Monday, April 30, 2007

Tory / Lib Dem plans for Bridgend school transport cuts

The above photo was taken last Wednesday outside Bridgend Council when parents from Brackla held a protest against Tory-Lib Dem plans to implement huge cuts in its free school transport provision.

The parents hired a campaign bus to ferry them from Brackla to the Civic Offices where they were met by myself and Mel Nott (Council Labour Group Leader). They handed over a 884 signature strong petition in opposition to the proposals.

I have made my views on this issue clear since the Tories and Lib Dems first made their suggestions public back in December.

These proposed cuts in provision will hit pupils and students across the County Borough. Hundreds of young people in Bridgend depend on subsidised and free transport to get to and from their schools and colleges and if these changes go ahead, many of them will be adversely affected.

Parents whose children will be excluded from the free transport scheme under these plans will be hit with a double whammy if they need to send them to school on the same buses but as paying customers instead. For the average family, with say two children of school age, the Lib Dem/Tory coalition’s proposal to double charges will cost parents an extra couple of hundred pounds per year. It is also likely that if these cuts go ahead then parents will opt to take their kids to school by car instead, creating more pollution and congestion on the town’s roads.

If the council decides to reduce the post-16 transport funding then a lot of young people will be deterred from continuing in education and training which will have important implications for the local economy.

People will also be highly sceptical of their proposals in relation to pupils attending denominational or Welsh medium schools. It is quite clear that they are looking for ways of cutting back expenditure in that area. Families have the right to send their children to these schools and they should not be penalised financially for doing so.

The council was due to discuss the matter at the full council meeting on Wednesday but it was taken off the agenda. That decision was particularly disappointing for all the parents who had made such an effort. However the protest clearly showed the strength of feeling that this has caused and I am sure that they will be back out in force when it comes around again.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Harriet Harman MP visits Bridgend

Harriet Harman MP officially opens my campaign office in Wyndham Street, Bridgend. (l-r) Cllr David Sage, Janice Gregory AM, myself, Harriet Harman MP, Madeleine Moon MP, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, John Bunker

Harriet Harman MP, Minister for Justice at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, came to Bridgend last weekend to help support my election campaign and officially open my campaign office in Wyndham Street in the town centre.

Having a Labour Assembly Government has made a huge difference to the lives of the people of Bridgend. I was able to show Harriet how the increased investment in public services, such as health and education, and our commitment to regenerating Bridgend is transforming the fortunes of local communities.

The choice for the electorate is a clear one. A vote for Labour is a vote for a government that has changed Wales for the better with 130,000 more people in work, investment in the NHS doubled and prescription charges scrapped. A vote for any other party will leave us with the Tories in government and a return to the bad old days of Thatcher and Redwood.

It is a huge privilege to have been able to serve the town in which I live as the first ever Assembly Member for Bridgend. It would be a massive honour to be asked by voters to continue to build on those achievements over the next four years.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Working at the car wash......

This a picuture taken at Saturday's sponsored car wash event.

The volunteers have worked really hard in their fundraising efforts but still need more help.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by sending it to The Bridgend Deanery Pilgrimage Trust, c/o, St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ewenny Road, Bridgend

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Supporting Bridgend Deanery to raise money to send sick and infirm to Lourdes

This Saturday (14th Apr) I would like to encourage as many local car owners as possible to go along to the Fire Station in Bridgend between 10am and 4pm where the Bridgend Lourdes Group will be raising much needed cash via their annual sponsored car wash.

Why not join me in having your car washed and help with raising the essential funds that are required in sending the sick and infirm to Lourdes.

Each year about 25 young people from the Archdiocese of Bridgend travel as part of the Welsh National Youth Pilgrimage to Lourdes. The purpose of the pilgrimage is to accompany the sick and disabled pilgrims on their journey. There are a variety of duties which the young people have to do from, washing, dressing, feeding and toileting the pilgrims, to taking them to various masses and processions to even simple tasks like talking to, spending time with and listening to what they have to say.

I cannot praise enough the work that has been undertaken in recent years by this dedicated group of young people, many of them still teenagers in school or college.
Not only are they are a credit to the local community and to their families here in Bridgend, but their own personal selflessness to this worthy cause needs to be recognised.

This Saturday there is an opportunity for the wider community to get involved and help these young people to help others.

Come along and support them!

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rail line chaos

Network Rail really do need to account for the massive disruption being experienced by passengers on the Cardiff to Swansea line due to the overrun of engineering works to test a new signalling system.

The line will now be closed for the rest of the week, with services replaced by buses, despite the deadline for work to be completed expiring on Easter Monday.

As a regular traveller on the line, I appreciate the need for improvements to be made to the infrastructure but the patience of passengers is being sorely tested with the announcement that services are to be disrupted until the weekend when they were originally told that things would be back to normal by Tuesday at the latest.

Hundreds of people in Bridgend rely on an efficient rail service to get to work in Cardiff or Swansea. The replacement bus service is putting a lot of extra time onto their journeys. With the vast majority of children off school this week, a large number of families hoping to get out and about for the day are also being affected.

Network Rail needs to provide answers to passengers as to why they did not anticipate such an overrun. They need to conduct a full inquiry into why this has occurred and lessons need to be learnt to avoid this happening again in the future.

The events of the last few days are extremely damaging for the reputation of rail. At a time when we are trying to encourage people to use public transport as much as possible, passengers need to have full confidence that services are going to be returned to normal as soon as possible.

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