My regular newspaper column: Your MP Writes

The business rates revaluation which comes into force on 1 April 2017 is a complete disaster for high streets. Monmouthshire has taken a particularly bad hit. In an age when so many transactions are carried out online, with companies based in warehouses in remote areas and probably with offices offshore paying low taxes, it makes no sense to clobber our struggling high street retailers with a tax that is loosely based on a rateable value and not on profit.

In Wales, responsibility rests with the Welsh Government. It needs to match England by removing all businesses with a rateable value of less than £12,000 from the system. The English multiplier (the percentage charged on each pound of rates) is lower and all businesses will benefit from a transitional scheme. I would urge as many people as possible to call on Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford to match or better the English schemes. In the longer term though, the time has surely come to move to a tax based on profit - not on a bureaucrat’s view of how much a property can be rented for.

Croesyceiliog sixth form has always had a good reputation in and out of the classroom. I remember losing to them at rugby when I played for Bassaleg in the 1980s. The decision to rebuild the school is welcome but why is the local authority hell-bent on scrapping the sixth form and moving everyone into a college? There should be choice in education and things that are working reasonably well do not need changing. Torfaen County Borough Council must urgently rethink its plans.

With local government elections on the horizon in May, we will soon enter a period of purdah - the time shortly before an election when elected members are prevented from making big announcements which might help them win. But news reaches me that the word "purdah" has been abolished in Wales. Apparently, it also refers to the practice in Muslim countries of preventing women from being seen by men. Therefore, argue the officials, it mustn't be used in case it causes "offence". Within the English language there are numerous words which contain two or more meanings. These words are called "homonyms". Are we allowed to use the word "homonym" or will the officials rule it sounds like another word that might cause someone offence?

*Published in the South Wales Argus on 27 February 2017*