One of the two prospective candidates to challenge UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused over his record on people with disabilities.
Owen Smith, who is the UK Member of Parliament for Pontypridd, was the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn leadership.
One person with a disability from Owen Smith’s Pontypridd constituency challenged his record in this area. “I asked Mr Smith why, given that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been responsible for a great many more deaths than the Bedroom Tax, Labour had pledged to scrap the Bedroom Tax but had said nothing about pledging to scrap the WCA,” said resident and campaigner, Liza Van Zyl. “Mr Smith replied that Labour could not pledge to scrap the WCA because this would make Labour appear weak on benefits in the eyes of the media and compromise Labour’s general-election chances.
“I am very concerned about Mr Smith’s attitude toward disabled people and particularly to his views that the deaths of disabled people are less important than Labour’s ‘tough on benefits’ standing in the right wing press.“
A Freeman of Llantrisant has given his support to calls for a dedicated war memorial in the town.
Freeman Jonathan Bishop was instrumental in the campaign to install a war memorial in Pontypridd, when as the town councillor for Treforest he seconded fellow councillor Colin Gregory’s motion for the plans, including getting a commitment for it to be part funded by public subscription.
Jonathan Bishop is the brains behind the Emotivate Project, which is seeking to install a mural at the Woodland Walk underpass in Efail Isaf, based on young people’s ideas of war and peace.
Freeman Bishop says that in addition, he wants a war memorial to go beyond military personnel. “Many people in South Wales died during the Second World War from working underground in the mines, as well as in the munitions factories,” he said. “My grandfather was the Freeman of Llantrisant who founded the Llantrisant Workingmen’s Club and I would not be here today had he not met my grandmother who was working in the same munitions factory after he finished his duties as a Gunner in the Battle of the Atlantic.”
Freeman Bishop says it was not just his Llantrisant grandfather who was part of the World War II campaign. “My other grandfather was a miner, who along with other miners were essential the fueling the war effort,” he said. “I therefore fully support the call for a lasting war memorial on the castle green in Llantrisant, and would like a commitment for all those who died during conscription, whether on or under the land, to be recognised also.“
The announcement by Marks and Spencer that they are to close their Pontypridd store has been criticised by local politicians and traders.
The Pontypridd designer outlet has been earmarked for closure by Marks and Spencer, even though it is known to have attracted many customers and increased income for M&S’s shareholders since the 1930s. Marks and Spencer now say the Pontypridd store is no longer essential to their corporate strategy as it is now “losing money.”
Former town councillor for Treforest, Jonathan Bishop, is expected to stand for the Welsh Assembly in next year’s election as an independent candidate. “Pontypridd’s core market is providing access to discounted and rare goods that are not sold in Cardiff, Talbot Green, or Merthyr Tydfil,” he said. “With Lidl coming to the town, and the presence of discount stores like B&M and Poundstretcher, if Marks and Spencer were to see its store from this perspective, it can sell the products that it cannot sell elsewhere in the UK.”
Member of Parliament for Pontypridd, Owen Smith MP, was also critical of the closure plans. “The value we all place upon the store is demonstrated by the number of people who signed our petition objecting to the closure,” he said. “Marks and Spencer told us that they are consulting with staff on the closure, and they promised that our views would be considered as part of the consultation process.
“Alongside the Council, we offered every possible help available to persuade Mark and Spencer to reconsider their decision. “I hope the retailer will take on board the offer of support from the Council and me to utilise funding available to support High Streets in Wales.”
One trader in the town believes it is essential for firms like Marks and Spencer to maintain a high street presence. “I like shopping in the high street rather than out of town, so want Marks and Spencer and other top stores to be in Ponty,” they said.
A Pontypridd judge has been cleared of allegations that he offered a plaintiff an unethical inducement in order to drop a case before him.
District Judge John Doel faced the allegations after a series of directions he made allowing a case to proceed, which has now left the plaintiff with around £13,000 costs by the time DJ Doel told them to withdraw the case.
DJ Doel’s colleague, Judge Seys Llewellyn QC, said there were no grounds to the allegations. “The judge cannot be criticised, in a case that would otherwise be allocated to the multi-track, for drawing the attention of the Claimant to the costs which would be incurred for which the unsuccessful party would be at risk,” he said. “To do so is well within the discretion of a judge and he would be open to criticism if he failed to do so in a case where he thought it appropriate.”
In 2002 at Blackwood County Court, DJ John Doel was struck with court papers following his decision not to annul a family member’s bankruptcy order.
The plans by the UK Government to allow Welsh Assembly candidates who fail to win constituency seats to be allowed in the back door through the regional list election has been criticised by the Shadow Welsh Secretary.
Owen Smith, who is also the MP for Pontypridd, has criticised the re-introduction of what has become known as Leanne’s Law, after the leader of Plaid Cymru who once stood for both the Rhondda constituency and the regional list and got elected on the latter, even though the voters rejected her in relation to the former. “We remain opposed to allowing Assembly candidates to stand in a constituency and on a regional list,” he said. “‘Leanne’s Law’, as it might be known, allows candidates who have been rejected by the electorate to get into the Assembly via the back door, thereby subverting the will of the electorate.
“And as the Bill’s own impact assessment shows, a majority of those consulted on this issue are in favour of retaining the ban on dual candidacy.”
Jonathan Bishop is a former Labour Party councillor and agrees with Smith. “I was a delegate from Pontypridd Constituency Labour Party who attended the conference to vote in favour of one of the few member-led policies of stopping dual candidacy – losers should not become winners was the overall view at the time,” he told the Shadow Welsh Secretary. “Even though I am no longer a Labour Party member, as a democrat I do not believe that if the public have rejected a candidate in a constituency that other voters should be allowed to impose that person on them though the regional list.
“I would, however, have no problem with dual candidacy if the person on the regional list stood in a region where they were not contesting a constituency seat. To do otherwise is anti-democratic.”
The draft Wales Bill also included provisions to devolve taxes and borrowing powers to Wales. “We welcome the news that the UK Government is at last to give Wales borrowing powers, to help counteract the shortfall in Welsh budgets that has arisen from the Tory-led coalition’s £1.6bn (approx $2.65bn) worth of cuts,” Smith said. “We need to be certain that these powers are being granted in a timely manner so that much-needed investment in infrastructure can get started as soon as possible, and we will also want to be satisfied that the amount of borrowing being afforded to the Welsh Government is adequate to its needs.
“On income tax, it is concerning that this part of the Bill simply adds Wales to existing legislation that gave income tax varying powers to Scotland. While this may have been a neat and easy solution for Welsh Secretary David Jones, we will need to look carefully at whether the differences between Wales and Scotland – such as the much larger number of people who commute across the border each day – mean that this is appropriate.”
Bishop, who when a councillor on Pontypridd Town Council called for its tax varying powers to be used more strategically, says that the Welsh Government need to grow up a bit before having the power to vary fiscal taxes. “Whilst I want tax varying powers devolved to Wales I am not confident the Welsh Assembly has the maturity to be able to set them responsibly,” he said. “I suspect many people in Wales lack this confidence only and thus the Welsh Government should only get tax varying powers if the people of Wales show they have confidence in the Welsh Government to use them through a referendum.
“The Welsh Government currently has no incentive to grow the Welsh economy as it has no direct tax benefits that would result from a growing economy and in fact they have a lot to lose in terms of revenue from the EU if the economy improved.
“I currently have three companies registered in solely Wales with Companies House. If the Welsh Government received my companies’ corporation tax then the better I do they better they will do and thus the more motivated their business development arm will be to help me and other Welsh businesses instead of focusing on inward investment where they would not get any corporation tax.
“I do not trust the Welsh Government to set this tax, and in fact I am happy with the new flat rate of 20% as it would provide me with more incentive to grow my business!“
A former Pontypridd town councillor and election candidate is calling for his local rugby team to be celebrated by the council he is seeking election to.
Pluralist Party election candidate, Dzon, is pledging to ask Pontypridd Town Council to make Pontypridd Rugby Club an integral part of its summer festivities. Pontypridd RFC are the winners of both the Cup and the Premiership in Wales and Dzon says that it is essential their achievements are properly recognised.
“When I was on the town council it always held a ‘Vintage Transport Day’ in August with a parade of vehicles through the town,” Dzon said. “Whether or not I am elected I will be calling for councillors on Pontypridd Town Council to support my call for Pontypridd RFC to be allowed to take part with an open top vehicle showing off the cups, and for them to not have to pay for a stand where members of the public will be able to have photos taken with the cups and players.”
A spokesperson for the RCT branch of the Liberal Democratic Party was equally pleased with Pontypridd RFC’s double. “The sun was shining on a packed crowd at Sardis as the home team played Llanelli off the field to win by 47 points to 15. Yet again the best side by a mile,” they said.
Dzon is standing for The Pluralist Party in the election to the Rhondda ward on 30 May 2013 and has been a lifelong Pontypridd RFC supporter.