• LOCAL AM WELCOMES WELSH GOVERNMENT FIGURES ON SCHOOLS

    Swansea West AM, Julie James has welcomed the figures released by the Welsh Government, which revealed more than 80% of Swansea schools are now in the top category and require the least amount of support.

    Schools are categorised using a colour coded scheme with green the top category followed by yellow, amber and then red.

    The primary purpose of categorisation is to identify the level of support schools require, and in doing so direct support and resources in the most effective way to secure the improvements necessary in the school system; and as a result, raise standards and performance in Wales.

    Ms James, AM said: “The results released paint a very pleasing picture with progress made right across the County.”

    “The categorisation system offers a holistic approach to school improvement, and it is evident that this approach to raise standards and performance is beginning to pay dividends.”

    The majority of secondary schools across Swansea have maintained or improved their position since last year, and none are in the category requiring the highest level of support, while the majority of primary schools have also maintained or improved on their previous positions.

    Ms James added: “Hardwork by teachers, staff, pupils and parents are paying off in Swansea West-Sea View Primary moved out of the red category to amber, while Dylan Thomas also showed clear improvement moving from amber to yellow.

    “It is also great to see schools in some of Swansea’s most deprived areas performing well, with Terrace Road and St Helen’s Primary both categorised green, while Penybryn Special School, which takes children from across the County, also secured a green categorisation.

    All schools will get some support even if they are categorised in the top bracket.

    Schools in those categories requiring most support will now benefit from additional support and resources so they can advance their improvements too.

     

     

  • 68% of households in Swansea West could be missing out on energy savings of £327 a year

    Research published today by energy regulator Ofgem shows that up to 68 per cent of households in Wales could save up to £327 on their energy bill by moving from a standard tariff to a fixed deal.

    • Consumers in Wales who move from a standard tariff to a fixed tariff can save around £327
    • Around 886,000[1] households in Wales are likely to still be on standard tariffs and could be better off moving to a fixed deal

    Ofgem’s research also found that the majority of the cheapest tariffs were fixed with some deals at around £792 per year, compared to£1,119[2] for the average standard variable tariff with one of the larger suppliers.

    Research by Ofgem and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) shows that across the country around 68% of consumers are still on expensive standard tariffs. This trend would translate in Wales into around 886,000households on standard tariffs.

    Ofgem CEO Dermot Nolan said: “Ofgem’s research shows that many customers in Wales now could be better off to the tune of around £327 by moving from a variable rate to a fixed rate deal.

    “Nearly half of all consumers switching are now moving to independent suppliers and not only are consumers benefiting from greater choice of supplier, but Ofgem has strengthened consumer protection for those choosing fixed tariffs.

    “So there has never been a better time to go energy shopping and our Be An Energy Shopper website gives you independent advice on how to get a better energy deal and links to Ofgem-accredited switching sites.”

    Julie James, Swansea West AM said: “I would encourage all my constituents to go energy shopping this winter.

    “It’s now easier than ever to find the best deal and you could save up to £327 a year just by switching from a standard tariff to a fixed deal.”

    [1] Based on data regarding household sizes in 2011 census

    [2] Average annual energy bill for a customer on a standard variable tariff with one of the larger suppliers, paying by Direct Debit

     

  • Swansea West AM welcomes BT jobs boost

    BT has announced it will be recruiting 100 new posts to its Swansea base, on top of their recent recruitment of 50 people.

    All of the jobs will be frontline roles in customer care. The company wants to recruit new advisors to answer customers’ queries, as well as apprentices and some graduates.

    The new roles in Swansea form part of an overall commitment by BT to create 1,000 permanent jobs across the UK, between now and April 2017.

    Julie James, AM, welcomed the announcement: “This is a big boost for the local economy and it is a testament to the quality of the local workforce and I am delighted that BT continues to invest in Swansea.”

    BT’s Consumer division has already filled an extra 1,000 roles in its UK contact centres, to enable it to service more of its consumer customers in the UK. The first location to benefit from the announcement will be Swansea, where the additional 100 customer service roles will be on top of the 50 extra advisors recently hired at the site.

    Alwen Williams, director for BT Cymru Wales, said: “Swansea is increasingly playing a key part in BT’s strategy both in terms of its customer care initiative but also its ultrafast broadband delivery – which is great news for the local community and economy.”

    “These new permanent posts in the customer care team will provide rewarding career opportunities within BT, and reflect positively on the good work that our team are already doing in Swansea, and the quality of the workforce that we can draw upon in Wales.

    “These are exciting times for the telecoms industry and this announcement reinforces the value that BT places on customer care, and also our commitment to Swansea and Wales.”

    BT Consumer has committed to improve customer service and is spending an extra £80m over two years to boost performance, in addition to the hundreds of millions it spends each year on service.

  • Geraint Davies MP and Julie James AM donate tents, sleeping bags and hundreds of items of clothing to refugees.

    A collection of essential goods arranged by Swansea West Geraint Davies MP and Julie James AM, has been delivered to the Swansea based charity, S.H.A.R.P, where it will move to European refugee camps.

    syria Collection

    Geraint Davies MP said: ‘life for refugees in camps across Europe is already enough of a struggle, and now with the winter here, it is even more difficult. With all the work S.H.A.R.P, along with other charities throughout the country are carrying out, hopefully life can be a little bit easier for these victims. The people of Swansea have shown that they are willing to do their bit and make a difference for people in unimaginable situations. Swansea Council is playing its part, now the government needs to do more to help ease the situation’

    Ms James also praised the generosity the people of Swansea have shown. “The response to the appeal has been overwhelming and I am extremely proud of the work organisations like S.H.A.R.P carry out but tragically the crisis continues to worsen. This has already been the biggest humanitarian catastrophe since WW2 and with winter on the doorstep I am deeply concerned that the suffering of thousands of refugees stranded in Syria and in Europe will escalate

    Nizar Dahan from S.H.A.R.P said: ‘S.H.A.R.P has recently sent over 18 tonnes of clothing and 7 tonnes of food to Germany Austria, Calais, Dunkirk, Samos and Syria. We have supported 10 local families and as we expand, we are starting a joint project with Zac’s Place in Swansea where we will support local homeless projects. As people donate clothing, food and money through us, they can be assured that we are not only helping refugees from around the world, but also homeless people in Swansea.’

  • Letter responding to Chris Holley-Labour’s interest end in South East

    Following the publication of a letter by Mr Chris Holley “Labour’s interest end in South East” commenting on Labour’s track record in South West Wales, some fellow Labour AMs and myself felt that we deserved a right of reply. We have therefore drafted the letter below and would appreciate it if you would publish this in response to Mr Holley’s letter:

    In his letter (South Wales Evening Post, December 1st) Chris Holley impudently claims that Labour’s interest in Wales ends in the South East of Wales and Cardiff.

    Mr Holley needs a quick fact check-perhaps we can remind him that thanks to the Welsh Labour Government, the Swansea Bay region has undergone much-needed improvements to its transport, education and tourism facilities.

    Unlike his Party that propped up the Tory Government for five austerity driven years, the Welsh Labour Government has remained committed to working for all the people of Wales.

    The Tory Prime Minister and Chancellor have both repeatedly claimed the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, rail electrification and the protection of the UK’s steel industry were priorities, but this has sadly proven to be nothing more than meaningless rhetoric.

    But Labour has delivered for South West Wales- From investment into ABMU services to the new state-of-the-art Swansea Bay University campus (which is estimated to introduce £3bn into the local economy), UWTSD development at SA1, the major redevelopment of Neath Town Centre, the investment in the 21st Century Schools Project, the investment in the 21st Century Schools Project, and the cap on charges for home care. The benefits of the Welsh Labour Government in South West Wales is clear for all to see.

    Welsh Labour Government has worked for the people of South West Wales from cradle to career. Though times are tough and funding is tight, the Welsh Labour Government is committed to supporting our people.

    Thanks to our Free Breakfasts in Primary Schools scheme, a nutritious free school breakfast is available to every young person in a primary school who wants one. Through the Jobs Growth Wales scheme launched in April 2012, the Welsh Labour Government has created over 2,000 meaningful jobs for young people aged 16-24 in the area.

    South West Wales, like the rest of the country, continues to benefit from EU investment and nearly 3,000 jobs have been created in Swansea, more than 1,100 have been created in Neath Port Talbot while almost 30,000 participants have gained qualifications thanks to European money, backed by the Welsh Government, across the region.

    There are also a series of exciting plans in the pipeline for the region, which would see Singleton Hospital develop into a centre of excellence for diagnostic and same-day care, and Morriston Hospital double in size and become a regional centre for specialist treatments. This transformation of hospital services will revolutionise the treatment patients in Swansea and the South West receive.

    The Swansea Bay City Region, headed by Sir Terry Matthews again with Welsh Government support, has an ambitious programme to work towards a common goal of creating economic prosperity for the people who live and work in our City Region.

    The list goes on and there is no doubting that the Welsh Labour Government has had a positive impact on the people of South West Wales. As we move towards the Fifth Assembly, it is clear that Wales will continue to thrive only under a Welsh Labour Government.

    Signed by Welsh Labour AMs:  Julie James (Swansea West), Mike Hedges (Swansea East), David Rees (Aberavon), Edwina Hart (Gower), Gwenda Thomas (Neath), Rebecca Evans AM, Labour Welsh Assembly candidate for Gower and Jeremy Miles Labour Welsh Assembly candidate for Neath.

     

  • Minister announces extra Help to Buy a home

    The Welsh Government has today announced it is investing up to £290 million in the second phase of Help to Buy –Wales.

    Between 2016 – 2021, the funding will aim to support the construction of more than 6,000 additional new Welsh homes, significantly boosting Wales’ building industry and making home ownership achievable for thousands more families.

    This second phase of Help to Buy – Wales builds on the success of the current £174 million scheme, which has already helped around 2,400 people buy their home, with another 650 applications in the pipeline.

    Wales’ housing sector continues to go from strength to strength, with recent statistics showing that during 2014-15, a total of 6,955 new homes were started, which is a rise of 20 per cent on the previous year.

    Announcing the scheme at St Lythans Park in Cardiff, Communities Minister, Lesley Griffiths, said:

    “Today’s £290 million investment clearly demonstrates this Government’s commitment to encouraging housebuilding and helping people achieve their goal of owning their own home. I am pleased, to date, our Help to Buy – Wales investment has given 1,784 first time buyers the help they need to get their foot on the property ladder.

    “We are seeing sustained growth in Wales’ house building industry and today’s announcement will strengthen this further by increasing the supply of low-deposit mortgages available to people looking to buy a new home. This is a huge boost to the Welsh construction industry, and our economy as a whole, which will provide thousands of new jobs and training opportunities for people across Wales.”

    As with the current scheme, the second phase of Help to Buy – Wales will continue to provide shared equity loans of up to 20% of the price of a new build property up to the value of £300,000. This equates to loans of up to £60,000 interest free for five years and at below-market rates thereafter.

    Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation said: “We welcome confirmation of the extension of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme. Help to Buy is absolutely key to the industry’s ability to build the homes Wales needs.

    “If people can buy, builders can build and so helping more people get on to the housing ladder will directly increase the rate at which homes are built, and the increased certainty for builders will support longer-term investment in land and labour. Wales has an acute housing shortage and only by building more homes can we start to address it. Increasing house building will also create more jobs and boost local economies in every area.”

  • Schools across Swansea Say No to Bullying

    Schools across Swansea sent out a clear message that bullying will not be tolerated in any form as they celebrated Anti-Bullying Week with various activities.

    Swansea Labour AMs Julie James, Mike Hedges and Edwina Hart, who supported the Anti-Bullying Week initiative, were delighted with the innovative way schools in Swansea tackled the subject.

    Labour’s Welsh Assembly Gower candidate Rebecca Evans was also full of praise for the approach schools in the area undertook to mark Anti-Bullying Week: “It is brilliant to see schools in Gower using original and fun ways to tackle and raise awareness of bullying such as the ‘Kind Hands, Kind Words’ campaign in Gowerton Primary, or the ‘Let’s make a noise about Bullying’ campaign in Pontarddulais Primary.

    “It is important that children feel they can discuss bullying – whether it is happening to them or to someone else, face-to-face or online.”

    Across the city in Swansea West, Brynmill Primary held events all week culminating in a special assembly with all pupils wearing blue to school, while in Waunarlwydd they highlighted their peer mentor and buddies scheme where pupils can turn to if they are being bullied. 

    Swansea West AM, Julie James said: “How we prevent and tackle bullying is key to the mental, emotional health and well-being of children and it was wonderful to see schools take this message to heart across Swansea West.”

    Mike Hedges, Swansea East AM was also impressed with schools in his constituency response to Anti-Bullying Week.

    Haford Primary School’s Rights Respecting Group made a film about bullying and what it is, Trallwn Primary School got behind the ‘Say No’ campaign with pupils posting selfies while Plasmarl welcomed PC Dawn Mort to talk to pupils about cyber safety.

    Mike Hedges AM said: “Anti-Bullying Week provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of speaking out against bullying. There is not a simple answer to end bullying but giving children a voice and making them part of the solution is key and I was overwhelmed with how schools across Swansea East took part in Anti-Bullying Week.”

     

  • Swansea West AM condemns Tory spending plans

    Julie James AM has criticised the UK Government’s “smoke and mirrors” spending review. The Assembly Member spoke after the Chancellor delivered his speech to parliament, setting out the UK Government’s spending plans for the next five years.

    The spending review means that Welsh Government spending power will fail to keep track with inflation and that between 2015-16 and 2019-20 there will be a real terms cut to the Welsh Government’s total Budget of 3.6%. The spending review also saw the UK government give into pressure and perform a dramatic U-turn on cuts to tax credits and announce a funding floor for the Welsh budget, but only for this parliament.

    Ms James said “Residents across Swansea will not be fooled by this smoke and mirrors spending review and, as always with this Tory UK Government, the devil is in the detail of these spending plans.”

    “The spending review represents a real terms cut to a Welsh budget which has already had £1.3 billion of cuts imposed on it.“

    “I am also worried that the UK government is still not properly committed to fair funding for Wales and I cannot understand why the funding floor is limited to this Parliament.”

    “I and many others in the community have campaigned hard against the UK Government’s proposed cuts to tax credits, which would have hit families in Swansea West hard. I am delighted that, together, we have forced the Government into a u-turn on these cuts.”

    The Spending Review follows five years of significant cuts to Welsh Budgets, which have seen a £1.3 billion cut from the Welsh Governments block grant since 2010/11. The Tory UK Government has also presided over the slowest recovery in living memory and has failed to meet their own fiscal targets.

    It also comes after the announcement of official UK Treasury figures which show that Wales spends 7% more per head than England on health and social services health and 4% more than England, per head, on education. Expenditure on public services is £9,904 per head or 11% higher than in England.

  • More than 600 people treated by ‘flying doctors’ in first six months on board Wales Air Ambulance

    Wales’ ‘flying doctor’ service has given life saving treatment to more than 600 people in its first six months.

    The pioneering emergency medical care service for Wales provides treatment usually only available in hospitals. The enhanced service started in April this year as a result of a unique partnership between Wales Air Ambulance Charity and NHS Wales backed by new Welsh Government funding.

    Missions included carrying out surgical procedures at the roadside, 21 blood and blood product transfusions and 82 emergency anaesthetics.

    More than a third of emergency calls were to treat either heart attacks or patients in cardiac arrest (38 per cent), and one in five missions were to care for patients involved in road traffic collisions.

    The doctors joined Wales Air Ambulance Charity flights in April as part of an enhanced emergency care service developed in partnership with NHS Wales, the Welsh Government, and the Welsh Blood Service.

    As well as adding consultants to flights, the enhanced service also introduced pioneering equipment and treatments developed from armed forces emergency medical care. This included being among the first civilian services in Europe to carry three separate blood products, allowing the critical care team to provide blood transfusions at the scene of an emergency.

    The consultants are joined on missions by critical care practitioners – advanced medics that received specialist training to join the enhanced service.

    Nineteen critical care consultants and twelve critical care practitioners (CCPs) are now flying with the Wales Air Ambulance across Wales. Using both the air ambulance and road vehicles, the ‘flying doctors’ can reach 95 per cent of the population within 30 minutes.

    Dr Ami Jones, a lead consultant specializing in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine, is one of the flying doctors working on the air ambulance’s South Wales helicopter.

    Dr Jones said:

    “It’s been a fantastic year, and I’ve no doubt that there are people living in Wales today that wouldn’t be here had it not been for the care we’ve provided.

    “There have been some incredible cases where the availability of doctors at the scene of an incident has saved people’s lives, and the addition of blood products has been particularly important.

    “Recently we were required to administer blood products at two separate incidents in one day, which is really unusual. Thanks to having quick access to a supply of replacement blood products, we were able to treat both patients and get them to hospital for the specialist care they needed.

    “The ability to reach a patient in 20 or 30 minutes and provide lifesaving treatment gives them a much better chance of survival. It’s been a busy first six months, but we’re all really enjoying the challenge.”

    Wales Air Ambulance Charity CEO Angela Hughes said:

    “The availability of doctors on board Wales Air Ambulance flights has undoubtedly saved lives across Wales. “In about half of the cases attended, the team delivered skills and treatments not routinely available outside of hospital in Wales, saving time and saving lives.

    “The new rapid response vehicles have been an additional benefit, when we need to reach patients during adverse weather or after dark.

    “This is an exciting time for pre-hospital care in Wales. The development of our new airbase in Carmarthenshire will be yet another step in building our air ambulance operation, giving our doctors the latest technology and facilities to carry out their missions. “We couldn’t do this without the incredible generosity of our supporters.”

    The Welsh Government is providing £2.868m from 2015-16 to support the enhanced service. The Wales Air Ambulance continues to rely on charitable donations to raise the £6m required each year to keep the air ambulances flying.

    Wales’ Deputy Health Minister, Vaughan Gething said:

    “The Welsh flying doctors are proving to be a big success, and I’m delighted to see Welsh Government investment is helping save lives.

    “During the first six months, hundreds of people from right across Wales have been given life-saving treatment by highly skilled consultants and a wider medical team at the scene of an emergency, using some of the most advanced medical equipment available anywhere in the world.

    “This has transformed our ability to provide the very best care to the most critically-ill patients across Wales, but especially in our more remote and rural areas.”

  • Swansea AMs Welcome Implementation of New Organ Donation Law

    From 1st December 2015, the way that we choose to become organ donors will change and now is the time to understand what this means and to talk about it with loved ones, that is the message from Swansea Labour AMs Julie James and Mike Hedges.

    Residents can do one of three things from December 1st:

     

    • Choose to donate all or only specific organs, by registering their choice to be a donor.

     

    • Do nothing, which will be treated as having no objection to donating any of their organs – this is called “deemed consent”.

     

    • Register their decision not to be a donor.

    Swansea West AM, Julie James said: “Organ donation saves lives. Many of us have friends or relatives who are waiting for a transplant and it is crucial that the wait is as short as possible.”

    “In 2012/13, 36 people died in Wales whilst waiting for an organ transplant as a donor could not be found. Very few people die in circumstances where organ donation is possible and it is therefore important to make it as easy as possible for people who want to become an organ donor to do so.”

    “The new opt-out system will make it much easier for people in Wales to become organ donors and increase the number of organs available for people waiting for life-saving transplant surgery.”

    Mike Hedges Swansea East AM, meanwhile, is urging local residents to tell their loved ones about their organ donation decision, so that they can make sure it is respected. A person’s organ donation decision can be changed at any time.

    Mike Hedges AM said: “I want to make sure that residents in Swansea fully understand what will happen on December 1st. I would urge everybody to talk to their loved ones about their wishes and to visit the Organ Donation Wales Website at www.organdonationwales.org for further information.”

    Wales is the first country in the UK to introduce this “soft opt-out system” for organ and tissue donation. It is estimated there are around 250 people on a waiting list for a transplant at any one time. The Welsh Government hopes that this legislation will lead to a 25% rise in the number of organ donors in Wales