Joyce Watson MS’s County Times ‘Politically Speaking’ column For publication 9 October 2020
Plans to close the Stadco car parts factory in Llanfyllin, announced last week, are devastating, not least because it seems staff were the last to know. To lose one of the largest manufacturing employers in the county would be a huge blow at any time; to lose it now, when people are anxious about the future and their livelihoods, is shattering. At the time of writing I have asked to raise the matter in the (virtual) Senedd Chamber on Tuesday – I hope to get urgent answers for the 129 workers and their families.
Let’s hope a solution can be found similar to what’s been achieved in Newtown, where 70 former Laura Ashley workers have been re-hired by Fashion-Enter Ltd. Thanks to Welsh Government support, the not-for-profit company secured a major contract with online fashion retailer ASOS, enabling them to open a new production facility at the Pryce Jones building. Brilliant news for those workers and a boost for the town. I look forward to visiting the new site when it’s up and running.
The pandemic necessarily dominates the Welsh Parliament’s agenda, but we can’t neglect other important issues. I recently asked the environment minister about poultry farms in Powys. You may have seen the news that that a 120,000-bird farm in Llangadfan has been given the go ahead – and that of the 96 applications for chicken farms received by Powys Council between April 2017 and April 2020, 75 were approved and only three refused. Campaigners are increasingly concerned about the cumulative environmental impact of Powys’ ever-expanding poultry industry. I am too. So I am pleased the Welsh Government has appointed a special group to look at how planning authorities decide these applications.
With Cardiff in local restrictions, I am attending the Senedd virtually at the moment. And I am attending lots of online community meetings and events too. On Wednesday Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees met to discuss setting up a group in south Pembrokeshire, to help the asylum seekers being housed at Penally military training camp. When we have a Tory UK government considering holding people on Ascension Island, oil rigs and ferries – and using wave machines to keep migrants from landing in Britain – thank goodness there are more humane people in our communities.