Every now and then we manage to catch-up with Llanelli MP Nia Griffith for a chat about local issues. We took the opportunity having met the MP at Kidwelly carnival to invite her for a chat at the news van on Sunday morning. As busy as she is speaking to constituents and attending a 100th birthday party she did keep her appointment but as with all busy people, she was running slightly late.
We began by asking the MP for Llanelli about the proposed tourism tax for Wales and the issue of second homes, the slow down in home building and the balance between people who need to make money from tourism and housing local people.
Nia Griffith MP said: “There’s going to be a consultation this autumn and it’s very important that everybody has their say. The context is this: For many years now, the UK government has squeezed the Welsh Government’s budget and although the Welsh Government has done its best to try and fund county councils we know that every county council has to look very carefully at its budget. There was huge outcry a couple of years ago when Carmarthenshire was trying to get rid of its responsibility for toilets and asking local town and community councils to take responsibility. Some of those community councils did not have the budget to be able to cope. So this is potentially an imaginative way of thinking well how else can councils raise the money which they could use in their local area. That’s the important thing about it – it would be for each council to decide whether or not they would set a rate, how much it would be and in what context they would use it.
“What are their other options? Raising council tax which is always unpopular or parking fees which again causes an outcry with local residents. So the question is, what sort of area have you got? Is it an area with perhaps very strong tourism where the tourism trade could withstand having an additional cost. Or is it an area where tourism is in its infancy – you’re trying to grow that in which case perhaps you wouldn’t. But the fact of the matter is, through this fine weather we’ve seen bins overflowing here in Carmarthenshire and we actually want people to come and empty those bins. We want toilets to be cleaned regularly and to be open for longer and so that’s a really difficult conversation that we have to have. What will be the impact on the industry and what will be an appropriate rate. We can look at some of the continental towns which have this – a graduated rate so with the cheapest accommodation at a very low rate. Perhaps the more expensive hotels would have a higher rate so that again you wouldn’t be trying to penalise those less well off tourists that come. It’s a very tricky conversation so you balance that against – do you want the services, or do you want to raise money for those services in other ways? And all of those are really difficult conversations to have. But I think the important thing is that they would be at a local level and people would therefore be able to have their say. Local councillors would be able to look at the situation in their area because lets face it there are very different areas across Wales.”
We asked the MP for her thoughts on second homes and the balance to be struck between housing local people, tourism and the slow down of the building of social housing.
The MP said: “I think it’s a really tricky issue because it’s all very easy for us to say ‘all second homes are bad’ and to say that we don’t want to see any in our village – none of us want to see a village where only two or three houses have their lights on in the winter. But the fact of the matter is that there are also many people in Wales who themselves have holiday home businesses and that brings local income into the area. Another very worrying factor of course is the tendency now for some people to go and let their homes out for AirBnB. We heard a speaker from Cornwall on the radio not long ago saying that they were preferring to do that to having long term tenants from local people. Then you have local people who are being evicted. That’s a horrific situation, and there’s no way we’d want to see young people priced out of the market.
“So it’s definitely a really urgent conversation to have, but it’s also a very tricky conversation and we undoubtedly need to continue to build social homes so that people locally can have proper homes, not have to worry about being expelled by a landlord but can have new social housing which will give them a guaranteed tenancy. Lets try and make their lives secure because there’s nothing worse for a young person setting out in life than the insecurity of a zero hour contract and a landlord that might throw you out.”
Nia Griffith attended Kidwelly carnival on Saturday July 9th and we asked her for her thoughts on how successful it was and how important it was to the community.
She said: “I absolutely enjoyed the carnival. Hats off to the organisers who did a fantastic job. I think after the pandemic people are crying out for coming together. I think now more than ever people are appreciating the value of community and they are realising how locally we can help each other so much. It was marvellous to see the enjoyment, the look on people’s faces out there really enjoying themselves in the sunshine. They were participating and helping each other, buying things in local stores and so forth. All of that contributes to a really good community spirit. Kidwelly has been building on this for some time now. They have set up the monthly market and that has been growing. They are really trying to bring people in. I understand there is going to be a music festival in August and this is going to be a first. Let’s hope we can get the support because these initiatives deserve to be supported.”
Issues in Llanelli
We asked Nia Griffith MP about the recent fire in Llanelli and the comments of businessman Leslie gilbert who claims the town has been abandoned by police and politicians.
The MP said: “The situation is very difficult in the town centre. There are a number of issues we do have to tackle. Cllr Suzy Curry who represents the Tyisha ward now has the town centre in her patch. She has had a meeting just this week about these very issues. One of the big issues is proper collection of litter. More regular collection so there isn’t material there for fires. On the issue of people who have drug problems we have been to the health board before now and I am going back again to ask why we can’t have a centre outside of the town centre for them to have their needs seen to. By bringing them into the town centre it does actually mean that it’s a place for them to congregate. They do need help and support and people agree on that. A little bit out of the centre would be helpful but somewhere they could still access. The Tyisha project aims to make the area of town a much more mixed area in terms of the general population. We need to make sure we can help people who are able live more permanently instead of a transient population in rented accommodation. That is a long term thing but we do need to tackle these issues head on. We do need to think imaginatively of how best to make the town more attractive and deal with these issues.”
We could not let the opportunity pass by of asking Nia about the drama, which unfolded at Downing Street last week with the resignation of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson. We asked Nia for her views on the manner in which the PM fell on his sword and if Labour would be ready for a general election.
“The MP sadi: It has been a total disgrace all along right from the very beginning. He has never been properly apologetic. He has never shown any shame or any sense of honour. I think it really is now getting in the way and he should just get out of the way because he is not suited to being a caretaker Prime Minister. He has to be the centre of the story all of the time whereas what we need now is just somebody to steer the ship and keep things ok for the time being whilst the conservative party decide who they want to have as their leader. He is already meddling in so much I just don’t think that he should be there at all. He is certainly not going to make the process a smooth one for the candidates.
“The position at the moment is that well over half of the British people actually want to have a general election so there seems to be a mood out there so let the people decide We would be ready at any time as the Labour party to take on that general election but ultimately it will be up to the British people. We have made huge strides forward since 2019 when we did lose very badly but again things can change very quickly in politics. I have heard some life long conservatives saying now that they can’t vote conservative again. That really seems to be the tectonic plates which are shifting but we will have to fight for every vote and we are certainly not going to be complacent about that.”