Veronica German is the candidate for the Welsh Liberal Democrats 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 Veronica’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 have been campaigning in this area for over 30 years and have been a local county councillor and an Assembly Member. However, I believe that my experience as a teacher in the area for over 20 years and living in the community is equally important, as it has given me real life experiences of this area and sits alongside my political career, providing a full understanding of what makes Torfaen tick.
I am standing for election because I believe people want a Member of the Senedd who is ambitious for Wales, who will stand up for our local people, jobs and services. I want to see better communications within and to Torfaen, building better rail links with connected bus routes. There is now a real chance we can get a direct train link to London from Cwmbran and Pontypool. I will champion more homes powered by cheaper green energy to reduce bills and do our bit to save the planet. I want to help our smaller companies grow. Local businesses need support to ensure they have a future. Our high streets will need revitalising – places where people will want to go – not rows of closed shops and services.
Welsh Lib Dems will “Put Recovery First” meaning that we won’t be distracted from the immediate task at hand – recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic.
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. You are absolutely right we need to have good outside spaces for our children to enjoy. `as you are aware play parks come under the local Torfaen Council and not the Senedd. However as a local member `I would encourage and support local residents to put forward plans and lobby the Council to put them into place.
Q. Will you push for a huge increase in support for mental health awareness in schools? This is more than the ‘wellbeing’ buzzword.
A. Mental health support is vital for all ages and particularly for our children and young people who have had their lives turned upside-down during the pandemic. Unfortunately mental health support for young people has never been as good a it should have been even prior to COVID. This is an opportunity now to put some serious mental health awareness in place. Mental Health First Aid in the workplace is a recognised activity and is something that should be encouraged in schools. Welsh Lib Dems have been upfront in saying we will increase funding for mental health in Wales as well as offering advocacy for young people to get the care they need.
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 play a vital role in our schools today. It is difficult to remember the times when this support was not available to learners and teachers. I believe that TAs should be paid for the whole year and not just for the weeks they work in term-time. They deserve pay rises in line with those of teachers.
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. Absolutely! I personally know people who are suffering the long term effects of COVID as you are and I cannot begin to imagine how frustrating it must be. The good news is there is a great deal of research being undertaken to understand the long term effects of COVID, and some break throughs are beginning to be reported. But the 10% of people of those infected want advice for now.
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. The Council are responsible for many things and some of these are ’Statutory’- they have to provide the- such as education and social services. Some services I expect many people do not realise are provided. Council Tax only pays for a small part of the total budget, but I don’t think it is the best way of collecting local taxes for local services. I believe the amount of local tax should be directly linked to the person’s ability to pay. Meanwhile we all have to make sure that the Council consults properly on the areas of work which can be decided locally.
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. Where to start! Welsh Lib Dems will put the environment at the heart of rebuilding our economy, creating a fairer, more resilient economy that works for people and the planet. The environment has to be at the heart of everything we do. It can work for people’s pockets too – we would pass a Green Homes Act to help cut average household energy bills by £500 per year and build smarter more, energy efficient homes.
Q. How do you plan to reduce littering and remove what is already there on the streets and highways?
A. I could say- this is the Council’s responsibility…. But actually it’s the responsibility of all of us isn’t it? Supporting great charities like Keep Wales Tidy who encourage young learners in school to understand why it is important. Challenging people when they drop their chip papers on the floor. But we have to make people care, and if it looks as if everyone else is dropping litter and the place is a mess they won’t care. So the Council does have to make sure that public waste bins are emptied regularly. On a personal basis I would encourage local litter pick groups- but as always prevention is better than cure
Q. What do you personally do in your life to ensure you are leaving the smallest environmental footprint on our planet?
A. Actually this week I have bought detergent , washing up liquid, toilet cleaner and cleaning fluid in pouches to fill re-usable containers. Having thought that by recycling as much as I possibly could and choosing loose fruit and veg I was being ‘good’- but after reading an article becoming ‘ greener’ I realised I could do so much better! I’m also trying bar shampoo and conditioner- no plastic at all. We now share a car at home and it is a self charging hybrid. Next car will definitely be electric! And no more peat based compost in the garden.
Q. How do you plan to support local produce businesses to reduce plastic and carbon emissions?
A. You are right – reducing packaging is so much better than recycling it at the other end. The first in the three ’R’s (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) I am not sure if you mean people who are growing locally or selling. But I believe in getting people together and sharing good practice is the best way forward, showing the advantages to their businesses
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. From a party of ‘pavement politicians’ who pound the streets year in and year out I do not share your premise that this ONLY happens at election time. However, I understand the sentiment. Our streamline is ‘Working for you-all year round’ and I think this is absolutely crucial. How else will we know what the issues are that are effecting local communities.
Q. Do you think Wales should: a. pursue independence; b. reverse devolution; c. maintain devolution?
A. Maintain and IMPROVE devolution. For example, youth justice, probation services, prisons and policing should be properly devolved to the Senedd. Welsh Lib Dems reject the status quo or independence binary. We believe in a federal United Kingdom where Wales is respected and protected in law as an equal, we have the power to deliver, and where we share power with our neighbours where needed.
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. Well I live in Torfaen Council area but strangely not in Torfaen constituency. However, I believe it is important to be local, but listening is far more important than living, which if you are on the doorstep you can do much more easily!
Q. What are your passions on the decriminalisation of drugs in Wales?
A. Welsh Lib Dems would seek devolution of criminal justice, so we can pursue harm reduction policies such as the creation of legal drug consumption rooms to take dangerous drugs off our streets.and radical reform of drugs policy. One step at a time.
Q. Do you support the idea of a Universal basic income?
A. Liberal Democrats are committed to trialling a Universal Basic Income (UBI). We believe – based on the growing body of evidence from trials around the world – that UBI not only reduces inequalities and increases wellbeing, but that it strengthens local economies. We know it works from trials around the world, and we’ll work with all parties and the UK Government to introduce a trial as soon as possible so we can understand how best to roll out a UBI to all citizens in Wales.