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Christmas 2014 - A message of hope.

With 2014 drawing to a close the Christmas festivities are once again upon us. However, 13 million people today in the UK will find it difficult to feel festive while living with the grind of poverty. Nearly a million people now rely on food banks. For those, this time of year will be a story of struggle and hardship as more and more people find it impossible to meet rising food, housing and heating costs.

Here in the Cynon Valley, many people are struggling and getting into debt just to get by. Children are living in poverty if they have parents in work and if they have parents without. Christmas can just be another pressure.

Does it have to always be like this?

2015 is a General Election year. The establishment Westminster parties are promising more austerity. If people stay with those parties, or ignore the politicians altogether, it’s pretty much guaranteed that we will get more of the same. It is easy to see why many people are unable to see any sunshine on the horizon with a choice between these three shades of Westminster grey.

However, there is a sign of hope - if people here want it and are prepared to do something different.

It is likely that following May’s election there will be a hung parliament. In that scenario, Plaid Cymru could hold the balance of power alongside the Greens and the SNP. The three leaders of these parties met recently and outlined their plans to cooperate ahead of the election to get rid of this callous Tory led government and for an end to the failed policies of austerity. They are offering an alternative to another coalition of the right - and the next one could include UKIP.

The leaders of Plaid Cymru, SNP & Greens have called for an end to the devastating cuts that are blighting our valleys and communities. What will be left after another few years of these cuts? Yet that is what has been promised by both the Tories and Labour. What will be left of our valleys communities if they are allowed to press ahead? They must be stopped.

It can be done - if people in Wales return a strong contingent of Plaid Cymru MPs. Wales will only be relevant in this election with a strong team of Plaid Cymru MPs. Only Plaid Cymru MPs have Wales as their priority. A strong team of MPs from the Party of Wales will make sure that Wales’ voice is heard in Westminster. They will make sure that the case is put for parity with Scotland in terms of powers and finance. In financial terms, that means Wales is owed an additional £1.2 billion a year. Plaid Cymru MPs will fight for this - there is no way that it can be justified that Wales is treated less favourably than Scotland.

Wales has been underfunded since the beginning of devolution. Our economy needs strengthening and we have taken a disproportionately hard hit from austerity.

If we are to reverse the growing inequality between individuals and families as well as geographic inequality, we must reverse the cuts to our vital services. We must rebalance power and wealth away from London and the south east to areas which need investment - like the valleys.

Too many people in the valleys have had too many difficult, expensive, stressful Christmasses. We all live in a wealthy state. No one here should have to live with poverty. Let’s all make sure 2015 sees moves to begin redistributing that wealth so that Wales - which has contributed so much to the wealth this state has, can see some benefit returned.

On behalf of the Plaid Cymru team in the Cynon Valley - we wish you all a peaceful Christmas and we hope that the new year can bring us hope for a brighter, healthier and more prosperous Cynon Valley.