Speaking exclusively to the Pembrokeshire Herald, Shadow Education Minister and Pembrokeshire South Carmarthen West AM, Angela Burns, hit back at the Cardiff based Western Mail, which ran a critical article about her children’s school placement.
The Western Mail’s feature questioned, via a political source as they put it, Mrs Burns decision to send both of her children to a Cardiff based school rather than a ‘local’ Pembrokeshire School. However, Mrs Burns has responded by pouring scorn upon their ‘political source’, claiming that when she had pressed the newspaper reporter at the Western Mail further it was clear that their article had been based on just this one contributor alone, rather than from a number of sources. She went on to explain to the Herald,
“ I was initially contacted by the Mail who indicated it was regarding an issue of office hours. It transpired they wished to speak about my children. He (the Western Mail reporter) stated that ‘people’ had told him that my children were not being educated locally (in Pembrokeshire). He went on to say it was on my Facebook page.”
The Assembly member then pointed out that actually she did not have a current Facebook page and had not used the social network for nearly two years. Responding to the Western Mail’s criticism of her decision she said,
“ This isn’t really a new story anyway. My children moved up with me to Cardiff a year and a half ago and they now go to a local state primary school, not a private school, in the next village to where we reside when in Cardiff. The alternative would be for them to stay in Cosheston, our home in Pembrokeshire”.
The minister went on to explain the issues with her children remaining in Pembrokeshire whilst she worked away four days a week in Cardiff:
“In the first term of the Assembly I was in Cardiff for maybe two days a week, but now it is for four days a week. If they remained in Cosheston they would just see me at weekends. As my husband is also busy with several jobs it would mean employing a nanny for most probably three to four days a week. We talked to our children, aged seven and ten, and they made the decision that they wanted to be with Mum all week. They are two young girls who need their Mum, even more so as they get older, and this way (by moving them to Cardiff in the week), we don’t need a nanny and they spend more time with mum and dad. They want a normal ‘mum’ to do ‘normal’ mummy stuff, and now with more responsibility this term, I am working four days a week in Cardiff over forty-three to forty- four weeks a year over a five year term. I didn’t want to miss them growing up and, though I am really priviliged to represent my constituency, I don’t want to do it at the expense of my children.They are young for such a short time and it isn’t like my husband could take on the role, so a nanny would have been needed, which is not an ideal situation. It (working away from home) can take a toll on a family and I didn’t want it to happen to my family”.
Mrs Burns also pointed out to the Herald that, as she works and lives in Cardiff, as well as in Pembrokeshire, her children were attending schools for which she contributes. She questioned the motives of the Western Telegraph, by stating, “If I were male or in Westminster, where it is common practice for MPs’ families to move with the MP, I don’t think they would have been so critical.”
Angela Burns also explained the system whereby AMs are able to work away from home in Cardiff.
“ We have the right to a second home and we have an allowance provided by the Assembly. It is seven hundred pounds a month and from this we pay our rent, council tax, electricity, etc. I actually rent a house for nine hundred pounds a month and I personally pay the difference.”
She hinted that the Western Mail may have another agenda, as she believes they are an anti-Assembly paper, and suggested that other Assembly members, and the Assembly, have been unfairly criticised in the past.
“I have been touched by all the support I’ve had (since the Western Mail article) from Labour, Plaid, the Liberals and Cabinet ministers who have all said what a load of nonsense this is. This all stemmed from one person!”.
Earlier this year the Western Mail wrote articles criticising the Welsh Government’s refurbishment of its Ty Hywell building in Cardiff Bay, as well as highlighting their alleged shortcomings in how grants are awarded.