Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bridgend Male Choir performs at Assembly

Last week I hosted a performance by National Eisteddfod Winners Bridgend Male Choir at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay.

The lunchtime concert, which took place on Tuesday, 20 March 2007, was organised in recognition of the Choir’s competition successes at the National Eisteddfod and the Cheltenham Cup. The Choir has also reached the final of S4C’s Cor Cymru to be held in Aberystwyth on 31st March.

The performance was first class and I know that it was enjoyed by a large crowd of Assembly Members, staff and public visitors at the Senedd. I was extremely proud that the choir from my constituency, of which I am a vice-president, took the opportunity to show everyone just how good they really are.

The concert was also the centrepiece for the welcoming ceremony for Senor Mario Das Neves, Governor of Chubut Province in Argentina, who was very impressed at the high standards that the choir has achieved. The Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, and Culture Minister, Alun Pugh AM, who were hosting that particular visit both personally approached me to compliment the choir on their show.

Bridgend Male Choir is one of the best choirs in Wales. I wish them all the best as they prepare to take part in the Cor Cymru Final at the end of the week.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

First Minister opens £3m Unit at Princess of Wales Hospital

Pictured (l-r) Win Griffiths, Chair of Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust, myself, Janice Gregory and First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

On Friday 16th March, the new Delivery and Support Unit at the Princess of Wales Hospital was officially opened by First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

The £2m investment is a clear example of the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to modernise and improve the health service in Wales, and I know that many of my constituents will now benefit from that investment.

I would particularly like to thank those members of staff for their commitment in assisting with the design of the new unit, in which they will shortly be working.

I was also delighted that later that morning Rhodri Morgan was also able to join me on a walkabout in Bridgend town centre, including touring the Indoor Market, where he was able to see for himself the vast array of fine quality foods, goods and services there on sale.

The First Minister said,

'It was a pleasure to visit Bridgend market today - people wanted to talk about the ban on smoking in public spaces and the introduction of free prescriptions coming in April. This is what Labour is delivering for people here.”

''Earlier I opened the new Accident & Emergency unit at the Princess of Wales hospital - a £2 million project funded by the Labour Assembly Government, so local people can really see the difference record investment in health is making here. They need to remember that all of this progress would be at risk if the Tories get in on May 3rd.''

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Community Transport Boost

BUS passengers and community transport users in Bridgend will benefit from an additional £435,349 thanks to Labour.

This is great news for communities in Bridgend. This money will help people who need to rely on community transport like the elderly.

The extra cash can go towards adding new local bus services or making them more regular. Schemes like dial-a-ride, community minibuses and shopmobility are an excellent way of helping the elderly and disabled or those without a car to get out and about.

Money is also there for bus shelters, better transport information and for purchasing of low floor vehicles to help elderly and disabled passengers.

Labour is committed to providing better local transport for communities in Bridgend and especially to help the most vulnerable members of our community.

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Choose the right future

YOUNG people in Bridgend will need better skills for future employment in the growing economy of Wales and Labour will deliver these opportunities if it wins the Assembly elections.

Labour will make new, high quality, vocational courses available to 14- 19 years olds of all abilities in Wales from 2008 and give young people the training that directly relates to their future careers.

New courses in fourteen fields from Engineering and Construction to Hair and Beauty will have the same status as GCSE and A level and will be included in the Welsh Baccalaureate. They will enable our young people to proceed to further/ higher education or employment.

The current take up of vocational courses in schools in Wales is low by European standards. Labour wants to reverse this. The kind of skills that vocational training offers are in demand, that’s why Labour wants to improve the quality of these courses to help young people in Bridgend carve out a career for themselves and realise their full potential.

Giving young people - whatever their ability and wherever they live - the chance to use their talents and find their vocation in life proves our commitment to social justice and to our future.

Raising the quality and the choice of the courses will also raise their status in the eyes of parents and young people – employers are already convinced that vocational training is the best way of matching skills supply with demand.

By 2011, fourteen vocational courses will be available in such fields as Business, Information Technology and the Environment or Social Care, Tourism and creative courses.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Opening of Tremains School Nursery

The week before last I officially opened the new nursery at Tremains School, Brackla.

The nursery will enable the school to offer free nursery places to children at the school where no provision had previously existed. It will also increase the number of nursery places available to families in the Brackla area.

I was delighted to open the new Nursery. Parents and young children in the area need access to good quality education and this development will be of great benefit to the local community.

A huge amount of work has been done to make this possible and it shows the dedication and commitment of everyone involved that the original decision has been made a reality.
I very much enjoyed the ceremony – the children were lively and attentive. Early years education is vital for the development of our children and the investment made at this age range more than pays off in later years.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Bridgend Shaw Trust

I recently visited the Shaw Trust offices in Wyndham Street to see at first hand how the charity is helping hundreds of local people find work.

The Shaw Trust is a national charity that provides training and work opportunities for people who are disadvantaged in the labour market due to disability, ill health or other social circumstances. They are the largest UK provider of employment services for disabled people.

Only around half of disabled people of working age are in work. Thanks to the Shaw Trust’s support and guidance, many local people have been able to find new opportunities and employment they were previously denied.

In Bridgend, the Shaw Trust plays a vital role in providing a wide range of projects ranging from IT training, personal development courses, work placement schemes to sessions aimed at building self confidence.

It was extremely beneficial to have been able to meet with staff to learn more about the work of the Trust and the challenges that they face on a day to day basis.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Keep the school gate open :

YOUR local school will stay open for the whole community after the school day comes to an end if Welsh Labour wins on May 3rd.

By 2011 Labour wants all maintained schools in Bridgend to stay open for childcare, sport, fitness or academic pursuits for our youngsters, adults and the elderly. This will keep our kids off the streets and give us all more time and space to get fit, stay active and meet together.

If we only keep schools open during the day - we're under-using a great community resource, Labour wants to reverse this.

Labour wants to see schools full of evening classes for adults, ante-natal classes, aerobics, fitness lessons and weight watchers all year round - and the sports pitches opened up to local youngsters so young and old can get on their way to a healthier and more active lifestyle.

The extra time and space we could give community support groups would be invaluable to the most vulnerable groups in Bridgend - like disability groups and children with special needs.

Schools will stay in control of any local plans by drawing up their own policies and local education authorities will receive extra funding to appoint Community School Managers.

All the evidence shows that if schools open up to the local community, they perform better, stand to gain more resources that benefit pupils and actually suffer from less arson and vandalism. At the same time, keeping young people busy is shown to reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour, under-age drinking and petty crime.

Labour's answer to the need for safer stronger communities is to give the whole community the resources to meet together and use the resources right on their doorstep.

A community school would be a healthier, safer, stronger and better school and will build an even healthier, safer, stronger, better Bridgend.

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Miners’ compensation payouts reach over £12million in Bridgend

More than £12 million in compensation has now been paid out to ex-miners and their families in the Bridgend Constituency.

Compensation payouts for respiratory diseases have topped £9.7m, whilst over £2.6m has been awarded for vibration white finger related problems.

Miners in South Wales were the backbone of the British coal industry for many years. It is only right and proper that they receive the compensation that is rightfully theirs for the illnesses that they have suffered as a result of doing their jobs.

This is the biggest personal injury scheme in the UK. It was introduced by the Labour Government to ensure that money is made available as quickly as possible to those ex-miners and their families who need it most.

Compensation pay-outs on an England and Wales level have now reached a total of £3.2.bn. - over £1.9bn for respiratory disease and £1.3bn for Vibration White finger. Over £600 million has been paid out in Wales alone

Hundreds of successful claims have been made to the compensation scheme in the Bridgend constituency alone. It is vital that we continue to ensure that Bridgend’s ex-miners and their families get the justice that they deserve.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rise in National Minimum Wage is a victory for women

A rise in the National Minimum Wage will benefit Bridgend’s lowest paid workers, and women especially.

More than 50,000 Welsh workers will benefit from a rise in the National Minimum Wage from £5.35 to £5.52 an hour from October this year.

This is a victory for Welsh workers. For the past 10 years Labour has worked hard to increase the wage for Wales’ lowest paid workers. Just 10 years ago, some workers were being paid only £1.30 an hour.

Labour appreciates Bridgend’s hard workers and starting this October, no adult over 21 will be paid less than £5.52 an hour. This is especially good news for part time workers - most of whom are women.

Thanks to Labour’s minimum wage increase and the strong Welsh economy, Bridgend workers and their families will not have to struggle to survive. Labour continues to put Bridgend’s people’s welfare at the forefront.’’

The Tories in Parliament opposed the minimum wage. The Liberal Democrats want to vary the level of the minimum wage depending on where you live in the UK, which would punish hardworking Bridgend people. Plaid Cymru's MP's couldn't even be bothered to turn up to vote for the minimum wage.

Yesterday’s announcement means the minimum wage has gone up by almost 30% more than inflation since it was introduced in 1999, with the number of jobs increasing by 130,000 across Wales in the same time.

Since October last year the minimum wage for adults, combined with Working Tax credits and other benefits, has guaranteed an income of at least £268 a week for families with one child and one full-time worker.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Labour to deliver world's best workers for Welsh firms

Labour will deliver the best skilled workers for Welsh firms if it wins May's Assembly election.

As part of its mission to help Bridgend meet the challenges of globalisation, Labour is promising to establish Skills Academies, to provide Bridgend’s industries with the access to excellence in training and learning needed to compete in a global economy.

It is essential that we improve the skills and qualifications of the workforce in Wales so that we can keep our economy growing. This will mean building upon links between local employers and skills training.

Labour is committed to ensuring that everyone in Bridgend is able to learn new skills no matter their age or social background.

Workplace learning is vital in boosting the prosperity of our nation. We are lucky in Bridgend that our key employers are progressive - committed not only to creating more wealth, but also in the wellbeing and future of their workers.

Labour wants to harness the very best teaching provision in Wales and match it with the very best in business innovation.

In the global economy, Labour believes it is our duty to face up to modern challenges, seizing them as opportunities, not hiding away from them as threats. In a world where consumers and business can choose to source their goods from anywhere on the planet, firms based in Bridgend must have the ability to compete with the very best. This means competing on skills, not on low wages.

Wales can lead the world on cutting-edge knowledge work, and Labour's innovative Skills Academies will help make our industries more competitive.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Safer Routes to School will save lives

I welcome the announcement that Bridgend County Borough Council has been given £245k for the creation of Safe Routes to Schools for Cwmfelin Primary, Maes Yr Haul Primary and Llangewydd Junior Schools by the Labour Welsh Assembly Government.

Too many children are hurt in road accidents around schools. 16 children aged 0-7 were killed or seriously injured every week on the roads. This is unacceptable.

There can be little doubt that local people want to see Safe Routes to School schemes because they limit the speed of drivers outside schools. But even with Safe Routes we still rely on drivers to act responsibly. We need to educate more drivers on the need to slow down.

In car accidents involving children, at 40pm 90% of children are killed. At 30mph half of all children are killed. At 20mph one child in twenty is killed. Even a small drop in speed, especially round schools, saves lives.

Cars kill more kids than cancer. That is why, if re-elected, the Labour Party will introduce a £100 million safer roads fund for Wales. We will introduce more Safe Routes to School and more 20mph zones outside schools.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tory council tax plans – “too little, too late”

Council Tax plans announced by the Tories at their conference in Cardiff on Friday (02/03/06) are too little too late for pensioners in Bridgend.

It is nothing more than a cheap attempt to buy some votes on May 3rd. People in the town still remember when the Tories introduced the Council Tax as a replacement for the horrific Poll Tax. In the last year of John Major’s Government, council tax levels across Wales went up by 18% in one go.

We have seen at first hand in Bridgend what happens to Tory promises on Council Tax. During the last local elections, their candidates pledged to keep increases below inflation only to dump the promise straightaway, and betray the people who voted for them, when they jumped straight into bed with Lib Dems.

The Tories change of tune is too little, too late.

Labour recognises that older people on fixed incomes can face problems in the meeting the costs of paying their council tax bills, That is why many people are exempt from having to pay or are eligible for support towards meeting these bills.

Council taxpayers – young and old – are having to foot the bill in this County Borough for the incompetence of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bridgend Male Choir

Congratulations to Bridgend Male Choir on reaching the final of the Male Voice Choir section of S4C’s Cor Cymru 2007 competition which takes place on 31 March in Aberystwyth.

As a vice-president of the choir, I know of the hard work and dedication of choir members who will be bidding to retain the trophy having won it in 2005, the last time the competition was held.

The choir is developing an excellent reputation when it comes to competing on the wider stage. Last year alone they won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, becoming only the second Welsh choir to win it in its 89 year history, and were successful at the National Eisteddfod.

I know that a lot of effort goes in to preparing for their performances and I am sure that the people of Bridgend will wish the choir the best of luck in the final.

The choir will be getting some practice in for the final when they make their debut performance at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff on Tuesday, 20 March 2007 at 12.30pm.

I am looking forward to hearing them perform in the Bay. It is a perfect opportunity for the Choir to show Assembly Members from across Wales how good they really are. They have been great ambassadors for the town with their concerts in all parts of the UK and further afield. It is only right that they should be recognised and given the chance to perform at the National Assembly.

For more information on Bridgend Male Choir, please visit: http://www.bridgendmalechoir.co.uk/.

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