In February Nia took the initiative in setting up a meeting for members of Sosppan, the hospital action committee, with specialist solicitors in Cardiff to discuss using the judicial review process to challenge the way in which the “consultation” was carried out. With strong backing from Llanelli Town and Rural Councils, and still no sign from the Hywel Dda Health Board that they will reconsider their plans for Prince Philip Hospital, the lawyers have now issued the challenge to the Health Board. The idea is that if the consultation is invalid, then the Health Board will have to reconsider its plans.
Nia Griffith MP has expressed her anger at those members of Mid and West Wales Fire Authority who refused to back the Labour Councillors’ motion condemning the cuts to Llanelli Fire Station and calling for a return to negotiations.
“Local Labour Councillors Calum Higgins and Jan Williams were speaking up for the people of Llanelli when they forced an extraordinary meeting and proposed the motion condemning the cuts to Llanelli Fire Station and calling for a meaningful return to negotiations with the Fire Brigades Union. They had the full support of Labour councillors from Neath Port Talbot, Swansea and Pembrokeshire. I am angry and dismayed that after 3 hours of debate, the unholy “coalition alliance” which includes Plaid Cymru, Lib Dems, Conservatives and Independents voted against the motion, outnumbering the Labour councillors 12- 10. I always try and work cross-party in saving local services, and I had hoped for support for Llanelli from some of the other parties. They were warned in January by the Technical Advisory Panel that they would be in breach of the working time directive but they still have not sorted that out. Those individuals who voted against the motion are now responsible for halving the number of firefighters at Llanelli Fire Station, and any consequences that may bring.”
Residents Terry Morgan of Tycroes Rd and Gwyn Evans of Parc Gwernen, with Nia Griffith MP, Keith Davies AM and Cllr Calum Higgins
Nia Griffith MP is taking up concerns of residents who have highlighted the need for a pavement along Tycroes Road, Tycroes. She has written to the County Council’s planning department to ask councillors on the planning committee to use their powers to obtain funding for the pavement from the property development company as a condition of being given planning permission to extend the Parc Gwernen estate.
Nia Griffith MP explained,
“This stretch of road is on the only route from the Fforestfach and Parc Gwernen housing estate to the school and village centre. It is not safe for pedestrians, and the County’s Highways department has no funding available at present to provide a pavement. New and existing residents would undoubtedly benefit from a pavement which would enable them to walk up to the school and shops. Local resident Mr Terry Morgan has worked hard to bring this problem to the attention of elected representatives, and I very much hope that Councillors on the planning committee will be able to impose a planning condition on the developers to provide funding for a pavement.”
Frank Olok presenting Nia with a copy of the report to launch the campaign, Powering up Smallholder Farmers to Make Food Fair.
Nia Griffith MP has met Frank Olok, Coordinator of Malawi Fairtrade Network, to hear about the challenges facing smallholder farmers during Fairtrade Fortnight (25 February – 10 March).
The Fairtrade Foundation has launched a new campaign for Fairtrade Fortnight calling for urgent action to support the 500m smallholder farmers who produce 70% of the world’s food, but are currently half the world’s hungry people. The campaign launches a five-point agenda for action and is calling on David Cameron to use his influence, when the UK hosts the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June, to put smallholder farmers into the heart of governments’ trade policy. Frank Olok, whose network in Malawi represents around 10 Fairtrade producer organisations with a joint membership of 22,000 farmers explained: “Despite growing most of the world’s food, smallholder farmers still struggle to make a sustainable living, get access to finance and improve their and their communities’ economic, and, social situation.”
Back here in Llanelli, working with Keith Davies AM and local Fairtrade co-ordinator Ray Neil, Nia is looking to put Fairtrade back on the agenda, and work with local councillors to make Llanelli a Fairtrade Town.
“I know that I speak for large numbers of local residents when I applaud the Community Health Council (CHC) for using their powers to refer the Hywel Dda’s plans to the Welsh Government. I know that they will not have done this lightly, but very much as a last resort. Back in October the CHC said in their response to Hywel Dda’s consultation document “that more robust consultant/doctor led A&E facilities should be reinstated at Prince Philip Hospital at the earliest opportunity given the town’s large population.” It would have been much better if the Hywel Dda Health Board had rethought their plans then, and it is a real concern that the Hywel Dda Health Board has not listened. As the statutory body which represents the interests of patients and the public, the Community Health Council are quite right to demand services in Llanelli that are on a par with those available elsewhere in the Board’s area.”
Response by the Community Health Council to the Hywel Dda Health Board’ s Consultation October 2012
“We support the retention of full A&E services at each of the 3 existing district general hospitals. We are also strongly opposed to any further diminution of emergency care services at PPH Llanelli. We believe that more robust consultant/doctor led A&E facilities should be reinstated there at the earliest opportunity given the town’s large population, the wide catchment area, plus associated areas of deprivation. We note the significant public support for such a facility in the town, including a petition with in excess of 30,000 signatures plus the support from local councils. Importantly we are also cognisant of the strong views expressed by clinicians in the hospital and also of the GPs who support this service currently and who believe that any lesser service will be unsafe. In these circumstances we are of the considered opinion that PPH should now have a full range of A&E facilities comparable to the services provided within the other 3 hospitals in the region.”
Nia Griffith MP, Keith Davies AM and Cllr Carl Lucas, Leader of Llanelli Town Council have held urgent talks with firefighters from Llanelli Fire Station and their union representatives. The talks were convened as the news came that Fire Service Chiefs had ignored firefighters’ concerns raised at national conciliation talks and were pressing ahead with unprecedented changes to the service provision at Llanelli Fire Station.
Commenting on the meeting, Nia said
“What firefighters are telling me about the proposed changes is terrifying – massive loss of expertise and reduced cover at Llanelli Fire Station which is the main fire station for the area. Other stations where there have been changes like Pontardawe are within easy reach of main fire stations like Morriston and Neath, unlike Llanelli which IS ITSELF the main fire station for the area. I have already been in touch with Carl Sargeant AM, the Welsh Government Minister, about the stalemate, and whilst it is unheard of for the minister to intervene in the nitty gritty – we may well have to take it to him as a last resort. In the meantime, I am calling on Cllr Roy Llewelyn, Chair of the Fire Authority, to get a grip on the situation, and defend our fire service here in Llanelli rather than just nodding through changes which will have far-reaching consequences here in Llanelli.”
This week both sides have again met at the conciliation service – the Technical Advisory Panel – and the outcomes of those discussions is expected within the next fourteen days.
Nia Griffith MP spoke up at the recent AGM of the Committee for the Improvement of Hospital Services (SOSPPAN),
“ I would like to thank all those who helped to get copies of the Hywel Dda Health Board consultation survey out to local residents, so they had the chance to send in their views. As well as handing copies out Llanelli town centre and outside Morrison’s, people also took copies along to clubs, associations and flu jab clinics. It seemed the Health Board had made little effort to distribute copies, but people in Llanelli feel very strongly indeed about the hospital and deserve to have their views counted.”
“ But to be in a position to debate the future of our hospital services with the Health Board, it is all the homework that counts – getting all the facts and figures together, asking questions, liaising with expert health consultants and with staff on the frontline – so thanks to the committee and the local councils for all their efforts. I have sent in my own response to the Health Board consultation and will continue to press the Health Board on vital issues like risk assessment and ambulance times, which they need to take into account before making any decisions.”
Nia with SOSPPAN members Tony Flatley, Bryan Hitchman and Haydn Jones.
Llanelli residents have responded in force to calls to participate in the Hywel Dda Health Board’s consultation survey about the future of our hospital services. On Saturday morning shoppers queued in Llanelli Town Centre to fill in copies of the Health Board’s Survey at a stall organised by Nia Griffith MP and members of the Sosppan action committee.
Nia Griffith MP said,
“I know that a lot of people in Llanelli feel very strongly indeed about our hospital, and if the deadline of 29th October passes and they have not had a chance to complete a survey, they will be very angry. So as the health board is not delivering copies of the survey door-to-door, we thought that having a town centre stall would help to remind people about the survey.. I would urge everyone to write their views on the consultation survey which can be found at consultation questions and can be answered on www.hywelddahb.wales.nhs.uk/Consultation.“
Nia Griffith MP has thrown her weight behind a campaign to keep the footbridge over the railway at Burry Port Station. News that Network Rail intends to dismantle this bridge and leave passengers and shoppers with further to carry their bags has dismayed rail travellers and local traders alike.
As well as providing the vital connection between the station’s platforms and between the local shops and the carpark, this footbridge is also of historic interest. It was constructed in 1893, and whilst it is not actually a “Brunel” bridge it is believed to be of Brunel design, and goes over track which is itself of interest, because of the exceptional width between the up and down lines, due to the fact that it once ran Brunel’s wide gauge. There are occasional steam trips run on this line and enthusiasts flock from all over Britain to take photos of the trains going under this bridge.
Nia Griffith said
“I am seeking an urgent meeting with Network Rail so local councillors and I can find out exactly what their assessment of the bridge is, and why they want to get rid of it. Local people are horrified at the suggestion. If we were to lose it, rail passengers would have to walk further to cross over the railway and there would be more traffic congestion on the town side of the station as people try to find a drop off point as near as possible to the trains. Furthermore, anything that discourages people from crossing over from the car parking area to the town’s shops would damage local traders, and we should be doing everything we can to support local business.”
Nia Griffith MP has thrown her weight behind Dyfed Powys Police Authority in their bid to keep the force’s police helicopter. The Home Office is proposing to replace the helicopter, which is currently operating out of purpose built premises in Pembrey, with a fixed-wing aircraft operating out of Withybush. Working on a cross-party basis with other local MPs, Nia Griffith has written to the policing minister Nick Herbert MP, making the case for keeping the helicopter.
Explaining the problem, Nia said
“Members of the police authority have highlighted to me sections of a review by Police Air Support Unit Executive Officers which states quite clearly why the rural area of Dyfed Powys is best served by a helicopter, and the substitution of the helicopter by a fixed wing aircraft simply will not do.
It confirms officially what seems pretty self-evident to most of us, namely that the versatility of a helicopter means it can land in inhospitable terrain, work in wind gusts of up to 60 knots and cope with the complexities of our sea cliffs and mountainous territory, in a way that a fixed wing aircraft simply cannot do.
We have a purpose built helicopter facility at Pembrey, which I understand the Police Authority spent some £1.5 million on only a matter of 18 months ago. That included a substantial Home Office grant, and it is inexcusable to be wasting money like this at any time, but it particularly grates at a time when Home Office ministers are cutting the police budget by 20%.”