My regular newspaper column: Your MP Writes

Torfaen County Borough Council has launched a consultation in relation to post-16 education, which could spell the end of Croesyceiliog School’s sixth form – one of the best performing in the area. Croesyceiliog is part of the Monmouth constituency and I regularly visit the school to meet both staff and students. I would personally be very sorry indeed to see this outstanding facility close. Parents and pupils who feel the same way need to make their voices heard by emailing the council and copying in Welsh Government Education Secretary Kirsty Williams. The consultation period runs until 23 December, leaving little time to respond.

Another Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary, Mark Drakeford, will also be getting a full inbox from angry retailers and small business owners across Monmouthshire who have been hit with eye-watering increases in business rates. Some are facing hikes of 300 per cent, with pubs and shops among the worst affected. Mr Drakeford is promising to look at small business rates relief, which is something, but if the increases go ahead from April 2017 then town centres will be devastated. Independent and cherished family-owned businesses could be forced to shut down, only to be replaced by chains or charity outlets. If you care about our characterful high streets, please email Correspondence.Mark.Drakeford@gov.wales and urge him to at least postpone these new tariffs until the impact on businesses can be properly examined.

Back in Westminster, I was happy to speak with Diane Abbot and David Lammy about post-Brexit hate crime. Of course, they are two separate issues. Hate crimes are completely unacceptable against anyone for any reason and are condemned by all right thinking people. Brexit is a democratic decision to leave the European Union. Some people who do not like the referendum result are now trying to suggest that those of us who supported Brexit are somehow responsible for the disgraceful behaviour of a tiny minority. Worse still, they are using this as an excuse to try and silence perfectly respectable concerns being raised about the EU or immigration.

I’m pleased to hear telecoms regulator Ofcom has ordered BT to split legally from its Openreach division. I have long campaigned for better broadband in rural areas and worried about BT’s rivals getting access to the UK’s broadband infrastructure, which is managed by Openreach. I await more details with interest but it is certainly good news for ‘not-spot’ communities waiting for reasonable broadband speeds.

*Published in the South Wales Argus on 5 December 2016*