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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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Ceredigion County Council’s Apprenticeship recruitment campaign is now live

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THE council’s 2019 Apprenticeship programme is now open for applications until Sunday 22 September.

A council apprenticeship gives learners the opportunity to build skills and confidence while earning a salary and gaining a nationally recognised qualification. With roles available in Business Administration, ICT Technical Support and Social Care teams, there is an opportunity for everyone.

The first year of the programme is nearing an end and has been a great success. Alanah Lloyd recently completed a Business Administration Apprenticeship. She said: “I would recommend doing an apprenticeship at Ceredigion County Council to all my friends. I enjoyed the balance of real responsibilities and having the space to keep on learning.”

Maria Lloyd, Alanah’s mother said: “When Alanah was successful with her application I was delighted. It gave her the opportunity to show her work ethic and continue with her education in an organisation where there is career progression. Alanah has now gained a permanent position at the council. I would highly recommend apprenticeships to other parents.”

Lynne Connolly, Apprenticeship and Work Experience Coordinator, Ceredigion County Council said: “This year we are continuing to demonstrate our commitment to ‘grow our own’, offering opportunities for school and college leavers to continue education in a working environment and for members of the community looking to return to work or change career. All our apprentices are paid well above the minimum apprentice wage which reflects how much we value their contribution.”

To apply and find out more visit career.ceredigion.gov.uk or contact us at apprentice@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Overall ‘excellent’ performance at Mynach Primary School

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A RECENT Estyn report on the primary school in Mynach has given the ‘Excellent’ status to each of the five inspection areas.

It was noted in the report that the school had attained ‘Excellent’ status in standards; wellbeing and attitudes to learning; teaching and learning experiences; care, support and guidance; and leadership and management.

The report notes, ‘A particular feature is the opportunities for Key Stage 2 pupils to plan and deliver lessons for the rest of the class, focusing on specific skills.’

Joyce George is headteacher at Ysgol y Mynach. She is also headteacher at Pontrhydfendigaid Primary School and Sir John Rhys Primary School. She said, “As a headteacher, I am extremely proud of the results of the survey and very grateful to the staff, governors and those who work effectively together as a team to ensure a first class education for all pupils. I am proud of the fact that the inspectors identified pupils’ literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology skills as excellent.

It was also noted that a pioneering feature of Ysgol Mynach is the way in which teachers adapt and develop the curriculum in order to raise pupils’ independence. Working together as a wider partnership with Ysgol Pontrhydfendigaid and Ysgol Sir John Rhys, Ponterwyd is a great advantage and an opportunity to share expertise, co-design and share ideas which extend and widen the experiences of pupils across the schools.”

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member for Learning services. She said: “The Estyn report shows that Ysgol Gynradd Mynach has achieved exceptionally high standards. The hard work and dedication of the headteacher, staff, governors and of course the children is very evident. The school shows that a way of working together with neighbouring schools in a progressive way can produce excellent results. Everyone in the school deserves congratulations.”

The report notes that the school is an extremely close community. It also notes that the head teacher has a progressive vision that is continually focused on maintaining and raising standards of pupils’ achievement and wellbeing.

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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Machynlleth

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ON Thursday 15 August Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed around 200 local Labour Party members from Mid, West and North Wales at Machynlleth Bowling Club. Tickets for the event had all been taken within 24 hours, and an additional video link was live streamed into the club bar to allow those who could not get into the packed venue the opportunity to hear him speak.

Mr Corbyn was joined by Christina Rees, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, and West Wales Regional AMs Joyce Watson and Eluned Morgan, Welsh Labour Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language.

Eluned Morgan AM’s passionate introductory remarks highlighted Welsh Labour’s ongoing commitment to improving outcomes in education, health, housing, jobs and the environment. She urged immediate action from international UK and international governments on the climate crisis, declaring ‘The emergency is now!’

Mr Corbyn made clear that he is expecting a general election to be likely very soon and proceeded to outlined the scale of the current crisis the UK is facing, with 14 million now in poverty in the world’s 5th richest economy, and child poverty predicted by some to rise as high as 40%.

He went on to congratulate Welsh Labour on the great work that has been possible in Wales to insulate the Welsh people from the worst of the effects of Tory austerity, protecting vital NHS services and preventing the worst of school cuts, but he explained that there was only so much that could be done without the full support of a Labour government in Westminster.

“Things will be very different under a Labour government” Mr Corbyn added, saying that Labour will invest in people, with principles of equality and social justice and to demonstrate his state of readiness, with great vigour declared: “I’m up for an election anytime”.

He expressed grave concern over the effects that a reckless No Deal Brexit would have on the UK economy with particular reference to the devastating effects on Welsh industry and agriculture. He promised that Labour will do everything they can to prevent a no-deal, including the offer of a second referendum with Remain as an option, and the formation of a national unity government to prevent further political chaos.

Outlining his commitment to green industrial development Jeremy Corbyn stated that a Labour government would support the creation of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon which would bring valuable new green transitional jobs to Wales which would lead the world on renewables technology.

Mr Corby thanked everyone present for their efforts in Wales and reaffirmed his commitment to core Labour values of equality and social justice. He received a standing ovation and stayed after the event to chat and have photos taken with supporters.

A Ceredigion Labour spokesperson commented: “Jeremy Corbyn spoke passionately and inspiringly. He was full of praise for our outstanding efforts in the 2017 election and said he would be visiting Ceredigion during the next General Election campaign.”

The following day Mr Corbyn visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth to see new renewable energy technology in action and learn about pioneering methods of sustainable building and farming. He also confirmed that he would not stand in the way of any future discussion of a Welsh Independence referendum, and that he was open to considering all options for Wales’future.

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