THIS year has been a difficult one for everyone given the impact of the Covid pandemic and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on the cost of living. As the year draws to a close, I would like to offer reassurance that the UK Government is well aware of the hardships people face and will continue to do everything possible to support the country and the least well off during these tough times.

We are actively pursuing policies that should bring down inflation next year and boost economic growth, whilst trying to increase the supply of oil and gas from countries other than Russia.

HSBC’s decision to shut its branches in Abergavenny and Chepstow is hugely disappointing. I met with the bank on Friday to express my concern and find out what support is being offered to vulnerable customers. Like it or not, the future of banking is online.

However, there is still some hope as people will be able to use any Post Office counter to pay in cash or cheques, withdraw money and check their balances. I bank with HSBC myself and struggle a bit with the mobile banking app.

I have therefore accepted the challenge of visiting the Abergavenny branch next week so staff can talk me through everything and show me how it works.

HSBC acknowledge the app was a “bit fiddly” and changed it about six months ago to make it more user friendly. I will take them at their word and report back!

News that the number of Welsh speakers has fallen in the past decade, with fewer children speaking the language, is worrying and somewhat surprising.

The Welsh Government needs to look at how Welsh is studied in schools to ensure it is fit for purpose. A lot of children are put off after learning Welsh for several years at primary school and then having to start from scratch at secondary school when they are often put in a class with pupils who have never spoken a word of Welsh before.

There is also an argument, in my view, for earmarking resources to those who show the most enthusiasm for the language–especially after the age of 14 when they start doing their GSCEs.

However, one expert I heard on Radio Cymru made a very good point, which is that half a million people who speak a bit of Welsh every day would be better than one million people who know a few words of Welsh but never use it. I certainly concur and as a Welsh speaker.