by franklittle on 28 December, 2009
It is nice to see that Peter Hain, MP for Neath, is concerned about the proposals for Neath and Port Talbot of the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales, a fortnight after I blogged about them here, and a month after I wrote of my concerns as they affect Cadoxton to the director of legal services. Mr Hain’s email has been passed to me by a Liberal Democrat member whose name has somehow found its way on to Mr Hain’s mailing list.
Since it has been clear, almost from the date that the proposals were received in the civic centre, that not one council member was in favour, one wonders whether Mr Hain is not pushing at an open door. As one Commission member is said to have remarked to the council leader, “do we have any friends left in Neath Port Talbot?”.
Mr Hain’s later email campaigning against the bus timetable changes is more worrying. The council has a rôle in coordinating bus services, negotiating with all the local operators. Mr Hain appears to be cutting across this.
These are two examples of a Labour MP not seeming to have confidence in his local authority, which happens to be Labour-controlled. Do the cabinet and the MP speak to each other? Or perhaps these emails are an initiative by an intern of which Mr Hain knows nothing?
—– Forwarded Message —-
From: “HAIN, Peter” <HAINP@parliament.uk>
To: “HAIN, Peter” <HAINP@parliament.uk>
Sent: Tuesday, 1 December, 2009 12:39:36
Subject: Peter Hain MP Email
You may or may not be aware that the Boundary Commission Wales has recently published truly dreadful draft proposals for changes to the County Borough Council ward boundaries, including:
A full copy of the proposals can be found at http://www.lgbc-wales.gov.uk/electoral/neath_port_talbot/neathpt_draft_proposals_report_e.pdf
It is clear that who ever has drawn up these plans does not know the area and has made no attempt to look at the local geography or the differing types of community. Instead they have taken a butchers knife to longstanding local communities with no thought as to democratic and community consequences.
These decisions have been purely based on figures with too large an emphasis put on achieving the 1:1750 ratio between Councillor and electorate at the cost of losing the vital link between Councillor and the community they represent.
Cilfrew, Tonna, Cadoxton and Bryncoch have a major dual carriageway running right between them and are miles apart at their perimeters with differing community needs.
Similarly Gwaun Cae Gurwen and Brynamman are miles away from Cwmllynfell and are separated by the Gwrhyd. It is ridiculous to separate the community of Cwmllynfell by amalgamating one half with Gwaun Cae Gurwen and the other half with Pontardawe.
The Commission has just skipped over Ystalyfera and Godrergraig to merge Rhiwfawr with Pontardawe which again is miles away – unless they envisage the tiny mountain road over from Rhiwfawr to the top of Rhydyfro.
The craziest suggestion is to join Tonmawr with the Neath Valley and to put Pontrhydyfen in a ward outside of the Neath Constituency. Not only is the Tonmawr ward in a entirely different valley but it could take half an hour or more to get from Glynneath, at the top of the Neath Valley to Tonmawr in the Pelenna Valley especially if traffic in Neath town was bad as they would have to drive through there. While joining Pontrhydyfen with communities outside of the constituency will be confusing and lead to ineffective representation.
These are distinct communities with their own identities which they are proud of. The Commissioners seem to have looked at a map and not understood the geographical difficulties that their proposal would bring.
Bunching them together would mean they each lost their local County Councillor which I believe is bad for democracy. The Commissioners have placed far too large an emphasis on achieving a common average between councillors and numbers of voters at the cost of losing the vital link between County Councillors and their local community.
The size of the “super-wards” that will be created means that it will be impossible to effectively represent all the communities within them. It will mean the end of that important link between the local community and their County Borough Councillor, someone who is recognised within the community they represent and whom voters can either re-elect or sack. The proposals if implemented would only widen the gap between citizens and local politicians, at the very time when politics is held in such low repute.
I have been inundated with letters, emails and telephone calls about bus services in the Neath area. The decision to end a number of services is unacceptable and has caused chaos, disruption and anger across the constituency. That is why I’ve written to all the bus companies in the area calling for a Bus Crisis Summit in the New Year.
Bus services has been an issue that I’ve campaigned on for a while with the decline of services in Rhiwfawr, Pontardawe and Fairyland in recent months. The issue reached a climax at the beginning of December when First Cymru published a raft of changes to the services.
Bus services in the Neath, Dulais, Amman and Swansea Valleys have been severely affected. Services between Neath and Pontardawe, Swansea and Pontardawe have been reduced to an hourly service with the 125 no longer running to Cwmllynfell or Brynamman. Similarly the 132 service now terminates at Pontardawe, those wishing to travel further to Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen or Ammanford have to change to a connecting bus.
In the Dulais valley the 158 service will now run between Neath and Seven Sisters leaving the top end of the Dulais valley without a bus service. While the X58 no longer runs direct to Swansea instead passengers wishing to travel from Seven Sisters to Swansea will have to change in Neath.
The service between Glynneath and Neath via Resolven and Tonna has been removed and replace by a bus from Resolven to Neath and a direct bus from Glynneath to Neath. This has created problems for people living in Glynneath who work or visit relatives in Tonna Hosipital.
College students have also contacted me highlighting the difficulty they are facing in getting to lectures on time. Many rely on buses to get to and from college as they have no other form of transport. With the change of timetables and removal of services students are struggling to get to lectures.
For many people, especially the elderly, the bus is a lifeline. It enables them to get to the doctors, to do the shopping, to get to work and to socialise.
People are struggling to make doctors and hospital appointments. Others have been left waiting at bus stops in terrible weather because the connecting bus as either already left or is running late.
These decisions are ridiculous and as a result are leaving people and villages feeling isolated, cut off and abandoned. The situation is a complete mess.
Bus companies are being given huge subsidies from both the Council and the Welsh Assembly to provide a service and they are not doing it – it’s unacceptable.
If you or anyone you know has had difficulty with the buses then please write to me with the details so I Can put these to the bus companies.
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