Assembly Voice: 27 December 2017

December saw the publication of the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan. The bold and ambitious document links economic development with boosting skills, promoting wellbeing and safeguarding the environment. The plan aims to simplify how businesses can access support and finance, and also contains a commitment to breaking down the barriers so small firms can access public sector contracts. These are worth nearly £6 billion a year. The plan promotes a regional approach for the economy, and also recognizes the importance of our foundational economy, which is made up of areas like food, tourism and care. This is something I have been championing along with other Labour AMs. Improving our transport and ICT infrastructures are also critical.


I held a Winter Advice Surgery in Mountain Ash Day Centre earlier this month. It was good to be able to welcome representatives from the Welsh Government’s NEST scheme, Age Connects Morgannwg, British Gas and RCT Citizen’s Advice Bureau, all of whom made themselves available to Cynon Valley residents to provide advice on keeping warm and safe this winter. Thanks to everyone who came along and supported this event.


As 2017 draws to a close, it is natural to reflect on the highs and lows of the year. An example of the latter is the stark rise in the number of people needing to use foodbanks in what is after all one of the richest countries in the world. The Trussell Trust, which runs the largest network of foodbanks in the UK, saw a 10% rise in the number of people using their services in 2016/17 than in the previous year. A third of these are children. UK Government austerity policies are having a terrible impact on our communities. But this also shines a light on what has been a high point for me personally. Along with volunteers from the Merthyr Cynon Foodbank, I collected donations from shoppers in Aberdare. The generosity of Cynon Valley residents to help those in need was incredibly moving, and reminds us all what a great community we live in.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.