EARLIER this week, I held one of my ‘Community Surgeries’ where people come together to raise questions and challenge me in an open forum.
This is different to the traditional surgeries that I continue to hold, at which locals bring specific problems that require direct intervention on a private basis.
Subjects raised at the Community Surgery range from the most local matters such as the state of the roads and pot holes, through to questions about the armed forces and International Development. I find them hugely valuable to better understand what people here in Barry and the Vale think.
This week, however, a question was raised by a resident of Barry Island asking what three issues keep me awake at night. I had never considered general constituency issues in this way.
Essentially, my response covered public transport (buses), health care and education standards.
Cuts to bus services locally may seem mundane to some. Yet, having led a campaign over the last year to block cuts and to try to reverse further changes, I have come across many people that would become wholly isolated without bus services. It saddens me that those making decisions on changes probably don’t use public transport. Those affected can become trapped in their own home and costs to social services will naturally rise.
The differences in health outcomes between Wales and England are now significant. On almost all counts, NHS Wales’s performance is worse. This is not because of the medics or nurses but more to do with the Welsh Government’s policy to cut health spending, when all other parts of the UK chose to increase budgets.
I regularly receive contact from cancer patients who can’t have the latest drugs – which are widely available in England; figures show diagnostic services in Wales, 26.6 per cent patients have waited more than eight weeks against 1.8 per cent in England and only this week, we hear that the number of people dying on heart waiting lists has increased further. I have come across some very sad situations.
Finally, if we are to have a strong prosperous future, we need to offer young people an education standard that is amongst the best. Sadly, Wales is close to the bottom of the International League table on education standards and are the worst performers across all four countries in the UK.
A constituent once said to me that they could accept taking a financial hit as a result of the recession so long as it didn’t affect the future of their children. The Welsh Assembly Ministers are tinkering with qualifications, which could mean that UK universities or employers refuse to recognise. The Welsh Baccalaureate has been rejected by Oxbridge and Warwick universities.
These are the things that worry me and I will do all I can to ensure that individuals in Barry and the Vale come out on top.