Saturday, 26 July 2014

Wrecsam rallies in solidarity with Gaza and Palestine

Today's Wrecsam rally in solidarity with the people of Gaza was capped by a lively march around the town, which certainly made people think about the 1000 people killed over the past fortnight.
There were speeches from Adam Phillips as well as messages of support from Aled Roberts AM and Ian Lucas MP. But the undoubted highlight was Sami, a 12-year-old boy who spoke from the heart about the plight of other children being killed in Gaza. It moved many to tears.

 Here's my speech to the rally:
 "Imagine you live in a strip of desert half the size of Anglesey, except there's 1.2m people living there. Imagine you've been herded there from all parts of Wales, where your families have lived for generations. You've had to leave on pain of death, many of your communities were bulldozed and people massacred. Imagine you have lived in this strip of land for generations, waiting to return to your home. The refugee camp that is the Gaza Strip has become a home for your children, your grandchildren, their children.
  Around your neck you have a key, your front door key, that you've clung onto since 1948 when you last locked that door. You dream of returning home. But instead of returning home, the people who kicked you out now text you to say you've got 10 minutes to leave your home before it's destroyed. You shelter in the UN-run school - it gets bombed. You go to the hospital - it gets bombed. These are no accidents - the Israeli army is one of the largest in the world and has huge resources to spy and monitor on activity in the Gaza strip. It knows exactly where and who it is targetting. This is the context for Palestinian militants launching pathetically ineffectual rocket attacks on Israel - 15,000 launched, 9 people killed over six years. They are nine people too many but these attacks are the slingshots against a Goliath. A rock hurled at a tank.  We're reaching some kind of end game now in Palestine. The Israeli hawks want to end Palestinian resistance once and for all, rather than let it fester on in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For decades they have turned the screw slowly on these communities.  I last visited Palestine about 8 years ago - just the West Bank because Gaza was out of bounds. Even then it was like an open prison and the West Bank was little better. Among the places i went to was Bethlehem, a place we're all familiar with. It's as far from Jerusalem as Wrexham is from Chester but it can take half a day to enter because of military checkpoints and roadblocks.  A huge 30'-high concrete wall has been put up to separate the Palestinian West Bank from Israel  - it looks and feels like a prison with turrets all along to monitor the "inmates". You enter Bethlehem through a narrow turnstile with armed Israeli soldiers ready with their guns. Our guide took us to the family home on a hillside overlooking the town - it had a fantastic view but he had to keep the shutters down because Jewish settlers regularly fired from across the valley at his home. They wanted him and his family out so they could continue the colonisation of the West Bank.  That screw has been turned for generations and, unless we play our part, it will end with annhilation of an entire people. 800 dead in the past 10 days alone - enough is enough.  My biggest frustration today is that we've been here before… six years ago people in Wrecsam mobilised against another Israeli invasion of Gaza. Nothing was learned by Israel because they don't play by normal rules.  So what can we do? Boycott. Apartheid beaten by international boycott and internal resistance. Tell our politicians we don't want trade with an apartheid state. No arms, no exports, no football, no Eurovision... These are what makes Israel believe it's normal. But it's not normal to herd a million people into a refugee camp and bomb them to bits...  Let's challenge our politicians to stop Israel killing children. We can make a difference by our campaigning and by our actions."

Next Saturday will see another much-larger demo at 2pm in Queen's Square. Please spread the word.








Monday, 21 July 2014

Shale gas and ‘fracking’: examining the evidence

Press Release by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health on Fracking for Unconventional Gas.

Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) have today published a report which reviews current evidence across a number of issues associated with shale gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing (fracking). These include environmental and public health aspects and socio-economic considerations.
Importantly, the report is an independent assessment which draws heavily on academic research. It highlights:
  • Major shortcomings in regulatory oversight regarding local environmental and public health risks.
  • The large potential for UK shale gas exploitation to undermine national and international efforts to tackle climate change.
  • The water-intensive nature of the fracking process which could cause water shortages in many areas.
The report also points out that, despite claims to the contrary, evidence of local environmental contamination from shale gas exploitation is well-reported in the scientific literature. However, extrapolation from the experience in the USA (where most fracking has been carried out to date) to the UK is not straightforward. Nevertheless, there is widespread concern that, even with strong regulation, the safety of fracking for the UK is in doubt.
Furthermore, the report highlights that local authorities and other regulators have undergone budget cuts, undermining their ability to provide adequate regulatory oversight. Yet paradoxically regulation is being presented as the way in which the process can be effectively managed to reduce the risks.
CIEH Chief Executive, Graham Jukes, OBE said: “The CIEH has consistently made the case for a full independent environmental impact assessment to be carried out on all shale gas extraction proposals before permission to drill is given.
‘In the enthusiasm to exploit new sources of energy we must assess and ensure that there are no unacceptable adverse impacts on the environment or on the health of people in the communities surrounding extraction sites. Despite central government encouragement for the process, local authorities should resist allowing shale gas extraction in their areas until they are satisfied on that point. We believe that there is currently insufficient evidence to provide such assurance for proposals in the UK and the precautionary principle should apply’
SGR Executive Director and co-author of the report, Dr Stuart Parkinson said: “The evidence we have gathered shows that exploiting yet another new source of fossil fuels – such as UK shale gas – is likely to further undermine efforts to tackle climate change. We need to focus on low carbon energy sources, especially renewables, together with concerted efforts to save energy.”

Sunday, 20 July 2014

#GazaJ19 London Protest : The Speeches.

Public Services.

Whilst I have never been a big fan of the Labour apparatchik and South Wales Police Commissioner, Alun Michael, I must commend and congratulate him on this occasion for not renewing a £3 million pound detention contract with G4S and keeping the business 'in house'. Whilst many of us were critical of the decision to establish Police Commissioners, many have indeed set their own course and gone against this government's decision to outsource public services and those actions should be welcomed.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cymru'n Cefnogi Annibyniaeth | Wales Supporting Independence

£1bn splurged on Newport bypass: 'Time we had a government for the whole of Wales'

Letter to the Daily Post:

Dear Editor
News that the Labour Government in Cardiff has decided to splurge its entire capital spend on transport - £1 billion - on a 17-kilometre bypass for Newport is bad news for public transport and bad news for other much-needed road and rail projects in North Wales.
It's no surprise that the transport minister sneaked out the announcement in the final hour of the current session of Parliament without any chance for scrutiny or debate. 
There was a far cheaper and less environmentally damaging alternative "blue route" to the M4 bypass being proposed. This would also have been up and running more quickly than the "black route" Labour has opted for, in the teeth of opposition from Plaid Cymru and some of its own backbenchers.
 For us here in the North, this means no upgrade for the A55, no electrification of the North Wales coastal rail line and no proper dualling of the Wrexham-Saltney line.  As a result of this reckless decision, important alternatives have been put on hold.
It would appear the Cardiff Labour Government is only bothered about Cardiff transport problems. It's time we had a government of Wales for the whole of Wales - only Plaid Cymru can deliver that. 

yours


Marc Jones

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Welcome to St Colin International Eisteddfod

One stupid letter deserves another I suppose.

The first stupid letter in the Leader was one calling for all placenames in Wales to be Welsh only. Now most placenames in Wales are Welsh and should be first on any signplace but others, like Prestatyn, are English in origin. There are numerous other examples that are in common parlance among Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers alike. In short, trying to impose a blanket ban would backfire.

Cue the stupid response:


The letter writer complains that having Welsh placenames only would mean foreign visitors would be unable to find places like, er, Llangollen.

Yes, that backwater that thousands of tourists fail to find because of its monoglot name. It's a disgrace! We need to begin an immediate campaign to rename Llangollen to make it easier for non-Welsh speakers to find the damned place. Llangollen means St Collen apparently. No, still too Welsh. How about St Colin?

PS I do quite like the idea of handing out Welsh dictionaries to visitors upon arrival.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Timing is everything

In comedy, as in politics, timing is everything.
 Imagine the horror in a certain Labour household when they realised that the letter below was going to appear on the same day as news of Alun Davies's unfortunate misuse of officials was revealed as a sacking matter.
 For Mary Winbury, Labour candidate for Aberconwy and wife of Tal Michael, attacking the inappropriate use of officials to make party political points made sense - until you realise that's exactly what her Labour colleague Alun Davies sought to do.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Alun Davies - a symptom of a problem





The video shows a youthful Plaid Cymru activist named Alun Davies outlining his contempt for Labour's "gangsters" who misrule his country.

How ironic that the self-same Alun Davies should today be sacked from his post as a Labour minister for his blatant disregard of the rules that should bind any government minister. Behaviour that some gangsters would no doubt be proud of.

 His journey from Plaid radical to Labour establishment man should be no surprise to those of us who understand the nature of political power in Wales. If you want to "get on", join Labour.

 Davies took a particular route to join Labour that involved promoting nuclear power and tobacco as a lobbyist. But his path is similar to many careerists who see that Labour is the way to advance their prospects regardless of their political principles.

 Little wonder that Carwyn Jones was so fed up in First Minister's Questions today - he knows he has no talent on the backbenches to replace Davies and so has had to share out his post with existing ministers.

 Davies isn't the problem, he's a symptom of a far wider problem - the one-party state that Labour has created by stuffing the public and voluntary sectors with their own people. The rise of the mediocrity is almost complete.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

What number baby are you?

Users of Facebook will probably be familiar with this screenshot by the Labour Party offering to tell you what number baby you are out of 44 million that the NHS has delivered since 1948. To find out this fascinating piece of information you must complete some personal data which of course we suspect will be used by the Labour Party for electronic marketing prior to the 2015 General Election.


HT to Information Rights & Wrongs @bainesy1969 for the detailed information so I was able to write the following email of complaint to the Information Commissioner:

Dear Sir/Madam,

None of the advice provided on your website applies to the complaint I wish to make:

The complaint concerns the UK Labour Party using the birthday of the NHS as a cover to gather data by getting Facebook Users to complete personal information so that users can be told which number they were out of the 44 million that have been born since its formation.

The Facebook link is as follows 
https://donation.labour.org.uk/index.php/nhs-birthday/birthday.php?d=My+son+was+the+41%2C428%2C811st+baby+born+on+the+NHS

I believe that this action is in breach of the The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR), because the information will be used for unsolicited electronic marketing on behalf of the Labour Party in the run up to the General Election 2015.

Thank you,

Arfon Jones, 

I will publish the response as soon as I receive it.



Thursday, 3 July 2014

Frack-free Wrecsam

About two-thirds of the Welsh population will potentially be affected directly by fracking if the main London parties get their way. The pink area on the map contains approximately two million people. The yellow parts are those already licensed for exporation by fracking companies. If we don't stop them, these multinational corporations will get political support to start drilling under your homes without even asking your permission.
 This includes large parts of Wrecsam and Flintshire.

 To increase awareness of the situation, a ground-breaking film about the impact of fracking on a US community - Gasland - is being shown at Saith Seren, 18 Chester St, Wrecsam, LL13 8BG at 7pm on Thursday, 24 July. Admission is free but donations towards campaigning for a Frack-Free Wrecsam will be taken.


Anti-fracking campaigners will be on the streets across Wales this Saturday to raise awareness about this problem that could affect every householder in Wrecsam.



Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bomb Proof.

It is really difficult sometimes to grasp the extent of Welsh Labour's control and pervasive influence over life in Wales and in particular public institutions in Wales. Let's take the example of Andrew Davies.

Andrew Davies used to be a Labour Assembly Member and a Welsh Government Minister until he stood down in 2011.

Having left public life, Andrew Davies was appointed Chair of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board and also the National Dance Company of Wales.

Both these organisations were recently in the news in Wales for all the wrong reasons.

Firstly an independent report commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales (ACW) into the running of the National Dance Company of Wales found that "the board was unable to function in an appropriate manner" and recommended a new chairman and board of directors was appointed by January 2014.

This crisis in the NDCW continues as it faces an enquiry by the Wales Audit Office into a grant of £40,000 by the ACW and the Chair, Andrew Davies remains in post.

The Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board also chaired by Andrew Davies has also faced some severe problems as Professor June Andrews published her report into poor patient care at two of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg hospitals:
Published on Tuesday, Trusted To Care catalogued a series of failings at both hospitals.It described "a sense of hopelessness" in the care of frail and elderly patients and cited "poor professional behaviour" as well as a "lack of suitably qualified, educated and motivated staff."One patient told the review team: "I am in Hell."
Is there anyone apart from me that think these instances are in fact resignation matters and why hasn't it happened?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Hidden costs of new prison revealed

New research reveals underfund in Welsh NHS budget for prisoner healthcare in Wales

New research raises serious questions about how the new Wrexham super-prison’s health care costs will be funded.

New information obtained from three Welsh university health boards, the Welsh Government and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), shows that prisoner healthcare services in Wales are underfunded by the UK Government with the costs of the balance falling on the Welsh Government and Local Health Boards.

This underfunding has led to Cardiff University academics calling on Welsh politicians to properly scrutinise the impact of the planned Wrexham ‘super’ prison – a plan which will see the second biggest prison in western Europe due to open in Wales in 2016.

The research reveals that for the year 2012/2013 the UK Government allocated £2.5 million to the Welsh Government for all prisoner healthcare in Wales. This funding was further boosted by the Welsh Government to a grand total of £3.4 million.

The total cost of primary healthcare for the three public prisons in Wales (HMP Cardiff, HMP Swansea and HMP Usk) in the same period was £3.9 million. This figure excludes the cost of secondary healthcare for prisoners in Wales, for which data is not apparently kept, but which can be expected to add significantly to the total final cost. Research suggests that any additional costs above the £3.4million allocated by a combination of the UK and Welsh Government are born by Local Health Boards from their existing budgets.

Plaid Cymru’s Wrexham spokesperson Carrie Harper said: “The NHS is under huge strain in North Wales at the moment with a projected overspend of £35m this year. These new figures show that the planned new Wrexham super prison, the second largest jail in Europe, will place even more strain on our health services and could cost millions to the local NHS.
 “It’s a scandal that the UK Government doesn’t fully fund this non-devolved issue and expects us to pay for the health care of prisoners, most of whom will be shipped into Wales.
“Plaid Cymru has expressed doubts about the size and scale of this prison, which is likely to be privately run. We recognise the need for a smaller prison that serves the North Wales region and would include facilities for youth and female offenders, who are currently dispersed all over the UK.
 “Rather than raise concerns about the naming of the institution, our local MP would be better off campaigning for proper funding from London for the health care this not-so-super prison will require.”

These findings have led to academics at Cardiff University to call on Welsh politicians to carefully scrutinise the plans for the planned Wrexham “super” prison and its likely impact on health budgets in Wales, and in north Wales in particular.

Robert Jones, a research associate at the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University who is undertaking the research said: “This research shows that even before the Wrexham ‘super’ prison has been built, prisoner healthcare in Wales is already being underfunded. The fact that the Welsh Government does not hold information on the costs of prisoner healthcare in Wales raises some very real questions over the extent to which such services are being effectively scrutinised and accounted for.

“While the Welsh Government has maintained their support for the ‘super’ prison in Wrexham, this data helps to outline the need for the Welsh Government and Assembly Members in the National Assembly to apply rigorous scrutiny to existing prisoner services in Wales as well as the Wrexham ‘super’ prison.”

In addition to Mr Jones’s comments, further calls to consider the wider costs/impact associated with the Wrexham ‘super’ prison have also been made by a leading economist in Wales.

Professor Max Munday, Director of the Wales Economy Research Unit at Cardiff University, said,
“Whilst there may be additional local employment created by both the development and operation of a new prison, it is important to recognise that there is the potential for a series of more subtle socio-economic costs to arise from the presence of such a facility. For example, the presence of a large prison could have effects on house values locally, and could impact efforts to market the wider area to inward investing companies.

“In addition a complete analysis of moves towards a super prison needs to account for welfare effects on inmates and their families, for example, in terms of increased visitor/family travel time, and possibly reduced numbers of visits. Unfortunately some of the more subtle costs of such developments can be hidden where the focus is on simple employment creation.”

ENDS
  
Editor’s Notes

1.      Responsibility for prisoner healthcare within the three public sector prisons was devolved from the Home Office to the Welsh Government in 2003. In April 2006 responsibility was then devolved from the Welsh Government to the Local Health Boards – seehttp://www.wales.nhs.uk/governance-emanual/responsibilities-for-prisoner-healthcare

2.      HMP Parc is a contracted out prison. G4S is responsible for providing the primary healthcare services at HMP Parc. The local health board is responsible for providing secondary care (hospital based) services to the population at HMP Parc including Adult Mental Health In-reach provision.

3.      Full summary of the research findings are here:

For the year 2012/2013

·         The UK government provided the Welsh government a total £2.544 million for prisoner healthcare.

·         The Welsh government provided the three health boards in Wales responsible for prisoner healthcare with £3.4 million to cover all prisoner healthcare services.

·         In the three public sector prisons in Wales, the cost of primary healthcare totaled £3.894 million*

*The costs associated with secondary healthcare services are not disaggregated from the costs of providing community health services within each health board area. Therefore we are unaware of the total cost of all prisoner healthcare in Wales, despite this, the money spent on primary health services alone exceeds the budget received from the UK government.




Saturday, 21 June 2014

Labour council stashes away money while cutting services

Wrexham Labour Council has been accused of stashing money away in reserves while cutting vital frontline services. The decision has been branded a scandal by local Plaid Cymru campaigners.
 Plaid Cymru’s Clwyd South spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor said campaigners against the closure of Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, libraries, community centres, bus services and the reduction of grass cutting would be horrified to learn that the council had enjoyed two unexpected windfalls recently.
 In the first instance it had an underspend of £1.5 million against its anticipated budget for 2013-4 – including an unexpected additional £200,000 extra tax income.
Mr ap Gwynfor said: 
“There’s been a lot of hand wringing by Labour councillors about the lack of money to run frontline services but we now find that they are able to salt away this unexpected windfall. That is little comfort to people who relied on bus services, community centres, leisure services and libraries that have all had their funding brutally cut. In some cases community councils or local voluntary groups have taken over these services but many have also been lost to the community.“A cynic would say that Labour is cutting hard now in the hope that people will forget when the next council election comes around in 2017. I have to say that people are incredibly angry with the way the council is allocating funding from its £200m budget and ignoring the wishes of the wider population. I don’t believe they will forget what this council had done in a hurry.”
Another unexpected windfall came in the shape of an underspend in the Equal Pay settlement to female workers at the council. Like other councils, Wrexham had put aside money – more than £6m – to settle the long-standing legal battle. However, when it was finally settled the total bill only came to £4m. The additional £2.2m has again largely been put into reserves.
Cllr Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s Wrecsam spokesperson, said:  
“Everyone is aware that UK Government cuts have had an impact on council spending and Plaid Cymru is opposed to the idea that frontline services for some of our poorest communities should be cut to pay for the bankers’ bailout and tax cuts for millionaires. 
"But this Labour Council can’t escape the blame for cutting certain services when it knew there were millions of pounds of extra income coming in. How difficult would it have been for the Executive Board to keep Plas Madoc open for another year while the Splash Community Trust was established? Instead they have chosen to maximise the misery by axeing key services now without giving communities a fighting chance to find alternative ways  to keep services going. 
"Future funding for key social services such as respite care is now facing the axe in the coming year, causing real stress for families who rely on that service.“To discover that there is extra money in the pot, as well as the perverse decision to keep on funding a mayor during this unprecedented period of cuts, is a scandal. Community councils and voluntary groups have stepped into the breach in many instances but many people are left asking what exactly our county council is for if it is not delivering those services?