This week, I had the opportunity to speak about the great work of Swansea Council in a Westminster Hall debate. Read on to find my full speech.
"I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) for securing this timely and important debate. I am proud to work, alongside my Welsh Labour colleagues, my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), with the local Labour council in Swansea. As has been mentioned in today’s Swansea-heavy debate, it was the first Welsh council to adopt a minimum staff wage of £10 an hour. By doing that, Swansea Council shows how much it values its staff, who are the ones who have kept our vital services running, especially throughout the pandemic.
I pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the Swansea Council leader, Rob Stewart, and his cabinet members. It is amazing to see many projects come to fruition, such as the new Swansea arena, which I know the Minister visited. I am looking forward to going there in May to see “The Good, The Bad and The Rugby—Live”. Although the Minister knows the frustration of the people of Swansea over the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, he will agree with me that the new Blue Eden project is the innovative and economy-boosting project that Swansea, and indeed Wales, needs.
Last month, Swansea Council announced a record-breaking budget for services that affect my constituents every day. An extra £35 million of funding will go towards record levels of spending in schools and social care, with support concentrated on community-based services, such as litter picking, street cleaning and road improvements. Those are all issues that I am sure many of us hear about from our constituents every day. It is great news that the Labour Government have protected the budget of Swansea Council, allowing it to invest more in the priorities of the people of Swansea and Gower.
The pandemic showed us the huge benefits of spending time outdoors. I am pleased that Swansea Council has introduced schemes to reflect that, with free bus travel over the school holidays, allowing families to make the most of the fantastic outdoor spaces available, whether that is our world-famous beaches on the Gower peninsula or our green spaces, such as Penllergare valley woods. I am pleased about the investment that is going into playground spaces, which my colleagues spoke about. A lot of that is seen in my constituency, such as Gowerton park, Parc Melin Mynach, Bracelet Bay, Pennard park and Coed Bach park, to name a few that are currently undergoing transformation.
One thing that has not been spoken about today is that in 2015 Swansea became the first council in Wales to introduce the local area co-ordination network. Our local area co-ordinators—or LACs as we call them—were invaluable during the pandemic. In the first five months, they responded to over 20,000 inquiries, from picking up food and medication to dropping pets at vets, and anything in between. These local authority co-ordinators who work in my constituency and across Swansea are dedicated to their communities. My thanks go out to them on behalf of all my constituents who they have worked so hard to support. One of the good things about the scheme is that we are showing the rest of Wales and beyond what good practice this is. To see that good practice roll out in other authorities is what it is all about, because it benefits everybody.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those cabinet members from Gower who will not be standing again in the local elections, who have been very patient, collaborative and kind to me since I was elected in 2017: Councillor Mark Thomas from Penclawdd, who has been environment enhancement and infrastructure manager—highways, to a lot of us—and Councillor Mark Child from West Cross. We will also be saying a sad goodbye to Christine Richards, our councillor for Loughor and the former deputy leader of Swansea Council.
We know how important our local councils are to us all. Our working relationship with them and with the Welsh Government is key. I am proud to work alongside Swansea Council and look forward to continuing this work post-election with new faces and old friends."