- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature, Media
Politics, like most things, has its own cycle of events that come back around. Just as the New Year brought with it the usual flood, wind and snow disruption, it also heralded a warming up of political campaigning, ahead of the General Election in May.
Five months is a long time in politics, as Harold Wilson didn’t quite say. There will be lots of twists and turns between now and May. What does look certain, though, is that health will be one of the key battle grounds. Giving evidence to MPs on the Commons’ Welsh Affairs Committee earlier this month, the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, made the point that two Welsh health boards’ (Aneurin Bevan and Powys local health board) A&E waiting times are better than in neighbouring areas across the border in England.
As an Assembly Member, I can only affect change in Wales. I realise, however, that the National Health Service will only be sustainable as long as it remains just that, a national service. People living near the border deal every day with that reality. As we await the decision on where accident and emergency services will be situated in Mid Wales and Shropshire, it is critical that Powys resident’ needs are considered – we all need the NHS to be fit and healthy on both sides of Offa’s Dyke.
In my experience as a former Pembrokeshire councillor, local politics can be even more turbulent than national politics. Powys Council has a new ruling group of “independents”. What is the difference between an “independent group” and a political party, I wonder? My constituents know that I am a member of the Labour Party. It gives them a fair idea about where I stand on issues like social justice, health, education, the economy and so on. That is why I am on my guard when people make out that politics and principles are unimportant and even harmful to democracy. You know the sort of thing. Slogans like “People not Politics” is strong on alliteration but weak on sense.
In any case, the important thing is that the group can deliver stable government. We know about the financial pressures in Powys. However, budget cuts cannot be an excuse for poor service. Last week I wrote a letter to the council outlining the concerns that I have received about the quality of care packages following the 2014 procurement of home care services. I wrote:
“Carers being two hours late for morning calls, 12 different carers attending a client in one week and carers afraid to take sick leave are not what should be expected of an efficient domiciliary care service.”
In October, the council reported to the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) that it would undertake an independent review of its commissioning and retendering process. I have asked for an update on that review.
Finally, unlike January weather, something I was pleased to see come round again was news about Newtown’s bypass. There have been many “milestones” over the years – but news that the Welsh Government has outlined under Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) land required for its construction is a significant step forward. With a proposed completion date of 2017, this is one story that might not come back around much longer.