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Plaid lose another AM

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NEIL McEVOY, the controversial Cardiff AM, has been expelled from Plaid Cymru’s Assembly Group.

Mr McEvoy had been suspended from Plaid Cymru in September last year, while the Party investigated him over allegations regarding his conduct while an AM.

That suspension followed Neil McEvoy’s refusal to toe the line on his party’s policy on ending the sale of council houses in Wales, to which he is opposed.

Mr McEvoy is the second of Plaid’s AMs to now sit as an independent, joining former leader Dafydd Elis Thomas, who quit the party group in 2016.

Plaid now has ten Assembly Members.

The Cardiff AM has had a tempestuous relationship with his fellow Plaid Cymru members.

A former member of the Labour Party, he has said: ​”​I never quite fitted into Labour; I was too working class, too dark, too outspoken and rejected top down, centralised politics.​”

Last August, Neil McEvoy launched a barely concealed direct attack on Plaid leader Leanne Wood’s approach in the Welsh Assembly, claiming the party was ‘irrelevant’ to Wales’ young people; and telling nation.cymru: ‘Let’s stop hearing “Would the First Minister agree…” questions from Plaid and bin the cosy pairing system, where we have prior agreement on how many votes the Government will win by’.

In December, the AM suggested that he was a victim of ‘groupthink’ in the Assembly, for refusing to ‘bend the knee’ and maintaining his own independence of thought.

However, comments made in press conference on Tuesday (Jan 16) appear to have exhausted the Plaid group’s patience with Mr McEvoy.

He is reported to have claimed that as the party had referred allegations against him to the standards commissioner, the party’s investigation had concluded. In addition, he said that it appeared there was one rule for one AM and another for others in the group.

He referred to other Plaid AMs who had questioned party policy in the past or backed other parties without any suspension or disciplinary action against them.

A spokesperson for the Plaid Group said that Neil McEvoy’s behaviour had left colleagues feeling ​’​
undermined and demoralised​’​ and that ongoing issues were distracting Plaid Cymru AM from getting on with their work of serving the people of Wales and holding the Labour government to account.

A Plaid Cymru Assembly Group spokesperson said: “The Plaid Cymru Assembly Group has taken the decision to permanently expel Neil McEvoy from the group. The decision was unanimous.

“A statement issued by Neil McEvoy today is full of errors. Firstly, it makes inaccurate claims about the reasons for his suspension from the Assembly Group. “As was stated at the time, Neil McEvoy was suspended for breaching standing orders and the Group’s Code of Conduct through unacceptable behaviour.

“Secondly, Neil McEvoy’s public statement this morning saw him once again peddle untruths about the way in which the Plaid Cymru Assembly Group operates. Such comments only serve to smear the reputation of colleagues and underline the insincerity of Mr McEvoy’s alleged desire to return to the Group.

“In this context, Mr McEvoy is being expelled due to an irrevocable breakdown of trust.

“His ongoing behaviour has left Assembly Member colleagues feeling undermined and demoralised.

“Plaid Cymru representatives’ loyalty first and foremost is to the people of Wales. We will not be distracted from our work of serving them to the best of our ability by such deliberate and sustained sabotage.”

Mr McEvoy responded: “It is with real regret that I have been forced out of the Plaid Cymru group.

“I was elected to be a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member after votes from thousands of people who wanted me to not do politics as usual.

“My focus has always been on holding the Labour government to account and it will continue to be so. I’ve never been interested in fighting with my own colleagues.

“Democracy in Wales is broken and Labour is the party that broke it. But I firmly believe that Plaid Cymru is the party who can fix it.

“We need to bring in more working class and diverse people into our party. We need to help the people who have never considered voting for Plaid Cymru before. That’s what I’ve tried to do.

“I’ll keep representing those people who have been left behind and given up on politicians.

“We’re not all the same. There are people who really care. I grew up on an estate in Cardiff and I made it to the Assembly. I hope that inspires people to know that anything is possible.

“Politics is about ideas but it’s also about personalities. We don’t always get along but there is always the bigger picture.

“Wales is a great country. It needs a great government and I’m going to keep doing all I can to make sure we get one.”

Neil McEvoy claimed that he was still in the dark about why he was expelled from the Plaid group and had received overwhelming support from his local party and had been compelled to file a subject access request against Plaid Cymru to receive details of allegations made against him.

He explained that he would try and persuade the Standards Commissioner, Mr Justice Roderic Evans QC, to now hear allegations made by Plaid Cymru, even though they were over one year old, in some instances, and blamed the delay in dealing with allegations on his former Party’s internal procedures.

“What is really frustrating for me is that away from the bubble in Cadiff Bay the party in Cardiff is thriving,” he said.

“We’re being actively prevented from campaigning for Plaid Cymru by this nonsense, really.

“What we have is a culture of anonymous allegations, anonymous briefings, that are destroying people’s reputations.”

Local AM Simon Thomas expressed exasperation about the way events had unfolded.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday (Jan 17), he said: ​”​I think Plaid Cymru has been appalling with dealing with disciplinary issues.

“I think one issue that both myself and Neil McEvoy would agree upon is that this disciplinary process outside the group has dragged on for months without resolution.

“Neither of us would be happy about that.

“I would challenge the party more widely to look at disciplinary processes and to ensure that people selected as Plaid Cymru candidates do what they are signed up to do.”

Criticising his former colleague’s approach – and referring to the subject access order Mr McEvoy had obtained – Mr Thomas said​:​ “He’s perfectly at liberty to do so – it’s his legal right – but it doesn’t demonstrate to us a person wishing to work with us in the future.”

In spite of Plaid Cymru now having lost two of the AMs it was elected with in 2016, and in spite of the Conservatives being the largest single opposition party group, there are no plans to rearrange membership of key Assembly committees; something likely to be a sore point for the Conservatives.

In a comment to The Herald, UKIP leader Neil Hamilton said:​ ​”Plaid Cymru are so intolerant. They expel Neil McEvoy from their Assembly Group just because he believes council tenants should be able to buy their own homes. Home ownership is a bulwark of a free society.

“Neil McAvoy is an excellent, fearless AM with a mind of his own but Plaid clearly wants its AMs to toe the party line, rather than follow their conscience. UKIP AMs are not told what to do. They vote according to their principles.”

Read Matthew Graham Paul’s column on the situation here.

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Drink driver hospitalised and arrested

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A MAN who was hospitalised after crashing his car on the B4310, Drefach, has also been arrested for drink driving.

The crash, which happened in the early hours of Sunday morning (Feb 18), destroyed the Mercedes he was driving.

He hit a van which was parked outside of a property, which was also damaged.

Dyfed-Powys Police, Welsh Ambulance Service, and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service personnel attended the scene.

A spokesman for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called to reports of a road traffic collision at 12.50am on Sunday morning on the B4310 in Drefach.

“We sent crews from Pontyates and Tumble at the scene and one male was cut out of a car using hydraulic cutting equipment and taken to hospital.”

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‘Connecting Carmarthenshire’ campaign takes a leap forward

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Making progress: Jonathan Edwards MP, Adam Price AM and Geraint Trello

EFFORTS to improve the availability of high speed internet and good mobile phone signal took a leap forward this week as EE sets about switching on new mobile phone masts and launches its 4G Home Broadband solution.

Representatives of EE came to Carmarthenshire this weekend to meet with Member of Parliament, Jonathan Edwards and Assembly Member, Adam Price who have led a ‘Connecting Carmarthenshire’ campaign.

Their meeting, which took place near the site of one of two new mobile phone masts near Abergorlech, focused on the upgrades and improvements the company is undertaking across rural Carmarthenshire, with a particular focus on EE’s new 4G Home Broadband solution which can provide superfast broadband via an antenna on the house – a solution EE says could help around 580,000 homes nationwide gain access to high speed connectivity.

The Plaid Cymru politicians said the new improved mobile signal was itself “a big advancement”, but said the launch of the 4G antenna was “a leap forward” for connecting rural Carmarthenshire communities.

Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said: “It was a pleasure to welcome EE to Carmarthenshire and continue our discussions on improving connectivity in rural Wales. One new mast will be switched on in Abergorlech in a matter of weeks, with another new mast for the Llansawel region with us later in the year.

“These new masts add to the 27 4G upgrades EE has carried out to existing sites in Carmarthenshire over the last 12 months, providing better coverage for rural communities including Llanybydder, Pencader and Llanarthne, adding to the upgrades from other mobile phone giants across the county.

“Perhaps the most impressive news this week is the launch of EE’s Home Broadband solution which, with the use of a small antenna on the home, can bring superfast broadband to the house. This looks like it could be the answer for many properties which have been left behind during the fixed line upgrades, or where they can only receive slower fixed broadband speeds.

“It’s not for an elected representative to promote a particular private company, but where there appears to be a solution for so many properties to get high speed internet, I have no problem in promoting the product – particularly because when it was trialed it delivered speeds over 100Mbps! This is a giant leap forward.

“Connecting Carmarthenshire is really starting to see positive results, but I’ll keep on working to ensure everyone I represent achieves good connectivity.”

Assembly Member Adam Price said: “The new sites in the Abergorlech area are the latest in a long time of upgrades in recent months, with the added bonus of those mobile signals being used for superfast internet in the home.

“Given that various grants for broadband solutions are available from the Welsh Government, we believe those who can’t get access to fixed broadband connections or receive a glacial pace connection may well be able to receive a grant to have products like 4G Home Broadband installed at their homes.

“I’d encourage anyone who is interested in a grant to cover the costs of delivering a step change in their broadband speeds to visit the Welsh Government’s website to check eligibility, or contact Jonathan and I where we can send information to them directly.

“More and more people across our Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency are seeing the benefits of good mobile phone signal and much faster broadband. We’ve still got a little way to go, but local residents are seeing big advancements. We’re delighted the Connecting Carmarthenshire campaign is delivering tangible results for the county.”

On the launch of EE’s 4G Home Broadband solution, Max Taylor, Managing Director of Marketing, EE said: “As our network continues to expand into some of the most remote parts of the UK, we’ve seen the amazing impact that 4G connectivity can have on rural communities. Our newest 4G home broadband router and antenna takes this one step further, ensuring thousands of families in rural areas across the UK could enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband inside their home for the very first time – whether video-calling the grandparents or streaming their favourite TV series.”

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4.4 magnitude earthquake felt across Wales

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AN earthquake of 4.4 magnitude has been felt across Wales and England this afternoon (Feb 17).

There are numerous reports of the earthquake being felt across west Wales, including Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The earthquake originated near Swansea, where it is was felt strongest, at around 2:30pm.

However, the earthquake was felt across Wales, and many parts of England.

The EMSC, an independent monitor of earthquakes, said: “Latest update of the effects of the #earthquake in #Swansea region. Was felt up to 300 km from epicentre.”

Dyfed-Powys Police received many reports about the incident, but said that there was no need for concern, and that they felt it themselves in their control room.

The police force said: “We are receiving an extremely high call volume reporting some sort of earth tremor in the area – we are receiving reports from across the whole of Wales (we felt it in our control room too!). For now – it is unexplained – but there is nothing to worry about.”

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