Welcome to the May edition of our monthly bulletin that provides you with the news of what is going on within the Caerphilly Constituency Labour Party.
Message from the CLP Secretary, Bryn Hollywell
Our next GC Meeting is scheduled for Friday 10 May at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers of the Caerphilly County Borough Council offices at Ty Penallta, Ystrad Mynach. Our guest speaker is Judith Paggett, the Deputy Chief Officer of the Aneurin Bevan Health Board. She will be speaking about the new Ystrad Mynach Hospital.
Risca East By-Election:
I have been busy over the last few weeks helping in the by-election on Thursday 2 May in the Islwyn constituency to retain the Risca East ward. It was held following the death of Cllr Stan Jenkins, who sadly passed away at the end of last year. My involvement was as the Secretary of Team Caerphilly County Borough Labour Party, previously known as the Caerphilly County Labour Party. My main role was the organisation and implementation of the canvassing timetable and the identification of our Labour Voters.
The outcome was a very satisfactory result, and we welcome our newest Caerphilly County Borough councillor, Phillipa Leonard, a recent recruit to the Party but a local activist. I shall make a report in due course on the by-election for the Team Caerphilly Management Committee, because I always believe that lessons can be learnt from every election. The result was as follows:
Turnout - 26.06%
Phillipa Leonard Lab 529
Bob Owen Ind 299
Cliff Edwards Ind 209
Mathew Farrell Plaid 119
Cameron Muir-Jones Tory 36
As everyone can see Plaid’s performance was really poor, especially in view of the considerable efforts they put in!!
Wayne David MP
Government benefit cuts - the reality
The Citizens Advice Bureaux for Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent has just produced its report on recent “trends” in its work for the last quarter. It makes depressing reading. Even though its funds have been cut, the local CAB is finding that its workload is increasing dramatically – a 9.4% increase in its number of clients compared to this time last year.
Benefit advice in particular has increased dramatically and it now makes up a record 62% of the total volume of advice given by the local CAB. The CAB reports that “all our Welfare Benefits Advisors [are] being overwhelmed with the volume of enquiries about ESA and help with appeals in particular”.
The reference to “appeals” is important because there are huge problems being created by ATOS, the private French firm which has the contract for assessing if people are able to work or not. It is widely accepted that ATOS do not ‘objectively’ assess people’s capability but are only concerned about fulfilling their Government contract and reducing the number of people eligible for benefit.
Although my own constituency office is much smaller in scale than the CAB, we too have seen an increase in benefit cases. Like the CAB we also anticipate a sharp increase in the number of disabled people who will experience difficulties because of the move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). In short this will see a dramatic fall in the number of people receiving financial support and in the numbers using Motability cars
The Government is trying to dress up these cuts as a modernisation of the benefit system. Few would question the need to change the benefit system so that it is more relevant to today’s social needs but this is not what the Government are really interested in. The Government’s agenda is all about ‘cuts’.
These cuts are the most drastic ever introduced and put Margaret Thatcher’s policies in the shade. And this is only the beginning. The Government have a new spending review in June and are planning further cuts to take us well into 2015-16. As someone once said, at the moment the only light at the end of the tunnel is a burning train.
Jeff Cuthbert AM
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of my election to the National Assembly for Wales. Early in 2003 I did not expect to become a full-time elected politician, but when the opportunity arose to represent the people of the Caerphilly constituency, it was one that I simply could not turn down. Being an Assembly Member can be hard work at times, involving long hours and being under constant public scrutiny.
However, I do not regret one moment of it and I can honestly say that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.
During those ten years we’ve seen a number of significant developments, both in the Caerphilly constituency and across Wales as a whole. These developments have largely emanated from Labour policies that have been put forward by a Labour Welsh Government and supported by a Labour Welsh Assembly.
Across Wales as a whole, we had the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces, which came into effect in 2007. We introduced free prescriptions in the same year. These will have an immeasurable effect on the public health of the people of Wales.
In education we’ve seen bold new initiatives such as the Foundation Phase and the Welsh Baccalaureate, whose long-term effect will see the performance of Welsh education improve to new levels. The recently-completed Qualifications Review will ensure that Welsh learners achieve qualifications which are respected and rigorous, helping them to gain employment as the economy eventually recovers.
It has been extremely difficult with the global economic downturn and a Tory-led UK Government which has decided that austerity is the best medicine. We disagree with this prescription, and we have piloted measures to assist people and businesses pull through the worst of the recession. These include ProAct and ReAct, designed to help re-train and up-skill people who have lost their jobs or are in danger of doing so; and Jobs Growth Wales, which guarantees young people at least six months’ paid work placement and has been a big success.
Meanwhile, we have worked hard to improve the number and quality of apprenticeships on offer, and to help employers realise the benefits of taking on an apprentice in the workplace. I am determined that in Wales, vocational qualifications will be seen as equal in value to traditional academic qualifications.
In 2011, let’s not forget that Labour delivered a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum on simplified law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly. We can now get on with the job of passing legislation that will benefit the people of Wales.
In the Caerphilly constituency itself, the Welsh Government has invested in a new state-of-the-art hospital facility at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr. It has also helped to finance the regeneration of Bargoed town centre. Construction of a new railway station at Energlyn is at an advanced stage and it is due to open by the end of this year.
There is still a lot to be done and many challenges lie ahead. I want to resolve the on-going problems surrounding Bryn Compost near Gelligaer, and to secure a future for Ruperra Castle as a valuable piece of Welsh built heritage. It looks as though the main building of the old Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital will be preserved as a community centre. Alongside all of this we must continue to fight for more jobs, more social housing, a better health service and better transport networks, all against a climate of spending cuts being imposed by the Tory-led UK Government.
However, it’s a challenge that I and my Welsh Government colleagues are up for.
I would like to conclude by thanking you all for your support and assistance over the last ten years, and for helping me to get re-elected in 2007 and 2011.
Role of the Junior Vice Chair
Comrades, we face a very difficult challenge in the next two years. The Government has decreed an election will take place in May 2015, and we must be prepared to win that election. If we don’t win then there is a very real danger that this Government’s pitiless, cruel, malicious and vindictive policies will become entrenched, and will hurt even more of the most vulnerable and weakest members of our society. We must not let that come to pass.
To this end it is important that as a Party we continue to work hard for that election win in 2013, and where we can improve our efforts then we must do so. We cannot sit back and assume that this Government's malice and ineptitude will gift us a win. To this end, my role as Junior Vice Chair has two purposes. The first purpose is to Chair Caerphilly CLP GC meetings in the absence of the Chair and Senior Vice Chair, but more importantly I feel it is to encourage and monitor levels of activity in the six wards that make up Caerphilly constituency.
This means that it is my role to visit the six wards on a regular basis to see what local community activity is taking place in those wards, and how engaging local councillors are with their local communities. Where we have no local councillors, I hope to be able to encourage local activists to go out into their communities and engage with people, with a view to becoming candidates for the 2017 local government elections.
To give you an example of my own experience; I was elected in May 2012 to represent the Bryncenydd ward on Caerphilly Town Council, and since then I have made sure that I am out and about speaking to local residents about their concerns at least two or three times a month, more if I can manage it. Any concerns they have I then pass on to CCBC, or bring up at the Caerphilly Town Council meetings. A number of residents have told me that I am the only local councillor they have seen around! A positive response. I have also helped local residents in my ward set up a Residents Association which many have welcomed.
Hopefully in the next few months I will be attending the meeting of your local branch, and giving you a bit more detail on what it would be good to see happening in your local area. In the meantime if you have any questions or suggestions for me, then please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Town Cllr Gareth Pratt
The New Year’s Dinner, which was held on Friday 15 March 2013 at Caerphilly Golf Club, was a huge success and we hope that everyone who attended enjoyed the evening.
If you are not already a member of the 250 Club, please consider joining. For just £1 per month, you can help raise funds for the Party and you have the chance of winning cash prizes of £25, £10 and £5 every month.
Members of the Fundraising Committee will be meeting shortly to discuss ideas for future events so ‘watch this space!’ If you have any fundraising ideas please contact Lisa on 07811 104389.
The CLP Women’s Forum meetings now take place monthly on the second Monday of every month at Ty Penallta. It is hoped that more women will attend as the meetings are on a regular basis in a more central location. The next meeting will take place on 13 May.
We are visiting the Assembly on 12 June. A mini-bus will pick us up at the Council Offices at 11:45 am, arriving at the Assembly at 12:30 pm. Rosemary Butler will meet with us between 12:30 and 1:30 pm, after which we shall watch the debate in the Chamber. We shall have a meal and return at 6:00 pm. Those interested in attending please contact Bryn who will pass details on to the Secretary.
Our thanks go to Jeff Cuthbert AM for helping to make the arrangements.