Monthly Archives: November 2013

Bus services saved!

With councillor Alun Williams at Aberystwyth Bus Station

With councillor Alun Williams at Aberystwyth Bus Station

I’m delighted that a deal has been reached today to save the bus routes from Aberystwyth to Cardigan, and Aberystwyth to Lampeter and Carmarthen. The routes are being withdrawn by Arriva in December.
Contracts have been awarded to Lewis Coaches of Llanrhystud, Richards Brothers, and First Cymru to provide replacement services for a six-month period, starting immediately after Arriva’s withdrawal. The 50 service along the A487 will be better than the previous service, with more through journeys between Cardigan and Aberystwyth. The 20, 40 and 40C services will be similar to the current services, and arrangements have been secured for through-ticketing. The services will complement the existing 701 service to Cardiff operated by Bryan’s Coaches.
This has been a long haul, but it’s great news that it’s proved possible for local companies to step in and provide the services following Arriva’s withdrawal. This follows a lot of hard work; at the Assembly where there have been intense negotiations to secure the financial support of the Welsh Government, by the county councils led by Ceredigion’s Alun Williams, and by the many local bus companies who put together tenders for these services at short notice.
People in Ceredigion can be reassured that these crucial strategic bus services will continue when Arriva pulls out in December. I will also be looking to put pressure on the Welsh Government to establish Statutory Quality Bus Partnership in the longer term, as part of a wider review of strategic transport across Wales.

Sicrwydd o’r diwedd am y bysiau!

Gyda'r cynghorydd Alun Williams yng ngorsaf bysiau Aberystwyth

Gyda’r cynghorydd Alun Williams yng ngorsaf bysiau Aberystwyth

Rwy’n falch iawn bod cytundeb wedi ei arwyddo heddiw i achub y gwasanaethau bysiau o Aberystwyth i Aberteifi, ac o Aberystwyth i Lanbedr Pont Steffan a Chaerfyrddin. Mae’r gwasanaethau yn cael eu diddymu gan Arriva ym mis Rhagfyr.
Dyfarnwyd contractau wedi cael eu dyfarnu i Lewis Coaches o Lanrhystud, Brodyr Richards, a First Cymru i ddarparu gwasanaethau newydd am gyfnod o chwe mis, gan ddechrau yn syth ar ôl diflaniad Arriva. Bydd y gwasanaeth 50 ar hyd yr A487 yn well na’r gwasanaeth blaenorol, gyda mwy o deithiau di-dor rhwng Aberteifi ac Aberystwyth. Bydd y gwasanaethau 20, 40 a 40C yn debyg i’r rhai presennol, ac mae trefniant wedi ei sicrhau ar gyfer tocynnau trwodd. Bydd y gwasanaethau yn ategu’r gwasanaeth presennol 701 i Gaerdydd a weithredir gan Bryan’s Coaches .
Mae hyn wedi bod yn daith hir, ond mae’n newyddion gwych ei fod yn bod yn bosibl i gwmnïau lleol i gamu i mewn a darparu’r gwasanaethau. Mae hyn yn dilyn llawer o waith caled; yn y Cynulliad lle y bu trafodaethau dwys i sicrhau cefnogaeth ariannol Llywodraeth Cymru, gan y cynghorau sir o dan arweiniad Alun Williams yng Ngheredigion, a gan y nifer o gwmnïau bysiau lleol a roddodd dendrau at ei gilydd ar gyfer y gwasanaethau ar fyr rybudd.
Gall pobl yng Ngheredigion gael sicrwydd y bydd y gwasanaethau bws strategol allweddol hyn yn parhau pan fydd Arriva yn tynnu allan ym mis Rhagfyr. Byddaf hefyd yn edrych i roi pwysau ar Lywodraeth Cymru i sefydlu Partneriaeth Bws Statudol o Ansawdd yn y tymor hwy, fel rhan o adolygiad ehangach o gludiant strategol ar draws Cymru .

Keeping up the pressure on the banks

An issue that hasn’t had as much publicity as it should is the mis-selling of loans to small businesses.

The loans in question were mainly sold between 2006 and 2008, and known as Interest Rate Swaps or Interest Rate Hedging Products (IRHPs). They were marketed as insurance against rising interest rates, but banks failed to warn business people of the risks and possible huge costs involved both in servicing them and exiting from them early if interest rates fell. Unfair and unethical sales practices were common. In January 2013 the Financial Services Authority found that over 90% of sales from a sample study of cases breached their regulations.

What’s worrying is that the FSA’s investigation resulted in a Financial Conduct Authority review, but the speed at which this review is rolling out is concerning. Ten months on, only 32 businesses out of over 30,000 across the UK have received any redress. A large number of small businesses in Ceredigion continue to suffer financial distress while they wait for the outcome of the review into their case.

Also large numbers of affected businesses are excluded from this review, either because they are deemed to be financially ‘sophisticated’ because they fall outside arbitrary limits of turnover, assets and employee numbers, or because they have a fixed rate loan with a hidden IRHP, a product which the FCA claim they don’t regulate.

At the beginning of this month I had the chance to host a meeting of over 50 businesses from all over Wales, including several from Ceredigion, at the National Assembly, to raise awareness of how small businesses have been mis-sold these loans. I held the meeting in conjunction with the ‘Bully Banks’ campaigning organization in order to raise awareness of the numbers of business affected in Wales, and to help press for a more rapid resolution of claims for compensation against the banks concerned. We also had a chance to make our case directly to the Business Minister.

After that meeting, the Assembly passed a motion unanimously in support of the affected businesspeople, and just this week I’ve had an update from the Minister on how she is taking up the issue with the banks, the regulators and her counterparts in Westminster, Edinburgh and Belfast.

There are so many heart-breaking stories of local business which should be thriving, but which are crippled by the interest and penalty clauses on these loans, and in many cases these are clauses they weren’t made aware of. In Ceredigion, there are farmers, businesses in the tourism sector such as hotels and restaurants, property developers, and care homes who are very badly affected. It’s having a real impact on our economy.

For anyone who has been affected by this scandal, the Bully Banks organisation can be contacted here:
http://www.bully-banks.co.uk/site/

Cadw’r pwysau ar y banciau

Un mater nad yw wedi cael cymaint o gyhoeddusrwydd ag y dylai yw’r cam-werthu o fenthyciadau i fusnesau bach.

Gwerthwyd y benthyciadau dan sylw yn bennaf rhwng 2006 a 2008, a gelwir hwy yn Gynnyrch Gwarchod rhag Risgiau Cyfraddau Llog (IRHPs ). Cawsant eu marchnata fel yswiriant yn erbyn cyfraddau llog yn codi, ond methodd banciau a rybuddio pobl busnes o’r risgiau a’r costau enfawr sy’n gysylltiedig a hwy yn enwedig os bydd cyfraddau llog yn disgyn. Roedd arferion gwerthu annheg ac anfoesol yn gyffredin. Ym mis Ionawr 2013 canfu’r Awdurdod Gwasanaethau Ariannol (yr FSA) bod dros 90 % o werthiannau o astudiaeth sampl o achosion torri eu rheolau.

Yr hyn sy’n peri gofid yw bod ymchwiliad yr FSA wedi arwain at adolygiad gan yr Awdurdod Ymddygiad Ariannol, ond mae arafwch yr adolygiad hwn yn warthus. Ddeng mis yn ddiweddarach, dim ond 32 o fusnesau allan o dros 30,000 ar draws Prydain sydd wedi derbyn unrhyw iawndal. Mae nifer fawr o fusnesau bach yng Ngheredigion yn parhau i ddioddef gofid ariannol tra eu bod yn aros am ganlyniad yr adolygiad i’w hachos.

Hefyd, mae nifer fawr o fusnesau yn cael eu heithrio o’r adolygiad hwn, naill ai oherwydd eu bod yn disgyn y tu allan i derfynau mympwyol o drosiant, asedau a nifer y gweithwyr, neu oherwydd eu bod ganddynt fenthyciad gyda IRHP cudd, cynnyrch y mae’r FCA yn dweud nad ydynt yn eu rheoleiddio.

Ar ddechrau’r mis hwn , cefais y cyfle i gynnal cyfarfod o dros 50 o fusnesau o bob cwr o Gymru, gan gynnwys nifer o Geredigion, yn y Cynulliad Cenedlaethol, i godi ymwybyddiaeth o sut y cam-werthwyd y benthyciadau hyn i fusnesau bach. Cynhaliais y cyfarfod ar y cyd â’r grwp ymgyrchu ‘ Bully Banks ‘ er mwyn codi ymwybyddiaeth o nifer y busnesau yr effeithir arnynt yng Nghymru, ac i helpu i bwyso am ddyfarniad cyflymach o iawndal yn erbyn y banciau dan sylw. Cawsom hefyd gyfle i wneud ein hachos yn uniongyrchol i’r Gweinidog Busnes.

Ar ôl y cyfarfod hwnnw, pasiodd y Cynulliad gynnig yn unfrydol o blaid y bobl fusnes yr effeithir arnynt, a’r yr wythnos hon rwyf wedi cael y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf gan y Gweinidog ynghylch sut y mae hi’n mynd i’r afael a’r mater gyda’r banciau, y rheoleiddwyr a’i chymheiriaid yn San Steffan, Caeredin a Belfast .

Mae yna gymaint o straeon torcalonnus o fusnes lleol a ddylai fod yn ffyniannus, ond sy’n cael eu llesteirio gan y cymalau llog a chosb ar y benthyciadau hyn. Yng Ngheredigion, mae ffermwyr, busnesau yn y sector twristiaeth megis gwestai a bwytai, datblygwyr eiddo, a chartrefi gofal sy’n cael eu heffeithio yn wael iawn. Mae’n cael effaith wirioneddol ar ein heconomi .

I unrhyw rai sydd wedi cael eu effeithio gan y sgandal hwn , gellir cysylltu â’r sefydliad Bully Banks yma:
http://www.bully-banks.co.uk/site/

Looking at the long-term future of healthcare in mid Wales

Y meddygon a finnau yn y Cynulliad i gwrdd a'r Gweinidog Iechyd.  The doctors and I at the Assembly to meet with the Health Minister

Y meddygon a finnau yn y Cynulliad i gwrdd a’r Gweinidog Iechyd.
The doctors and I at the Assembly to meet with the Health Minister


Recently, members of the ‘aBer’ hospital campaign group and I arranged for a delegation of current and former health professionals from mid-Wales to meet the Welsh Government’s Health Minister. The aim was to outline the many challenges facing the NHS in our area, and to urge the Government to think of the long-term picture.
What’s essential is that the future of the NHS in the Bronglais catchment area is considered as a whole. Decisions made now may affect the future of health services locally; rather than responding to problems on an ad-hoc basis, we need to establish a long-term vision. This will involve dealing with issues such as how to attract staff to Bronglais hospital, how to ensure that GPs can train locally and be appointed to take over when family doctors retire, and how the health service interacts with other services in a rural setting.
I have urged the Minister to commission a piece of research into what the health service in our area should look like in future – a really substantive piece of research into form what the NHS in mid-Wales should take in 10 years’ time. This needs fresh thinking, independently of the Hywel Dda Board, drawing on experts in rural healthcare.
I was pleased that it was possible to arrange this meeting between the Health Minister and a delegation of widely-respected doctors from Bronglais and mid Wales. The Minister was interested in what we had to say, and will certainly consider the points that were raised.

Edrych ar ddyfodol hirdymor gofal iechyd yng nghanolbarth Cymru

Y meddygon a finnau yn y Cynulliad i gwrdd a'r Gweinidog Iechyd.  The doctors and I at the Assembly to meet with the Health Minister

Y meddygon a finnau yn y Cynulliad i gwrdd a’r Gweinidog Iechyd.
The doctors and I at the Assembly to meet with the Health Minister


Yn ddiweddar, trefnodd aelodau o’r grŵp ymgyrchu iechyd ‘aBer’ a finnau i ddirprwyaeth o weithwyr iechyd cyfredol a blaenorol o ganolbarth Cymru i gwrdd â Gweinidog Iechyd Llywodraeth Cymru. Y nod oedd amlinellu’r heriau niferus sy’n wynebu’r gwasanaeth iechyd yn ein hardal, ac i annog y Llywodraeth i feddwl am y darlun tymor hir.
Beth sy’n hanfodol yw bod dyfodol iechyd yn ardal dalgylch Bronglais yn cael ei ystyried yn ei gyfanrwydd. Gall penderfyniadau a wneir yn awr effeithio ar ddyfodol y gwasanaethau iechyd yn lleol; yn hytrach nag ymateb i broblemau yn fyrfyfyr, mae angen i ni sefydlu gweledigaeth hir – dymor. Bydd hyn yn cynnwys delio â materion megis sut i ddenu staff i Ysbyty Bronglais, sut i sicrhau y gall meddygon teulu hyfforddi yn lleol a chael eu penodi i gymryd drosodd pan fydd meddygon profiadol yn ymddeol, a sut y mae’r gwasanaeth iechyd yn cydweithio â gwasanaethau eraill mewn lleoliad gwledig.
Yr wyf wedi annog y Gweinidog i gomisiynu darn o waith ymchwil ar yr hyn y dylai’r gwasanaeth iechyd yn ein hardal edrych fel yn y dyfodol – darn sylweddol o waith ar y ffurf y dylai’r gwasanaeth iechyd yng nghanolbarth Cymru ei gymryd ymhen 10 mlynedd. Mae angen syniadau newydd, yn annibynnol oddi wrth Fwrdd Iechyd Hywel Dda, gan alw ar arbenigwyr mewn gofal iechyd gwledig.
Rwy’n falch ei bod wedi bod yn bosibl i drefnu’r cyfarfod hwn rhwng y Gweinidog Iechyd a dirprwyaeth o feddygon uchel eu parch Fronglais a chanolbarth Cymru. Roedd gan y Gweinidog ddiddordeb yn yr hyn oedd gennym i’w ddweud, a bydd yn sicr yn ystyried y pwyntiau a godwyd.

Good news on the buses

It’s been confirmed that the Welsh Government are to give a grant of £162,000 to help maintain the bus services 40 and 50 (Aberystwyth-Lampeter-Carmarthen, and the A487 coastal route) for 6 months.
I have been in regular contact with the Transport Minister and the local authority since Arriva’s announcement; I know that a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure that people in Ceredigion have certainty that these vital strategic bus routes will be in operation beyond December 21. This announcement of a grant from the Welsh Government is excellent news. I look forward to bus operators being able to take over these routes in the near future. This news comes alongside the Minister’s confirmation to me last week that these routes were to be regarded as nationally-significant strategic services. People in Ceredigion can look forward to a continuation of the current services for 6 months, followed by a more comprehensive review of strategic bus routes which will aim towards a more integrated public transport network.