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Delyth Evans: Business and young people a priority

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As part of a series of interviews with local parliamentary candidates standing at the general election in May, Deputy Editor Jon Coles spoke to
Delyth Evans, Labour candidate for South Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire.

42 DIMOND STREET at 2pm, Pembroke Dock was the appointment. And I was late. Having abandoned the idea of Fish Week, the delythevanscouncil had instead elected to host the International Festival of Road Works across Pembrokeshire.

Through the door of the campaign office, which used to be a shop, and there are some bare tables a few chairs and Delyth Evans on the phone trying to find out where I am. Quick introductions and apologies are in order. Time is a precious commodity for an election candidate and she has places to be.

The purpose of the interview is to find out more about the person who wants to unseat incumbent Conservative Simon Hart. Bearing in mind the time constraints, we move briskly to business.

“I was brought up in Carmarthenshire.” Delyth opens: “I was a journalist who worked for the BBC and HTV for ten years. When I felt I could no longer be politically neutral in my job, I left to join the Labour Party. I was very lucky to work for John Smith when he was Labour leader. I was John’s speechwriter for two years, he was a very good man, who died very suddenly. I left politics before returning to sit in the Welsh Assembly during its first term. I had very young children and it was tough combining a political career with being a parent. After the Assembly, I worked for a charity focussing on helping women from difficult backgrounds access employment and other services.”

The challenges facing a candidate – any candidate – in the current climate are well-known and we asked Delyth Evans her view about them: “The main challenge is that people think politicians are the same. There is a cynicism about politics and disengagement by the electorate. The biggest challenge for politicians is dispelling the notion that we are all the same. Someone said to me recently that politicians never seem to have had any work experience outside politics. I would say that I certainly have a lot of work experience and a broader life experience upon which to draw.”

Looking at Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire, Delyth was clear as to the task that would face a new member: “For this constituency, the major challenge is the regional economy. I am convinced that what is needed is a government that is prepared to intervene to help businesses. The market alone, which is the current government’s approach, cannot and will not work. There are different choices the government could make that would make a positive difference to their lives.”

On local businesses and issues that affect them Delyth Evans had spoken with them about their priorities: “I spend a lot of time talking to local businesses and try to find out what local businesses need from government to help them grow. As an MP, my role will be to support and help businesses get the best deal from government.”

On the European issue, Delyth is eager to make a clear statement about the importance of Europe to local businesses: “Europe – and our future trading relationship with Europe – is often raised with me. Businesses are clear about the importance of European markets to them. The Tories are, in my view, playing fast and loose on the issue. Businesses need certainty and, for their own reasons, the Conservatives are creating uncertainty.”

On her personal priorities, she expresses a similarly clear viewpoint: “Young people are a priority. It’s about helping them find opportunities in their own areas without moving away. It’s about things like apprenticeships, training, housing – on which Labour has very good proposals: it is important that young people’s voices are heard and that they are engaged in the political process and on political issues. One of the things I am very keen on is to get young people to vote and to participate. It is not just about getting them to vote for me, but to vote.”

On the thorny issue of voting, the measure of the challenge is not lost on her: “Most of the people I speak to tell me they haven’t made up their mind about how they are going to vote. An awful lot of people have an open mind and are waiting to be persuaded. My job, if you like, is to persuade them to vote for me. I’ve been the Labour candidate here for over a year. It has become a lot easier to engage with people on the issues as the election has drawn nearer. People are now focussed on May’s election.”

As for what would come after a possible Labour victory, she told The Herald: “The main challenge a Labour government would face would be how to get real growth back into the economy. Austerity is making harder for new businesses to succeed and for the economy to grow. That is why we cannot afford another five years of a Conservative government. In Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire the focus needs to be on encouraging high skilled jobs in new technologies. Labour is talking about creating a regional investment bank to support new businesses. For young people it is very much getting those apprenticeships and training opportunities. Labour is looking at vocational training equivalent to A Level and beyond. It is vital the building blocks are in place to help us capitalise on economic growth and be ready for the future.”

The difficult ground in the constituency was not shirked: “The issues that come up most often are jobs and health. That’s what comes up on the doorstep. People do not like it when English politicians, like David Cameron, run down the NHS and the NHS in Wales. Any other party in power in Wales would have had to make similar, if not the same, decisions about the health service in Wales as those decisions were based on clinical guidance. I agree with the idea that part of the problem is the failure of the Health Board to communicate properly about its strategy. I spoke with Bernadine Rees, the Chair of the Health Board this morning, and we discussed that point. I know that the Board is currently holding a series of public engagement events across the area and that the feedback being generated from those is being taken on board in terms of how the Board can better communicate. There was always going to be huge opposition to services being moved and I completely understand that. What we need to know now is that there will not be continuous revolution; that Withybush’s future is secure; that the right model is in place for the future. There is a job to be done to reassure people about that.”

Read part two of this interview in next week’s edition of The Herald.

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Welsh Guards sergeant shot dead during Castlemartin live-fire training exercise

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A BRITISH ARMY sergeant was killed on Thursday night (Mar 4) in a shooting accident at Castlemartin Training Area, The Herald can confirm.

The solider was training with live ammunition, ahead of a planned deployment to Iraq this summer.

Five police cars and an ambulance were seen screaming through Pembroke towards the incident at approximately 10pm towards the incident.

A coastguard helicopter, CG187, was scrambled to the scene, and hovered near Bosherston for a while, but was stood down and returned to base.

The Herald has contacted the MOD for a comment, who said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on the 4th of March.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

THIS STORY IS UPDATING

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Pembrokeshire County Council bills Home Office for Penally camp costs

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THE COUNCIL has sent an invoice for more than £80,000 to the Home Office.

It is to cover some of the costs that the local authority has incurred in connection with the Penally Asylum Seeker Centre, near Tenby.

Following a question on the issue from Cllr Jonathan Preston at Full Council the Council have confirmed that a bill has been sent.

The Member for Penally ward asked: “Please can the relevant Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of all costs to this authority which have been incurred in providing staff, services and other associated resources to Penally camp since its re-purpose by the Home Office last September?”

Council leader Cllr. David Simpson confirmed that on February 22 Pembrokeshire County Council submitted an invoice for £83, 858 which includes £65,564 in staff costs, £12,799 of specialist support and £5,495 for works such as barriers.

Pembrokeshire County Council is currently awaiting payment, the Authority confirmed.

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Hospitality sector welcomes Budget boost

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IT HAS been so long it seems since we could stand at a bar and enjoy a well-earned pint, but now we are on the road back to normality, the Herald has spoken to some of those in the hospitality sector who have been asked to close. We wanted to know what the owners in businesses in these sectors locally thought of the budget and if Rishi Sunak had done enough to help them.

We first spoke to a Milford Haven restaurant business. Owner of Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, Dan Mills said that the budget was not a silver bullet to fix all problems but said that the budget had gone a fair way to delivering what many in the Pembrokeshire hospitality sector have been calling for in recent weeks.

Dan Mills said: “The biggest risk many of us were facing was the cliff edge of a VAT increase, the end of the Furlough Scheme and a return to full business rates, I’m pleased that the Chancellor has recognised this and taken action on all fronts.

“With talk of the Welsh Government restricting us to outside trading for an initial period, the flexibility that the Furlough Scheme brings will be a huge help to ensure staff retain their jobs.

“I was also delighted to see that the Chancellor has provided funding to Wales to ensure that we benefit from a further 12 months of Business Rate Relief here in Pembrokeshire, that’s money that many of us can instead invest into restarting our businesses.

“I hope that the conversation that unfortunately began due to Covid between politicians and the Pembrokeshire hospitality and tourism sector can continue long beyond this crisis, it seems that through some open and honest feedback we are making real progress.

Award winning gastro-pub The Griffin Inn is well known throughout Wales and has received many national reviews. Their reputation puts them in a strong position once they are allowed to re-open. We spoke to Sian and Simon Vickers about the budget.

Simon Vickers, co-owner is also a director of Visit Pembrokeshire. He told The Herald: “I think the budget was very positive for the hospitality industry with the reduction in VAT being the biggest help.

“Overall I feel the government have supported the industry amazingly

In regard to tax on alcohol, Simon said: “Duty has been frozen It would have been nice to have seen a cut in it. Whether there’s a cut or not the breweries always increase their prices so in all honesty it never affects us.”

The ongoing financial support has been welcomed by industry group CAMRA, The Campaign or Real Ale, but the organisation said that the Chancellor had missed the opportunity to lower beer duty to save our pubs.

Their national chairman Nik Antona issued a statement to The Pembrokeshire Herald saying: “Freezing alcohol duty is obviously better than a rise. However, CAMRA had hoped to see the Chancellor announce a cut in duty on beer served on tap in pubs and social clubs to benefit consumers and help the great British pub recover and thrive in the difficult months and years ahead by being able to compete with supermarket alcohol.

“The Government’s commitment to review alcohol duties in the coming months is welcome. CAMRA will continue to call for a lower rate of duty for beer served in pubs – an option available to the Government now we have left the European Union.

“Reducing tax on beer served in pubs and social clubs would encourage responsible drinking in a supervised, community setting – as well as boosting jobs and local economies, helping consumers and benefiting pubs and licensees.”

On financial support announced, Nik commented: “Cutting VAT as pubs begin to reopen, and reducing it until April next year, means they can now start benefiting from that cut – but CAMRA believes this VAT cut should be extended to alcohol so that traditional locals that don’t serve food can benefit too.

“The extension of furlough until September and new grants of up to £18,000 are very welcome. However, pubs are unlikely to be able to fully reopen at pre-COVID trading levels due to outside space and then table service only indoors. The beer and pubs sector will need further support over the coming months, over and above new loans, to help them get back on their feet until there is a full and proper re-opening and they can trade at full capacity.

“Extending the business rates holiday until the end of June will help keep the wolves from the door for many English pubs, with the two-thirds reduction for the rest of the financial year a welcome step. However, given how tough it will be for many pubs we believe the 100% cut in business rates needs to be extended for a full 12 months as has already happened in Scotland.”

Picture: Simon Vickers, Griffin Inn, Dale

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