Cynon Valley Leader column – 1st March

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) can be a real lifeline to eligible 16 to 18 year olds, enabling them to stay on in education or training and meet the costs of daily life. Introduced in 2004, the Welsh Government retained EMA in Wales when the Cameron-Clegg coalition scrapped it in England. However, the rate at which EMA is paid, and the household income threshold at which it is awarded, have largely remained static. I spoke in support of a cross-party motion calling this to be reviewed, and was delighted Welsh Education Minister Jeremy Miles agreed to support our call.

Over the last 20 years, there have been 76,000 wildfires across the Valleys – 96% of these were deliberately set. With the risk they pose to life, property and our environment, they are a major hazard so Welsh Government has funded Healthy Hillsides to put in place a sustainable approach to preventing large scale wildfires. This is a partnership between Natural Resources Wales, South Wales Fire and Rescue, the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales and RCT Council. I went along to Aberdare Fire Station (pictured) to meet some of the people involved, and hear about their mission to regenerate the Valleys’ hillsides to create safer green spaces that benefit local communities.

Thanks to Transport for Wales and Griffiths Engineering for an informative behind the scenes visit to the new railway station platform being built in Aberdare. This forms part of the Welsh Government’s £734m investment in building the South Wales Metro, with a dualled track and brand new electric trains. Works are scheduled for completion in 2024. Additionally, RCT Council has secured just under £250,000 of Welsh Government funding to carry out further development work on the Metro Plus project, which will see rail services extend from Aberdare to Hirwaun. It will involve the provision of three new stations at Llwydcoed, Hirwaun and Tower Colliery. It is planned a Full Business Case will be presented during the next financial year.