Lynne Neagle is the candidate for Welsh Labour for the Torfaen seat in the Senedd Election on Thursday 6 May 2021. Cwmbran Life readers suggested some questions to go the candidates. Here are Lynne’s answers. Visit Cwmbran Life to read the answers from the others who took part. Visit Torfaen Council’s website to see the full list of candidates.
Q. Very simple question to start, why should voters in Torfaen put the X in the box next to your name?
A. I’ve got a record of standing up for Torfaen. I’ve always put my constituency first, even when that’s got me into hot water with my party or other colleagues – I’ve always put the priorities of our communities at the heart of everything I do. I’ve campaigned for the things that matter – helping to bring the new Grange Hospital for example and new post-16 provision. Nobody is going to fight harder for our communities, for our jobs and for the future of our children.
Q. There are many ‘play parks’ in Torfaen, but they are such basic provision. The newest one local to me has a wobbly pirate ship and a stack of logs. This counts as a play park? It has been a hard year entertaining children and keeping them physically healthy, play parks are more important than this basic provision. What plans do you have to add more equipment to current play parks and increase the quality of our local open spaces to encourage play and exercise for a generation that is happy in front of a TV/computer, when the alternative entertainment is a wobbly pirate ship and a stack of logs?
A. Campaigning for the rights of children to have happy, engaging and safe childhoods has been right at the heart of everything I do as a Member of the Senedd. This has been evident in the way I’ve chaired the Children and Young People’s Committee over the last 5 years. The right to play and the importance of outdoors activities has never been higher up the agenda after successive lockdowns. If there is any substandard play equipment in the constituency, I’m obviously going to take that very seriously and work with the council and any other partners to get things ship shape. We need to be encouraging outdoor play, and that starts with decent, safe, interesting equipment.
Q. Will you push for a huge increase in support for mental health awareness in schools? This is more than the ‘wellbeing’ buzzword.
A. This really has been my life’s work over the last five years. Under my leadership, the Children and Young People’s Committee in the Senedd published the Mind over Matter report in 2018, which focuses on improving the mental health of young people in this country. This report has already led to fundamental changes in how our education system approaches mental health – and my tenacity on this matter was remarked upon by the outgoing Education Minister, and by politicians of all political parties. There are no buzzwords in the report we produced – just ambitious, lifechanging recommendations that I fought hard to publish, and will continue to fight for in the next Senedd.
Q. With the amazing support over the last year these professionals have provided pupils around Wales, will you support a pay rise for our amazing Teaching Assistants?
A. Teaching assistants really have been the unsung heroes of the Pandemic and I’m incredibly grateful for the vital role they have played by supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers throughout the pandemic. I think Teaching Assistants deserve more recognition and better pay.
Q. Do you think there is a need for clinics to combat the number of people suffering from Long Covid? Many of us have been unable to work or have lost jobs. The advice from doctors only seems to be “it takes time” but no investigation into whether the symptoms we are experiencing are associated to Covidand /or have any lasting damage.
A. As a member of the Senedd’s Health Committee during the pandemic we took very powerful evidence from people affected by Long Covid and professionals supporting them. More needs to be done to understand the impact of Long Covid and I’m really pleased that Wales is taking part in UK wide research to understand it’s impact. I also want to see more action taken to raise awareness of Long Covid so that the risks, impact and long-term implications of it are better understood. The approach to supporting people with Long Covid in Wales has been to deliver care tailored to the needs of each person as close to home as possible rather than establishing specialist centres. We are still learning about Long Covid though and I want to see the quality of care available for those with Long Covid closely monitored to ensure it is meeting the needs of patients. Finally we must remember that children and young people can also suffer from Lomg Covid – I’m determined to see that their needs are not forgotten.
Q. Is the council tax ever likely to be reduced as it’s a lot to pay for what services we actually get. Eg change to the fortnightly collection but no reduction in bills. We tend to take most of our own rubbish to the tip.
A. No politician wants to ask local residents to pay more in taxes but the truth is that the Tory UK Government cuts to Welsh Government funding have led to the need to increase council tax in order to protect vital public services. I know how hard the leadership of the Council works to keep Council taxes rises to the absolute minimum. I’m also incredibly proud of the fantastic work the Council has done to help keep people in Torfaen safe during the Pandemic.
Q. Are you prepared to take a lead on action for climate change and tackle the important issues? What do you think the important issues are in respect to climate change and the environment?
A. I think that we have finally reached a tipping point in the debate on the climate crisis, where people now realise that there simply isn’t any option but to act. Our children are going to inherit a very different, badly damaged planet unless we agree to do much more on this agenda. I think it is important to marry up the climate agenda with the jobs agenda, because that really makes sense to people, and takes away a lot of the fear that environmental measures must come at an economic cost. I think Welsh Labour’s decarbonisation agenda, the improvement of existing housing stock and a commitment to new green jobs is the right way to go.
Q. How do you plan to reduce littering and remove what is already there on the streets and highways?
A. This is a growing concern in many communities both locally and across Wales and one I raise regularly with the Council. I know the council does a lot to work with fantastic volunteers to tackle this problem, but more needs to be done especially to get people to take personal responsibility and not litter. I’m very keen to explore with the Council what more Welsh Government can do to support them in tackling this problem and recently wrote to the Council offering to help with this.
Q. What do you personally do in your life to ensure you are leaving the smallest environmental footprint on our planet?
A. I recycle everything I can and I try to buy local goods and as much ethically sourced goods as possible. I think we all need to play our part as much as we can – but we need to see that as a positive contribution, not a punishment.
Q. How do you plan to support local produce businesses to reduce plastic and carbon emissions?
A. There are various lines of support available from Welsh Government for businesses to improve their environmental footprint. I’ve been really pleased to see businesses working together during the pandemic and helped to facilitiate that where possible. I hope that working together we can also take a team Torfaen approach to playing our part in the green agenda. Local companies like Capital Valley Plastics have led the way developing closed loop, local solutions to cut plastic waste, and we need to support that work too.
Q. Why is it that we (Constituents) only get asked opinions and greeted with smiles and false promises when there are local elections or general elections?
A. I think I’m more likely to smile at people when there isn’t an election on – I find them very stressful! I don’t think the question is fair really – of course there is more door knocking around election time, that’s what they’re all about, but I work to help local people all year round alongside our councillors and MPs, not just at election time. Also, despite the devastating pandemic, Welsh Labour actually achieved all its top pledges made in the last manifesto – no false promises there. I have always been readily available to the public through my office, social media activity and regular surgeries including the ones I hold in supermarkets and other locations around Torfaen. I can’t wait until we can do all this face-to-face again – it is the part of the job I love the best.
Q. Do you think Wales should: a. pursue independence; b. reverse devolution; c. maintain devolution?
A. We should maintain devolution. Welsh Labour is proud to believe in Wales and the UK. We don’t want the costly chaos that will come from turning our backs on the UK, but neither do I want to lose Wales’ voice and just be run directly by the Tory Government in Westminster.
Q. How important do you think it is to live in the constituency you represent to truly understand the needs of the people in the three very different towns of Torfaen?
A. If there’s anyone more passionate about the different communities that make up Torfaen, I’d like to meet them. It has been the honour of my life to represent this constituency, and I don’t think I could have been a more fierce advocate for our local jobs, schools and healthcare. And whilst we do have three very different towns in Torfaen and understanding that is important, we do also have a shared identity and shared values that unite us. The pandemic has really shown us that. I’m very proud of being able to talk about both the diversity and the unity on show in our communities.
Q. What are your passions on the decriminalisation of drugs in Wales?
A. I think we’re some way off the point decriminalisation in this country – you need a really careful and balanced debate about that, and we’re nowhere near it. It is clear that families across Torfaen have had their lives ruined by drugs and associated criminality. The current system of support and deterrents is not fit for purpose, but I wouldn’t support a move towards decriminalisation at this point.
Q. Do you support the idea of a Universal basic income?
A. I support piloting the idea – but the research about the direct and indirect impacts of it isn’t clear enough to move straight to adopting this system yet.