Monday, 25 April 2016

More images of the campaign

More terrific images from Natasha Hirst of the campaign in Llanelli













All images Copyright Natasha Hirst

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Llanelli needs a plan

This column was published in the Llanelli Star on 22nd April 2016


Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks and months to our steel industry there is no doubt that the Llanelli constituency needs a long-term economic plan.

In my day job running Wales’ most respected think-tank I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of our economy. After a 100 years of decline there’s a lot to be done. But there is much we can do, and we can lead the way here in Llanelli.

Firstly, we need to focus on our existing strengths. Llanelli born Professor Karel Williams - now a leading light at the highly-respected Manchester Business School - has done a lot of work on what he calls the ‘foundational economy’. He thinks we should be making the most out things that may seem everyday, but have potential to really help the local economy if developed in the right way. He suggests three areas: food production, energy production and the care sector.

Around 40% of the workforce in both private and public is employed in these sectors providing goods and services that are taken for granted. It is not generally seen as a glamorous part of the economy and so not enough attention is paid to how we can maximise its impact. This is where we need to start.

We also need to look to the future. Sir Terry Mathews, the man behind the Celtic Manor in Newport, has set out an excellent framework for the wider Swansea Bay region based on attracting the next wave of growth industries.  The revolution in medical technology through gene research offers huge opportunities for medicines adapted personally to each of us, and the idea of a cutting edge research centre at Delta Lakes as part of a ‘wellness centre’ is part of that.

He also points to the potential of Big Data and cloud-based IT for our regional economy - all big future growth areas..

We’re lucky Carwyn Jones asked Terry Mathews to get involved with the Swansea Bay City Region. Let's make the most of it, and draw on his work for the Llanelli constituency in particular.

There’s lots of research and goodwill we can draw on, and great talent within our area to bring together to work out a way of rebuilding our economy over the next 20 years.

That’s what I want to focus on. Llanelli needs a plan -and that will be my priority if I’m elected on May 5th


Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Llanelli needs a plan


This column was published in the Llanelli Star on 13th April 2016

If Port Talbot steelworks is forced to close the ripple effects will be huge.

The Prime Minister must surely step in and save the British steel industry, which is essential not only for jobs but our defence industry and wider economy too. After all the annual cost of bailing out Tata steel would be £122 billion less than the 2008 banking bailout.

Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks and months there is no doubt that the Llanelli constituency needs a long-term economic plan.

In my day job running Wales’ most respected think-tank I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of our economy. After a 100 years of decline there’s a lot to be done. But there is much we can do, and we can lead the way here in Llanelli.

Terry Mathews, the man behind the Celtic Manor in Newport, has set out an excellent framework for the wider Swansea Bay region based on attracting the next wave of growth industries.  The revolution in medical technology through gene research offers huge opportunities for medicines adapted personally to each of us, and the idea of a cutting edge research centre at Delta Lakes as part of a ‘wellness centre’ is part of that.

In addition to that we need to focus on our existing strengths. Llanelli born Professor Karel Williams - now a leading light at the highly-respected Manchester Business School - has done a lot of work on what he calls the ‘foundational economy’. He thinks we should be making the most out things that may seem everyday, but have potential to really help the local economy if developed in the right way. He suggests three areas: food production, energy production and the care sector.

There’s lots of research and goodwill we can draw on, and great talent within our area to bring together to work out a way of rebuilding our economy over the next 20 years.

That’s what I want to focus on. Llanelli needs a plan -and that will be my priority if I’m elected on May 5th



Saturday, 16 April 2016

Standing up for Trostre



Joe Gallacher, the Works Manager at Trostre steelworks, is deeply committed to his industry. After spending ten years as the manager of the steelworks at Port Talbot, he has been overseeing Trostre for several years. He is surrounded by senior managers with long and rich experience of the trade.

I mention this because when First Minister Carwyn Jones sat down with Joe Gallacher, his team, and senior trade union representatives, at the plant on Monday, it was clear that this team are passionate about their plant and its workforce.  

While local MP Nia Griffith met with Business Secretary Sajid Javid in Westminster, Carwyn Jones and I updated the Trostre management and unions on his talks with the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Carwyn also took us through his talks with Liberty Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta.

It was clear from the meeting that Carwyn Jones and Joe Gallacher will do all they can to save the works.

The sale of the TATA steel plants throw up a range of challenges and complexities. Port Talbot and Trostre are closely linked, and Trostre is closely linked to the plants in TATA’s European arm. To disentangle any of these is going to be complicated. But if that’s what it comes to, I have little doubt that the team at Trostre can do it.

At a political level a solution is going to require the Welsh Government and the UK Government to work together. The Chancellor, George Osborne, has agreed to find a solution to the pension fund deficit to allow TATAs business to be attractive to new buyers. The Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said he’ll consider taking on some of Port Talbot’s debts as part of a ‘co-investment’ between a private buyer and the Government.

For his part Carwyn Jones has been praised by One of Wales' most successful entrepreneurs, Sir Chris Evans, for his role. The Port Talbot born businessman said this week that “Carwyn Jones has been strong and clear with London. He has stood up for Port Talbot and for British steel making. Even in these hard pressed times he will find £60m from Welsh coffers for Port Talbot and so London should find 20x that amount for starters!”.

One thing is clear, sorting the ownership will not be enough. If we want to keep a British based steel industry the Government needs to put in place an active industrial strategy - ensuring the steel is competitive, and there is a market for it in this country.


All photos are the copyright of Natasha Hirst


Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli


Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Llanelli campaign in pictures

I'm lucky to have three talented volunteer photographers to help me create a photograhpic record of my election campaign in Llanelli. Here are just a few from the last few days.

Please note they own the copyright to the images.


Credit: Natasha Hirst


Credit: Jamie Morris


Credit: Daniel Damaschin



Credit: Natasha Hirst


Credit: Jamie Morris


Credit: Daniel Damaschin


Credit: Jamie Morris


Credit: Natasha Hirst


Credit: Jamie Morris


Credit: Natasha Hirst



Credit: Daniel Damaschin



Credit: Daniel Damaschin


Credit: Daniel Damaschin

And finally a photo of Jamie and Daniel by Natasha

Credit: Natasha Hirst

And a photo of Natasha by Jamie




They are each on Twitter:

@HirstPhotos
@danieldamaschin
@rugbytog 

Cutting the queues at Hendy





When the schools go back on Monday it will be clear to see from the increase in the number of cars on the road. Traffic around town, and especially onto the M4 at Hendy, has been a lot less congested during half-term, but it will be business as usual as the holidays end.

Tailbacks are common as people from Hendy & Pontarddulais queue from one direction, and people from Llanelli queue from the other, to get on the M4 in the morning. This is bound to get worse with the plan for 750 new homes in Pontarddulais and 91 new homes in Hendy.

With so many people from this area commuting to work in Swansea and Cardiff it is crucial that the bottleneck is eased.

I’ve been discussing what can be done to help with Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Government Deputy Minister who is standing for Labour in Gower in next month’s Assembly elections. With Pontarddulais in the Gower constituency, and Hendy in the Llanelli constituency, it is vital that we work together.

We have agreed to team up, if we are both elected, to push the new Welsh Government that will be elected in May to fund a feasibility study for a Park & Ride station in the area to ease pressure on the motorway junction.

Building a new Motorway junction would cost Millions and would do nothing to address congestion further down the motorway that would come from the extra traffic generated by all these new houses. We’d like to see a serious effort made to cut traffic by making it easier for people to share cars, or ease their journeys by using park and ride.

People used to operate an informal ‘park and share’ at Hendy by leaving their cars underneath the motorway bridge, and we know from parking problems in residential streets that some people still do - so there is demand already. What we’d like to see is a proper site where people can leave their cars and lift share, or catch a regular bus into Cardiff or Swansea.

A feasibility study will need to look at the most suitable site, which destinations there would be demand to run an express bus service to, and the viability of keeping such a scheme going. It will certainly be enormously cheaper than remodelling the junction or building a bigger road.

If Rebecca Evans and I are in the Assembly together after May’s election we’ll be teaming up to make sure this problem is dealt with. We want to make sure that the situation is improved for commuters and villagers.


Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on 8 April 2016

Sunday, 3 April 2016

NHS needs solutions not slogans


This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on 1 April 2016


Lee Waters and Health Minister Mark Drakeford on a hospital ward in Llanelli (Photo: Alan Evans)


I think the NHS is one of our greatest achievements as a country over the last 70 years, and one of our biggest challenges over the next 70.

There have now been two major independent studies showing that the NHS in Wales is on par with other parts of the UK. Under strain, yes - but performing well, and providing excellent care in many areas.

But over the next month we will hear endless attacks on it during the election campaign.  Some of the complaints will be valid.  I know from my own personal family experience there are shortcomings.  But we have to balance that against the enormous challenges that the NHS faces.

Across the UK the health service is facing a very tough time. The reasons are well rehearsed - people are living longer, but often with health complications; medical advances and drugs are putting pressures on budgets, and overall demand is growing at a time when austerity is biting.

We need to have an honest discussion about the best ways of tackling these pressures if we are to sustain the NHS  In my experience election campaigns tend not to bring out the best in people when it comes to honest discussions.

For example, Plaid Cymru rightly point out that there is a shortage of doctors and nurses. This is not unique to Wales but a UK-wide issue with many hospitals struggling to recruit.

Despite the fact that there are now a record number working in the NHS in Wales (we have recruited an extra 1,000 consultants since we came to power) there’s still a difficulty filling the vacancies - but not for the want of trying. Part-time working, the large number of GPs retiring and a difficulty attracting doctors in particular specialties all pose problems.

These are real practical challenges NHS managers across the country are struggling with every day. But Plaid say it’s simple, they’ll recruit 1,000 new doctors and 5,000 new nurses. But where from?

It takes 10 years to train a GP, 14 years to train a surgeon, and three years to train a nurse. Where will Plaid suddenly magic this new workforce from? And how will they pay for it? It just doesn’t stack up. Especially since at the same time as they’re going to be recruiting these non-existent doctors and nurses they’re going to be re-organising the NHS in Wales.

Their hugely disruptive plan is to strip Health Boards of responsibility for family doctors and hand them to County Councils. Under Plaid’s plan they’d take GP services, nursing and community care out of the NHS and give them to Carmarthenshire Council to run. It will change the NHS as we know it; and I’m not sure it will inspire the confidence of many doctors and nurses.

What’s more, in the name of integrating health and social care (a laudable intention) they’d be opening up another split instead - a division between primary and secondary care. In seeking to solve one problem they’d simply be adding to another one.

And on top of that they don’t know how much this will cost, or how long it will take.

We face serious challenges keeping the NHS functioning when the Tories are slashing spending and imposing privatisation in England - serious challenges demand serious solutions. Plaid haven’t presented them.


Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli