernicious bedroom tax is that many social housing tenants face a choice of either remaining where they are and losing benefit, or finding somewhere else to live with one or more fewer bedrooms. Unfortunately, often those smaller homes are not available. I asked if there was any progress in south-east Wales in improving the supply of smaller homes to help deal with these problems?
Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty , responded: "We certainly saw a move away from one-bedroomed and two-bedroomed houses being built previously and now we're going back to that, because, as you say, people are having to make some very tough decisions when they're faced with that very spiteful bedroom tax. As a Government, we are giving £40 million over three years, invested through the social housing grant programme to specifically target investment in one-bedroomed and two-bedroomed homes for individuals and families."
Sepsis Trust reception
13/10/2015 - I attended a Senedd reception hosted by Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething AM, Deputy Health Minister, showing support for efforts to tackle the relatively unknown illness sepsis, which claims the lives of 37,000 people - including 1,000 children - every year in the UK.
The event aimed to raise awareness of a condition that kills more people than breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer combined. For Wales this equates to a figure of 1800-2500 deaths and a cost of £125 million. Achieving reliability in detecting and treating sepsis in Wales could result in 500 fewer deaths and £12m saved per year.
While sepsis is a condition which may not hit the headlines, it is deadly. It is a little known life threatening illness that claims the lives of 37,000 people in the UK every year. If timely interventions proposed by the UK Sepsis Trust were adopted across NHS Wales there could be 500 fewer deaths and £12m saved per year.
I was keen to show my support for efforts to tackle the disease and save lives. I want to see sepsis viewed as a medical emergency and have a higher profile among medical professionals and the public. To find out more visit www.sepsistrust.org
Wear it Pink campaign
02/10/2015 - I was pleased to show my support for Breast Cancer Now's 'Wear it Pink' campaign.
Right now breast cancer is at a tipping point. Every year around 2,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Wales, and sadly nearly 600 people still lose their lives to the disease. This is why we all must come together to support Breast Cancer Now's cutting-edge research, and in 'Wear it pink' there is a fun and simple way for everyone to get involved.
To find out more about the campaign visit http://wearitpink.org/
Ban on smoking in cars comes into force
30/09/2015 - The ban on smoking in cars carrying people under the age of 18 will officially come into force in Wales on Thursday 1st October.
I am pleased that this ban is being introduced and want all residents in Newport East to be aware of its introduction on the 1st October.
Children are still growing and are affected more by second hand smoke. Statistics also point to children from poorer backgrounds being exposed to second hand smoke more often than those from more affluent backgrounds. Having spoken to residents since the ban was announced, I know that there is real public support for this measure, not least from the children it will benefit.
Friars Walk - a model for development25/09/2015 - During an Assembly debate this week I highlighted Friars Walk as a flagship scheme for city and town centre development.
Newport city centre is bouncing back from the difficulties of the economic downturn. November will see Friars Walk open for business. Empty shop premises have found new uses as homes and providers of public services. The market is revitalised and small independent traders are organising to ensure we have distinctive character to complement the large retailers. The cinemas, leisure clubs and restaurants will add a further dimension. Little wonder, then, that the feel good factor is flooding back.All this has been achieved with a strong partnership between Newport City Council, who made the key and brave decision to fund the Friars Walk development, Welsh Government funding help, and businesses large and small.
It was good to see cross-party recognition of the strong progress in Newport in the Senedd chamber, and Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, paid tribute to all involved.
Support for Magor station campaign
22/09/2015 - I support the Magor Action Group on Rail (MAGOR) campaign for a new station at Magor. Today MAGOR hosted a public awareness and investment day to promote the campaign.
There is a clearly a strong local appetite for a station at Magor. The village has an ever-growing population, and almost half of its residents travel to work outside of the area. I am really interested in the potential of the station as a community hub, and the way it could link Magor and Undy with the South East Wales metro system.
A station could provide real benefits to the village, both economically and environmentally; for example, the Magor Action Group on Rail have highlighted the potential to reduce traffic movement on the nearby B4245 by up to 60,000 vehicles per year.
Great credit must go to the dedicated volunteers at the Magor Action Group on Rail who are driving this campaign forward - they are passionate local people with a strong vision for integrated transport in the Severnside area.
02/09/2015 - Evidence from the World Health Organisation suggests that around 125 million people across the world are exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and 107,000 people die each year as a result.
Here in the UK Asbestos kills 20 tradesmen per week, including 4 plumbers, 6 electricians and 8 joiners.
I fully support the British Lung Foundation's (BLF) campaign on Asbestos Awareness and Safety, and would advise anyone concerned about the risks of asbestos to visit the BLF's campaign website at www.take5andstayalive.com
High Street Heroes
06/08/2015 - I was delighted to link up with Newport West Assembly Candidate Jayne Bryant to promote the Welsh Government's 'High Street Heroes' awards.
The High Street Heroes Awards
celebrate individuals and businesses who make a big contribution to the life of
the local high street. It would be great to see plenty of businesses from Newport and Caldicot nominated for awards.
Voting for the High Street Heroes awards is online via the Support Your High Street Facebook page (www.facebook/supportyourhighstreetwales). Entries close on 10th August 2015.
A shortlist of Heroes from across Wales will be reviewed by a panel of judges, who will select the overall High Street Hero winner, with the winners in the business categories decided by popular vote. The winners will be announced during High Street Week, which is taking place 19-26 September 2015.
UK Government wrong to end subsidies for onshore wind farms
15/07/15 - I spoke in the Assembly Chamber this week to criticise the UK Government for job losses that are a direct result of its announcement to end subsidies for onshore wind farms.
This follows the recent news that Mabey Bridge is planning to close its Renewables division in Chepstow with the loss of 125 jobs.The site constructs steel wind turbine towers.
In Plenary, I spoke of how this wrong-headed decision damages job opportunities for my constituents and will damage opportunities across Wales, and that it shows the Conservative Government is undermining the green economy and renewable energy despite its lofty rhetoric to the contrary. I asked whether the First Minister agreed that the UK Tory Government decision to end subsidies for onshore wind energy resulted in Mabey Bridge announcing job losses.
In reply, the First Minister said that the Mabey Bridge job losses and the removal of onshore wind subsidies remind us what's at risk as a result of "knee jerk" reactions by UK Government.
I strongly feel that the removal of the subsidy has led to uncertainty; uncertainty that Welsh businesses can ill afford. I am of course pleased that the Welsh Labour Government are working to help people find alternative employment. However the First Minister is right that these sorts of knee jerk announcements, from the UK government are unacceptable and do harm to the Welsh economy.
Need for global deal to tackle climate change
15/07/2015 - I joined Stop Climate Chaos Cymru (SCCC) in calling for a fair, global deal to tackle climate change.
To mark the start of SCCC's 'Road to Paris' campaign, which looks ahead to the UN climate change conference in the French capital this November, I met with campaigners calling on decision-makers to take action, at home and internationally, to tackle climate change.
As well as calling for a fair, global deal in Paris, SCCC - a coalition of 14 organisations - also called for the Environment Bill to ensure that Wales plays its part in tackling climate change and has the necessary structures in place to make that happen.
The French-themed event at the Senedd included French music and a picnic, as well as an electricity-generating bicycle.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats that we face today, and it is crucial that we take action to tackle it. I support Stop Climate Chaos Cymru in calling for the Paris climate talks later this year to produce a fair global deal, and for action to be taken in Wales that helps us here play our part in combatting climate change.
Here I am meeting up with the team from SCCC at the Senedd.
Scams Awareness Month
02/07/2015 - I've joined forces with Age Cymru to support Scams Awareness month. The month is aimed at highlighting the types of scams and swindles that are being used by criminals to steal money.
Age Cymru say there are four basic types - online, telephone post and doorstep. Sadly many elderly people in particular fall victim to these scams.
Research has revealed that more than 2,500 scams were reported to trading standards departments in Wales between February 2012 and February 2013. However the figure could be the tip of the iceberg as the Office of Fair Trading believes only 5% of scams are reported, meaning that 50,000 scams could have been committed.
Scammers use speed, surprise and secrecy to catch people out and I am encouraging my constituents to take the time to talk about scams and to make themselves aware of the risks and methods involved. That is why Scams Awareness Month is so important.
I welcome Age Cymru's campaign to raise awareness among the elderly community and encourage everyone to follow their tips to avoid.
If people are unsure about anything to do with scams they can call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506 or if anyone thinks they have been the victim of a scam, then they can call Fraud Action on 0300 123 2040.
Age Cymru's top tips:
- Never buy anything instantly on the doorstep, even if you are pressured.
- Never give strangers your financial details, eg bank account, credit card etc Police and banks will never ask for financial details by e-mail or on the phone. If they do it's a scam.
- Never fall for direct marketing letters that claim you have won a fortune.
- Don't be conned by hard luck letters or e-mails from abroad.
- Never hand over credit cards, bank details or cash to 'couriers'.
- Use only reputable local traders for work on the house or garden.
- Don't fall for lonely hearts scammers - they want cash not love
- Avoid investment 'opportunities' from cold callers, especially by phone.
- Destroy/shred financial letters before throwing them away
PE and Arts in a new curriculum
02/07/2015 - During an Assembly debate this week I emphasised the importance of physical education and the arts in taking forward the Donaldson Review for a new school curriculum in Wales.
In the debate, I said "Tanni Grey-Thompson, our great paralympic athlete, and Dai Smith, Chair Arts Council Wales, have respectively produced highly valuable reports on how we can make PE and the arts more central to school life and ensure our children emerge from their school days with their interests and abilities fully developed. A passion for sport and the arts will stand them in good stead and greatly enhance their quality of life throughout their lives."
The Education Minister, Huw Lewis AM, responded that the new curriculum will very much be based on the reports and put health, fitness and creativity at the heart of the educational experience.
Newport Tidal Lagoon
01/07/2015 - I have written to Welsh and UK Government Ministers calling for a Newport Tidal Lagoon to be progressed without delay.
I remain very supportive of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon and have pressed Ministers to ensure that a Newport Lagoon will follow it. A Newport Lagoon would have the potential to harness the power of the Severn Estuary and provide new opportunities for local marine conservation.
Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign
29/06/2015 - I support the call from Mick Antoniw, AM for Pontypridd, for a full public inquiry into South Yorkshire Police's handling of events at the Orgreave coking plant in June 1984 during the Miners' Strike.
Mick Antoniw has requested a meeting with the Home Secretary following the Independent Police Complaints Commission's decision not to launch an investigation into South Yorkshire Police's actions at Orgreave.
A number of Welsh miners - including many from Gwent - were arrested at Orgreave and suffered injuries. A number were involved in the subsequent successful civil action for malicious prosecution and received compensation. The evidence that exists relating to Police actions at Orgreave demands a thorough inquiry. I fully support Mick Antoniw's request for a meeting between the Home Secretary, MPs, AMs and representatives of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign to allow the victims of Orgreave to make the case for a full public enquiry.
Dementia Friendly City
22/06/2015 - I highlighted Newport's Dementia Friendly City project in an Assembly health debate yesterday.
I really feel that the recent launch of the Dementia Friendly City initiative is a significant development in responding to the challenges of an ageing society here in Newport. Raising awareness of dementia among local people, businesses and voluntary groups will make it easier to develop understanding of the condition, and enable sufferers to remain at home longer with support from their loved ones. I believe that the health service should support this model through service provision.
As Newport Dementia Friendly City becomes embedded and develops it will deliver important benefits for dementia sufferers and their families. I am very pleased to be a champion for this initiative.
The Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM responded to my comments by praising Newport's scheme, and stated that it is necessary to spread best practice around Wales.
Pictured below - The Mayor of Newport, Cllr Herbie Thomas, speaking at the recent launch of the Dementia Friendly City project at Newport Market.
BLF Event in the Assembly
18/ 06/2015 - I sponsored a British Lung Foundation (BLF)-held reception in the Assembly yesterday, and am backing calls for greater leadership to ensure that the Respiratory Health Delivery Plan is delivered and that services improve.
On 29 April 2014 Professor Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services, launched the three year Respiratory Health Delivery Plan. The plan was described as 'ambitious' and was designed to focus health boards to redesign services along the principles of prudent health care to improve the lives of patients.
Attending the reception has renewed my determination to do all I can to help those in Newport East who are affected by a lung disease. By working closely with health boards I believe we can make the targets in the plan a reality.
I found discussing the challenges of the plan with those living with a lung condition, carers and health care professional very interesting. I hope the British Lung Foundation continue their hard work in representing and campaigning for those who live with a lung condition, as I support the work they do.
About the British Lung Foundation Wales
The British Lung Foundation Wales works to support the 1 in 5 people in Wales who have some form of diagnosed lung condition, along with their families and carers. They do this by raising awareness of lung disease, both locally and nationally across Wales and the UK - we aim to find the 'missing millions'; those who are estimated to have lung conditions, but are yet to be diagnosed. The BLF fund medical research into treatments and cures, as well as specialist respiratory nurses. 'BLF nurses' provide specialist care at home and in community clinics.
The BLF also support the development of Breathe Easy Groups in Wales. If people can't make it to a Breathe Easy group, we have a penpals scheme which people can join to get in touch with people who share a similar situation.Breathe Easy groups are support groups which are open to anyone who has a lung condition, along with their family, friends, and carers. Supported by the British Lung Foundation, they are run by people with lung disease, for people with lung disease. It doesn't matter on the type, or the severity, Breathe Easy is open to anyone, and welcomes everyone with any lung condition or breathing problem. There are groups all across Wales, and they offer a chance for people to come together and support each other, to learn about different methods for managing lung conditions, and to hear from interesting guest speakers. But they are not all about lung disease, they are about meeting other people, socialising, friendship, and sharing experiences.
For more info on the BLF'S work in Wales, visit www.blf.org.uk/page/blf-wales
Public Health Bill progress
12/06/2015 - The recent public health scare at the former Sun Tattoo Studio on Commercial Street came as a shock to many of us, and my sympathy is with the hundreds of former customers who have been invited to take precautionary blood tests.
In light of this worrying incident, I welcome the tighter regulation of cosmetic piercing, tattooing and acupuncture in Wales which will come into effect under the Public Health Bill. The Bill will introduce a National Special Procedures Register to increase pressure on businesses to meet registration and practice standards, improve cleanliness and ensure practitioners pass a 'fit and proper' person test. These measures will drive up health and safety standards, and prevent a repeat of the recent scare we saw in Newport.
Satisfaction with local health services
12/06/2015 - Figures from a new Statistics Wales national survey show that, within the Aneurin Health Board area, 93% of patients are either satisfied or very satisfied with GP and hospital services; while 77% of patients were satisfied with ambulance response times.
Further to this, 96% of hospital patients across Wales felt that they had been treated with dignity and respect. It's very pleasing that so many patients are satisfied with the health services they receive, both here in Gwent and across Wales. Credit must go to hardworking NHS staff - we all benefit from their tireless efforts, dedication and expertise.
Ringland Community Hub
12/06/15 - Ringland is set to benefit from £375,000 of Welsh Government 'Invest to Save' funding for developing a community hub. The hub will aim to provide a smaller model of the award-winning Information Station in the City Centre, and will be a focus for a range of council services, and other public and third sector agencies.
This new investment is great news for residents in Ringland and the east of the City, and will improve the range of services available within the community. It's also pleasing to see national recognition of the success of the Information Station in Newport City Centre- supported by Newport City Council and the Welsh Labour Government - and it really is a great model for progress at the Ringland hub.