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Hustings kick off general election campaign

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PATRICIA DODD RACHER, a Plaid Cymru member and blogger attended the first hustings for the marginal seat of Carmarthen East & Dinefwr. She writes:

A Llandovery College sixth-former highlighted a UKIP policy fog when he probed candidate Norma Woodward’s views during the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency’s first hustings of the general election campaign, held in the college yesterday.

The student, Gwion Jones, made the point that West Wales, as a relatively poor region, benefits substantially from European Union funds – and so stands to be a big loser if, as UKIP proposes, the UK exits from the EU.

Ms Woodward, the UKIP parliamentary candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, could answer only in the most general terms; that the UK paid more into Europe than came back the other way. Ms Woodward hinted at ending the Barnett Formula which modestly increases public spending per head in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

There is still plenty of time in the campaign for Norma to clarify UKIP’s policy on the Barnett Formula, but for the moment I’m not at all certain (a) if it exists or (b) if it does exist, how it would impact on West Wales in general and Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in particular. Removal of the Barnett Formula would certainly disadvantage areas like West Wales, where support is needed

Five of the apparent six parliamentary candidates for the constituency were in Llandovery College to answer questions from sixth-formers – taking their politics very seriously — and the general public, in an event genially and efficiently chaired by journalist Gaina Morgan.

Jonathan Edwards, for Plaid Cymru, was joined by barrister Matthew Paul, standing for the Conservatives; Labour’s trainee barrister and county councillor Calum Higgins; Ben Rice for the Green Party, and Norma Woodward, whose status as a UKIP candidate was recently the subject of much confusion.

The Liberal Democrats were absent. Their candidate, according to their website, is Sara Lloyd Williams, a former chair of Liberal Youth Wales who is currently studying for a master’s degree in archive administration at Aberystwyth University.

As well as probing the implications of leaving the EU, questioners asked for candidates’ views on the campaign to re-open the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway, on how to enthuse young people about politics, and about funding for the National Health Service, repaying the national debt, cutting regulations for small businesses, and reducing expenditure on defence. Views were pretty much as expected. Virtually everyone supported re-opening the railway, in principle at least.

Everyone professed to love the NHS but differed over how they would fund it.

Calum Higgins favoured lobbing in the proceeds of a mansion tax (which would not alienate many voters in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, where few if any homes are worth as much as £2 million, the proposed threshold for the tax).

Matthew Paul also criticised Labour for cutting funding to the NHS in Wales, omitting to say that there has been more of an effort in Wales to protect funding for social services. In England spending on social services fell 11.5% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-11, but in Wales the reduction was far less at 0.8%.

Matthew Paul and Calum Higgins disagreed over the time frame for eliminating the deficit

Matthew Paul, who has faith that the deficit will have been eliminated by the end of the next Parliament, favours public spending cuts over tax rises. Calum Higgins wants to eliminate the deficit but over a longer time.

Norma Woodward thought that coming out of the EU would solve the debt problem. For the Greens, Ben Rice proposed a clampdown on tax avoidance and evasion, and argued that the better-off must pay more tax.

Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards looked to investment in sustainable industries and infrastructure, which the Green Party also supports. The Plaid MP also advocated abolishing higher-rate tax relief on pension contributions and raising the upper limit for National Insurance contributions, which together could raise about £20 billion a year, a combined total of £100 billion over a five-year Parliament.

One of the most interesting questions, put by a college sixth-former, asked if the candidates had a personal policy which was not in their party’s manifesto.

Labour hopeful Calum Higgins differed sharply from the line promulgated by Carwyn Jones and the UK Labour Party. He would prefer not to renew Trident, he said.

Matthew Paul had two personal policies to offer, to allow fox hunting again and to bring ‘free schools’ into Wales.

The schools idea is not in the Westminster parliament’s gift, because education policy is devolved to the Welsh Government, but it is hard to disagree with Matthew’s point that Labour/ Independent-controlled Carmarthenshire County Council’s diktat to close the Llandovery’s state secondary school was wrong-headed and is creating major, long-term economic problems.

Norma Woodward would bring back grammar schools, something else that is not within the power of the UK government because of devolution. Ben Rice would give the Welsh Government the power to ban fracking.

Jonathan Edwards made the decisive point for me when he said he would be – continue to be — ‘Carmarthenshire’s voice in Westminster’, rather than Westminster’s voice relayed westwards.

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Busy week for Young Ambassadors

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IT’S been a busy few weeks for Ceredigion Sporting Young Ambassadors.

The Silver Young Ambassadors received training during the October half term holidays in readiness to go back to their schools and clubs to deliver sporting activities. The Active Young People Training involved planning, delivering and evaluating sessions and health and safety.

A very important aspect of the course was Disability Inclusion as all activities offered through Ceredigion Actif are inclusive. There are disabled Young Ambassadors involved with various programmes across the county.

Four Gold Young Ambassadors attended the Wales Gold Young Ambassador Conference at Cardiff City Football Stadium. This was an opportunity for Gold Young Ambassadors from around Wales to come together and plan for the year ahead.

Eddie Roper (Ysgol Bro Pedr), Sioned Rimmer, Dwynwen Davies and Elinor Thomas (all Penweddig Comprehensive School) were able to share their ideas and good practices in Ceredigion as well as receive a motivational speech from World Champion Inline Skater, Jenna Dowing. Osian Davies was involved with the planning and running of the day as part of his role on the National Young Ambassador Steering Group. Osian is a Platinum Young Ambassador for Ceredigion.

Alwyn Davies, Active Young People Manager said, “These were two fantastic opportunities for our Young Sporting Leaders in Ceredigion. They have shown great enthusiasm and motivation to become Young Ambassadors and are developing into confident role models in our schools and our community clubs.”

Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Learning Services, Lifelong Learning and Leisure said, “The aim of the training and conference was to enhance confidence in leadership skills of Young Ambassadors around Ceredigion schools. 15 Young Ambassadors attended the Active Young People Training and four Gold Young Ambassadors attended the Gold Young Ambassador National Conference. This is a great opportunity for our young people and I’m very proud of them all.”

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Aspiring hairdresser hoping to shine

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BAYLEY HARRIES will be competing in a prestigious competition which allows young trainees and apprentices the opportunity to show off their skills in a huge variety of vocational careers.

Bayley is a Level 2 Hairdressing apprentice at Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training (HCT). She will be competing in the UK National Regional Heat for Wales which will take place in Wrexham on Monday, 26 November.

The competition is run by World Skills. This is an organisation which aims to inspire young people interested in vocational careers to achieve their full potential in their chosen career route. If successful, Bayley will have an opportunity to compete in the Wales National Final in Cardiff on 16 December.

Carys Randell, hairdressing training advisor at HCT is thrilled to see Bayley taking part in the prestigious skills competition, saying, “We wish Bayley the best of luck at the competition and we would like to say a huge thanks to her employer, Sioned Rees, for all of the fantastic help and support she has given to Bayley in preparation for the competition. She couldn’t have come this far without it.”

Bayley is no stranger to showing off her skills at a competitive level. In 2017, she won the Level 1 hairdressing competition at the Urdd National Eisteddfod. She won again this year, competing in the Level 2 category.

Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member for Learning Service and Lifelong Learning said, “It’s wonderful to see Bayley come so far with the support of her employer and the staff at HCT. We wish her the very best in the UK National Regional Heat at the end of the month.”

HCT offers a range of vocational courses for people of all ages, including Hairdressing, Childcare, Business Administration, Information Technology, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrics, Blacksmithing, Agriculture, Motor Mechanics, and Welding.

For more information, find ‘Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training’ on Facebook, or visit the website: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/public-it/hct/index.html

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Apprentices start their career within the county

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FOLLOWING a successful recruitment campaign held over the summer, four young people from Ceredigion recently took their first steps in careers.

The four successful applicants started with Ceredigion County Council in early November as apprentices in Human Resource Business Administration, Social Care and Youth Work.

Alanah Lloyd, Apprentice Human Resource Business Administrator, talked about why she applied and how she is settling in, “I applied because I wanted to gain a qualification and earn a wage at the same time. I wanted to work for the Council where there are opportunities to progress. Everyone has been very supportive and I’m settling in well.”

The newly established apprenticeship programme proved popular, with the Council receiving significant interest and a high level of applications. As one of the largest employers in the area, the Council plans to expand the apprenticeship programme to develop more opportunities for the residents of Ceredigion. The programme aims to provide quality opportunities to young people helping them to earn, learn and develop careers in their home county as an alternative to college and university.

Councillor Ray Quant MBE, Cabinet Member with responsibility for People and Organisation said, “The number of applications and enquiries the Council has received shows the high level of interest in apprenticeship opportunities for the people of Ceredigion. I am delighted to see our four apprentices start and look forward to seeing how they develop over the coming months. The Council is committed into investing in people’s futures.”

The Council will be attending the ‘Ceredigion Careers Festival’ on Tuesday, 19 February at Aberystwyth Arts Centre from 9am to 4pm to talk about apprenticeships and careers. The event is organised by Careers Wales and is open to pupils in Ceredigion from years 9 to 13, and parents are also welcome to attend.

For more information about apprenticeships at Ceredigion County Council, contact on apprentice@ceredigion.gov.uk

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