Sunday, 8 November 2015

Politics doesn’t make any difference?

This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on October 30 2015
What’s the difference between Labour and the Tories, Neil Kinnock was once asked. “We are the builders, they are the destroyers”, he replied; “”we build, they destroy”.
That quote came to mind as I was showing the Welsh Public Services Minister, Leighton Andrews, around Station Road in Llanelli this week. We visited a number of projects that have benefited from reforms brought in by Welsh Labour, but now face decimation from the cuts being enthusiastically pursued by the Tories in Westminster.
Llanelli Women’s Aid were full of praise for the groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act that the Assembly passed this year. I worked closely with Leighton Andrews on the 2011 referendum to give the Assembly the power to make laws for Wales, and I shared his pride that amongst the first laws passed was this law to help tackle domestic violence.
Llanelli Women’s Aid are rightly held up as pioneers in their efforts to tackle gender-based violence. Their impressive Director, Vicky Pedicni, explained how they had helped 44 women escape violent partners in the last year by giving them a safe place to stay. They have just succeeded in getting Comic Relief funding to help younger women with mental health problems as a result of experiencing abusive situations.  They have even successfully fundraised to enable them to work with violent men to break their cycle of behavior.
Seeing the passion of the whole team at Llanelli Women’s Aid gives you hope. But they are fearful of the consequence of a 20% cut in funding from Carmarthenshire Council.
Their great advances could be undone in the name of austerity – a political project to cut back the size of Government under the cloak of paying off debt. It's a political con-trick, but the casualties will be victims of domestic violence in Llanelli.
Leighton Andrews and I also spent time with Police discussing some of the challenges they face in Station Road. The Minister was keen to see the difference that Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) make on the front line. Even though the Assembly doesn’t have power over the police, Welsh Labour have prioritized funding 500 PCSOs across Wales over the last five years. The Police Officer covering the area described the PCSOs as her ‘eyes and ears’ – crucial in picking up intelligence which helps keep the town safe.

We also met Vanessa Marsh, a community activist who could not speak highly enough about the difference the PCSOs had made in tackling anti-social behavior and the so-called ‘petty crime’ which can make people's lives a misery.
But the ability to keep funding PCSOs in threatened by the relentless Tory cuts.
Neil Kinnock was right, more than a decade of careful building by Labour is being gradually destroyed by the Tories.
We built, they’re destroying.
Don’t let anyone tell you that voting doesn’t make a difference.
Lee Waters is Welsh Labour’s Assembly candidate for Llanelli.

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