Gerald Jones MP

Putting Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney at the Heart of Parliament

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My Westminster Week Column

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August 2017

Not having to be in Westminster for the Summer Recess has meant that I have had the opportunity to visit a range of community projects across the constituency as well as meeting with key organisations delivering services to local people.

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I was pleased to catch up with Tracey Burke of Canceraid Merthyr
who will be celebrating the 10th  Anniversary in their purpose built centre in a few weeks time.

 

My background of working in the voluntary sector has always given me an appreciation of just how valuable volunteers are. Many of the projects that I have visited just would not happen without the commitment and dedication of volunteers. Volunteers are a lifeline to projects such as our foodbanks, summer schemes, CancerAid, Helping Hands, our Charity shops, our Churches & PTA’s, our Community Centres and youth projects and our many sports clubs.

I know that VAMT & GAVO hold an annual event to recognise the work of volunteers and having spoken to volunteers in the past, I know that these events are appreciated. However, the work volunteers do to support many community projects and services is something we should all acknowledge every day we use or benefit from such a project or service.

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Congratulations to The College Merthyr for 100% pass rate in this year's A Level results

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Along side my Assembly colleague Dawn Bowden AM are organising a Job Fair at the Ael y Bryn Community Centre, Rhymney on Friday 8th September, starting at 10am.

The event will bring together employers, training providers and partner organisations to highlight the job opportunities that are available locally. If you would like to hear about opportunities with employers such as EE, General Dynamics & Trago Mills, please come along.

For more information on the Jobs Fair please ring my office on 01685 383739.

This event is the latest in a series of community events that Dawn & I have held to offer support, advice and information to our constituents and follows on from the Voluntary Sector Funding Day held at Merthyr Football Club in June.

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I had a fantastic day at the South Wales Police Community Fun Day
in Cyfarthfa Park a few weeks ago

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A great day in Vaynor Show catching up Beacons Mountain Rescue.
 I will joining the Beacons Mountain Rescue team on their sponsored walk in a few weeks time.

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You can find out what else I've been up to by looking at my diary here

This piece is based on an article originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above. 

Importance of Our Volunteers & Jobs Fair

August 2017 Not having to be in Westminster for the Summer Recess has meant that I have had the opportunity to visit a range of community projects across the constituency...

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March 2017

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I was really pleased to attend the St Davids Day reception
with the First minister and Shadow Wales team in London

 

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I'm extremely pleased that both Caerphilly County Borough Council and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council have a decision to scrap charges for children’s funerals. This is following a campaign by my friend and parliamentary colleague Carolyn Harris MP who herself lost a child some years ago and had to take out a loan to pay for the funeral. 

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Labour MP Carolyn Harris delivering an emotional address to the house over Child funeral fees

 

The Labour Party, along with the Daily Mirror is asking the Government to set up a national fund to take this added burden away from bereaved parents. Merthyr Tydfil CBC and other local authorities are leading the way in showing compassion and this is all the more appreciated given the financial pressure that all councils are under following Tory austerity cuts.

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In a recent session of PMQ’s I raised concerns regarding the UK Governments plans to introduce a cap on the amount of housing benefit a household is eligible for from 2019. 

This local housing allowance is set by the UK Government and it is different in each local area. In Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, the allowance is lower than the rents charged by housing providers and it will mean that housing benefit will be capped and any shortfall towards the rent will have to be paid by the tenant.

I asked the Prime Minister about the Proposals:

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Despite a plea to the Prime Minister to issue clear guidance, Theresa May did not have an answer.  

The Westminster Government’s welfare reform agenda has already caused significant hardship for many  people here in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney and now these further proposals create further anxiety & stress for people. I will continue to press the UK Government to address this issue and at the very least exempt older people. I will also be pressing for more consideration for a realistic local housing allowance rate for our area.

 

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I was very proud to be at to be at the LGBT flag raising ceromony
at Merthyr Civic Centre for LGBT history month

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A lot of recent work has been done by Keep Wales Tidy, local volunteers and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council to clear fly tipping from mountain roads and other areas of the County Borough. All involved in the ongoing clear up deserve thanks and congratulations for what is often a thankless job.

It is unfortunate that much more work needs to be done. In addition, no sooner is an area cleared, more rubbish is dumped. It saddens me because at a time when our council’s budgets, like many across the UK, is being slashed as a result of ongoing austerity measures by an uncaring Tory Government, scarce funds should be utilised for services that local residents need such as schools, social services, leisure services, roads etc.

Instead, the council is forced to spend money clearing up litter and fly tipping. This is such a waste of money. It is well known that a mindless few cause this problem but the cost of dealing with it is met by us all through the public purse. Those responsible should be ashamed and the council deserve our support in prosecuting and naming anyone proven to be involved in this activity.

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I was pleased to Welcome Shadow Health Secretary Angela Rayner to Merthyr Tydfil
to deliver this years Keir Hardie Lecture

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I was very pleased to speak up for WASPI women at the demo and in parliament,
however I was very dissapointed that the government failed to take sufficient action in the Budget

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You can find out what else I've been up to by looking at my diary here

This piece is based on an article originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

Scrapping Child Funeral Fees & Keeping our Communities tidy (MAR 2017)

March 2017 I was really pleased to attend the St Davids Day reception with the First minister and Shadow Wales team in London   *** I'm extremely pleased that both...

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February 2017

 

Parliament has now voted to trigger Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the European Union. The vote was one that I and I’m sure all MPs did not take lightly. As the representative of Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney constituency, I considered the views of the people in our area who voted in last June’s referendum and the views of the hundreds of constituents who have contacted me in recent weeks. As we know the majority of people in our area, in Wales and across the UK voted to leave the EU. There are some that say, the result of the referendum should be set aside for a variety of reasons. I cannot accept that. 33million people took part in the referendum, one of the biggest democratic events in decades and I believe that the result has to be respected. It was not the result that I had hoped for or campaigned for but it was the view of the majority of people across the country to leave the EU. After careful consideration, I supported the motion to trigger Article 50. The referendum created huge division in our country with families and communities on different sides of the argument. The task for the Government and indeed all of us now is to try and heal those divisions. Leaving the EU will be a tricky process with many obstacles and challenges but quite possibly opportunities too. A key priority must be the protection of the jobs we have in our area that are supported through our trade with the EU. We also need to ensure that we retain our environmental and consumer protections, safeguard the status of EU citizens living in the UK and of course protect the workers’ rights that have been secured through our membership of the EU.

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This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

Article 50 (FEB)

  February 2017   Parliament has now voted to trigger Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the European Union. The vote was one that I and I’m sure...

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January 2017

 

The start of a new year is always looked upon with optimism and hope, at least initially. It is clear that the big political issue of 2017 will be triggering article 50 and starting negotiations to leave the European Union.

As an individual and a Labour Party member, I campaigned for the UK to remain within the EU as I believed and still do that there are many more positive aspects of our EU membership than there are negative ones, however, I and my party respect the result of the referendum and the decision taken by the British public. The task now is to ensure that we get the best possible deal from our exit.

My understanding is that once Article 50 is triggered a clock will start to tick and we will have 2 years to agree the terms of our departure. If no agreement is reached, we will still leave without agreements in place.

I have met with people and businesses across Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney who are deeply concerned about the future for their businesses because of the uncertainty that exists. I have been highlighting these concerns in Parliament and pressing Government Ministers to give clarity on what their plans are following EU exit. Unfortunately, the Government have shown little sign as yet that they even have a plan let alone start to implement it.

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Gerald visiting businesses in Merthyr Tydfil for Small Business Saturday where the Governments plan for Brexit was a reoccuring topic of concern

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The news that Caerphilly County Borough Council is likely to keep their council tax increase to a minimum (1%) is welcome. The UK Government’s austerity cuts have had a huge impact on local communities and local families and any additional financial burden would cause further hardship. The Council, like all local authorities and public sector organisations have had huge budget cuts as a result of UK Government austerity and with all the pressures on council services, the council have done well to prioritise and ensure that any additional financial burden on residents is kept to a minimum. I understand that a 1% increase works out at around 19p per week for a band D property.

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Caerphilly Council offices in Ystrad Mynach

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 I would like to offer my congratulations to Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and partners inc. Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust on securing grant funding for Cyfarthfa Park. Cyfarthfa Park & Castle is a significant part of our industrial heritage and it is hugely positive that funding will be available to enhance the facilities to ensure they remain in place for future generations as well as remain a key part of our local tourist trail.

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Gerald at Cyfarthfa Park 

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I met with Network Rail recently to discuss their work at Tirphil station. I am aware from issues raised by local residents that there been a number of concerns that have caused frustration to residents and motorists using the A4049 through the Upper Rhymney Valley. Although Network Rail have had a number of complications with regards to timescale from highway issues to legal agreements with utility companies etc. all of this has hampered progress on site. The new access ramp (including the gradient) has to be constructed to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act to ensure that people with disabilities can access the station. The recent meeting was positive in that Network Rail confirmed that they have resolved outstanding issues and are hopeful that work will be fully completed by the end of February.

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Progress at Tirphil is encouragingand the improvements should be complete by February

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Just a reminder for anyone needing help or advice on an issue, I hold fortnightly advice surgeries around the constituency. If the surgeries are not convenient, my constituency office is open at Oldway House, Castle Street, Merthyr Tydfil, Monday – Friday during office hours. Alternatively, please call 01685 383739 or email Gerald.jones.mp@parliament.uk

 

This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

New year column (JAN 2017)

January 2017   The start of a new year is always looked upon with optimism and hope, at least initially. It is clear that the big political issue of 2017...

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December 2016

 

Christmas is a happy & joyous time for most people. Many families have time to spend together over the holiday period, more than they do throughout the remainder of the year with the hustle and bustle of modern life. Please remember though that there is a world outside our front window and think of those for whom Christmas is a difficult and stressful time, including those who have lost loved ones, those who are ill or live alone and indeed those who have no home.  Please also think of those continuing to work throughout the festive season including the Emergency Services & Primary Care Workers, Council Services such as Refuse Collectors, Postal Workers, Shop workers, all who have an increased workload at this time of year.

 

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Visiting Prince Charles Hospital to thank Staff for all their hard work over the Christmas period

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UK Government austerity has caused hardship for many families in our area. We are living in uncertain times where families, including more families in work, are forced to use food banks due to cuts to tax credits, zero hours contracts or the rising cost of living. I see this regularly with the many hundreds of cases that I have tried to help throughout the year when people have attended one of my advice surgeries or contacted my office. Britain has become a more unfair country under this Tory Government. Our communities, more than ever need to be resilient. We are blessed with strong community spirit, perhaps not as strong as it was but it is still there. We have hundreds of dedicated volunteers who support foodbanks, night shelters and a wide range of charities and groups that help promote a spirit to help us through the difficulties our communities face. We must acknowledge and thank them all.

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Finally I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year from myself and the Team

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This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

Christmas Message from Gerald Jones MP (DEC 2016)

  December 2016   Christmas is a happy & joyous time for most people. Many families have time to spend together over the holiday period, more than they do throughout...

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November 2016

 

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Tory MP's looking Glum after the Autumn Statement downgraded Growth forecasts

 

Last week’s Autumn Budget by the Chancellor confirmed that the Tories’ austerity agenda, which caused misery to people across the country and devastated public services, has failed to balance the books as they had promised. The UK Government made the wrong choices and cut investment rather than continue to invest to create jobs. It appears that the Government will still not admit they are wrong, they are continuing down their path of austerity now promising to balance the books in the next Parliament around 2021. We are due a General Election in 2020 so hopefully the election of a Labour Government will turn things around. 

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Making notes while the Shadow Chancellor delivers his response to the Autumn statement

 

The Government have made much of the £400m investment that they announced in the Autumn Budget for Wales but let us be clear, this investment, as welcome as it is, will take place over 5 years and is as a consequential result of the investment that the Government is making across the UK, this in effect is Wales’ share. The Welsh economy is facing a challenging period, with uncertainty over exiting the EU creating difficulties for many local businesses, the Government really need to step up to the plate and offer some clarity.    

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Supporting Small business Saturday

 

This coming weekend (Sat, 3rd Dec), I will be spending time visiting as many small businesses and high street shops as I can to support Small Business Saturday. This has become an annual event taking place on the first Saturday in December. We know that many of our local High Streets and Town Centres have struggled in the financial climate we have seen in recent years. Local shops are up against stiff competition not least from online shopping but if we value having a thriving High Street, please offer small businesses whatever support you can in the run up to Christmas and throughout the year.

The Federation of small business is also encouraging people to commit to spending £10 locally in independent small businesses for Small Business Saturday. A great initiative, I hope that many constituents will join in the #10PoundPledge and support our great local buisinesses in the run up to Christmas. Don't forget to keep informed about all the events taking place on the day by checking on twitter using the #SmallBizSat

 

This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

Six Wasted Years and Small business Saturday (NOV 2016)

November 2016   Tory MP's looking Glum after the Autumn Statement downgraded Growth forecasts   Last week’s Autumn Budget by the Chancellor confirmed that the Tories’ austerity agenda, which caused...

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October 2016

No one in our communities or indeed across the country could fail to be moved by the recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. For most people outside Aberfan / Merthyr Vale, the scale of the loss suffered in 1966 is unimaginable. This year's anniversary, more than most meant that the media focus was once again on Aberfan. Whilst that is understandable given that people across the country and further afield wanted to show their respect, the intense media focus could not have been easy for bereaved families, survivors and the wider community. Despite the media focus, the dignity and resilience shown by the whole community is something that was deeply humbling to all of us present in the community to commemorate the disaster. The people affected by the Aberfan disaster will always be in our thoughts but we should also be proud of the courage, dignity and sense of community that they have demonstrated.

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Speaking at the Concentrix Westminster hall debate earlier this month

 

In recent weeks I have taken part in 2 parliamentary debates called to discuss the administration of the tax credits system by the private company Concentrix. Along with many other MP's I have been inundated with complaints from parents who have had their income suspended on wrong information forcing many families to struggle and in some cases to use foodbanks. It seems that 95% of cases have been reinstated because the information was found to be incorrect, which begs the question, why were families, including many here in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, forced into a desperate situation in the first place. As many will know,the government have now announced that they will not be renewing this contract when it expires in May. This whole debacle brings into question the role of private companies in administering contracts on behalf of HMRC and DWP, an area on which Labour will continue to press the Government to take action. 

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Cyfarthfa Park has been nominated in the Fields in Trust UK’s Best Park, 2016 Award as voted by YOU! Fields in Trust have been protecting vital outdoor space for sport and recreation since 1925 when it was founded as the National Playing Fields Association, by King George V.   The UK’s Best Park Award gives the public the opportunity to vote for their favourite local green space before the closing date of 9th November. The top park in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be shortlisted before the winner is announced on 30th November. If you would like to support Cyfarthfa Park, please vote online at www.fieldsintrust.org

If you would like to tweet your support, please consider using the hashtag #Loveyourlocalpark

 

This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

A busy October (OCT 2016)

  October 2016 No one in our communities or indeed across the country could fail to be moved by the recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster....

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Spetember 2016

No doubt many will be aware of the serious concerns about the UK Government’s administration of the Tax Credit system in general, and around their current provider Concentrix. Recent publicity has highlighted that Concentrix failed to meet its agreed performance standards 120 times in just under a year and as a result, the HMRC have now taken action in announcing that the Concentrix contract will not be renewed. There are questions about the administration of the Tax Credit system and about Concentrix in particular. In the last month alone I’ve received a significant amount of correspondence from constituents specifically regarding Concentrix, evidence of the huge amount of anxiety that is being caused. Labour MPs are planning to call for an Opposition Day Debate to highlight these concerns when Parliament sits next week.

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Last week I had the privilege of attending the Volunteering Celebration, organised by VAMT, at the Redhouse.  As someone who has spent many years working and volunteering in the sector, I recognise the significant role that volunteers play in our communities. Volunteers do what they do for a variety of reasons, sometimes the work they do goes unrecognised, therefore, it is important that ceremonies like the one held last week and similar ones held by GAVO in the Rhymney Valley help to ensure that we do not take volunteers for granted.

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Recently, I was delighted to attend Merthyr Tydfil Annual Business Awards at Cyfarthfa Park. It was great to have the opportunity to show my support to local businesses and recognise their achievements in a tough economic climate. We all know it’s been a really tough time for everyone in recent years, including the business community. I also attended a meeting of the Merthyr Tydfil Business Club to offer support and to discuss ways of working together for the benefit of our area.

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I was also lucky enough to attend the Caerphilly Homes Annual Awards. It was an opportunity to show support for the work being done to transform homes, lives and communities as part of Caerphilly CBC’s work under the Welsh Housing Quality Standards Programmes. It was great to see the contribution from many tenants, including a significant number from the Upper Rhymney Valley and others associated with the investment playing their part in this taking this work forward.

This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

Concentrix concerns and Awards season (SEP 2016)

  Spetember 2016 No doubt many will be aware of the serious concerns about the UK Government’s administration of the Tax Credit system in general, and around their current provider...

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August 2016

This year was lucky enough to be at Merthyr College for A level Results Day as the college achieved a record set of results, with a 99% pass rate for the 2nd year. It was also great to congratulate Rachel McKeown from Aberfan becoming the first student from Merthyr College to have secured a place at Cambridge University.

I also had the recent pleasure of visiting Rhymney Comprehensive for the GCSE Results Day a week later, as the school achieved its best ever results. There was an equal mix of nerves and excitement on the day for both Students and Staff, but it was great to see all the hard work paid off with the school receiving a best ever result rate.

All students should be justifiably proud of their achievements and I offer my congratulations to both students and staff on this great set of results.

***

As the new school term begins I am writing to all schools in the Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney constituency to invite them to organise a trip to the Houses of Parliament. A number of local schools have already been. Information on arrangements for tours can be obtained through my office and if the tours are booked via the Parliamentary Education Service, 50% of the transport costs can be covered. I am also keen to make a contribution towards the cost of travel to ensure that a visit to Westminster is affordable and accessible to local schools. Parliament has so much history and heritage to see, I am keen that as many schools as possible experience this. Any schools interested should contact my office on 01685 383739.

 *** 

Recent reports that David Cameron & George Osborne didn’t build council houses as they felt this would create more Labour voters goes to highlight the contempt that the Conservatives have for ordinary families across Britain. Denying families the chance of a home just to suit their political ideology demonstrates just how out of touch the government is. Thankfully, housing is devolved in Wales, however, these comments tell us a lot about the mindset of the previous Conservative leadership and how they regard ordinary families. This is yet another reason why we need a strong Labour Party to oppose this government.

 

This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

Record results and Tory Council house politicking (AUG 2016)

  August 2016 This year was lucky enough to be at Merthyr College for A level Results Day as the college achieved a record set of results, with a 99%...

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July 2016

Parliament is currently in recess for the summer which leads some people to think that MP’s are on holidays for the whole time. Whilst that sounds nice, it’s not the reality. Most MP’s take a week or two on holiday but the rest of the time is spent fitting in meetings and events that we do not get time to attend when Parliament is sitting. 

I am using the time to meet with South Wales Police, Gwent Police, the Leaders of Merthyr Tydfil & Caerphilly Councils as well as meet with local businesses and community projects. I have also taken the opportunity with Dawn Bowden AM & councillors to organise door knocking sessions in local communities to take up concerns from residents and to deliver contact information should anyone need our assistance in the future. Further door knocking sessions are planned in August & early September.

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Following the EU referendum, I held a recent advice surgery for EU citizens concerned about the impact of Brexit. A number of people attended to raise concerns about the uncertainty they are now experiencing. A small number of families are also experiencing comments that do not make them feel welcome in communities where they have made their home. I hope that these incidents do not escalate and that instead we can all promote a spirit of friendship.

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Women born after April 1951 may be affected by changes to pension entitlement. Figures show that there are over 3,000 women affected in this constituency.  I am supporting a national campaign, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) to allow greater transition to the new arrangements. I have held 2 recent advice surgeries on this in Merthyr Tydfil & in Rhymney. If you think you may be affected or if you would like to sign the petition, please get in touch with my office on 01685 383739

 

This article was originally published by the Merthyr Express and the Rhymney Valley Express. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised or would like to know more, feel free to contact Gerald using the contact tab above.

Summer Work and Community meeting (JUL 2016)

  July 2016 Parliament is currently in recess for the summer which leads some people to think that MP’s are on holidays for the whole time. Whilst that sounds nice,...

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