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Time for Change

Local residents and businesses are sick to the hind teeth of the pantomime that is currently the Conservative Government at the UK level. In meetings and my regular surgeries and on the streets, people are telling me they do not want another change of Prime Minister decided by a few Tory MPs. They do not want another turn of musical deckchairs on the Titanic and more ministerial pay-packets and pay-outs. The people of Ogmore and Bridgend are demanding their say in the ballot box in a General Election.

Because local people are sick of the instability of an incompetent and chaotic Tory government; sick of soaring inflation and mortgages and a cost-of-living crisis turbo-charged by a reckless mini-budget; sick of Conservatives prioritising lifting the cap on bankers bonuses over helping low-paid families and pensioners; sick of public services and health and social services across the UK (because Wales can only invest what we get from Westminster) being starved under the last decade of Tory austerity, and the threat of more to come; sick of rising numbers of poor and homelessness and food banks; sick of how the UK has declined socially and economically over the last 12 years of Tory misrule, and the international laughing stock we have become.

What has really struck me are the sheer numbers of former Conservative supporters locally who have spoken to me quietly – or sometimes more loudly – at the margins of a meeting or a community event to explain how they do not recognise the party they once admired any more, and can no longer support them. They believe that this Conservative government has long outstayed it’s welcome, and that the country needs change.

Their mood was summed up by long-serving Conservative MP Charles Walker last week, who looked like a broken man after another chaotic day in parliament this week when he said ““I think it’s a shambles and a disgrace. I think it is utterly appalling. I’m livid.” He continued “I’ve had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box not because it’s in the national interest but because it’s in their own personal interest to achieve ministerial position.”

That about sums it up and sums up the anger of local residents right now. At the very time when they need competent government and stability, they have chaos. When they need government which puts the interests of householders and business and people facing a cost-of-living crisis first, they have Tory MPs serving their own interests. When they need decency and integrity and values in their representatives, they see shallow self-interest and Tory party interest instead. To quote our First Minister who rightly said in the Senedd this week “What sort of world do they belong in?”

Local people are telling me that this is not time for another Prime Minister chosen by a few hundred Conservative MPs. It is time for another government, chosen by the millions of voting public across the UK. It is time for change.

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Pensions …yawn! But what if they could help save the planet?

The recent announcement by RCT and WLGA Council Leader Andrew Morgan of his intention to work to reduce and ultimately remove – sooner rather than later – fossil fuels from the investment portfolio of  RCT’s pension funds is hugely welcome. This stance has also been publicly backed by council Leader Huw David, as Bridgend shares the pension fund with RCT and Merthyr.

Why is this important?

Leadership on climate change and decarbonisation goes deep into every aspect of our lives.

It’s not just the things we do individually though those are truly important: the way we holiday (like cutting down on those travel emissions) and what we consume (like lower carbon-miles, food and reusing and recycling) and the way we get around locally (like walking and cycling if we can) and so many more choices in our everyday lives. They all matter, and whilst none of us are saints we can all make a difference.  

It’s not just the grand occasions of international diplomacy – successful or otherwise – like the UN COP26 in Glasgow. Though heaven knows unless the nations of the world get their act together decisively and urgently then we will never be forgiven.

Sometimes it’s the mundane but powerful things like pensions. Yes, boring, yawn-inducing pensions! Like most people, we tend not to think about pensions much on a daily basis, unless we are approaching retirement. They are things we put money into, stuff the pension paperwork deep into a cupboard draw (okay, I know you all do it on-line nowadays!) and then forget about it.

But pensions are hugely powerful instruments in the drive towards decarbonisation. For too long, the hyper-investment by pension funds in lucrative fossil fuels has not only driven pension dividends but has propelled carbon emissions upwards by incentivising greater and greater investment in increasingly damaging exploitation of fossil fuels (and in increasingly fragile parts of the world). So workers are inadvertently and unknowingly fuelling the climate crisis and damaging the planet, because of the pension choices being made in their names.

Yet it’s fascinating – and reassuring – that pension funds investors are finding that divesting from fossil fuels has a neutral or slight positive affect on the value of pensions. So in divesting away from fossil fuels you and I do not lose out and – even more importantly – the planet and our children and grandchildren win! Moreover, pension fund managers are increasingly seeing declining returns on investment in fossil fuels anyway. There are better investments to protect our future pensions, and to protect the environment.

So, to see the leadership by council leaders like Andrew Morgan and Huw David is truly welcome. They’ve understood the importance of looking after the pension value of their workers, but also looking after the planet for the coming generations. It is far-sighted, and in-line with Wales “well-being of future generations” approach. It echoes the approach increasing numbers of Welsh local authorities, though we need to get that message to ALL our local authorities in Wales.

It also echoes the leadership shown in the Senedd pension scheme when in 2020 it announced a divestment strategy couple with new investment into a Sustainable Return Fund. If pension funds historically have boosted investment in fossil fuels and driven climate change and global heating, now they can help reverse this and focus on truly sustainable investment.

Change like this does not happen without public pressure, long-running campaigns, and people and organisations who counter the well-funded misinformation of the fossil-fuel lobby with evidence-based arguments of why the change is urgently needed (and why pensions will prosper with a more sustainable investment portfolio).

It also takes real leadership on the ground from pension funds, and from council leaders and the Senedd and others to make the change.

Who said pensions are boring. They could help save the planet.

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What do we Need? An Integrated Transport Plan for Bridgend & Ogmore! When do we want it? NOW!

Okay, so “An Integrated Transport Plan for Bridgend and Ogmore” doesn’t really trip off the tongue as a campaign slogan. But it means what it says and says what it means. We need it now!

One of the greatest frustrations I have – and shared by many constituents from Gilfach Goch to Caerau Park to Pontyrhyl – is the lack of a joined-up transport masterplan for the area. Or to put it more succinctly: far too often you can’t get to the shops or your job or the doctor or to see your friends when you need to, if you rely mainly on public transport.

And I say that as someone who regularly uses the train and bus, and cycles and walks a fair bit too. I’m a public transport and active-travel (walking and cycling) fanatic. Even with the best will in the world though, trying to do my bit to support public transport and to save the planet by travelling greener is not always easy. Sometimes it’s downright impossible. And it must be the same for all of us.

This is not just a Bridgend phenomena. It is a Wales-wide and a UK-wide phenomena, with the major exception of London (see below) and (partially) some other major metropolitan city-regions which are steadily getting their act together. Wales is also heading down the same track of “taking back control” of our transport network, with the expanding Metro developments and laws coming soon to take back control of our bus network.

The reasons why we’ve got to this sad point across the UK are many. Noticeably, the one part of the country where passenger numbers on buses (and wider public travel) has increased markedly over the last couple of decades is London. They kept their control of integrated travel – including prices and timetables – through Transport for London. The rest of the UK was left to go to hell in a handcart.

The utterly disastrous decision under Maggie Thatcher decades ago to deregulate buses led to a free-for-all competition in the bus market. It didn’t drive up standards and increase routes. It led to profitable routes being fought over till competition was killed off by larger and larger players, unprofitable routes being cut unless government could throw taxpayer subsidies at them, a patchwork of standards and customer service, and the absence of any integrated timetabling and ticketing. The exception was London.

Thatcher’s (yes her again, I’m afraid) privatisation of the railways – splitting train operators from track and rail maintenance – meant increased competition but not always increased services and customer satisfaction. Again, it led to fragmentation of the rail network, hampering efforts to have a more joined up rail network let alone a wider integration of bus and rail.

Even more recently, transport services have been hammered throughout the course of the pandemic. The staff and drivers on our rail and bus and coaches deserve praise too for keeping going through these last couple of years. Yet without Welsh Government and taxpayer support, our public transport would have simply gone under by now.

But even before this, bus routes were shrinking year on year. Yes, local authorities had been able to step in here and there to try to correct market failures over the last few decades, by subsidising (offering taxpayer cash) to bus operators to run “unprofitable” routes. These “unprofitable routes” are often the feeder routes for the larger milk-runs of course. Without the unprofitable routes (thank you taxpayer) the commercial routes would wither and die (think of a bus version of the Beeching rail cuts).

But local authorities were punished in the post-2010 decade through year-after-year austerity cuts from the Tories in Westminster. That’s just a hard fact. Tough cuts across a range of council services were commonplace and unavoidable. Subsidised bus routes were often one of the casualties: the collateral damage of Tory austerity.

More importantly, these “unprofitable routes” tend to be the ones which are also most disadvantaged and suffering transport-poverty. Just so you know what I mean by transport-poverty, I can simplify this even further: it is those communities and families and individuals who have no access to their own car. Of course, there are plenty of people who have to struggle to run a car to get to work and get around, especially with the rising costs of petrol right now.

But the most transport-poor are those who have no car. They have no alternative. They will be isolated from work, from friends, from shops and socialising, from routine doctors’ appointments and from being part of their own community.

If you live on top of Maesteg Park – a great hilltop community above Maesteg – then it can feel pretty isolated unless you can get down that hill to the main town centre. From top Maesteg Park to Go Bananas grocery it’s only about a mile. But it’s 80 metres descent down to town, and 80 metres ascent back up. If your older and infirm, or have any mobility problems, you are not going to be walking that!

There is now no service bus there and hasn’t been for a few years. There is no service bus either in Caerau Park either. To get to the shops it’s a mile and 70m descent down and 70 m ascent back. Or Pontyrhyl in the Garw, where the subsidised bus service has long gone and the walk from the end of Rhondda to the nearest bus stop up on the other side of the valley is not quite as far, but after a descent into the valley bottom it’s then a path climbing steeply over 30m to the main road and any chance of flagging a bus down to Pontycymer and the shops.

Huw at bus stop in Pontyrhyl

So, we can keep on putting up with this, or we can do something about it. That is why I absolutely believe that we – Welsh Government and the councils – need to work with local communities to find a way through this. We need an integrated transport plan for the area, developed with and for local people.

This could include some reintroduction of subsidised services to the most isolated communities. But it should also include Fflecsi bus on-demand services, which have been piloted successfully already in other parts of Wales. It should include our brilliant Bridgend Community Transport. It should also include active travel (walking and biking and scooting) routes.

But most importantly of all, we should base our Integrated Transport Plan on the very simple idea that one way or another, no-one should be left isolated in their community through lack of transport options or through lack of information and ease of access to transport. That means a good communication plan to promote the travel options will also be crucial, as well as simple ways to access options like Fflecsi Bws etc.

In the medium term, I am looking forward to the laws we are bringing through in the Senedd (we were only given the powers by the UK government in the last Senedd term) so we can take back control of buses and transport, and reverse the disastrous Tory deregulation and privatisation of the 1980s which has held us back and seen bus and integrated travel wither. Welsh Government’s “One bus, one timetable, one ticket” is the right call.

But we don’t just have to wait for this. We can start right now and make use of the tools we already have. People power locally working alongside the local authorities and Welsh Government is the way to make a difference. Identifying and filling some of the gaps in local provision.

Which brings us back to our rallying cry: “What do we Need? An Integrated Transport Plan for Bridgend and Ogmore! When do we want it? NOW!”

PS: Just replace “Bridgend and Ogmore” with your own part of Wales (or the UK) and we’ve got a grassroots political movement!

Useful additional reading:

On Transport poverty:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/953951/Transport_and_inequality_report_document.pdf

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/news/2022/may/people-in-wales-facing-transport-poverty-reality-says-sustrans-report

On Welsh Government plans, and Fflecsi Bws etc:

https://gov.wales/one-network-one-timetable-one-ticket-welsh-government-sets-out-plans-change-way-we-travel

www.fflecsi.wales

7.6.22 Plenary FMQ’s:  Huw Irranca-Davies MS asks the First Minister

“What support does the Welsh Government provide to deliver integrated public and community transport in the Ogmore constituency which meets the needs of transport-poor constituents?”

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Food Justice Campaign – Help us to help low-income mums and children.

As a Co-operative Party and Welsh Labour Member of the Senedd, I’m campaigning to promote the Healthy Start Voucher scheme, which is vital in helping eligible low-income families buy healthy foods like fruit and vegetables.

We want to see 100% take-up across Wales, but we need your help to spread the word. In my local area of RCT just 66% of Healthy Start vouchers have been claimed, and in my Bridgend area only 62%. This means that £6,154.00 worth of healthy food per month doesn’t reach those who really need it here alone! The picture is worse in other parts of the country.

Healthy Start is a targeted scheme for pregnant women and young children who are most at risk of food insecurity. Eligibility is income-based, and the vouchers are a critical means to increasing affordability of vital foods like fruit, vegetables, and milk that allow healthy food choices.

The Healthy Start Vouchers are currently worth £4.25 – an increase from just £3.10 (!) following Marcus Rashford’s #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY campaign alongside the Cooperative Party too. We are also campaigning to see a rise in line with inflation (see the link below).

Current provision allows eligible recipients to claim 1 voucher a week if they are pregnant or have a child aged between 1 and 4, and 2 vouchers a week if they have a child aged under 1.

The Co-operative Party’s Food Justice campaign has been working to raise awareness of Healthy Start Vouchers and increase uptake to 100%. We’ve launched a tool on our Food Justice Finder website, which allows people to check Healthy Start take-up levels in their area and contact their Local Authority to encourage Healthy Start Voucher promotion.

The Food Justice Finder which shows take-up in your area can be found here: www.foodjusticefinder.com/healthystart

To add your name to the Cooperative Party campaign to increase the value of Healthy Food Vouchers in line with soaring inflation, sign the petition here: Increase Healthy Food Vouchers in Line with Inflation

And if you think you may be eligible for the vouchers yourself, just follow this link: www.healthystart.nhs.uk

Plenary Exchange

During a Plenary exchange recently, I was pleased to hear the Minister confirm that Welsh Government Ministers continue to press the UK Government for an uplift to the welfare food scheme along with other possible enhancements – whilst also outlining the Welsh Government’s commitment to food justice

https://record.senedd.wales/Plenary/12843#C428051

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A Welsh Marcora Law

One of the towering examples of a successful workers buy-out in recent years was … the legendary Tower Colliery. Heck, it was so good they even made an opera about it! But we too easily forget the incredible battles at the time to wrest control of the pit from the Conservative government who were just hell-bent on closure.

Yet the eventual buy-out of the pit by the miners themselves with their redundancy money led to another couple of decades of well-paid work for the miners, and has now spun off into other projects giving life to the area. Zip World near Hirwaun — linked to Tower Adventures — is just the latest reincarnation of the life of this buy-out.

So, what if we could replicate the Tower story a hundredfold or a thousandfold in Wales. What if we could do this not just out of desperation and necessity because of something like the pit-closure programme, but out of design, so we gave workers the right and the resources to buy-out the company they work in if it got into difficulties, or parts of the business seemed unprofitable.

Part of the Welsh Labour manifesto for the last election reads “We will provide greater support for worker buyouts and with the cooperative sector, seek to double the number of employee-owned businesses”. Welsh Government is putting significant resources into this, not least through the work of the Wales Cooperative Centre.

Last week in the Senedd I put forward a proposal for a new ”Marcora Law” in Wales which would seek to give the rights and the resources to workers to do just that. It gained support in principle from the Senedd, from Labour and Plaid Cymru and LibDems. I will now meet with Ministers to discuss this further.

Many communities across my constituency are heavily reliant on just one or two large employers and if circumstance meant that such a business were to close, it would not just be the jobs that were lost but the very lifeblood of these towns. A Welsh “Marcora Law” would give workers the chance to fully or partially buy out the profitable or essential parts of the business.

It was first introduced in Italy almost 30 years ago. During the financial crisis in Italy (2007–2013), the Marcora law saved over 13,000 jobs and preserved hundreds of essential businesses as newly founded Cooperatives. Crucially, not only were communities and businesses saved, but the new Cooperatives often went on to out-perform traditional businesses, typically with the capital invested being repaid six times over.

Wales already has a successful Cooperative economy with firms such as, Drive!, Splash Community Trust, Too Good To Waste and Natural Weigh, all successfully operating under an employee ownership model. The shares of the company are distributed within the workforce, entitling them to say in how the company is run and ultimately a personal investment in the future of the company. This circulates cash into the local economy and allows them to take pride in the business they are building for themselves.

It’s not a silver-bullet, and not for every situation where a company is in difficulty. But wouldn’t it be great if we could give workers the chance to own their own workplace, and secure their own future. That’s what a Welsh Marcora Law could do!

Huw Irranca-Davies MS is the Labour and Co-Op Senedd member for Ogmore

Welsh Fabians 29th October 2021 https://fabianscymru.medium.com/a-welsh-marcora-law-8ee488ff98a2

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Welsh families in low-income households hit by the ‘perfect storm’

Low-income households in Bridgend and Ogmore are currently facing a perfect storm of rising prices, stalled income, and shortages in key employment sectors under this UK Conservative government. Some of the most stretched family budgets will be stretched even more. Some household budgets will struggle to cope.

This is not all the fault of “events” or the pandemic. Conservative decisions are fuelling this crisis in Bridgend, and right across the country.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as the saying goes. Boris Johnson took the country out of the European Union. But his chosen type of Brexit has contributed to a loss of workers such as transport and haulage drivers who make sure affordable food is delivered to our local shops. Nothing was put in place to prepare for this foreseeable event. Similarly, the shortages in staff in our vital social care sector were predicted, as the UK government decided they were not a key employment group for the “shortage occupation” list of workers.

These are not the only reasons for these types of shortages of course. The pandemic is hitting all walks of life and work. But the lack of preparation by the UK government for the post-Brexit scenario is self-inflicted and unforgivable. It matters to the prices of food on our shelves and the care of our relatives and everything in between.

This is incompetence written in large. And Welsh Conservative MPs are supporting this.

They are also supporting a direct attack on our lowest income households and working families in Wales. With inflation now running at 3.2%, and energy and food prices rising, Conservative MPs have inflicted a hammer blow on low-paid working families and others in Bridgend by taking over £1000 a year out of their pockets.

There will be a £20/week cut to Universal Credit, the payment that goes to households on the lowest incomes. This will throw 290,000 children, 520,000 working-age adults and 30,000 pensioners into poverty.

There are more families and pensioners receiving Universal Credit here and in Wales than in other parts of the UK. More than a third of families here in Bridgend and Ogmore will lose out. And – by the way- it will take around £286m out of the Welsh and local economy, from money that these households would have spent in local shops.

What we have here from Boris Johnson – supported by his MPs in Wales – is a brutal combination of incompetence and callous disregard for ordinary people which is driving poverty and cutting household income for the poorest, whilst also undercutting and adding pressure to our over-stretched public services. This perfect storm is not entirely of Johnson’s making, but he is whipping it up with some gusto.

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Damning new report highlights huge under investment of Welsh railways by UK Government

A new report from Cardiff University’s Wales governance centre has discovered that Welsh railway infrastructure would have received significantly more investment if it had been fully devolved to Welsh Government. Whilst Welsh Government has responsibilities for transport operations via Transport for Wales, the UK Government still has overall ruling for rail transport infrastructure.

The damning report confirmed rail infrastructure across Wales could have been £514m better off between 2011-2020 if governed by a devolved administration. It also said, continued failure to invest in Wales’ infrastructure will lead to “further losses to the Welsh budget” in a time when the role of public services has increased dramatically and are under increased strain.

Huw Irranca-Davies MS for Ogmore said: “All the investment we have seen locally – from the new carriage-stock to the upgrades of stations, to the introduction of the Sunday services on the Maesteg to Cardiff line and the proposals for increased frequency of services – have been done with Welsh Government investment.

Yet the scale of what we have lost because the UK government failed to invest is simply astonishing, and the Conservatives in Wales and in the UK parliament should hang their heads in shame”

The trend of under investment is exemplified by the highly anticipated HS2.  Not only does HS2’s designation as an England/Wales project exclude Wales from receiving the additional funding that will flow to Scotland and Northern Ireland over the lifespan of the project – but the Treasury’s recent inclusion of Network Rail spending in Barnett formula calculations will cause a second squeeze on Wales funding.

Worryingly the report estimates that preferential treatment towards the Scottish government over the next five years means the Welsh government is set to lose out on £505m. For comparison an external source determined that the electrification of the Cardiff-Swansea mainline service is estimated to cost £433m, a huge investment which would bring modernity, environmental considerations and jobs to our nation.

Wales Fiscal Analysis researcher Guto Ifan commented in the report that, “It is now clear that only full devolution of rail infrastructure – similar to Scotland – will address the underfunding of Welsh railways”.

For years our railway infrastructure in Wales has been underfunded by the Conservative UK government. They either need to devolve the powers of Welsh rail infrastructure to Wales together with a fair settlement – and making good the underfunding of past years – or they need to start investing in Wales.

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The UK Government have shamefully killed off Erasmus. The replacement had better be really good

As we slip somewhat clumsily out of the back-door of the EU, we have learned that the nations of the UK will no longer have access to the pool of educational exchange that Erasmus has provided. This will come as a huge blow to the students of Wales, but also to the thousands of disadvantaged young people looking to venture abroad to enrich their learning. As we depart from the multi-faceted and universally inclusive scheme that is Erasmus, we must ensure that its replacement replicates its ambitions in providing a ‘global edge’ to our citizens.

The scope of the Erasmus programme is far more than purely a medium of student exchange, it represents a ‘deepening of the internationalisation of learning’[1] at every level.

The scheme has seen an unprecedented increase in educational global cooperation, with more than 10,000 students and staff from Wales participating between the years 2014-2018 alone.

The provision of study abroad semesters are integral to the degree experience of many students, supplementing the cultural and language variations which are essential to becoming an active global citizen. In Wales the educational partnership has seen over 40 million Euros worth of investment since 2014, amounting to 248 projects being deployed in our nation[2]. Reaffirming and building new academic partnerships is essential, but they will need to be built on the foundation of global and domestic inclusivity which Erasmus had provided.

Graduates who have been part of the scheme develop a greater understanding of foreign cultures and can serve as a bridge, between Welsh culture and the global community. Through their propensity to learn a foreign language they have built international networks, which are of benefit not just to them, but to Wales as a nation. Further, the recipients of the programme are far more likely to have developed innovative skills; culminating in the development of new business profited by the networks formed whilst on post. The benefits of these programmes may be invisible when playing a numbers game, but the rewards of this project advance and inspire the economic and cultural versatility of our nation. 

Between 2021-2027 the European Commission has proposed to double the programmes’ budget, alongside offering more short term and flexible options for studying abroad. These proposals target students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who without these provisions may lack the means to take part. Prime Minister Johnson has implied that the Turing Scheme will enable low-income households to access the same opportunities, but as of yet the specifics are unknown. Replicating the provisions of Erasmus+ is a necessity; as enabling vocational and teaching based exchange through supplementary grants, will highlight the diverse ambitions of the

project. We must also implement work placement programmes, designed for those who would not be able to participate without a reliable source of income during their time spent abroad. The UK Government has claimed that the Turing Scheme will target “not just European Universities, but the best Universities in the world”. The likelihood of disadvantaged households having the means to travel to Universities in North America, rather than more affordable European destinations must also be addressed.

As an outward looking nation, the new programme should realise what cooperative education networks give to us, but we must not neglect what we give in return. Bi-lateral education requires giving foreign students the ability to experience our own unique blend of learning, innovation and culture whilst studying at Cardiff, USW or Aberystwyth based institutions. The two-directional nature of the Erasmus scheme has been overlooked by its replacement; therefore, cultural and academic transfer to our own institutions should be prioritised. Through this, these “guests” of ours will build deep relationships with Wales, contribute to our cultural richness, and – I have seen it happen directly – even decided to stay here to grow their businesses, grow jobs, and grow their families. 

Whilst the spending power of foreign students is rarely discussed, the diversity of ideas that enrich classrooms and communities is discussed rarer still. To fully strive for a global educational outreach, we must realise the benefits of exporting our own cultural and academic prowess, alongside the importance of importing the prowess of others. Our institutions attraction to foreign students rests on their anecdotal evidence, unfortunately vague slogans of ‘thinking globally’ will do little to replace this.

Erasmus is a huge loss to the UK, and to Wales. Most disinterested observers would say that the UK government has made a grave error in deciding not to continue. As such, we must make sure that the replacement is at least as powerful in the benefits it brings to individuals, and to employers and educational institutions.

For Wales as a nation, let alone for the UK, this is an acid test about how we see ourselves as an outward-facing and welcoming country, working with other nations to grow together.


[1]  Hywel Ceri Jones: Former EU Commission Director for Education, Training and Youth (2020) A missed opportunity for the young people of the UK: The Federal Trust for education and research.https://fedtrust.co.uk/erasmus-a-missed-opportunity/

[2] Gov.Wales: Erasmus+ and ESF EAG PAPER (2019) https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-08/erasmus%2B-and-european-social-fund.pdf

[1] P. Maguire (2020) Boris Johnson: The Turing scheme to replace Erasmus will give students pick of the world: The Times; https: //www.thetimes.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-turing-scheme-to-replace-erasmus-will-give-students-pick-of-the-world-gsnkxf0sf

Mae’n warthus bod Llywodraeth y DU wedi lladd Erasmus. Gwae nhw os nad yw’r cynllun newydd yn un da.

Wrth i ni sleifio’n flêr braidd allan o ddrws cefn yr UE, rydym wedi dysgu na fydd gan genhedloedd y DU fynediad bellach at y gronfa o gyfleoedd cyfnewid addysgol y mae Erasmus wedi’u cynnig. Bydd hon yn dipyn o ergyd i fyfyrwyr Cymru, ond hefyd i’r miloedd o bobl ifanc difreintiedig sydd eisiau mentro dramor i gyfoethogi eu dysgu. Wrth i ni adael y cynllun amlweddog a chynhwysol i bawb, sef Erasmus, mae’n rhaid i ni sicrhau y bydd y cynllun newydd yn dangos yr un uchelgais wrth ddarparu ‘elfen fyd-eang’ i’n dinasyddion.

Mae cwmpas rhaglen Erasmus yn llawer mwy na chyfrwng cyfnewid myfyrwyr yn unig, mae’n cynrychioli ‘dwysau rhyngwladoli dysgu’[1] ar bob lefel. Mae’r cynllun wedi gweld cynnydd digynsail mewn cydweithredu addysgol byd-eang, gyda mwy na 10,000 o fyfyrwyr a staff o Gymru yn cymryd rhan rhwng y blynyddoedd 2014 a 2018 yn unig.

Mae darpariaeth semestrau astudio dramor yn ganolog i brofiad gradd llawer o fyfyrwyr, gan ategu amrywiaethau diwylliannol ac iaith sy’n hollbwysig i fod yn ddinasyddion byd-eang brwd. Yng Nghymru, mae’r bartneriaeth addysgol wedi gweld gwerth dros 40 miliwn Ewro o fuddsoddiad ers 2014, gan arwain at ddatblygu 248 prosiect yn ein gwlad[2]. Mae sefydlogi a meithrin partneriaethau academaidd newydd yn hollbwysig, ond bydd angen eu seilio ar y sylfaen cynhwysiant byd-eang a domestig yr oedd Erasmus yn ei chynnig.

Mae graddedigion sydd wedi bod yn rhan o’r cynllun yn datblygu gwell dealltwriaeth o ddiwylliannau tramor ac yn gallu bod yn rhyw fath o bont rhwng diwylliant Cymru a’r gymuned fyd-eang. Gan eu bod yn dueddol o ddysgu iaith dramor, maent wedi meithrin rhwydweithiau rhyngwladol, sydd o fudd iddyn nhw yn ogystal â Chymru fel cenedl. Hefyd, mae’r rhai sy’n manteisio ar y rhaglen yn llawer mwy tebygol o fod wedi datblygu sgiliau arloesol; gan arwain at ddatblygu busnes newydd a oedd yn elwa ar y rhwydweithiau a sefydlwyd tra ar y cynllun. Gall manteision y rhaglenni hyn fod yn amlwg wrth edrych ar y ffigurau, ond mae’r prosiect hwn yn talu ar ei ganfed gan ddatblygu ac ysbrydoli amlbwrpasedd economaidd a diwylliannol ein cenedl.

Rhwng 2021 a 2027, mae’r Comisiwn Ewropeaidd wedi cynnig dyblu cyllideb y rhaglen, law yn llaw â chynnig opsiynau mwy tymor byr a hyblyg ar gyfer astudio dramor. Mae’r cynigion hyn yn targedu myfyrwyr o gefndiroedd difreintiedig, a allai fod heb y modd i gymryd rhan heb y darpariaethau hyn. Mae’r Prif Weinidog Johnson wedi awgrymu y bydd Cynllun Turing yn galluogi aelwydydd incwm isel i gael y cyfle i fanteisio ar yr un cyfleoedd, ond nid yw’r manylion yn hysbys eto.

Mae angen efelychu darpariaethau Erasmus+; oherwydd bydd galluogi cyfnewid ar sail addysgu a galwedigaethol drwy grantiau atodol, yn tynnu sylw at uchelgeisiau amrywiol y prosiect. Mae’n rhaid i ni hefyd roi rhaglenni lleoliad gwaith ar waith, sydd wedi’u cynllunio ar gyfer y rhai na fyddai’n gallu cymryd rhan heb ffynhonnell incwm ddibynadwy yn ystod yr amser a dreulir dramor. Mae Llywodraeth y DU wedi honni y bydd Cynllun Turing yn targedu nid yn unig Prifysgolion Ewropeaidd, ond y Prifysgolion gorau yn y byd[3]. Mae’n rhaid i ni fynd i’r afael hefyd â’r tebygolrwydd na fydd gan aelwydydd difreintiedig y modd y deithio i Brifysgolion yng Ngogledd America, o’u cymharu â chyrchfannau mwy fforddiadwy Ewrop.

Fel cenedl sy’n edrych tua’r dyfodol, dylai’r rhaglen newydd dynnu sylw ar yr hyn y mae rhwydweithiau addysg cydweithredol yn ei roi i ni, ond mae’n rhaid i ni beidio ag esgeuluso’r hyn rydym yn ei roi yn ôl. Mae addysg ddwyochrog yn gofyn i ni roi’r gallu i fyfyrwyr tramor brofi ein cymysgedd unigryw ni ein hunain o ddysgu, arloesi a diwylliant tra’n astudio mewn athrofeydd yng Nghaerdydd, Prifysgol De Cymru neu Aberystwyth. Mae naws dau gyfeiriad cynllun Erasmus wedi’i anwybyddu yn y cynllun newydd; felly, dylid blaenoriaethu trosglwyddiad diwylliannol ac academaidd i’n hathrofeydd ein hunain. Drwy wneud hyn, bydd y ‘gwesteion’ hyn yn meithrin cysylltiadau dwfn â Chymru, yn cyfrannu ar ein cyfoeth diwylliannol ac – rwyf wedi gweld hyn yn digwydd gyda fy llygaid fy hun – fe fyddant hyd yn oed yn penderfynu aros yma a datblygu eu busnesau, meithrin swyddi a magu eu teuluoedd.

Er nad yw pŵer gwario myfyrwyr tramor yn cael ei drafod yn aml, mae’r amrywiaeth o syniadau sy’n cyfoethogi ystafelloedd dosbarth a chymunedau yn cael eu trafod hyd yn oed yn llai aml. Er mwyn gwneud ein gorau i sicrhau allgymorth addysgol byd-eang, mae’n rhaid i ni wireddu manteision allforio ein galluoedd diwylliannol ac academaidd ni ein hunain, law yn llaw â phwysigrwydd mewnforio galluoedd eraill. Mae atyniad ein hathrofeydd i fyfyrwyr tramor i’w gweld yn eu tystiolaeth anecdotaidd, ac yn anffodus ni fydd sloganau annelwig megis ‘meddwl yn fyd-eang’ yn gwneud llawer i gymryd lle hyn.

Mae Erasmus yn golled enfawr i’r DU, ac i Gymru. Byddai hyd yn oed yr arsylwyr mwyaf didaro yn dweud bod Llywodraeth y DU wedi gwneud camgymeriad mawr wrth benderfynu peidio â’i barhau. Felly, mae’n rhaid ni sicrhau bod y cynllun newydd o leiaf yr un mor bwerus o ran ei fanteision i unigolion, i gyflogwyr ac i athrofeydd.

I Gymru fel cenedl, heb sôn am y DU, mae hwn yn brawf tyngedfennol i ddangos sut rydym yn gweld ein hunain fel gwlad flaengar a chroesawgar, sy’n gweithio gyda chenhedloedd eraill i dyfu gyda’n gilydd.


[1]  Hywel Ceri Jones: Cyn Gyfarwyddwr Addysg, Hyfforddiant ac Ieuenctid (2020). A missed opportunity for the young people of the UK: Yr Ymddiriedolaeth Ffederal dros addysg ac ymchwil. https://fedtrust.co.uk/erasmus-a-missed-opportunity/

[2] Llyw.Cymru: Erasmus+ a PHAPUR ESF EAG (2019) https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-08/erasmus%2B-and-european-social-fund.pdf

[3] P. Maguire (2020) Boris Johnson: The Turing scheme to replace Erasmus will give students pick of the world: The Times; https: //www.thetimes.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-turing-scheme-to-replace-erasmus-will-give-students-pick-of-the-world-gsnkxf0sf

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Co-operative Party Assembly Group backs #SheDeserves campaign for Living Wages and Fair Trade

Huw Irranca-DaviesChair of the National Assembly for Wales Co-operative Group / Grwp Cydweithredol Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

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Huw Meets Jenipher Wettaka Sambazi, a Fairtrade coffee farmer and Vice Chair of the Mt Elgon Coffee Cooperative in Uganda

The Co-operative Party has a proud tradition of championing the Fair Trade movement, which strives to give a greater voice to farmers and workers in the developing world. The goal being fair prices for their produce, decent working conditions and living wages, and real sustainability for their communities and the planet.
This year we’re asking our members to help promote Fairtrade Fortnight in support of our ongoing commitment to put people and planet before financial profit. That’s exactly what fair trade is all about!
Fairtrade Fortnight is an annual celebration that runs from 24 February to 8 March, and it’s coordinated in Wales by Fair Trade Wales. Over these two weeks people can show their support for farmers and workers in developing countries who produce the everyday items we enjoy; from cocoa to coffee to cotton and much more.
Hundreds of events from giant Fairtrade banana splits to coffee tastings are being carried out all over Wales, and this year there is a special focus on the important role women farmers play in the journey to liveable incomes.
We`re excited to promote the #SheDeserves campaign, which turns a spotlight on the `invisible women` in sectors such as cocoa in West Africa where 60% of the world`s cocoa is grown, and where the average farmer lives on as little as 74p a day. In regions like Côte d’Ivoire, women workers have far fewer rights than men and earn far less despite carrying out 68% of the farm labour whilst also being responsible for children and the home.
As part of Fairtrade Fortnight celebrations at the Senedd, we were delighted to meet the wonderful Jenipher Wettaka Sambazi, a Fairtrade coffee farmer and Vice Chair of the Mt. Elgon Coffee Cooperative in Uganda. We heard first-hand from Jenipher about her experiences as a coffee farmer, as a woman in leadership, and how the climate is impacting the cooperative homes and livelihoods in Mt. Elgon. It was truly inspirational!
The truth of the matter is that approximately 125 million people worldwide depend on coffee production for their livelihoods. It is the most valuable and widely traded tropical agricultural product and is mainly produced by smallholder farmers. Many of them, however, are unable to earn a reliable living from the coffee they produce, meaning it isn`t enough to support the most basic needs such as fresh water, food, education, and healthcare.
We will continue to work with and support the Fairtrade movement to help put a stop to unfair conditions for essential farmers and workers worldwide.
So, as Wales Co-operative Party members, we are asking you to:
• Buy Fair Trade items wherever you can, and if you can’t see it ask for it;
• Share the stories of Fairtrade and your support for the movement on social media, using the hashtags #SheDeserves and #FairtradeFortnight;
• And join in with your local Fair Trade community by getting involved with events. Find out how on the Fair Trade Wales website.

And remember that this doesn’t end after these two weeks. Wales was the first in the world to become a Fair Trade Nation. But the work goes on, and we will continue to stand with Jenipher and women producers around the world until she, and others, get what #SheDeserves.

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Active Travel

As the Member of the Senedd for Ogmore, I am always keen to encourage more walking and cycling to schools, so we have healthy and active schoolchildren, help reduce traffic congestion and air-pollution around “school-runs” (let’s have school-walks and school-cycles and school-scoots instead!) as well as the wider community and environmental benefits.

I’m also Chair of the Cross-Party Active Travel Group of MSs. So I am really pleased to share this story of Ysgol Hamadryad, a school which has worked hard to transform itself into a genuine Active Travel school where the normal way of children getting to and from school is cycling or scooting or walking or … well, anything but being driven there to be honest. Not every school can do exactly what Ysgol Hamadryad did and at the same pace, but there are lessons to learn there for all our schools and the communities in which they sit.

I hope you find it interesting, and I’m always happy to work with parents, governors and school heads to see what more we can do together to transform the way our children go to and from schools.”

Teithio Gweithredol

Fel Aelod Senedd Ogmore, rwyf bob amser yn awyddus i annog mwy o gerdded a beicio i ysgolion, felly mae gennym blant ysgol iach a gweithgar, helpu i leihau tagfeydd traffig a llygredd aer o amgylch “rhedeg ysgol” (gadewch i ni gael teithiau cerdded ysgol) a beiciau ysgol a sgwpiau ysgol yn lle!) yn ogystal â’r buddion cymunedol ac amgylcheddol ehangach.

Rwyf hefyd yn Gadeirydd y Grŵp Teithio Gweithredol Trawsbleidiol o MSs. Felly rwy’n falch iawn o rannu’r stori hon am Ysgol Hamadryad, ysgol sydd wedi gweithio’n galed i drawsnewid ei hun yn ysgol Teithio Gweithredol ond cael eich gyrru yno i fod yn onest. Ni all pob ysgol wneud yn union yr hyn a wnaeth Ysgol Hamadryad ac ar yr un cyflymder, ond mae gwersi i’w dysgu yno i’n holl ysgolion a’r cymunedau y maent yn eistedd ynddynt.

Gobeithio y bydd yn ddiddorol i chi, ac rydw i bob amser yn hapus i weithio gyda rhieni, llywodraethwyr a phenaethiaid ysgolion i weld beth arall y gallwn ei wneud gyda’n gilydd i drawsnewid y ffordd y mae ein plant yn mynd yn ôl ac ymlaen i ysgolion. “

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