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LibDem’s New Year Message

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IT’S TIME once again for politicians of all parties to reflect upon the old year and look ahead to the new, wondering what 2020 will bring to us, our families and communities and those whom we seek to represent.

VIGILANT TO BREXIT’S IMPACTS
2019 certainly brought its share of difficulties, challenges and unpredictable events, as well as a rollercoaster of highs and lows, not least for the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Our world remains both unstable and divided at home and abroad. Whatever awaits us as the Brexit process moves forward on 31st January, it is imperative that we remain vigilant in the face of its impacts, most notably on the elderly, the vulnerable and those whose health & wellbeing depend upon the continued dedication of EU Nationals in our workforce.

SUPPORTING SHARED OBJECTIVES
The Brexit ‘stand off’ of recent years has proved so divisive, and it is to be hoped that the clarity of the recent General Election result, while it has left many of us bereft, may serve the cause of greater stability in our relations with European friends and neighbours. Pembrokeshire hill farmers understand as clearly as Hywel Dda Health Board managers that the lower the hurdles erected in trade and labour flows, the more it will support our shared objectives, as well as being of real economic benefit.

INTERNATIONALISM
The terms ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ were consigned to history when the Prime Minister addressed Parliament before the Christmas Recess but, as former Prime Minister Tony Blair has often stated, the case for Britain’s place in Europe has to be made afresh in every generation. Whilst the Referendum and the recent General Election result have settled that for this generation, it would be unwise to forget the huge support for EU Membership among younger people in Wales and across the UK. Whilst recognising the democratic endorsement for formally leaving the EU institutions this year, the Liberal Democrats remain committed to the cause of Internationalism and our ultimate European destiny.

HEARTFELT THANKS
As my term of office as Welsh Liberal Democrat President draws to an end next month, and I look forward to other challenges, I would like to congratulate those re-elected to the new House of Commons for Pembrokeshire, notably Stephen Crabb, newly appointed Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards and to wish them well. But I also wish to express heartfelt thanks to our exceptional Welsh Leader, Jane Dodds, who, with excellent candidates on the ground in Alistair Cameron and Tom Hughes, were the face of our Welsh Lib Dem campaign.

As Liberal Democrats, here in Wales and across the UK, reflect on the lessons of recent times, we recommit ourselves to public service, wherever we have a contribution to make. In the meantime, on behalf of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, I wish all Herald readers a Healthy and Peaceful New Year – Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

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News

Town Council re-directs funds to food bank

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Ammanford Town Council has taken a decision to donate £1500 to their local food bank. The decision was taken to re-allocate funding from their events budget in light of the current Covid-19 crisis. This re-allocation will support the local food bank in maintaining their operations as they provide support to some of the most highly affected members of the community during these unprecedented times. Starting with a donation of £500, the council has made further subsequent donations, now totalling £1500.

Town Council Mayor, Julia Bell said:

I’m extremely proud of our decision as a town council, and of our fantastic volunteers. This is one of several projects the town council is running to support the community. We thank everyone for doing their absolute best in some very difficult circumstances.

Mr Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr said:

“This decision by the Ammanford Town Council is highly commendable. The Covid-19 crisis is multiplying the financial pressures that face the more vulnerable in society, and the foodbank will play an essential role in the coming weeks and months”

For further information contact Jonathan Edwards MP on edwardsjab2@parliament.uk 07534984376

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Opinion: The Big Question Facing Kier Starmer – Jonathan Edwards

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In the midst of the Coronavirus crisis the election victory of Sir Kier Starmer as Labour Leader didn’t achieve the column inches one would normally expect.  As is customary, I would like to wish Kier well in his role.  I can not claim to know him as a person having only conversed on a few occasions, however I have respect for his debating ability, his considered tone and his eye for detail.  I consider him a serious politician.

The challenges he faces are enormous of course.   Labour have now lost four Westminster elections on the bounce.  His decision making must quickly shift from efforts to unify his party to the far more important task of presenting a credible challenge to the Conservative party at the next Westminster election.

Labour has a defining choice to make, and this decision will have far reaching consequences for all political parties operating in the British State.  On the one hand, Labour could revert to its usual tribal inward-looking tendencies.  However, essentially this would mean writing off the next election as a part of a wider rebuilding strategy aimed at the 2029 election.  A stark admission as it would mean Labour having been out of power at Westminster level for twenty years at best.

Alternatively, Kier Starmer could acknowledge that Labour on their own will not be able to challenge the Tories for power at the next Westminster election.  This path would then require Starmer reaching out to all the other opposition parties in Westminster apart from the DUP.  I am talking about more than just coordination of parliamentary activity in Westminster.  In a first past the post electoral system we are talking about the need for non-aggression pacts, and a joint programme of government.  I would go as far as to suggest that the government itself would need to be a unity administration delivering on the agreed programme.

Parliamentary boundary changes makes the task even more pressing.  Whatever one thinks of his opportunistic politics, Boris Johnson has succeeded in unifying the right of the political spectrum.   However, the centre and left have a host of parties vying for support.  In a political system based for two horse races, the end result is brutal as we saw in December.

What sort of programme could Plaid Cymru, SNP, Green, Liberals, SDLP, Alliance and Labour unite around?  There would be little difficulty in agreeing a progressive economic and social policy platform.  A proportional voting system would be a must to enable all parties to compete equally in subsequent elections.  The big challenge for me seems to be the constitutional question when it comes to Scotland and Wales.   For Plaid Cymru and the SNP there would need to be a commitment for a fully Confederal system leaving only foreign affairs, defence, and macro-economic policy reserved – the sort of settlement promised by Cameron and Brown on the eve of the Scottish independence poll.  This should be supported with House of Lords reform into an elected Senate of the Nations of the British State.   Both Wales and Scotland would also require the statutory right to hold independence referenda at time of their own choosing.  This should be uncontroversial as it is the policy of the Labour Welsh Government.

This is the very simple choice facing the new leader of the Labour party.  Does he want to be Prime Minister, or effectively a plumber performing a re-patching job on a tired and insular party.

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Community

Council to consider new regional relationship for school improvement

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Executive Board will meet next week to discuss the authority’s future as part of the regional school improvement consortium ERW (Educational Regional Workforce).

The council, along with authorities in Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea, has been a part of the consortium since it was established in 2014.

However, the Executive Board could decide to withdraw from the consortium to support a new arrangement for school improvement services based on the footprint of the Swansea Bay Region.

Neath Port Talbot Council has already served notice to withdraw.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, has recognised the many positive achievements of the consortium in recent years, but said it was right to discuss what was best for Carmarthenshire going forward.

“ERW has achieved many positive things, however it is fair to say that it has also navigated through some difficult times with changes in political and managerial leadership,” he said. “The large geographical area of the ERW footprint has added to these challenges.

“We truly value working with our neighbours, but it is timely to review the regional arrangements and potentially look to realign with other partnerships across the Swansea Bay City Region which could have bigger benefits for Carmarthenshire’s children and young people.”

The Executive Board will meet on March 16 (2020) to review the authority’s position, but has promised to work with partners to ensure a seamless and robust transition should members decide to withdraw.

Cllr Glynog Davies, the council’s Executive Board Member for education and children’s services, added: “We are committed to working in partnership and across local authority boundaries where this delivers benefits for our communities.

“It’s right to acknowledge the significant progress of ERW over the last 12 months, in terms of staffing and organisation, but we must be confident that we are providing the very best support for our schools and it’s timely to look at how this can best be achieved.”

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