- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
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The Welsh Parliament returned from summer break this week. Mid and West Wales is a big area, larger than the other four Senedd regions combined. So, recess is a great opportunity for me to visit people and projects around the region. And it’s an opportunity for them to bend my ear!
A hot topic this summer has been the new 20mph speed limit, which comes into effect on Sunday. Not everyone is in favour. But many people, especially those living on and around restricted roads, are delighted. I agree – it will make our towns and villages safer, more pleasant places. It won’t be appropriate everywhere, of course, and local authorities can make exceptions.
As with any big change, there are costs and benefits. Driving at 20mph can feel slow. But if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle moving at 30mph, they are around five times more likely to be killed than if they are hit at 20mph. Stopping distances are almost halved. The new limit will save up to 100 lives and 20,000 casualties over the next decade. At the end of the day, those are the costs and benefits that matter.
At Senedd question time on Wednesday, I spoke about fuel prices. It comes off the back of data that shows there were nearly 300 excess winter deaths in Wales last year, because of people living in cold, damp homes. Energy bills have doubled in the past three years. Fewer than 5 million of the UK’s 28 million households are unaffected. Around 8 million households borrow money to pay for energy and more than 1 million have disconnected for periods this year. Everyone else is cutting costs or using savings. Meanwhile, the big energy companies have just announced record profits.
The Welsh Government is doing what it can. Its Fuel voucher and Heat Fund last year provided the Fuel Bank Foundation with £4m to support households at risk of disconnection, supporting more than 19,000 payments. But this is a crisis made in Downing Street. A decade of austerity, cuts to benefits, broken promises on tax and a crashed economy. Labour has proposed a windfall tax on oil and gas giants to help freeze council tax. And last week Labour MPs proposed amendments to the Energy Bill that would cut UK household energy bills by £93 billion and make Britain energy secure for the future. More power to them.
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