As we greet the New Year, we all hope for peace and certainty for the future – for our families, communities and the economy, and for all those who are vulnerable and in need in the world.
I look forward to playing my part in the new Welsh Government, led by Professor Mark Drakeford AM, supporting him in his office in the key central functions and responsibilities of the Welsh Government. With equalities in my portfolio, I was delighted that the new First Minister delivered on his promise to have a gender balanced Cabinet. In fact he has appointed more women than men into the Welsh Government, following in the footsteps of his mentor, former First Minister Rhodri Morgan, including the appointment of my constituent, former MP and AM for Cardiff North, Julie Morgan AM. It is also welcome that both Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, who were candidates in the Labour leadership contest, are in key positions in the Cabinet.
I have enjoyed so many Christmas concerts and services across the Vale of Glamorgan over the past few weeks, including the RNLI, Barry Community Choir, Barry Ladies Choir, Barry Male Voice Choir, Barnardo’s fundraising coffee morning and Ewenny Priory Annual Christmas Concert. Funds have been raised for charities all over the Vale, and I am so thankful for all the volunteers who helped organise Christmas dinners for the Royal British Legion and the Friends and Neighbours groups.
Christmas is a time of joy and happiness for many people, but not for everyone. I donated a Christmas hamper which I won at All Saints Church to the Vale Foodbank, and was very grateful for the generosity of Church members who added to the hamper, making a substantial donation to take to the St Mary’s Church Foodbank, just before Christmas. The growing need for Foodbank support for families is of great concern to me, and I was pleased to take part in the annual collection at Tesco’s and to see how generous shoppers were with their donations.
I chaired a meeting of local agencies involved in supporting people with Universal Credit, which is now being rolled out in the Vale of Glamorgan. I have raised my concerns throughout the year about Universal Credit, which has the potential to cause hardship and distress to vulnerable families and individuals. I will continue to raise concerns where appropriate and to monitor the impact on my constituents, particularly the most vulnerable.
Visiting Barry Hospital is always a pleasure, and this year on Christmas Eve I went to thank the staff and volunteers, and to meet patients and relatives. After a long campaign we got rid of the punitive parking fines system, which was a great outcome for local people. I am now working with the Health Board to make many more positive changes to the hospital, with exciting plans to be announced in the New Year. I am pleased that local schools and voluntary groups such as Beautiful Barry and Gibby Green Fingers are getting involved in these plans.
Speaking at the funeral of Catherine Watkins just before Christmas was a great honour and privilege, as we came together to remember and celebrate the life of this remarkable person. Cath achieved so much, and she leaves behind the wonderful Vale Parent and Family Club for us to take forward. We remember those who have served as she did, as a parent, auntie, daughter and inspiring community leader. Cath Watkins served her community in a wonderfully imaginative way, she brought so much hope and goodwill to others, as well as her beloved family.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda,
Jane Hutt AM