As a strong believer in the value of quality, local journalism, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to write in the Caerphilly Observer for the first time. Many of you will be aware of the tragic circumstances which led me to being elected as your Plaid Cymru regional representative following the death of my dear friend and colleague Steffan Lewis. I will never be able to replace Steffan nor would I want to, but what I will do is continue with his excellent work in campaigning for economic and social justice for the people of the south east.
Last week I had the privilege to meet the former miners fighting for fair access to their pension funds. Thanks to Steffan’s work they collected 100,000 signatures for their petition, which means the UK Government will now be forced to respond to their concerns. I wish them all the best and will continue to offer them my full support in their fight for justice.
Caerphilly, and indeed the entire Rhymney Valley, are very dear to me. I was born in Caerphilly Miners’ Hospital, and grew up in Ystrad Mynach. I attended Ysgol Bro Allta in Ystrad Mynach, and later Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni in Bargoed. Indeed, my family’s connections to the valley go back even further – my grandfather, Keri Edwards, was headmaster of Bargoed Grammar School, and later, Heolddu Comprehensive. His wife, my grandmother Kitty, was a teacher in Gilfach. My mother, Sian, was a violin teacher with Caerphilly Music Service, whilst my father, Anthony, was a solicitor, born in Nelson.
I am invested in this area and I want it to succeed. Getting to grips with the high rates of unemployment, hidden unemployment and in-work poverty in the south east is high on my list of priorities.
The proposed Metro is a step in the right direction and I especially welcome the plans for introducing improved services on the Ebbw Vale line, but more needs to be done.
A commitment to reopen valleys lines, such as between Nelson and Ystrad Mynach, and extending tracks, in this case to Trelewis, would create jobs and boost connectivity in one go.
We need to be more ambitious than simply making south east communities part of a commuter belt to Cardiff, we need jobs within these communities themselves.
This weekend I’ll be speaking at Plaid Cymru’s spring conference in Bangor. I will say that I am incredibly proud of my Caerphilly roots and that I am privileged to represent my constituents in the Senedd. I will say that it’s time we rekindled the south east’s radical tradition of Dic Penderyn and the Newport Chartists. I will say it’s time we spoke truth to power once more by demanding that our region gets a fair share of investment so that everyone has the opportunity of getting good, well-paid jobs. Indeed, introducing a law to ensure this – a Regional Renewal Act – is Plaid Cymru policy.
Caerphilly and the whole of the south east is proud of its past. I intend to make us proud of its future too.