This column from Kirsty Williams first appeared in the Brecon and Radnor Express on 27th March 2019.
Over recent weeks the Brecon and Radnorshire Liberal Democrats have selected Jane Dodds, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, as our candidate to be the next Member of Parliament.
Jane is a fully qualified social worker and has worked for over 20 years as a child protection social worker. Her father’s background is in public service and her mother’s background is in the voluntary service. Jane’s politics has been shaped by the need to stand up for those who struggle to get their voice heard.
Jane has a long-standing record of campaigning to protect local services in Powys. She knows the importance of holding Powys County Council to account for their decisions. Jane has been involved in campaigns to keep recycling centres open, to maintain support for our libraries, and to stop the Council introducing a new parking charge for disabled people.
As Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats one of her key priorities has been calling for more to be done in tackling the epidemic of loneliness. It’s estimated that around 16% of people in Wales experience loneliness, with a significant rise (to 37%) when asking people in material deprivation. Of course in Powys there are additional challenges from rural isolation.
For these reasons and more, Jane understands the issues that rural areas face and the work that needs to be done to create thriving rural communities.
Brecon and Radnorshire has a proud history of Liberal Democrat MPs representing them in Westminster. Richard Livsey and Roger Williams had an established record of supporting people locally and ensuring the interests of Brecon and Radnorshire were heard in Westminster.
Richard Livsey was the MP when I was first elected to the Welsh Assembly. As well as being a great source of personal support, he was an experienced MP who set a fantastic example of what it meant to effectively represent Brecon and Radnorshire. I then worked with Roger Williams for 14 years, sharing an office and working together to support our communities.
It was a privilege to work alongside them both; they served Brecon and Radnorshire with distinction.
We are, of course, facing considerable political uncertainty at the moment. You will have read that last week the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire pled guilty to submitting false expenses invoices. In Westminster, every day seems to bring a new story of the Conservatives putting party before country and tearing themselves apart, presiding over a shambolic Brexit process that will leave our communities worse off.
I don’t know when the people of Brecon and Radnorshire will have an opportunity to choose a different path, but whenever it comes I hope it is taken. We desperately need someone to fight our corner in Westminster.
I have said repeatedly that excessive Conservative austerity is stretching budgets at all levels of decision-making, putting a strain on the valued services we rely on. The callous combination of a Conservative-Independent Council and a Conservative Government in Westminster means Powys is being let down.
More of the same simply won’t be good enough. We need a change in direction, a change in approach, and a return to the tradition of MPs willing to stand up to Westminster. As Welsh Liberal Democrats we have put forward a prospective MP to do just that.
Over the coming weeks, months and years I look forward to working alongside Jane. I hope you are able to support her as we campaign for the change that Brecon and Radnorshire needs.
Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Brecon and Radnorshire.