Thursday, 16 April 2015

Complaint of bias over Communities First newsletter featuring Labour party candidate

A complaint has been submitted to Wrexham council following the distribution of the latest Communities First newsletter across the Caia Park and Hightown areas of Wrexham. The publication, which includes the logo's of the Welsh Government and Wrexham council, features no less than 5 pictures of former Wrexham Labour MP Ian Lucas, including 2 on the front page.

An official complaint has been made to Wrexham council who manage Communities First locally. The council’s legal officer Trefor Coxon has confirmed that the matter is now being investigated and that the council have instructed Communities First to stop delivering the newsletter with immediate effect whilst this investigation takes place.

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru Parliamentary candidate for Wrexham said: 

" With just 3 weeks to the General Election, we are currently in a pre election period. Local authorities have a legal obligation not to publish any material which appears to support a political party, people identified with a political party or that could influence voters in any way. 

"Communities First is publicly funded and is managed by Wrexham council. The leaflet in question contains numerous pictures of Ian Lucas, two on the front page, with even more inside. There are also additional pictures featuring Mr Lucas's wife and Labour county councillors. At first glance I thought it was a Labour party leaflet, the newsletter is intended to go out to thousands of local people in the Caia Park and Hightown area."

"This perceived bias towards the Labour party from Communities First is clearly inappropriate generally but especially during the election period."

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Create a North Wales powerhouse in Wrexham – Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood has backed Wrexham to become the powerhouse of North Wales by calling for moving specific Welsh Government functions to help deliver a devolution dividend for all Wales outside Cardiff Bay.

On a visit to Wrexham this morning, Leanne Wood said: “Plaid Cymru, as the Party of Wales, wants the Assembly to work for all of Wales. That’s not always been the case with the Labour-run government, which has chosen to blow £1 billion on an M4 by-pass for Newport rather than choosing to invest in much-needed infrastructure here in the North.

 “Plaid Cymru is committed to making sure devolution works for every part of Wales, including the north-east. We want to see, for example, some functions of Welsh Government run from Wrexham so that we create a real Northern powerhouse here. Wrexham and Flintshire are already great centres of manufacturing and innovation, there are excellent colleges and Glyndwr University to back up that economic development. We need to see a real commitment from the Welsh Government to boosting Wrexham as an important centre in the North.”

Friday, 3 April 2015





Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has today urged her party's activists to "seize the momentum" gained by success in last night's televised debate and work like never before to deliver the best for Wales.

The response to Leanne Wood's performance both on social media and by political commentators was phenomenal, with a range of analysts recognising that her message would have been well received by the people of Wales. 

Brandwatch React’s instant feedback tables showed that Plaid Cymru had the best percentage of positive to negative mentions on Twitter tonight.

The Daily Telegraph’s tracker put Leanne Wood in second place with 66% cheers, more than twice as much positive support as David Cameron and a 19% higher cheer rating than Ed Miliband.

Meanwhile, Twitter analytic experts, Blurrt UK, also agreed that Leanne Wood was consistently rated among the top performers.

In addition, there were very positive signs for the Plaid Cymru leader in the sub-samples of opinion polls. Despite being on a smaller scale, these samples indicated that people in Wales were more likely to vote for Plaid Cymru as a result of Leanne Wood's performance.

Leanne Wood said:

"We have received some great feedback for Plaid Cymru's messages which I was able to convey to the widest audience we have ever addressed as a party.

"The reaction from people not just in Wales but throughout the UK and beyond has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly on social media.

"Last night's line-up showed that the face of UK politics has changed.

"I was pleased to be able to put across Plaid Cymru's positive message that there is an alternative to cuts and that our party will give Wales the strongest voice possible in Westminster.

"This weekend, our activists will be seizing this momentum and taking this message to every corner of Wales. Street by street, conversation by conversation, Plaid Cymru is convincing people that this is not as good as it gets for Wales.

"The Westminster parties have failed our nation. With clear plans to grow the economy, create jobs and protect our public services, a vote for Plaid Cymru on May 7th will secure the best deal possible for Wales in Westminster."

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

So how many houses does Wrecsam need?

Every local council has to produce a Local Development Plan to provide a framework for the area in terms of allocating land for housing, industry, leisure etc.
 Wrecsam Council had its LDP rejected by the Welsh Government on the basis that it didn't provide enough housing between now and 2028. The Welsh Government has based housing numbers on a population projection that would see the county borough's population rise 22% by 2035 - a leap that would be unprecedented and is not mirrored in any other council area in North Wales.
 It is, quite simply, a finger in the air exercise with no scientific basis. Even if there was a logic to it, it is not a desirable outcome to see such a rapid growth in the town's population when we know that the existing infrastructure - health, education, transport and public services - are already creaking.
 The original LDP allocated land for about 8,000 new homes - a significant growth but one that was felt to be manageable and organic as the growth was spread throughout the villages and towns.

 The council is now consulting on LDP2, which generously offers three options based on Welsh Minister Carl Sargeant's population projections:

1. 13,010 new homes
2. 11,030 new homes
3. 10,100 new homes

And that's it.
 This is not a grassroots consultation to assess how many homes are needed in, say, Coedpoeth or Marchwiel in the coming 15 years. The numbers involved mean that large-scale new villages or commuter estates will be created along the A483 corridor - effectively creating an urban sprawl from Gresford to Ruabon. We've already seen developers apply for hundreds of houses at Llay and Rhosrobin, with planning permission for 319 homes granted on Monday for Ruabon. This is just the start of a process that could see huge swathes of green barrier Tarmaced in the name of progress.

 These large-scale sites do not deliver affordable homes - they are designed for commuters to get onto the A483 as quickly as possible. Now any fool knows that the A483 has already reached capacity further along at the Posthouse roundabout and no amount of rejigging there is going to end the chaos soon. Planners don't seem to do joined-up thinking because these housing developments are not connected with industry or jobs.
Any serious plan in this day and age needs to be looking at reducing carbon footprints, reducing travel by car and creating employment opportunities within communities. 

But the madness of the plan is only really exposed when you look at the amount of houses that would have to be built every year from now until 2028.

If the lowest target is approved, you're talking about 710 homes every year.
The middle target inreases that to 770 houses a year.
The highest target would mean an eye-watering 910 homes a year being built.

To put that into context, last year 215 homes were built and over the past 10 years it's been an average of 426 - that includes the massive housing boom. At its height, the boom in 2006-7 saw 945 homes built.

Council planners, under threat from a Labour Welsh Government that knows nothing and cares less about communities, are trying to railroad through a plan that can't work. What it will do though is open the floodgates for many speculative housing developments that will see more commuter estates created around the borough, putting more and more pressure on schools and health services as well as clogging up our roads.

• As an aside, the draft LDP has a "vision" that can only have been written by someone with a loose grip on reality (as well as the English language). The LDP's proposed vision states: "By 2028, Wrexham will be a place where people can live active, healthy and independent lives; our economy will be strong, resilient and responsive to our strategic location within North East Wales and in close proximity to the North West of England. Wrexham will be a place where everyone feels safe and included, which reduces inequalities and a place that positively responds to the quality and distinctiveness of our natural, built heritage and culture assets"

 The only surprise is that the work "sustainable" wasn't included, as it's almost compulsory for council officers to include it somewhere. Perhaps someone belatedly realised that the entire document isn't sustainable and will not leave communities stronger or safer.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Plaid candidate highlights alternative to austerity at party conference

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru councillor and parliamentary candidate for Wrecsam, has blasted the austerity consensus of the London parties, stating that ‘unfair’ cuts are hitting the poor, women and the disabled disproportionately hard,  whilst imposing unnecessary cuts to public services.
Speaking at the party’s spring conference in Caernarfon, Carrie Harper outlined Plaid’s vision of a progressive alternative to austerity, with a focus on job creation, a commitment to tackle tax evasion and avoidance and scrapping of ‘wasteful’ spending, such as £100 billion for renewing Trident nuclear weapons.
Plaid Cymru are also demanding parity with Scotland on powers and on funding. They state the current devolution settlement is third rate, and equality on funding would mean an additional £1.2 billion every year for Wales.
Carrie Harper from Caia Park said:
“ Austerity is a failure and it hasn't reduced the deficit as planned, UK debt currently stands at £1.4 trillion and it’s rising every day. Plaid Cymru MP’s will demand that austerity is abandoned for the ineffective and immoral policy that it is. We want to see prosperity not austerity.

With our sister party the SNP in Scotland and the Greens in England, we will form an Anti Austerity Alliance after this election. With a hung parliament likely, we may well hold the balance of power. We have a real chance now to make sure Wales is heard in London.

There is a clear alternative to austerity, which involves investment in infrastructure, job creation and tackling issues such as tax evasion and avoidance. It also means scrapping wasteful spending like £100 billion on replacing the Trident nuclear programme and implementing a Living Wage. We also need a more ambitious approach to public procurement in Wales to ensure more money goes to local firms.

Wales has already been hit hard by this Governments austerity agenda, and we've seen that first hand locally with cuts to public services. The London parties have all voted for more cuts over the next 5 years. Labour promise a further 1 billion in cuts for Wales, the Tories are promising almost 3 times that. Plaid do not believe that cuts or more cuts is any sort of choice for the people of Wales.
Wrecsam needs an MP who is ready to put forward a progressive alternative and who is determined to argue for re balancing wealth and power across the UK. It is simply immoral that those with the least are paying for the mistakes of the bankers, and it’s a sad reflection of the growing inequality in our society when all the London parties refuse to stand against it. 
It also can’t possibly be right that Wales is being treated differently to Scotland in terms of powers and funding, we deserve equality and only Plaid will fight for that.
I know my community does not agree with the immoral ideology of austerity, the current  self-interest of Westminster politics, or the domination of corporate interests in defining public policy. In reality what we have in London is a growing democratic deficit and an elite who couldn't care less about Wales.
If we want something different, we have to vote for it. Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems and UKIP only promise more of the same, but in May we have a chance to make sure Wales is heard with a vote for Plaid Cymru."

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Make St David's Day a national holiday

Amser i wneud Dydd Gŵyl Dewi yn wyliau cyhoeddus

Mae Plaid Cymru wedi lansio deiseb yn galw am wneud diwrnod Gŵyl Dewi yn wyliau cyhoeddus.

Mae 15 mlynedd wedi mynd heibio bellach ers i Aelodau Cynulliad bleidleisio o blaid gwneud Mawrth y 1af yn wyliau cyhoeddus a naw mlynedd ers i arolwg barn ddarganfod bod 87% o bobl Cymru yn cefnogi’r syniad, ond does dim wedi digwydd ers hynny.

Roedd sôn y byddai’r pŵer dros wyliau yn cael ei ddatganoli nôl yn 2014 ond fe gafodd hyn ei atal gan yr Ysgrifennydd Cymru ar y pryd.

Mae Plaid Cymru yn credu bod rhaid i’r pŵer gael ei ddatganoli cyn gynted â phosib er mwyn i’r Cynulliad gael gwneud penderfyniad ar y mater erbyn 2016.

Dywedodd llefarydd Plaid Cymru ar ddiwylliant, Bethan Jenkins:

“Mi fyddai gwneud Dydd Gŵyl Dewi yn wyliau cyhoeddus yn cyd-fynd gydag ewyllys pobl Cymru ac yn rhoi hwb i’r sector dwristiaeth.

“Rydw i’n galw ar bawb sy’n cytuno â ni ar y mater hwn i arwyddo ein deiseb er mwyn gyrru neges i San Steffan mai penderfyniad i bobl Cymru ddylai hwn fod.”


Time to make St David's Day a public holiday

The Party of Wales has launched a petition calling for St David’s Day to be made a national holiday.

Some 15 years have passed since Assembly Members voted in favour of establishing a public holiday on March 1, and nine years since an opinion poll showed that 87% of Welsh people supported the idea, but nothing has happened since.

There was talk of devolving the power over public holidays back in 2014 but this was blocked by the Secretary of State for Wales at the time.

Plaid Cymru believes that the power should be devolved as soon as possible so that the Assembly can make a decision on the matter in time for 2016.

The Party of Wales’s culture spokesperson Bethan Jenkins said:

“Making St David’s Day a national Holiday would reflect the wishes of the Welsh people and would bring benefits to the tourism sector in Wales.

“I call on everyone who agrees with us on this matter to sign our petition in order to send a message to Westminster that this should be a decision for the Welsh people to take.”

Monday, 23 February 2015

Wrexham Council's Flawed Budget Consultation.

Back in October and November 2014, Wrexham Council 'consulted' on their budget proposals and as a consequence decided to drop a couple of their more controversial savings proposals (having obviously learnt some lessons from last year's Plas Madoc Leisure Centre fiasco).

This is what they've said in their budget report for Wednesday's Full Council meeting about the consultation:
Given the 942 responses to the survey, statistically this provides a 96 to 97% confidence level in these results. Generally, 95% is taken to be acceptable in most social research. Sometimes such research even uses a confidence level as low as 90%. This confidence level is how sure we can be that our results would be true if we asked another 942 people the same question. The margin of error/confidence interval with this number of people is 3% or 4% of the answers received. A 3.5% margin is statistically very good as most research would use a 5% confidence interval. 5.3 In summary, we do need to be clear that the number of responses received in this consultation surpassed what is normally used as good practice ie 95% confidence level and 5% confidence interval and therefore we can be confident in the results of the exercise.  
The consultation findings are detailed ... In summary the proposals receiving the highest levels of agreement overall were Council Tax Electronic Billing (91%agreed, 5% disagreed), Mayoral Service (87% agreed, 7% disagreed), Online processing (85% agreed, 9% disagreed), Tourist Information Centre (83% agreed, 11% disagreed), Learning Disability Service (82% agreed, 11% disagreed) and Shopmobility to Third Sector (81% agreed, 13% disagreed). The proposals receiving the lowest levels of agreement overall were Highways Planned Maintenance (24% agreed, 70% disagreed), Council Tax Rise (37% agreed, 58% disagreed), Car Parking Charges at Country Parks (43% agreed, 52% disagreed), Family Friends Contract (44% agreed, 43% disagreed), Supporting People (53% agreed, 34% disagreed) and Redesign Tapley Avenue (58% agreed, 30% disagreed)
This is a pretty good attempt at baffling the reader with science but confidence levels can only apply if the survey sample has been 'weighted' for various characteristics and demography which this survey hasn't so the results are pretty meaningless and poor justification for making such important life impacting decisions on.

Let me elaborate on what I mean, 91% of respondents were in agreement with moving to electronic billing of council tax...unsurprising when 922 of the 942 respondents to the survey completed it electronically and it makes one wonder whether the 20 who completed the paper survey were the 5% who disagreed with electronic billing?

Another example was where a high number of respondents opposed car park charges at Country Parks and changes to planned Highways maintenance. I don't think we need to be statisticians to guess that ALL who disagreed here are probably car owners, what is significant here is the 43% who agreed with car parking charges of whom many would also be car owners.

Let's now look at cuts which are demographically located like Caia Park Early Years where 70% of respondents agreed with cut and 20% disagreed. Why would respondents who live in Glyn Ceiriog or Chirk oppose a cut in an area miles away from them. If the cut doesn't affect you why should you disagree with it?

The same argument applies to another demography, that of people who desire a Welsh Medium Education. A cut of £23,000 to Mudiad Meithrin who support Welsh Nursery provision was supported by 70% and opposed by 20%. Again,why would respondents disagree with a cut to funding that doesn't affect them?

If you do a survey it must be done right!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Local Authority Service Performance 2013/14.

The Welsh Government has recently produced its Annual Local Authority Service Performance Report for 2013/14. Nineteen service performance areas are measured/assessed and colour coded with red for the bottom quartile of the 22 Welsh Local Authorities, Amber for the middle 50% and Green for the top quartile.

This report makes interesting reading especially if you are comparing the likes of Flintshire and Wrexham who are likely partners in a future amalgamation. The difference frankly could hardly be starker; Wrexham have 8 Performance areas in the red, 8 in amber and only 3 in green. In Flintshire there are only 2 in the red, 11 in amber and 6 in the green.

The only area in Wrexham which seems to excel is within housing with provision of affordable housing being an achievement.

The areas where Wrexham are in the red are:

  1. Looked after children being in education, employment or training. (22)
  2. Looked after children who have had more than 3 placements. (21)
  3. Pupils achieving Level 2 KS 4 (18)... contrast this with Flintshire where they are third.
  4. Free public swims for under 18's and over 60's (17)
  5. Roads in poor condition (21)
  6. Feeling safe in local area after dark (19)
  7. Adults physically active on 5 or more days in a week (18)
  8. Adults drinking above guidelines (17)
Whilst I don't consider league tables based on averages to be particularly meaningful, after all someone must come top and someone must come bottom, and it doesn't show where there has been improvements but where there have been greater improvements in other authorities, there must however be some investigation into the underlying data.

What would be interesting would be a comparison of the underlying data for all 19 areas for both Flintshire and Wrexham which would be a baseline as to how an amalgamated authority could be expected to perform.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Exploratory Drilling at Borras Head Farm, Borras, Wrecsam.

It's taken me a few days to get a good understanding of what exactly the Fracking Moratorium statement made jointly by Carl Sargeant and Owen Smith on the eve of the Welsh Labour Party conference really means but it looks very much what it says on the tin...The Town and Country Planning (Notification)(Unconventional Oil and Gas) (Wales) Direction 2015, actually instructs Local Planning Authorities to refer ALL planning applications for Unconventional Gas drilling to Welsh Ministers but only if they are inclined to pass the application and this is where the first anomaly comes in. The Direction makes no reference at all to the Planning Inspectorate which after all is constitutionally an agency of the Westminster Government. In the event therefore that the LPA are inclined to refuse an application there is no requirement to refer the application to the Minister but will the applicant still be able to appeal against refusal to the Planning Inspectorate and will the Direction apply to them because it is not implied in the Direction that it does.

It is striking how far the Welsh Government have moved on this issue since July 2014, when Carl Sargeant issued this uncompromising 'clarification letter' stating in conclusion that:
The guidance provided in MPPW, (Mineral Planning Policy Wales) in conjunction with this clarification letter, should be taken into account by local planning authorities in Wales when making decisions on applications for unconventional oil and gas proposals. 

There is no doubt that the sustained lobbying of the Welsh Government by many groups and individuals has had a significant effect on Ministers which was then helped along by Plaid Cymru's motion the week before this announcement and support from the government's own members for such motion. This was in striking contrast to the Labour abstentions in the moratorium amendment on the Infrastructure Bill.

The question now is, what will be the response of the industry to this 'moratorium'? UKOOG, the industry trade body were quick enough to issue a Press Release after the Scottish moratorium decision but have yet to comment on the Welsh decision; is this a good or bad sign, only time will tell.

Personally, I have some nagging doubts about how this will pan out; now from this direction it seems the Welsh Government have the planning side all covered but there is of course another angle and that is the Energy sector.

The Energy Sector in Wales is not devolved, so does that mean that Westminster or Cardiff takes precedence here or will UKOOG appeal this to the Supreme Court? It seems a possible scenario.

One will have also noted that the Direction does not say whether it applies to 'Onshore' or 'Offshore' exploration. This anomaly has already been identified by the Scottish Government in that they don't have the power to regulate offshore which could include UCG (Underground Coal Gasification). This could be a significant problem in North East Wales as Cluff Energy seeks licences for UCG for the Dee Estuary between Deeside and West Kirkby on the Wirral (which incidentally covers the wildlife and bird sanctuary on Hilbre Island). This undoubtedly will remain with the UK Government as offshore is the Crown Estates but is yet another anomaly.

For us in Wrecsam the next decision is in IGas's lap, do they proceed with their exploratory drilling at Borras Head, knowing full well that their application for extraction of gas/oil (at this moment in time) will not be allowed or do they just pull the plug on the whole project (or is that just wishful thinking on my part?)

Whatever happens, we need to continue to be alert, this is not the time to be complacent.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Kate announces charity event to raise awareness about Invisible Illnesses

Wrexham campaigner Kate Langwine-Cooke who launched a campaign to raise awareness about invisible illnesses after being subjected to verbal abuse for parking in a disabled bay at a supermarket, has announced her first fundraising event.

Kate 29 who suffers from multiple sclerosis has organised the event at Saith Seren on Chester Street for Friday 20th February, to raise awareness and to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and MS Research. The event which is free to attend and starts at 7.30pm is being supported with live performances from local entertainers Sam Jones, The Maydays, Luke Gallagher and The Holy Rollers.

Following the verbal abuse Kate received, she posted a video of the incident online which has now been seen by over 30,000 people, with many getting in touch via her ‘Invisible Illnesses’ Facebook page to say they have experienced similar problems.

Kate said: “This will be the first of many events I’m hoping to organise to raise awareness about this issue. Not everyone with a disability is in a wheelchair, and I want people to think twice before they make a judgement.”

“I’ve been amazed at the level of support for the event from local singers and bands and also local people and businesses who have donated raffle prizes. I hope lots of people will come along to support it.”
Plaid Cymru Cllr Carrie Harper is also supporting both the event and the campaign. She added: “ Kate is passionate about this issue and it’s great to see the amount of support she’s had for the event so far, I’m sure it will be a huge success.”

“We’re working together to see what we can do in a practical way to raise awareness about Invisible Illnesses locally. So far we’ve written to Wrexham council to ask if they would be willing to display Kate’s Invisible Illnesses posters at council run car parks across the town centre. With notice boards already in place, we hope this will be an easy way for the council to help get the message out there and to support the work Kate is doing.“

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Plaid’s calls for a fracking moratorium gather support

Tomorrow the National Assembly will debate a motion by Plaid Cymru in support of a moratorium on fracking in Wales. The pressure on AMs of other parties from grassroots campaigners is vital to getting this motion supported so it increases the pressure to stop fracking. 

'Protecting our communities is our number one concern'

Plaid Cymru has challenged the Welsh Government to make clear its views on fracking in Wales.
Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food, has called on the Labour Government in Cardiff to confirm its views on fracking amidst a growing consensus in favour of a moratorium.
The AM for North Wales said that protecting communities was Plaid Cymru’s number one concern which is why the party has called for a moratorium on the controversial practice of drilling for shale gas and Coal Bed Methane.
The Labour Government has refused to confirm whether it will ban fracking if the powers are devolved to Wales, and has failed to make any representations to the UK Government on the matter. Meanwhile the Scottish Government has gained power over fracking and has introduced a moratorium.
Plaid Cymru has also called for clarity on the Welsh Government’s existing powers, calling for the government’s legal advice on the use of current planning powers to stop fracking to be published. 
Llyr Gruffydd said:
“Plaid Cymru is calling for a moratorium on fracking because of the danger it poses to the environment, water and health. Investing in another form of carbon-intensive energy would make a mockery of our domestic and international obligations on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. We should be pursuing alternative sources of energy, for the safety of our communities.“There is a growing consensus that agrees with Plaid Cymru, and last week the Scottish Government was granted the power to introduce a moratorium on fracking. However the Labour Government in Wales has failed to make any representations to the UK Government on the matter, and has refused to tell us if it will introduce a similar moratorium if the powers are devolved to Wales.“The Labour Government has been extremely contradictory on this matter and now is the time for some clarity. Despite claiming to want parity of powers with Scotland for Wales, the Labour party has amended the UK Government’s Infrastructure Bill to give Scotland powers over fracking but failed to do the same for Wales.“The people of Wales want to know if the Welsh Government will show the same strong lead as the Scottish Government and stop fracking in Wales.”

"If we keep on cutting, what services will be left in five years?"

Austerity has become a commonly used word in politics today, so what does ‘austerity’ mean? The Oxford dictionary defines austerity as,
‘difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure’.
But, what does it mean to the parents who are losing nursery or library services, or consultant-led services in their local hospital? Or to the older people who used to mitigate their loneliness by going to the local day centre that has now shut, or to one of the 40,000 people who were forced to use a food bank in the past six months? Austerity, for so many people, has meant hardship. It has meant pain, and there is a lot more of it to come.
The week before last, Members of Parliament from each of the three parties represented on the other side of this Chamber voted to sign up to Westminster’s austerity charter. That charter commits to at least £30 billion of additional cuts. It’s explicit about targeting those cuts at those with the least. Plaid Cymru voted against that charter because we simply cannot see how there can be more cuts to public services, more attacks on people’s costs and standards of living.
Many of the people I speak to are deeply concerned about what more cuts will mean. What services or safety net will we have left after five more years of this? So, why have people, and our public safety net, had to take such a hit?
First of all, it’s worth reiterating the point that Plaid Cymru has been making since the banks crashed in 2008: people bailed out the banks, and now the people themselves are paying the price for the bankers’ mistakes. 
We must remember who is responsible for this crash. We know that it was not caused by the parents of small children now without nursery provision, or those unable to make ends meet because the minimum wage is too low. It was not caused by those children who can no longer have music or swimming lessons, or who no longer have a youth club, or playing facilities, or a local library, or those using food banks; while those who are largely responsible for the crash have been able to largely carry on untouched, continuing to reap big bonuses.
It’s pretty obvious, from the point of fairness, who should be paying more. It’s those who are instead being allowed by Government to avoid or evade paying a fair share of tax; those who are responsible for the UK being the only G7 country where the gap between richest and poorest is actually widening. So, has this austerity been worth all the pain? Has it achieved what it set out to achieve? The answer to those questions is ‘no’.
In 2010, the Chancellor had two principal goals: eliminating the deficit by 2015, and maintaining the UK’s AAA credit rating. We’re only approximately halfway to eliminating the deficit. Despite years of hurt and swingeing cuts, the UK’s deficit is already over £86 billion for this financial year so far. The UK’s debt is £1.4 trillion and it is growing. The coveted AAA credit rating has been downgraded by one agency. According to Credit Suisse, wealth inequality has risen four times faster in the seven years after the crash compared with the seven years before. This supports the case put forward by French economist, Thomas Piketty: the richest are getting richer quicker than ever before.
We should all be alarmed when the International Monetary Fund, of all people, are warning of the dangers of further austerity. It’s worth noting, too, that the austerity plans of Tories and Labour differ only slightly, with Labour committed to further deep cuts in public expenditure, just as they had planned the 40% cuts to capital projects in their budget of March 2010.
And it’s not just here: the politics of austerity has dominated the thinking of European politics for some time. It’s been presented to us as the only option. We are told, just as Mrs Thatcher told us, that there is no alternative. Those of us who are proposing an alternative approach are told that we are fantasists. I’m sure that the people of Greece don’t see an anti-austerity approach as fantasy, and the result of the Greek elections means that now the whole of Europe must consider whether bailing out the financial system at the expense of jobs, public services and communities is really in the interests of our citizens.
Plaid Cymru does not accept that there is any inevitability about our poverty. In the same vein, we do not accept that austerity is inevitable, either. We have hope and we know that a different way is possible. So, what does Plaid Cymru’s alternative to the damaging ideology of austerity look like? Firstly, redistribution. We want to place a legal duty on the Government for macroeconomic policy to be geared towards an equalising and levelling up of wealth per head, which would make for a much fairer economy in terms of prosperity and opportunity. Other measures that would follow on from this legal duty include a UK convergence fund, like there is in the European Union, where under-performing areas are supported. Industrial policy to sector-rebalance the economy away from financial services and towards manufacturing and advanced engineering. A system whereby areas with the lowest gross value added are prioritised for infrastructure spending and investment. We want the minimum wage to rise to the living wage, because a day’s work should pay a fair wage. There’s a principle to uphold here: no-one should work full time and not earn enough to live on—no-one.
 Plaid Cymru believes that the public sector can be a force for good, and we reject this false contest between the private and the public sector. If rail services can provide improved services and better value for money in public hands, then so be it. If we want energy prices kept down all the time, not just after elections, then let’s break the big six monopoly with a public company.
Austerity and unfettered market economics is a choice, and where savings are made in public spending is a matter of choice, too. Plaid Cymru wants to end the £120 billion a year tax evasion and avoidance. Other parties would rather take billions out of social protection. While our own First Minister has engaged in an unedifying haggling process to get Scotland’s rejected nuclear weapons relocated to Wales, Plaid Cymru wants to cancel the renewal of Trident weapons of mass destruction, saving £100 billion. Other parties here would rather freeze child benefit and exacerbate child poverty; Plaid Cymru wants to end tax relief for millionaire pensioners, saving £15 billion a year. Some parties would rather break up and sell off our NHS. Plaid Cymru wants to invest in it to make sure it’s fit for now and for the future.
Hand in hand with the choice as to whether or not London-based parties back austerity is whether or not they also back home rule for Wales. 
We can decide for ourselves if we want to follow a different course to Westminster’s race to the bottom. By demanding and securing parity of powers and parity of resources for our country by gaining home rule, we can not only build the country our people want to see but also put in place the building blocks for the society that we want to create. Parity for resources means that Wales gets the same spending per head as Scotland, and why should we not? This would give us an additional £1.2 billion a year to invest in our country and in our communities. We’re not asking for more than the going rate, but we should not be prepared to settle for anything less either.
Wales’s needs are evident and Wales’s disproportionate suffering at the hands of welfare reform, as demonstrated by the Wales Audit Office, has been made clear.
I’ll finish by saying this to the parties opposite: once you’ve made your choice on austerity and on home rule, I very much hope that you will have the courage to look the people of Wales in the eyes and justify your decision.
 It is duplicitous and hypocritical to make grand statements condemning the consequences of austerity in this Chamber and in your communities, only to then support your counterparts scurrying through the lobbies at Westminster to vote for more austerity and for more cuts and for more pain.
As the leader of the Party of Wales, I can tell people in Wales today this without any hesitation: these are the values that guide us in Plaid Cymru. Plaid Cymru stands for investment, and not cuts. Plaid Cymru stands for the rebalancing of power and wealth, not austerity. Plaid Cymru stands for home rule, not London rule. And we want you to stand with us for these values and for Wales.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Welsh Government wants powers on fracking devolved.

The following is an interesting exchange between Leanne Wood and Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales in the Welsh Parliament on the 27th January 2015:

Leanne Wood

Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, yesterday the Environmental Audit Committee at Westminster published a significant report and they made a key recommendation. I quote:

‘A moratorium on the extraction of unconventional gas through fracking is needed to avoid both the inconsistency with our climate change obligations and to allow the uncertainty surrounding environmental risks to be fully resolved.’

Plaid Cymru supports a moratorium on fracking, First Minister, for the same reasons. Does the Welsh Government agree?

Carwyn Jones

Well, you can’t support a moratorium on fracking unless you agree that licences should be devolved. I take it that licences should be devolved and then we should consider an effective moratorium on fracking.

Leanne Wood

Yesterday, First Minister, your party tabled amendments to the Infrastructure Bill in Westminster that would see the devolution of licensing for onshore fracking to the Scottish Parliament. Not only did you exclude Wales from having the same powers, but your party refused to support a Plaid Cymru amendment for the devolution of these powers to Wales. Do you want these powers—the same powers of licensing for onshore fracking, First Minister?

Carwyn Jones


Leanne Wood

Well, I think many people are going to be confused and frustrated, First Minister that you say one thing and you do another. You’ve suggested concern about fracking, but you haven’t made any representations to the Westminster Government, have you? You say that you want us to be offered the same powers as Scotland, but you take no action in order to gain such powers. You say that you oppose Tory austerity, but you vote with them to entrench it, and you bemoan Wales’s fiscal disadvantage, but refuse to take greater responsibility for it. First Minister, you offer warm words when it comes to concerns raised about fracking, but you don’t want the powers to stop them, do you? Otherwise, you would have instructed your MPs to support Plaid Cymru’s amendment yesterday. When Plaid Cymru says it, we mean it. When Labour says it, you say one thing and is it not the case that you actually do another?

Carwyn Jones

I do wonder sometimes, I think—. The leader of Plaid Cymru asked me a direct question and I gave her the most direct answer imaginable, and she denies I ever gave her an answer. I mean, the reality is this: the issue of fracking is something that representations have been made on as part of the St David’s Day process. We want to see it devolved to Wales. There is no question that somehow Scotland should get something and Wales should not, and it’s part of the St David’s Day process. You are either part of that process or you are not. The last thing we should do is move to a situation where we try to have powers given to us in an ad hoc fashion. We need Silk part 1, we need Silk part 2, we need delivery of Smith with regard to Wales and discussion about that, and then we will see progress. That is the position of Welsh Labour, and that is the position, I believe, of the people of Wales.

The next step is obviously to obtain copies of correspondence etc to see exactly how hard the Welsh Government have tried to get powers over fracking devolved.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Plans for over 900 houses in Llay and Rhosrobin are a 'disaster waiting to happen’ says Plaid Cymru candidate

A series of housing developments in villages near Wrexham will push local services to breaking point, according to Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary candidate Carrie Harper.

She says plans for two separate housing applications in Llay and another in Rhosrobin will total 911 houses.

Plaid Cymru is urging Planning Committee members to consider the collective impact of these developments, which together amount to a new village for the area. They state it is vital to consider the huge impact the new housing plans on greenfield sites will have on local infrastructure such as schools, health and other key services.

Carrie Harper, who as a former county councillor sat on the planning committee for four years, said:

“Plaid Cymru have been arguing against the over-development of Wrexham for many years now. We are already seeing the impact of a decade’s worth of over development on local services such as the Maelor. This issue simply can’t be ignored any longer.”

“Let’s be clear, there is no local need for the level of unaffordable housing we are having forced on us."

In 2011 Plaid councillors persuaded Wrexham council to reject plans to allocate land for 12,000 new houses - a level of development demanded by the Cardiff Labour Government as part of the borough’s new Local Development Plan. The council decided that ‘to continue with that level of development would threaten our communities in terms of our schools, our road networks, our health service, our identity and social cohesion’ and opted for a much lower figure over a 10-year period. The rejection of the plan was also in line with local consultation that demonstrated overwhelming opposition to further extremely high housing development levels.

A revised LDP process is still on-going but Plaid Cymru is reiterating calls for the council to protect local communities such as Llay from being concreted over by developers with developments proposed for Gresford Road and Hayward’s Field.

She said: “Developers have had a free for all in Wrexham for far too long and it’s time this unsustainable level of development was stopped. It still amazes me that the amount of houses being planned in the future are not part of a wider exercise looking at the impact of an increasing population on our local infrastructure.

"Where are the funding increases for our local schools and the NHS to go along with these new villages? The truth is that no one, not the local council, not the Welsh Government have done a single piece of work looking at this issue, despite it being raised time and time again. How on earth does that make any sense? We are being severely let down.

“Just looking at these applications for Llay and Rhosrobin alone. If they get the go ahead we will see a population increase of about 2000 people, including about 300 children. Where will these children go to school? How will the Maelor hospital cope with this population increase when it’s already at breaking point? What about local GPs and dentists, what about council services that are also under pressure? What impact will more cars on the road have? It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

"These questions are vitally important and absolutely relevant. I would say to the councillors tasked with making a decision on these applications, if you do not have satisfactory answers to these questions, the only responsible course of action is to turn these plans down.”

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Is the Welsh Government telling porkies over fracking?

Plaid Cymru calls for same powers as Scotland to protect Wales from fracking

The Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food Llyr Gruffydd has called for Wales to be granted the same power as Scotland to protect its communities from fracking.
Llyr Gruffydd, pictured at the Borras anti-fracking camp, challenged the Minister for Natural Resources on the progress made to devolve the power over fracking to Wales.
When the Minister claimed that “many conversations” had happened between the Welsh Government and UK Government on the matter the Plaid Cymru AM pointed out that the UK Energy Minister had last week told Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwards MP that “no discussions” had happened.
The Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food Llyr Gruffydd said:
“The people of Wales should have the power to decide on licensing for fracking in their communities. Plaid Cymru wants Wales to have responsibility over fracking so that we can introduce a moratorium on a process that carries a host of unknown risks for the environment and public health.   
"The Scottish Government has made this happen there, but unfortunately the Welsh Government has done absolutely nothing to stand up for Wales’ interests. 
“It is now clear that the Labour Government has not made any representations to the UK Government for these powers to be devolved which suggests that Labour sees no need to challenge Westminster’s policy of promoting and encouraging fracking in Wales. 
“On top of this, Labour refused to support Plaid Cymru tabled amendments to the UK Government’s Infrastructure Bill to exclude Wales from the measures which would allow fracking operations under people’s homes. Scotland has already been given this protection. Why is Wales treated differently? 
“The Labour Government’s unwillingness to fight for these powers makes it clear to me that it is happy to see companies drill for shale gas under Welsh homes. Plaid Cymru on the other hand will not stand idly by and let our communities be exposed to such unacceptable risks.”