OVER the next month or so you will all hear more and more about the European Union.

This is because on May 22 the European elections will be taking place.

The topic of Europe is as high as I can ever remember on the political agenda.

More and more we hear of potential withdrawal and the need to reshape our relationship. So what are the benefits of staying in the European Union?

Well, the first is jobs. Major employers across the UK have indicated they would be unable to stay in Britain if we were not part of the Union and have even raised concerns about the current uncertainty. The reason for this is tariffs.

Should we not be part of the European Union, British exports would face tariffs, making goods produced in the UK completely uncompetitive. A new report released by British Influence shows that 191,000 jobs and 14 per cent of the workforce in Wales are directly linked to EU trade

On top of the jobs issue, we have the insubstantial matter of inward investment. We have seen substantial levels of investment in Islwyn, not least European investment in Ebbw Valley Rail line to Cardiff and hundreds of homes have benefited from ARBED funding which has helped make them more energy efficient.

Of course as well as this we have seen investment in the iconic Newbridge Memo.

It gave me great pleasure this month to plant a tree at the top of Twmbarlwm to mark the Tidy Twmp initiative, a programme of improvements carried out by the Twmbarlwm Society in partnership with Caerphilly Council and The Welsh Government.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Geraint Evans, former pupil at Oakdale Comprehensive. Geraint recently won one of the Autism Heroes awards at the awards ceremony I attended. I was extremely impressed with Geraint’s determination to succeed in life and the moving way he thanked his parents, teachers and support workers for their help.

I can’t finish this month’s column without thanking a fantastic public servant Derek Cook who was the lollipop man at Pentllwyn Primary school for 12 years.

As a former chair of governors at the school for six years, I worked closely with Derek and know how much he gave personally to looking after the children and residents in the area. I wish him all the best in his retirement.