Vikki Howells is a Member of the National Assembly for Wales (AM) for Labour. She has been an AM since 2016 when she was elected as the Assembly Member for Cynon Valley constituency. As Vikki is the Assembly Member for Cynon Valley, her answers can only represent people living in Cynon Valley.
What difference have you made to Rhondda Cynon Taf since you’ve been elected?
I was elected in 2016 to represent Cynon Valley in the National Assembly for Wales, and one of my commitments was to be a visible and accessible representative. I think I’ve delivered on this since I’ve been elected, through opening my shop-front, town centre office in Aberdare (a first for a politician in our area!), through holding surgeries across Cynon Valley and through being contactable by social media (my Twitter profile is @VikkiHowells, my Facebook is @VikkiHowellsAM).
Being accessible means I am able to take up a large number of cases on behalf of constituents. This is often an under-appreciated part of a politician’s job, but it is one where you are able to make real differences in solving problems facing people. For example, I have taken up a case involving a new housing estate where the 200 or so households have been left without an adequate broadband provision since the homes were built over four years ago. My intervention has led to what I hope is a resolution of the problem, with the necessary infrastructure being put in place by the end of the year.
I also work closely with the Welsh Labour Government, to ensure the policies that it develops can really make a difference to the lives and opportunities of local people. One example of this is the Welsh Labour manifesto commitment to provide working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds with 30 hours a week of free childcare, 48 weeks of the year. Childcare can be one of the biggest household bills, and a real barrier to employment for women especially. A pilot project has been launched covering Mountain Ash and Penywaun and this will make a big difference to the lives of local children and their parents.
What will you do to improve the prospects of young people and what should be done to ensure that young people have their voices heard?
Having taught in secondary schools for sixteen years, I am passionate about ensuring we create the right circumstances so all our young people can succeed in life. Welsh Government policies such as the creation of 100,000 apprenticeships during this Assembly term will play a significant role in improving options for our young people, and improved fit for purpose educational facilities like new primary schools, Aberdare Community School and the new Coleg Y Cymoedd campus are crucial for enhancing opportunities.
Young people must also be involved in shaping these policies and priorities. I regularly visit schools across my constituency to speak to students about democracy, devolution, and representation and am always delighted to welcome trips down to the Assembly in Cardiff Bay. I am also closely following the plans for a Youth Parliament for Wales, which will help ensure that the voices of our young people are heard loud and clear – after all, you are the future of our Valley!
What’s the biggest challenge the World faces today in your opinion?
The greatest challenge facing the world is climate change. We see the consequences of this all around us, in terms of extreme weather, the devastating escalation in the threat of famine in Africa (the UN say 20 million people are at risk in 2017) and changes in our natural world and the warming of coastal waters off Wales. There is a duty on all of us to do what we can to minimise the harm we cause to the environment, such as by being responsible for how we use energy. We also need to look at how we generate energy. The new Pen Y Cymoedd wind farm at the top of my constituency will generate enough sustainable energy for 188,000 homes every year, the equivalent of 15% of Welsh homes!
What’s the Number 1 thing you hope to change in Rhondda Cynon Taf?
My number one priority for Cynon Valley is to improve transport links so that we can enhance the opportunities for work, study, and leisure available to local people. I am proud of the work I have already been able to do, for example, helping secure funding from the Welsh Government for the Cross-Valley link road in Mountain Ash, which will ease traffic congestion in Cynon Valley. Equally important (especially in line with my answer to question 3) is that we must make sure our public transport provision is fit for purpose. I have been involved in discussions relating to the South Wales Metro, which could be transformative and I have argued that fares should be affordable for all. I am also campaigning for improved public transport services on a Sunday, as for many people the current provision is simply inadequate. I also want to improve public transport within Cynon, for example through enhanced local bus services – this is as important as links to Cardiff!