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19  July

Under-fire local Tories dangle Air Ambulance carrot to voters

21/06/2024 @ 01:58


Under-pressure Conservative candidate Craig Williams has vowed to save Welshpool’s Air Ambulance base if his party is re-elected to Westminster, despite the threat of being “booted out” of the party by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak if found guilty of insider betting.

MyWelshpool asked Mr Williams’s office last night for an update on whether he will continue to stand after appearing to lose the support of the party hierarchy following his apology last week for betting £100 on the July election date, just three days before it was officially announced.

Three other individuals, including a bodyguard for Mr Sunak, are also under investigation by the Gambling Commission.

The result of that probe is unlikely to be known before the July 4 vote, meaning that Mr Williams will still stand for the party in the Montgomeryshire & Glyndwr constituency.

And today, the party has dangled a huge political carrot in front of local voters after pledging to provide extra funding to keep the Welshpool base open should they retain power.

Today’s Welsh manifesto set out that a future Welsh Conservative government would “commit to boosting the flexibility of the Welsh Air Ambulance service to maximise its coverage across Wales”, with a commitment to providing additional funding, including directly funding the costs of airbases currently in operation, and protecting Welshpool and Caernarfon air bases from closure. 

Welshpool and Caernarfon Air Ambulance bases are currently set to close after 2026, following a decision taken by a Welsh NHS committee in April. Local politicians have said the proposals should have been called in for Welsh Government Ministers to decide. The decision may also be subject to a judicial review.

The NHS Wales Joint Commissioning Committee voted to accept recommendations to close Welshpool and Caernarfon’s Air Ambulance bases, to be merged into a new site located within Northeast Wales.

A majority of the committee made up of the health boards of Wales voted for the proposal, with Powys Teaching Health Board and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board both opposing the plans.

Opposition to the closures has been extremely strong across three separate engagement stages, with over 30,000 signatures gathered petitioning against the closures from Powys residents. 

“The Welsh Labour Government are responsible for the Welsh NHS and are responsible for ensuring people across Wales are quickly transferred into emergency care, they have failed to intervene and take the steps to save and protect the only air ambulance base in Mid Wales,” said Mr Williams.

“I would also like to acknowledge the support and work of other political parties that have also stood alongside Russell (George MS) and I in this campaign, as well as the hard-working local campaign team.

“This is why, today, alongside my Welsh Conservative colleagues in the Senedd, we are committing that a future Welsh Conservative Government would protect the Mid Wales base that is so vital to our rural communities.

“We would directly fund the costs of airbases currently in operation, which would allow us to protect current bases. We would work with the relevant parties involved, we have an opportunity to turn this around before the planned closures in 2026.”

Pressure grew on Mr Williams last night when Mr Sunak told a BBC Question Time audience of millions that he was “incredibly angry” to learn of allegations that Tory insiders were betting on the election and promised to “boot out” anyone found to have broken gambling laws.