Bridgend leaders call for UK Government ‘to match the peoples’ commitment’ to Ukraine
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
The Council Leader of Bridgend and other councillors have come together to call for urgent action from the UK Government so that they can help people fleeing the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
In a rare display of cross-party agreement, Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) members showed their support for the people of Ukraine following the invasion by Russian forces and issued a call to action to help those fleeing the conflict.
Council Leader, Huw David expressed his pride in communities across the county borough coming together to offer donations of food, money and other essential items.
Cllr David said: “Just as Wales is a place of sanctuary, so too is Bridgend County Borough, and it has been encouraging to see local communities enquiring about how they can offer help and support, and organising their own efforts.
“As the situation develops and we await further guidance from both the UK Government and Welsh Government, we are ready to work alongside our partners, and fully support all efforts to bring an end to the conflict, prevent any further loss of life, and to deliver a peaceful and diplomatic solution.”
In his address at Wednesday’s full Council meeting, Cllr David said: “Our people, Welsh people [and] British people have shown their extraordinary generosity and kindness.
“We need the UK Government to match the peoples’ commitment.
“All councils in Wales are ready to do whatever we can to help those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine and are making preparations.
“However, our preparations are limited as we have not received the information we urgently need from the UK Government.”
Cllr David said there was a need from the Government to respond with “far greater urgency” to the refugee crisis and pointed to other European nations, who he said have moved at a far “greater speed”.
A public vigil was held to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine last Saturday in Bridgend and another vigil is planned to take place at Dunraven Place in Bridgend town centre on Friday March 4 at 6pm.
Independent Alliance Group Leader, Alex Williams added his words of support to the Leader’s.
He said: “The scenes from Ukraine have been heartbreaking, which makes the UK Government’s dithering and bureaucracy in Calais all the more shameful as we witness the effective closure of our borders to Ukrainian people in their hour of need while innocent people die in their homeland.
“I would urge us as one council to compel the UK Government to make every effort to relax immigration conditions immediately and lead the world, rather than follow, when it comes to receiving Ukrainian refugees fleeing persecution.”
Group Leader for the Llynfi Valley Independents, Ross Penhale-Thomas, said: “I have received phone calls and messages from residents in my own patch over the last few days who are keen to host Ukrainian refugees in their own homes.
“That speaks volumes [of] the welcoming communities that make up our county borough.”
Cllr Penhale-Thomas said he viewed the UK Government’s response as “woefully” inadequate and added: “We are the embarrassment of Western Europe”.
Maesteg will be holding its own vigil in support of the people of Ukraine this Saturday from 10am to 10.30am at the Market Square.
Plaid Cymru Group, Malcolm James said: “I believe more pressure should be put on the UK Government.
“When they say they are making efforts, I say they are effortless in what they do and seeing the sights in Calais are a disgrace to this country.”
Conservatives Group Leader, Matthew Voisey, added his voice to the words of support offered by his colleagues, saying: “Personally, I would welcome people into my own home to help them and hope that there is a list being compiled at the moment of homes with hosts in Bridgend County Borough to accept refugees when they arrive.”
However, Cllr Voisey said he thought it was a “shame” that the issue was, in his mind, being “politicised”.
He added: “The Prime Minister is leading the free world in ensuring that this Ukraine issue is at the front of everyone’s mind and applying as much pressure as we can as short of total war with the Russians.
“I think the Prime Minister should be complimented for what they are doing and stop this criticism. It doesn’t do any good and it shows a lack of sensibility at this time.
“Thank you to everyone who is working towards helping Ukraine, but please let’s not politicise it.”
Cllr John Spanswick, who was chairing the meeting, responded to Cllr Voisey’s comments, saying: “I don’t think anyone is politicising it. They are just calling for action [from] the UK Government.”
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