By now, I am sure we can all agree the last few years have been extremely difficult for people across the UK. My community was hit by devastating flooding in February 2020, just as the realities of Covid began to set in. Yet we are now more than two years on from that time and, dare I say it, I’m starting to feel more optimistic.
As an MP representing an area in Wales, the stark differences between the Welsh Labour government’s commitment to recovery for our communities versus the diabolical Tories in Westminster, who seem to be completely absorbed by internal politics, have never been more obvious. For people across Pontypridd and Taff Ely, the recovery effort from both Covid and the horrendous flooding, led by local residents and businesses alongside financial support from the Welsh government and my Labour-led local authority, has been absolutely phenomenal.
Those in power at No 10 would do well to learn from the integrity and commitment that residents across my area have shown over the last few years. Yet, instead, we are left with a Prime Minister who we now know for certain has lied and deceived the nation. As businesses in Pontypridd begin to grow and thrive, I suggest he looks across the border if he wants a lesson on how to truly ‘build back better’ – as is so often quoted by his party.
Despite all that we have been through in being hit by two major economical catastrophes within only a few weeks of one another, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to local people and the sensible approach that Welsh Labour have taken, which has enabled us to rebuild. Last week, as I was out and about across my constituency visiting Easter markets, I was overwhelmed with the support for local, independent businesses that was clear for all of us to see.
And over the last few years, my Labour-led local authority has led the way with an ambitious regeneration project for Pontypridd, which has already delivered on bringing jobs to our area. We now have the headquarters for Transport for Wales, a major employer across South Wales, based slap bang in the centre of town. And of course, a hugely positive knock-on impact is the explosion of cafes, restaurants and bars making use of both the space and the increasing foot fall.
Crucial to this success has been the vision of the Welsh Labour government to invest in people, and support businesses, both during and beyond the pandemic too. We must remember that it was the Welsh government that did the right thing and provided the most generous support package for businesses, above and beyond that made available for those in England, at a time when it was truly needed.
More recently, the commitment to continuing to support local residents despite the Tories’ dreadful cost-of-living crisis, has shone through too. This includes a support package worth around £330m with an extension to the all-important winter fuel support scheme that aims to support low-income households with the increasing cost of their energy bills.
Yet of course, it is not just funding commitments to support residents and businesses that have helped my community to bounce back. It is the bravery of business owners, big and small, who have put their faith and trust into our local economy and been bold in their creativity during difficult times indeed.
Organisations based in my constituency such as the Royal Mint, which turned its hand to making personal protective equipment during the pandemic and who have most recently announced an exciting new fine jewellery and homeware range, have led the way in bringing tourism to my area. These days we are very fortunate to that a huge range of businesses – from breweries in Treforest to a wonderful creative sector in Llantrisant – have chosen to make Pontypridd their home. The sky really is the limit, and they are not alone.
In recent weeks, my local authority has launched a consultation on ambitious plans that will see mass redevelopment to open up a riverside plaza in the heart of the Welsh Valley’s. It is this commitment to truly investing in local areas that has allowed Pontypridd and Taff Ely to begin to uniquely recover from what was a deeply dark time for us all. And it is a stark and remarkable contrast to the alarming rate of deaths that hit Rhondda Cynon Taf at the height of the pandemic.
The area that I was born in and still live, Tonyrefail, was consistently one of the UK’s highest areas for deaths from Covid – so we really have come a long way. And while of course those lives continue to be mourned, I’m exceptionally proud of the Welsh spirit and commitment from Welsh Labour across my area and Wales more widely, which has brought new life, in a different form, to my community. Long may it continue.