Monday, October 30, 2006

Assembly offers more help for MS patients

Health Minister Dr Brian Gibbons today announced £700,000 extra to meet the increasing need for high cost drugs to treat Welsh patients with Multiple Sclerosis. The extra money will go to hospitals that treat Welsh MS patients and comes on top of the yearly £2.5 million the Assembly provides for Welsh MS patients to access Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs).

This extra Welsh Assembly funding is great news for MS patients in Bridgend. This extra money for specialist therapies will be an invaluable boost for those who suffer from MS and all those MS patients who will really benefit from the therapies can now start treatment at the earliest opportunity.

This Labour Welsh Assembly Government is committed to ensuring that all patients in Wales can access the best possible treatment. That is why along with the extra money the Assembly will be reviewing MS care in Wales to gain a better idea of how to help those who suffer from the condition.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. It is the most frequent cause of neurological disability in young adults, and it is characterised by chronic relapse and disease progression. There is no effective cure for MS, however a group of drugs, which includes Beta Interferon and Glatiramer Acetate, known as the disease modifying therapies (DMTs) are aimed at reducing the number and severity of relapses and slowing disease progression.

On the balance of clinical and cost effectiveness, neither beta interferon nor glatriamer acetate were recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis in the NHS in England and Wales. The MS Risk Sharing Scheme was however established in 2002 following an invitation by NICE for the Department of Health, the Welsh Assembly Government and manufacturers to consider what actions could be taken to enable Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs) for MS to be provided in a cost effective way and appraised over a ten year period.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Help Farepak families

Today, I have been pleased to give my full support to a fundraising campaign that has been set up to help local families affected by Farepak Food & Gifts Ltd going into liquidation and leaving its customers without their Christmas hampers and presents.

The campaign, which is being organised by the Bridgend branch of Peter Morgan Estate Agents, aims to raise money to provide those people, who are facing the festive period without the gifts and food they have ordered, with something to look forward to over Christmas.

The news that thousands of hardworking people, who have been putting money aside to help them cope with the costs of Christmas and have now been left high and dry by Farepak is desperately disappointing. Many young families and pensioners, in particular, are devastated that they have been put in a position where they have nothing to enjoy the festivities with.

It is extremely pleasing to see the local community pulling together at a time like this and I am giving my full backing to Peter Morgan Estate Agents who are donating their time and effort to set up a fund which I am sure will go a long way to easing the distress of Farepak’s customers in Bridgend and across South Wales.

I am urging the residents and business people of Bridgend to help make this appeal a success and donate as much as they can, large or small. Once it has all been collected, replacement goods will then be distributed to those families who need it most enabling them to enjoy Christmas after all.

Donations can be made at Peter Morgan Estate Agents, 16 Dunraven Place, Bridgend, CF31 1JD (01656 667100). As well as cash donations, non perishable goods and other items suitable for inclusion in a hamper will also be accepted.

Bridgend customers of Farepak affected by its financial problems can register to become a beneficiary of the fundraising campaign at the same address. They will need their latest Farepak invoice, proof of address (e.g. utility bill) and proof of ID (e.g. passport or driver’s licence).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hyper Value closure

The proposed closure of the Hyper Value store in Bridgend could not have come at a worse time for its employees.

The news comes as part of a decision by the discount retailer to close 9 out of its 15 stores in a restructuring exercise.

There is never a good time to lose your job but with Christmas approaching, this announcement will create a great deal of anxiety amongst its staff who will be wondering how they are now going to pay for the festive period.

Hyper Value across the country has been making a loss for a while and it is sad that the Bridgend store has to be sacrificed as they try to save the rest of the chain.

Their Market Street shop is in a prime location in the town centre so hopefully another company can be attracted to the area to replace them and bring in a similar level of employment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Assembly makes tackling child poverty a long term aim

A new report authored by Deputy Social Justice Minister Huw Lewis AM outlines the Assembly Government’s goals for 2010 and 2020 to ensure all Welsh children have a fair start in life. Eradicating Child Poverty in Wales – Measuring Success covers issues such as childhood accidents, teenage pregnancy, poor health and achievement at school.

Ending child poverty is the most important goal this Labour Assembly Government has set. By 2010 This Assembly Government wants to halve child poverty in Wales and eliminate it by 2020

Although we have made good progress on child poverty in Wales and seen a 21% reduction since 1999, it is clear that to achieve our 2020 goal we need a radical re-think of policy across the Assembly Government.

Welsh Labour wants to reduce teenage pregnancy, support more lone parents to get into work, improve access to childcare for families and direct health and education policy towards the needs of the poorest children.

Only a Labour Assembly Government will deliver on this ambitious range of milestones and targets on child poverty. Today’s report sets out how Welsh Labour will bring those children Bridgend currently living in poverty to the front of every queue.

These targets and milestones will be subject to change, depending on their usefulness, but our overall aim – equal chances and an end to poverty for all children by 2020 – will remain as one of the most important goals we have ever set.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Welsh Bacc leading the way in new learning

Education and Lifelong Learning Minister Jane Davidson AM announced yesterday that the Welsh Bacc was fit for purpose to be offered to all Sixth Form students in Wales from September next year following a successful pilot scheme.

A-levels students in Bridgend will now be able to gain a broader qualification than the traditional A-level and an advantage when they look for University places and enter the job market.

Pupils in Bridgend who opt for the Welsh Bacc will take up a language module, a study of Wales, Europe and the world, a research project, work experience and voluntary work in the community, alongside taking existing qualifications such as A levels, GCSEs or NVQs.

Welsh Labour is transforming Sixth Form learning in Wales, delivering the opportunity for higher standards of achievement and learning motivation for young people.

We are ensuring that the Welsh Assembly Government is leading the way on new learning. The Welsh Bacc will be the envy of many countries when Welsh schools begin producing students with a wider knowledge, improved skills and a greater understanding of the wider world.

I am proud Welsh Labour has delivered the first ever distinctive Welsh education and skills programme for 16 – 19 year olds in Bridgend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Secondary schools gear up for 5x60

I welcome the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to a £7.6m investment to provide extra curricular sports for secondary school children in Wales.

Welsh Labour is delivering on its promise to extend the Dragon Sports initiative into secondary schools. Dragon Sports has been already been successful in getting more primary school children involved in sports outside of school time.

We have all heard the frightening obesity statistics in Wales. Half of all adults in Wales are classed as overweight and by 2020 a third of Welsh adults will be obese. Most people in Wales are not physically active enough to benefit their health.

This is why over the next three years; Welsh Labour will be investing in the 5x60 programme, which aims to get children and young people exercising for at least 60 minutes at least five days a week.

I am pleased that Bryntirion, Cynnfig, Maesteg & Ynysawdre comprehensives are taking part in this scheme. This is a great way to encourage healthy and active lifestyles amongst Bridgend's young people.

Only 24% of secondary school age children do 5x60 minutes of physical activity a week. Welsh Labour is committed to encouraging our young people to become fitter and healthier. Evidence reveals that regular sporting activity not only helps children to do better academically but also prevents health problems later on in life.

Welsh Labour is driving the healthy lifestyle message home to young people, this is crucial in preventing the stark prediction of an obese Wales becoming a reality.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Warmer, safer homes in Bridgend

Last year Welsh Labour boosted Wales’ Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) by £10 million. This year Welsh Labour has increased the HEES grants from £2,700 to £3,600 to help pensioners, the disabled, families receiving benefits and other vulnerable groups of people install new insulation measures, heating systems and improve home security with window and door locks.

This new investment also includes a much higher grant of £5,000 to cover the cost of installing oil central heating in fuel poor households.

I am proud that Welsh Labour is delivering a major cash boost for this important scheme to make more homes warmer and safer for pensioners and other vulnerable people. Since 2004 the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme has helped to make 1734 of homes in Bridgend warmer – and there are many more who can still apply.

This is a major project, which is helping to cut heating bills for pensioners and is also good news for the environment and people’s health. The Labour Assembly Government is committed to tackling the scandal of fuel poverty, and this scheme is one of the most important tools we have to do this.

Through the HEES scheme Welsh Labour has already ensured that 350 households in Bridgend have benefited from a brand new central heating system and a further 295 have received repairs to broken or condemned boilers. An additional 993 households will make savings from having had their home insulated.

In terms of vulnerable groups of people who have been helped by HEES Wales grants, 155 households with children under the age of four, 666 households on DLA, and 869 households over the age of 60 in Bridgend have benefited from improvements to their homes.

I want to see more local pensioners and other eligible groups such as lone parents and families with children under 16 and are entitled to benefits take advantage of these grants. You can also call the HEES Wales scheme and speak to an advisor on FREEPHONE 0800 316 2815.

Welsh Labour delivers on its promises

Today’s Welsh Labour budget shows that people can trust Welsh Labour to deliver on their promises

Pledges made in 2003 for better jobs, better schools, better health and stronger communities have been honoured by the Welsh Assembly Government’s budget. Welsh Labour is delivering on the record investment in public services it promised Wales at the last election and smashing its own targets.

People in Wales put their trust in this Labour Welsh Assembly Government to deliver on its commitments and to make a real difference to the quality of life in Wales. This budget is the final stage of our delivery on that the mandate we were given by the Welsh people.

On health, Welsh Labour is delivering on its promise to abolish prescription charges. By April 2007 no one in Bridgend will pay for prescriptions. Welsh Labour has also exceeded its target for investment in hospitals and GP surgeries by £200 million – spending will rise to £750 million this year.

And Welsh Labour has set aside £76 million to upgrade carer’s equipment and improve the lives of carers and disabled people.

For our communities, £127 million has been delivered for a Crime Fighting Fund which will tackle youth offending, substance misuse and domestic abuse. This is even more money than we promised and will ensure safer communities in Bridgend. We have also delivered £11 million to ensure safer routes to schools and we are funding a half price bus fare pilot scheme for 16-18 year olds. Pensioners and children are also enjoying free swimming over the holidays.

An extra £15 million a year has been earmarked for local authorities to invest in road maintenance. This will enable Bridgend County Borough Council to make real a progress in tackling the backlog of repairs on our roads.

‘On education Welsh Labour has smashed its target for improving school buildings, raising its promise of funding by £100 million to £670 million. No students in Wales will pay University top up fees and we’ve delivered £10 million to provide free breakfast for primary school children. One in four schools in Wales is opting for the breakfast scheme and many more will follow.

This is a Labour Welsh Assembly Government that is firmly committed to supporting and caring for the most vulnerable people in Bridgend and delivers on the future aspirations of all the people of my constituency

Monday, October 16, 2006

Free Healthy Breakfasts for Bridgend Schools

This week is the Welsh Assembly Government’s Free Healthy Breakfast Week.

Welsh Labour is delivering on a Manifesto commitment to provide a free healthy breakfast to primary school children in all schools in Wales which have opted to operate the scheme by next year.

This Welsh Labour promise is ensuring not only that our youngest children are given a flying start in life, but also that children understand why they should not skip breakfast at the earliest possible age.

By the end of next year 13 primary schools in Bridgend will have taken advantage of Welsh Labour’s free healthy breakfast option.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and evidence shows that a healthy breakfast is linked to better health, concentration and behaviour in our schools. Experience shows that successful breakfast schemes in schools have led to positive attitude changes – improved attendance, improved behaviour, fewer discipline problems and greater sustained concentration.

Healthy breakfast week is part of Welsh Labour’s whole school approach to improve food and nutrition in schools. The week will reinforce messages about healthy eating and the importance of having a good start to the day by eating a healthy breakfast.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Porthcawl Respite Centre closure

Plans to close the John Grooms Danygraig Respite Care Centre in Porthcawl will be a hugely disappointing to many local people.

Proposals to combine the 30-bed nursing and residential care home with the Jane Hodge Resort Hotel near Cowbridge will mean the Porthcawl centre, which was kept open following a campaign in 2001 which attracted over 12,000 supporters, is to close almost immediately.

This latest proposal will be met with great disappointment amongst everyone who worked so hard a few years ago to keep the centre going. It provides a much needed service to its users and is a vital facility for those people who need the excellent respite care that it offers.

I realise that the charity has made the decision based on the resources that it has available but the requirements of its stakeholders, not least the regular users of the centre, needs to be taken into account.

The strength of feeling last time around and the high regard in which local people hold the centre is a crystal clear sign of the need to keep the facility open. I will be working closely with politicians from all sides, local campaigners and partnership agencies to do all that I possible can to secure the centre’s future.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bridgend Town Centre Christmas Car Parking

The Lib Dem / Tory Bridgend Council coalition need to think again and reconsider their decision to axe free Christmas car parking in Bridgend town centre.

Christmas is traditionally the busiest time of the year for local traders and as a town we need to make a clear statement to people that we really want them to come and shop here.

Neighbouring local authorities, such as Labour run Neath Port Talbot, are taking the festive period seriously and offering free car parking in the run up to Christmas. Unfortunately it seems that Bridgend is being left behind with the Tories and Lib Dems going in the opposite direction and getting rid of one of our best selling points.

The coalition’s decision is very short sighted. Every town across South Wales will be fighting it out over the next few months to encourage people to do their Christmas shopping there. The scrapping of this scheme, though, completely sends out the wrong signal.

There is still time for the ruling group to do the right thing and show that they are committed to supporting local businesses by reversing their policy on this issue. I hope they will see sense and provide what the previous Labour administration did.

£16m ambulance service boost good news for Bridgend

An announcement that £16 million is to be invested in a new fleet of ambulances across Wales is particularly welcome news for Bridgend

The money will pay for 119 new ambulances and 67 other patient vehicles over the next few months. This outlay will provide drivers and paramedics with brand new vehicles carrying the very latest lifesaving equipment. It is the first instalment of the modernisation plan to bring the service up to speed to meet modern day needs.

The ambulance staff on the front line do a magnificent job and it is vital that we provide them with the support, back up and tools to do the job. I am confident that the new investment will go a long way towards improving the performance of the service and improving emergency response times.

With Bridgend situated at the bottom of the league table in terms of response times, I will continue to make representations on behalf of the people of the town to ensure that the new resources are targeted at the areas that need it the most.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

North Cornelly Macmillan Coffee Morning

On Friday September 29th, I held a coffee morning at North Cornelly Public Hall as part of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support

A good turnout represented the strong community spirit of the area and the coffee, biscuits and cakes were all contributed by supporters and friends. Raffle prizes were also generously donated and £181.50 was raised. All those present were delighted to know that they were part of a huge network of coffee mornings dedicated to a cause which touches the lives of many people.

Ted Davies, (picture below right with Gwyneth Poacher and myself) a local historian, gave an entertaining talk at the event which highlighted many aspects of life in the locality, which would otherwise be in danger of being forgotten.

People in our own area can make a difference and each coffee morning raises vital money needed to fund the work for people living with cancer. The sum raised from this one coffee morning demonstrates the commitment of the North Cornelly people. The organisers of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning will have been delighted to receive this sum of money.

My personal thanks go to all who took part and supported the event.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Design my Christmas Card

This week I have been busy lauching my second annual Christmas Card Competition.

The competition is open to young artists across the Bridgend constituency and invites them to design my official Christmas card, which will then be sent to hundreds of people across the country. Prizes will be awarded to the winner of each of the four age categories (Nursery & Reception, Years 1&2, Years 3-6, Years 7-11) with the overall winner also being invited to have lunch with me at the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay.

Youngsters can base their entry on their idea of what Christmas is about.

Last year everyone on my Christmas card mailing list said that they really liked the winning design. I very much enjoyed sorting through the hundreds of entries that came in and the work of the children was of an exceptionally high standard.

I have written to all the schools in my Bridgend constituency encouraging them to take part and I look forward to receiving submissions that are as inventive and inspired as possible.

Last year's winner Lauryn Jones of Tondu Primary School, then aged 4, is pictured above receiving her prize from me in the presence of the school's headteacher.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Climbing Everest in a good cause

Brackla Labour councillor, John Spanswick last Friday left Bridgend to embark on his charity trek to the base camp at Mount Everest and the adjacent peak of Kalar Patar at a height of 5,560m.

He tells me that he expects to raise in the region of £4,000 for Cancer Research and the Stroke Association. More information on his adventure can be found at where you can also make a donation to John’s fundraising campaign.

The photo above was taken at the trek launch at the Cancer Research Shop in Bridgend. Pictured from left to right : myself, Cat Edger (shop manager), Nia Chadwick (Area Fundraiser, Cancer Research), Cllr John Spanswick.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

October 2006 Advice Surgeries

I will be holding the following advice surgeries this month:

Friday 13

Porthcawl Community Council Offices 4.00 – 4.30 pm
Nottage St David’s Church 4.45 – 5.15 pm
Newton School Room 5.30 – 6.00 pm

Friday 27

Wildmill 103 Glanffornwg 11.00 – 11.30 am
Cefn Glas West Ward 11.45 – 12.15 pm
Bryntirion OCLP Club 1.30 – 2.15 pm
Laleston The Oystercatcher 2.30 – 3.15 pm

Please ring Helen on (01656) 664320 to make an appointment.