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Group leader’s anger over ‘vexatious’ question at County Hall



A PUBLIC question on Pembrokeshire’s recent budget submitted to the county council by one of its Labour members drew the ire of the new leader of the independent group, who labelled it “defamatory and vexatious”.

Pembrokeshire County Council was facing a 16.3 per cent council tax increase when setting the council budget for 2024-2025 in March; that figure dropping to 12.5 per cent after an 11th-hour alternative budget proposal by deputy leader Cllr Paul Miller was narrowly backed.

That drop in the council tax rise was made by using additional reserves of £1.5m, as well as £1m target for council efficiency savings, along with leisure services savings.

Pembrokeshire County Council, at its May meeting of full council, received a submitted question from Councillor Joshua Beynon, which asked: “Setting a budget is always a difficult process. Ever-reducing central government funding since 2010 has meant difficult decisions for the council on service cuts and council tax rises.

“Despite the difficulties, the leader, cabinet member for finance and the administration generally has in my view always taken the necessary difficult decisions to do what’s in the best interests of Pembrokeshire.

“That approach is the opposite of that taken by the Independent Political Group. We now know that Cllr Murphy had organised to support a 12.78 per cent council tax rise but when it came to this administration proposing 12.5 per cent, he and his fellow members voted against it on mass.

“Does the Cabinet member agree with me that this revelation is surprising?”

At the full meeting of council, Cllr Murphy, elected the day before as leader of the group, asked for the question either to be struck, or for Cllr Beynon to withdraw it, labelling it “defamatory or vexatious”.

“As you would know, members of the IPG voted for the proposal put forward by Cllr Miller; we do not ‘whip’. The assertion I had ordered a 12.78 per cent rise, I did not support an alternative budget, the use of £300,000 was never put forward.

“Cllr Beynon makes a claim that I and the IPG never make difficult decisions; I moved an increase in long-term empty properties, which the Cabinet member for finance supported, which resulted in lower council tax.

“Increasing tax is not an easy decision, to say that I never make a difficult decision is incorrect, and is vexatious.”


Rhys ab Owen MS calls for justice in ‘pension theft’ scandal



A SENEDD member called on the next UK Government to finally put an end to the “theft” of steelworkers’ pensions following a two-decade campaign for justice.

Rhys ab Owen said staff at Allied Steel and Wire (ASW) in Cardiff lost their pensions when the company collapsed in 2002, making thousands of people unemployed.

Leading a Senedd debate, he said: “This meant that it was no longer about fairness, or what pensioners were owed, but whatever the scheme could afford to pay out.

“’Wind up’ is one term for it – an aptly named term, perhaps – another term is ‘pension theft’, and I believe that is a far more effective term.”

“The ASW workers were not the first nor the last to experience this injustice, this gutting of their pensions. Wind-ups were increasingly common in the early 2000s and punished those who were most loyal and hard-working.”

Mr ab Owen, who sits as an independent, said the then-Labour UK Government’s financial assistance scheme had an arbitrary maximum payout of 90% of the pension value.

“This meant pensioners lost 10% of their pensions from the get-go,” he explained. “Then more due to inflation, and on top of it all, many had to pay tax on the measly sum.

“For workers who had worked for decades – slaving away day after day in dangerous work –  it is no wonder this faulty scheme led to protests across the UK.”

The South Wales Central MS warned that many pensioners have still not been offered compensation despite a parliamentary ombudsman report and a Court of Appeal case.

“Do we really need another ITV drama to resolve this scandal?” he asked, appearing to refer  to Mr Bates vs The Post Office which brought the Horizon scandal to life.

His father – Owen John Thomas, a former Plaid Cymru politician, who represented the same region in the then-Assembly – was involved in the steelworkers’ campaign from the outset.

Mr ab Owen paid tribute to his father in a statement to the Senedd in the days following his death in May, saying it was characteristic of him to put other people and the country first.

During the debate on June 21, he said: “This struggle for Cardiff workers has lasted so long that it’s been through two generations of the Thomas family, my father being a constant voice in this battle from which I am glad to take on the mantle.”

The former barrister and law lecturer warned countless workers have died waiting for their pensions to be restored, with some unable to pay for their own funerals.

“Some have, tragically, taken their own lives waiting to find justice,” he said. “This is a scandal still unresolved, a scandal that has been going on for 22 years; widows still paying mortgages that should have been paid off decades ago.”

Expecting a Labour landslide in the general election on July 4, Mr ab Owen asked: “Will the party founded and funded over the years by the workers, will they finally give the ASW steelworkers and their families the money that they are owed?”

Adam Price said it was fitting for the debate to take place next door to T? Hywel where the steelworkers’ journey for justice began in a meeting organised by Mr ab Owen’s father.

He told the chamber or Siambr: “Time after time, the story of capitalism in these islands –  and the story of the failure of our democracy – is the story of pension scandals….

“It says something about these countries in the UK – the way we treat our workers, our older workers in retirement. It’s that moral question this incoming Labour Government now faces.”

The former MP and Plaid Cymru leader welcomed a pledge in Labour’s manifesto on miners’ pensions, calling for an equal commitment to former steelworkers.

Sarah Murphy, responding for the Welsh Government, acknowledged the injustice the Allied Steel and Wire pensioners have faced.

The minister pointed out that pension powers are not devolved as she called on the UK Government to “do the right thing and give restorative justice” to former ASW workers.

She told the Senedd: “We are disappointed the UK Government has failed to secure the pensions justice for the former ASW workers that they deserve.

“I recognise the sense of betrayal that they must feel….

“These pensions are not a gift; they are deferred salary. The contributions were made in good faith by ASW workers in the expectation that they would receive security in retirement – not just for them, but also for their families.

“Those contributions should be honoured and honoured in full.”

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Welsh Conservatives ask voters to send a message to Labour: ‘Enough is enough’



THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES are rallying voters to use their voice on Thursday, July 4th, to signal that 25 years of Labour governance in Wales is enough. However, the question remains whether their message will resonate with the electorate amidst predictions of a near-wipeout for the Tories in Wales.

Since 1999, Labour has overseen critical areas such as the Welsh NHS, education, transport, housing, rural affairs, and job creation. According to the Conservatives, this quarter-century of Labour rule has left Wales with the longest NHS waiting lists in the UK, the poorest educational outcomes, and the lowest employment levels in the country.

Unveiling the Welsh Conservative manifesto in Kinmel Bay this morning, David TC Davies highlighted their achievements, stating, “We have a strong record of action in Wales, from cutting taxes and putting £700 back into the pockets of hardworking Welsh workers, to delivering two freeports which will create thousands of jobs and investing over £2.5 billion to support transport, tourism, heritage, and culture across Wales.

“This is just the start. Our bold plan for Wales will go further so that people in Wales keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on what they want, not what the government wants. We will continue to bring investment and jobs to Wales, so that people can provide for their families and enjoy the security of home ownership. We will make sure our children have the best start in life, with access to opportunities they never thought possible.

“Labour’s lack of ambition for Wales is clear for all to see – Labour in Westminster and Wales ruling out the electrification of the North Wales main line. Only the Conservatives will deliver for North Wales.

“It is only by voting Welsh Conservative can our clear plan, with bold action be put in place and deliver a secure future for Wales.”

Andrew RT Davies MS echoed these sentiments, calling for a change in leadership: “Keir Starmer said that Labour in Wales was his blueprint for what he would do to the rest of the UK. Here in Wales, we know that is a stark warning as we suffer with 20,000 people waiting two years or more for treatment, a 50/50 chance of an ambulance arriving in our hour of need and 20mph speed limits hitting the Welsh economy by up to £9 billion. That is what 25 years of Labour in power looks like.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. We have a plan to save our Welsh NHS, a plan to kickstart our economy and a plan to get Wales moving. On the 4th of July, it is essential that people use their voice to tell Labour that enough is enough and that Wales deserves better.”

At the heart of the Welsh Conservative election manifesto, set to be published on Friday, is the pledge to reverse Wales’ controversial 20mph speed limit policy by giving people a legal right to challenge existing zones. The policy, introduced by former First Minister Mark Drakeford’s government, has faced significant backlash despite figures showing a reduction in road injuries.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies, and Tory Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies will present the manifesto in Kinmel Bay, Conwy. Mr Sunak will describe Wales as a “great country, but a country let down by Labour,” which has led the Welsh government since devolution 25 years ago.

Additional neighbourhood police officers and a £1bn investment plan to electrify the North Wales main rail line will also feature prominently in the document. The electrification project, initially announced by Mr Sunak in October 2023 after cancelling the second leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line, aims to revitalise transport infrastructure in North Wales. However, transport experts estimate the actual cost could exceed £1.5bn.

During the manifesto launch, Mr Sunak is expected to criticise Welsh Labour’s priorities, accusing them of focusing solely on maintaining power. He will highlight initiatives like lowering the voting age to 16 in Senedd and local elections and increasing the number of Senedd members as examples of Labour’s self-serving strategies.

Despite calling the election last month, Mr Sunak has not seen a significant reduction in Labour’s lead in opinion polls. David TC Davies, expressing scepticism about Labour’s predicted victory, suggested that any Labour majority would lack enthusiastic support from the electorate.

As the July 4th election approaches, the Welsh Conservatives are emphasising the need for a dramatic shift in governance, advocating for policies they believe will rejuvenate Wales and rectify the issues they attribute to 25 years of Labour control.

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Tories predicted only to win Montgomeryshire-Glyndŵr seat in Wales



The Conservatives could be reduced to just one seat in Wales according to latest polling data, with a narrowing of the lead for Plaid Cymru and Labour respectively in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion’s two new seats.

Recent polls have predicted a safe win for Plaid in Ceredigion Preseli, and a narrower win for Labour in Mid and South Pembrokeshire.

As part of constituency changes, Pembrokeshire’s previous seats of Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, are now no more.

As part of the changes, bits of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids and– are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency.

Mid and South Pembrokeshire covers Letterston, Solva and St Davids down to Hundleton and Tenby, stretching eastwards to Amroth, Narberth and Lampeter Velfrey

Other parts of the north of the county are now in the new Ceredigion Preseli constituency; which extends up past Aberystwyth and also includes Cilgerran, Crymych, St Dogmaels, Fishguard and Llanrhian.

Earlier this month, global public opinion and data company YouGov recently had predicted the Ceredigion Preseli seat would see a comfortable Plaid Cymru win, at 42.8 percent, with Labour second on 17.6 percent, followed by Conservatives (11.7), Reform (8.5), Liberal Democrats (8.3), and Greens (4.9).

YouGov’s figures for the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire seat had predicted a Labour win, with 42.6 percent of the vote, followed by Conservatives on 33.4, Reform 9.4, Plaid Cymru 7.4, Liberal Democrats 3.6, and Green 2.8.

The predictions have now been amended to show a narrower margin; a Ceredigion Preseli Plaid win with 36 percent of the votes, followed by Labour, Conservative and Reform tying on 14 percent each, with the Lib-Dems on 13 percent, Green five percent, and others three percent.

For Mid and South Pembrokeshire, the latest figures show a narrower Labour win (33 percent) over the Conservatives (29), followed by Reform (19), Plaid Cymru (8), Lib-Dems (6), Green (4), and others (1).

There’s now a 15-candidate battle for the two seats, eight in Mid and South Pembrokeshire and seven in Ceredigion Preseli.

With a July 4 date set for the general election, the currently declared candidates for Mid and South Pembrokeshire are: Hanna Andersen (Women’s Equality Party); Alistair Cameron (Welsh Liberal Democrats); Stephen Crabb (Welsh Conservative); Stuart Marchant (Reform UK); James Purchase (Green Party); Vusi Siphika, (Independent); Cris Tomos (Plaid Cymru); and Henry Tufnell (Welsh Labour).

Candidates for the new Ceredigion Preseli seat are: Ben Lake for Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, Welsh Labour’s Jackie Jones, Conservative Aled Thomas, Tomos Barlow for the Green Party, Karl Robert Pollard for Reform UK, and Taghrid Al-Mawed for the Workers Party of Britain.

Wales-wide the latest YouGov poll sees the Conservatives holding on to just Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr in a narrow 28 percent to 25 percent lead over Labour, neighbouring Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe seeing a Liberal Democrat win over the Conservatives.

Plaid Cymru are currently on course to win four seats: Ceredigion Preseli, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Caerfyrddin, and Ynys Môn, the latter a 31 percent Plaid, 27 percent Labour vote.

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