We speak with Mike Hedges MS about his time in the Senedd, Morriston, Swansea and what the ‘Beer & pub committee’ is all about!
I know that you are a proud Morriston man. How do you feel that Morriston is doing? And what does its future look like?
Morriston is growing in population, with new housing being developed. I am disappointed in the reduction in local league football teams in Morriston. The shopping area is struggling where shops are in competition with on line retailers but there are very few empty properties or charity shops on Woodfield street. The future will probably see more housing development and more people working at least part of the time from home.
Looking more at Swansea as a whole and as an ex-leader of Swansea council. Are you are proud of the changes which are happening to our city?
I am very pleased to see the further development in Swansea. I am proud of the stadium, the national pool, the national waterfront museum, the Swansea vale development, the redevelopment of wind street and the development of Welsh medium education in Swansea when I was leader.
Swansea City Football Club
I spoke with Rob Stewart a few months back and I was surprised at how genuinely important Swansea City Football Club is to the city. Having that exposure to get investment. Have you felt that from within the Senedd? Are Swansea and Cardiff seen slightly differently to one another depending on success?
Swansea city football club brings Swansea to the notice of many people which is another reason that I want Swansea city to return to the premier division and to European competition, apart from being a fan. It means you do not have to tell people where Swansea is. I am more interested in getting start-ups and local companies to expand rather than bringing in branch factories many which do not stay very long. Put simply we want more Admiral Insurance and less LGs. With the premier division shown throughout the world whichever teams get there have a worldwide profile. I remember during our premier division days hundreds of away team fans staying in Swansea.
I understand that you used to be a local football referee. Did you enjoy it? Tell us a funny story about it if you have one J
I was a soccer referee, secretary of Morriston Town and am a qualified football coach. I progressed as a referee to officiating in the Welsh league. When I was refereeing in the Garw valley the car of a colleague going to referee another game broke down and he borrowed mine to get to his fixture
Changes to Senedd
You’ve been a member of the Senedd since 2011. How has Wales changed politically in that time?
Three big changes are the growth and decline of UKIP, the decline of the Liberal Democrats and the growth of the Conservatives which I hope is only a temporary . In the Senedd there were 30 Labour members in 2011 and the same in 2021.
You are on a lot of cross-party committees including, as I understand one called ‘Beer & The Pub’. Through this magazine, I know a lot of pubs, landlords, landladies and they are really struggling. How can the Welsh Assembly support our pubs and breweries better?
I also know lots of pub Landlords and Ladies and as more people buy alcohol from supermarkets pubs are suffering. The minimum price for alcohol helps but the rents charged by the big pubcos causes problems for pub landlords and landladies .Also a lot of pubs are on prime sites which can be converted into expensive flats. I am pleased to see the growth of local brewers such as the excellent Thomas Watkins.
Do we have enough powers in Wales with regards to this? When you look at Ireland, a can of Budweiser in the Supermarket costs over £2 and so the gap between a pint in the pub or a pint at home isn’t as great as it is here. Do we have the powers to control that or is it all from Westminster?
We can increase the minimum price of alcohol, but it would adversely affect many moderate drinkers. What I would like to see is the return of brewers running pubs, so they have an interest in keeping pubs open and selling their beer.
Do we need more powers generally? Are you a ‘yes’ to independence yet?
I have argued for many years for “Devo MAX” . A common currency, foreign policy, defence policy, trade policy and central bank amongst others are beneficial but I support the devolution of most areas such as the mix between states and the national government in the USA.
There are more and more Labour member and politicians in favour. I suppose we are in a scenario where the problems here in Wales are either the fault of those running Wales, i.e. you! or that Wales doesn’t have enough powers?
The last argument I heard put forward for independence included no longer funding retirement pensions. There are advantages to being part of a larger entity. Wales needs more powers ,but we need greater devolution to the English city regions and like Germany and USA the same powers devolved. everywhere
Cost of Living Crisis
With the rising energy crisis and climate change, we’ve recently been told that Wales has the perfect conditions for renewable energy. Does Welsh Labour need to take some of the blame for the problems here in Wales? Shouldn’t we already have 100% of our energy from renewables based here in Wales? And how quickly SHOULD this now happen?
Control over larger renewable energy sites is held at Westminster. The Swansea tidal lagoon should have been approved by the Westminster Government and needs to be approved now. We need to support solar, off shore and on shore wind and other renewable energy projects. I want to highlight the excellent area solar power project by POBL in the Blaenymaes and Portmead area of Swansea
Mark Drakeford divides opinion. How do you feel that he is doing generally? And should he attend Qatar? Is that sending the right message?
I think he is doing well. The decision on his going to Qatar is his and his alone .
Cymru World Cup
Cymru in the World Cup. We now know how important the Swans football club was to getting investment here into the city. How can Wales benefit from the success of its national football club?
The better that Wales does the more publicity we will get and the more who will become aware of Wales and also the action of our supporters will also show Wales in a good light. It is about improving our profile.
Finally, you’ve been in the Senedd for 11 years now. What is your number one achievement and what is the one thing you want to achieve in the coming years?
Number one achievement has been stopping an expensive and disruptive local government reorganisation. My ambition for the coming years is for the return of large scale council house building