Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Do the Tories know what they are doing?

I've always harboured considerable doubts about the Welsh Tories's competence to govern in Cardiff Bay and my doubts were realised when they published their draft budget which protects health spending but fails to say what happens to other spending priorities. We have previously commented on this in an earlier blog.

Further evidence of Welsh Tory incompetence is their claim that the draft Localism Bill which was published on the 13th December 2010, will give Welsh taxpayers a veto over council tax increases. Jonathan Morgan AM claims that this Bill will allow taxpayers in Wales the power to demand a referendum over council tax increases and this press release was published in full by our wannabee Clwyd South AM, Cllr Paul Rogers. Clearly neither of these two Tories have actually read the explanatory notes to this Bill otherwise they would have realised that very little in this Bill affects Wales because local government in Wales is a devolved issue and remains so. The only part of the Bill that really affects Wales is Clause 57 which reads:
Clause57 – Assembly Measures dealing with referendums on council tax increases.

216. Clause 57 confers legislative competence on the National Assembly for Wales. The clause allows the Assembly to pass laws (known as Assembly Measures) in relation to local referendums on proposed increases in council tax levels. This would enable the Assembly to make provision for Wales corresponding to the provision made for England by clause 56.

The Bill therefore grants the Welsh Government the power to legislate to allow a referendum IF IT SO CHOOSES TO UTILISE THAT POWER. I would argue that why waste money on a referendum which could cost as much if not more than the council tax increase proposed.

This is yet another example of Tory incompetence and really raises the question of whether candidates with so little knowledge of devolved government deserve the Welsh public's vote.

Localism.

On the 13th December 2010, the Westminster Government published their wide ranging Localism Bill, and even though Local Government in Wales is devolved, will still have significant impact on Wales especially on Planning issues.

Part 5 of the Localism Bill deals with Planning and in summary will:
Planning – including the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies, the use of the Community Infrastructure Levy, new powers for neighbourhood planning, and new rules for nationally-significant infrastructure projects.

The abolition of regional spatial strategies such as the North East Wales/West Cheshire Regional plan and the Mersey Dee Alliance will be particularly welcome in the North East of Wales. I presume that this bill will force the Welsh Government to review the Wales Spatial Plan and Planning Policy Wales and in future planning decisions in Wales will hopefully be based on the needs of the locality and not on the housing needs of Chester and Liverpool.

Would you like free NHS prescriptions?

This is the headline of an article in today's Daily Mirror advocating a Yes vote in the March 3rd referendum. The Daily Mirror is a popular paper in Wales and hopefully it will have swayed some of its readership into the Yes camp.
WOULD you like free NHS prescriptions?

Do you support the idea of scrapping “tax on the sick” car park charges in hospitals? Do you believe schools should serve breakfast to all kids to boost learning?

Is the idea of avoiding £9,000-a-year ­university tuition fees appealing?

And would you like to put a stop to the ­backdoor privatisation of the NHS?

Then move to Wales, the last part of the UK which is ruled by Labour – albeit in coalition with Plaid Cymru.

However, the land west of Offa’s Dyke isn’t immune to the spending cuts of the ConDem austerity coalition in Westminster.

Do you support the idea of scrapping “tax on the sick” car park charges in hospitals? Do you believe schools should serve breakfast to all kids to boost learning?

Is the idea of avoiding £9,000-a-year ­university tuition fees appealing?

And would you like to put a stop to the ­backdoor privatisation of the NHS?

Then move to Wales, the last part of the UK which is ruled by Labour – albeit in coalition with Plaid Cymru.

However, the land west of Offa’s Dyke isn’t immune to the spending cuts of the ConDem austerity coalition in Westminster.

Carwyn Jones, First Minister in the devolved Welsh Assembly, faces tough choices.

But people in England shouldn’t whine about “them” in Wales, or Scotland too for that matter, being able to spend “our” money.

I say good on the Welsh (and the Scots) for showing there’s an alternative to Tory-led nasty policies.

So we English need to ignore the siren voices of prejudice and learn from our ­neighbours in the North and the West.

And any Welshman or woman who doesn’t vote in the March 3 referendum to strengthen the Cardiff Assembly should be forced to move to a true blue patch of England.

I very much hope that Paul Rogers, John Broughton and all the other Tory 'naye sayers' read this article.

Wrecsam says Yes - public meeting 5/1/11

‘Yes for Wales’ campaign launches

On Wednesday, January 5th a number of ‘Yes for Wales’ launch events will be held all over the nation. Events will be held in Aberystwyth, Newport, Bangor, Aberdâr and here in Wrecsam.

We want a resounding ‘yes’ vote on March 3rd 2011 and these events are an opportunity to build the campaign to involve everyone from community campaigners to trade unionists, students to pensioners and everyone in between.

Wrecsam: Wednesday, January 5th, 7.00pm. Canolfan Catrin Finch Centre, Prifysgol Glyndŵr University, Wrecsam.

What better way to kickstart the new year than by supporting this event? And if you can’t be there, remember that you can volunteer to help the ‘yes’ campaign by sending an e-mail to info@yesforwales.com or by visiting www.yesforwales.com

There are only 10 weeks left to persuade everyone in Wales that....

laws which affect Wales only should be made in Wales.
a ‘yes’ vote will give Wales a stronger voice.
a ‘yes’ vote will make it easier for us to run our own affairs.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Dr Marek's Half Baked Plans!

Obviously Dr John Marek has had a quiet Christmas, he seems to have had plenty of time to dream up his next half baked, hair brained 'plan' for the long suffering people of Wrecsam. Yes, our Dr Marek is now proposing that when the current Chief Executive Isobel Garner leaves, that the people of Wrecsam directly elects a Mayor to run our affairs.

Dr Marek claims they have been a success in England with Boris being the 'Jewel in the Crown,' but he conveniently forgets those municiplaities where directly elected mayors have been a cause for concern resulting in none other than Eric Pickles MP, a Tory colleague of Dr Marek's sending in teams to monitor the Mayor's performance

Has it suddenly dawned on Dr Marek that he won't win Wrecsam in the Assembly elections and his Plan B could be that he gets the Tory nomination for the first directly elected Mayor of Wrecsam?

I don't really see the people of Wrecsam wanting to waste hundreds of thousands of pounds on a referendum and the salary of a Mayor rather than appointing and paying a professional Chief Executive answerable to 52 democratically elected Councillors.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Ffigyrau gwylio S4C.

Ar y 23ain o Ragfyr, cyhoeddodd S4C ei ffigyrau gwylio sydd yn dangos cynnydd mawr yn nifer y gwylwyr gyda miliwn o fobol wedi edrych ar raglenni'r sianel yn y mis diwethaf. Ond fel dwi wedi dadlau o'r blaen mae gen i broblem gyda ffordd mae nifer gwylwyr yn cael ei mesur a dwi wedi blogio ar y mater yma ac yma. Faswn ni'n gobeithio cael rywfaint o gadarnhad gan S4C fod y ffigyrau yma yn fanwl gywir ond dwi ddim yn meddwl y gallent roi y cadarnhad yny. Be sydd angen ydy ymchwiliad i'r ffordd mae BARB yn casglu y wybodaeth.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

My favourite Christmas message.

Without doubt the one person who talked a great deal sense this Christmas was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who said that, "The rich are failing to 'shoulder their load.' Too right, they're not shouldering their load! Congratulations to the Archbishop for saying what needed to be said; without fearing the reaction of the ruling classes and the establishment.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Dryswch llwyr.

Ydy polisi y Ceidwadwyr tuag at yr iaith Gymraeg yn ddryswch llwyr?. Ar yr un llaw mae ymgeisydd y Toriad yn Ne Clwyd yn enedigol o Brymbo wedi ei addysgu yn lleol ac wedyn ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth ond heb y mymryn lleia o ddiddordeb na cefnogaeth i'r iaith Gymraeg fel mae ei wefan uniaeth Saesneg yn tystio.

Ar y llaw arall mae'r aelod Ceidwadol Ewropeaidd, Dr Kay Swinburne yn enedigol o Loegr heb unryw gysylltiad amlwg a Chymru cyn ei hetholiad yn gallu cynhyrchu taflen neu adroddiad sydd yn gwbwl ddwyiaethog:



Ydy o yn gofyn gormod i ddisgwyl rywfaint o gysondeb ym mholisiau y Blaid Geidwadol tuag at yr iaith Gymraeg?

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.

Dymuna Arfon, Marc, Carrie a Barrie Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i'w holl ddarllenwyr a chefnogwyr.

Arfon, Marc, Carrie and Barrie, would like to wish all their blog followers and supporters a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Naadelik looan na looan bletheu noweth (Cernyweg/Cornish)

Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat (Llydaweg/Breton)

Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa (Manaweg/Manx)

Nollaig Shona Duit (Gaeleg Iwerddon/Irish Gaelic)

Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ur! (Gaeleg Alban/Scottish Gaelic)

Bon nadal i feli any nou (Catalaneg/Cataluyninan)

Zorioneak eta urte Berri on (Basgeg/Basque)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Nick Ramsey AM

Nick Ramsay the Tory Assembly Member for Monmouth Constituency is publicly supporting the Yes for Wales campaign. Nice to see influential Tories joining the cross party Yes for Wales campaign. I wonder when his good friend and wanna be Assembly Member, Cllr Paul Rogers will enter the fray and publicly say whether he supports a Yes or No vote. Surely the public of Clwyd South deserve to know where their Tory candidate stands on these issues!

Falling off a cliff - Lib Dems fighting for fifth place with the Communists

As if Cablegate (c) wasn't bad enough, Welsh Poll Watch has this bit of bad news for the Lib Dems. The interesting bit from a local perspective is that:

"In the North they were level pegging with the Communists for 5th place (both on 3%)."

If these figures are replicated in May 2011, then there's a real possibility of the first Green AM in Wales.

Here's the full report:

Yougov December Poll
Lib Dems must be panicking now with the latest yougov figures for them falling off a cliff.

Constituency December poll (change since November)

Lab 44% (nc)

PC 21% (nc)

Con 23% (+2)

Lib 6% (-3)

Other 6% (nc)

Regional December poll (change since November)

Lab 42% (+1)

PC 21% (+1)

Con 22% (+2)

Lib 5% (-4)

UKIP 5% (+1)

Put into our predictor this has Labour 30, Plaid 13, Tory 15, Lib Dems 2. Unfortunately the predictor does not treat UKIP as an equal party to the others so this will need editing. Also their are problems with using a uniform swing when a parties vote is so varied across a region. On these ratings the Libs will struggle to hold more than one seat (either Brecon and radnor or the M&W list seat).

To put into context how awful things are for Kirsty Williams only in 1 of the 5 regions (Mid and West) did the Lib Dems come 4th!

In South Wales Central they were 5th behind the greens. In the South East, north and south West they were 5th behind UKIP. To make matters even worse in the North they were level pegging with the Communists for 5th place (both on 3%).

All in all they are in an incredibly poor position. I have always thought that 6 seats was the floor that it was impossible for the Libs to drop beneath. This poll completely blows that theory away.

Of course this is only one poll but if this is anywhere close to reality the Lib Dems will need to run a truly amazing campaign next year.

They also asked their usual referendum question. The result is

Yes: 46% (-2)

No 25% (-5)

Don't know / won't vote 29% (+7)

This is still good news for the yes campaign.

Breaking news: Woman charged in connection with Plas Madoc Communities First

A 55-year-old woman from Henllan near Denbigh has been charged in connection with allegations of fraud relating to Plas Madoc Communities First. She is due to appear in court on January 5.
A 46-year-old man has already been charged with fraud and is due to appear in court on December 31.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Global Warming and the Weather!!

For those climate change deniers, and there are many of them, can I suggest they read George Monbiot's excellent article on the link between global warming and the current Arctic weather conditions that we are enduring. This is how George seeks to explain the link:
There is now strong evidence to suggest that the unusually cold winters of the past two years in the UK are the result of heating elsewhere. With the help of the severe weather analyst John Mason and the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, I’ve been through as much of the scientific literature as I can lay hands on. Here’s what seems to be happening.

The global temperature maps published by NASA present a striking picture. Last month’s shows a deep blue splodge over Iceland, Spitsbergen, Scandanavia and the UK, and another over the western US and eastern Pacific. Temperatures in these regions were between 0.5 and 4 degrees colder than the November average from 1951 and 1980. But on either side of these cool blue pools are raging fires of orange, red and maroon: the temperatures in western Greenland, northern Canada and Siberia were between two and ten degrees higher than usual. NASA’s Arctic oscillations map for December 3-10 shows that parts of Baffin Island and central Greenland were 15 degrees warmer than the average for 2002 to 2009. There was a similar pattern last winter. These anomalies appear to be connected.

... I can already hear the howls of execration: now you’re claiming that this cooling is the result of warming! Well yes, it could be. A global warming trend doesn’t mean that every region becomes warmer, every month. That’s what averages are for: they put local events in context. The denial of manmade climate change has mutated first into a denial of science in general, now into a denial of basic arithmetic. If it’s snowing in Britain, a thousand websites and quite a few newspapers tell us, the planet can’t be warming.

...just look out of the window. No explanation of the numbers, no description of the North Atlantic Oscillation or the Arctic Dipole, no reminder of current temperatures in other parts of the world, can compete with the observation than there’s a foot of snow outside. We are simple, earthy creatures, governed by our senses. What we see and taste and feel overrides analysis. The cold has reason in a deathly grip.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Fears over homelessness in Wales as cuts bite

Following Wrecsam Council's decision to cease funding Shelter Cymru I thought it would be appropriate to reproduce this article from the BBC Wales website:
A perfect storm of job losses and housing benefit cuts will increase homelessness at a time of squeezed budgets, support groups say.

Shelter Cymru warns of "problems on all fronts", while other organisations fear the worst is yet to come.

Rough Sleepers Cymru said there was already a huge spike in the number of people coming forward.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it had worked to bring fairness to a system that was "ineffective".

However, there is concern the situation will get worse when cuts to housing benefits and public sector job losses kick in.

Joy Kent, director of Cymorth Cymru which is the umbrella body for organisations helping people to find and keep their homes, said the future was "scary".

"We're already seeing an increase in demand for services and a fall in income for those services to be provided so it's a double whammy," she added.

Other groups working at the sharp end say they are seeing a big rise in people getting into difficulties.

Tim Paddock, chairman of Rough Sleepers Cymru, said: "Already we're seeing a huge increase in homeless presentations - the numbers are up massively.

"Normally we would get a little spike as we go into the cold period. It's gone up more than I've ever seen since I've been working in the homeless sector [eight years]."

The number of households classed as homeless in Wales rose 10% between June 2009 and June this year.

That rise was partly driven by an increase in people who lost accommodation that was tied to a job, or occupants who were required by a landlord to leave a rented property.

But Mr Paddock added: "The first wave [of homeless people] in the recession was people on short-term contracts and part-time employees.

"As we move on into these benefit changes, what you will see is that many vulnerable individuals are affected - people with mental health issues, or a learning disability, or a personality disorder or people who came through the care system."

'Big concern'

Ceri Dunstan, of Shelter Cymru, said as well as redundancies, problems were also being caused by reduced working hours and people not being able to make rent or mortgage payments.

"I think we're going to see a lot more people falling into difficulties in the private rented sector - that's going to be the big concern for us," she said.

"Some of the changes being brought in [by the UK government]... if you've been on Jobseekers' Allowance for 12 months or more, your housing benefit will be cut by 10%.

"We're talking about people who are in poverty anyway and I think our opinion is that it's perverse and bizarre and we can't see what the reasoning behind that is."

Other benefit changes include an expected reduction in Local Housing Allowance payments and new limits on the amount paid according to the size of a property.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it had worked to bring fairness to a system that was "ineffective, wildly expensive and entirely unsustainable".

A spokesperson said: "Housing benefit has spiralled out of control over the last decade, costing taxpayers billions every year and plunging thousands of vulnerable people into an unbreakable cycle of benefit dependency.

"Working families should not have to pay to support a benefits system which allows people to live in properties they themselves could never afford.

"We know that many people will make up any shortfall in housing benefit, or renegotiate their rent with landlords. But we have also tripled the money available for discretionary payments, with £140m being made available over the next five years, to support those most vulnerable."

The assembly government said its new housing measure would enable local authorities to apply to suspend the right to buy council houses in areas of housing pressure.

Ministers in Wales also said they had exceeded their recent target in providing affordable homes, but admitted ambitious targets would be impossible in the current climate.

Earlier this year, Deputy Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies announced £1m of extra funding for a variety of projects to tackle homelessness.

It is my understanding that Wrecsam are the ONLY Local Authority in Wales to cease funding Shelter Cymru for provision of independent housing advice and it is ironic that the Lead Councillor on Housing for the Welsh Local Government Association is non other than the Leader of Wrecsam Council and Liberal Democrat Assembly candidate, Aled Roberts. Also prominent in ensuring that the Council ceased funding Shelter Cymru was Councillor Paul Rogers, the Conservative Assembly candidate for Clwyd South.

So much for the Con Dem's concern for the most vulnerable in our society...perhaps they can tell us where exactly the 'big society' plans for Wrecsam are?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Handbags at dawn!

There is very little Christmas goodwill in Cardiff Bay with Leighton Andrews and Peter Black having a right old spat on twitter. It all starts off with a Peter Black blog (doesn't it always). Anyway Peter reckons that the first Yes for Wales campaign leaflet is misleading and that it misrepresents what Wales can hope to gain from Westminster following a Yes vote. Leighton Andrews's response to Peter Black's blog was:
is there any chance that you could actually start campaigning for a yes vote, instead of whingeing about the campaign?

Peter Black - is there any chamce you can stop using the campaign to try and get a Labour majority in May?

Leighton Andrews - Great, Peter. Keep starting public fights with Yes campaigners who have signed off leaflets with your colleagues. Amateur.

Peter Black - you started this fight Leighton. If a "professional" campaign is all about gagging your colleagues you can keep it. Cretin.

Leighton Andrews - I am not going to respond to personal abuse. You have used a word that would rightly get you thrown out of the Chamber.

Peter Black - so it's OK for you to use personal abuse but when you get it back you run to the high ground. Careful you don't fall off

...and so it goes on. Dead professional? No not really! As I said in my twitter reply,
"Bit of a spat going on between @LeightonAndrews and @peterblackwales about the @yesforwales campaign. Grow up boys and work together."

Clwyd South Conservatives!

Clwyd South Conservatives have designed themselves a brand spanking new website to promote Councillor Paul Rogers's Assembly campaign. Now I don't know the exact figure, but Clwyd South constituency has a large number of Welsh speakers in rural areas such as Cynwyd, Llandrillo, Corwen and Dyffryn Ceiriog, not to mention the more urban villages of Rhosllanerchrugog and Coedpoeth. However you will not find ONE word of Welsh on this website not even 'Ceidwadwyr Cymreig,'which is an absolute disgrace and a lack of respect towards the language and those that speak it.

We don't have to look far to see why this website is not bilingual, because it is promoted by none other than John Broughton a Brit Unionist and a True Wales activist from Llandrillo of all places. Only time will tell whether Cllr Rogers has made a tactical error in choosing John Broughton as his campaign manager because his lack of empathy with the Welsh language and culture is not exactly a campaign asset!

Vodaphone - make the tax dodgers pay


Despite the weather, a dozen campaigners from Wrecsam joined the growing movement against tax-dodging corporations. Vodaphone, which has avoided a £6 billion tax bill with the agreement of the UK government, was targetted in the main shopping area of Regent St.
The manager was aware of the protest and had a security guard ready to lock the door - unfortunately leaving at least three customers stuck inside.
A good-natured discussion with the police led to them accepting our right to protest peacefully on the street and the thousands of Christmas shoppers were supportive of the picket.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Censorship.

I referred in a previous blog about Inspector Mark Davies, Chairman of the Police Federation's Inspector's Branch Board, being denied the opportunity to express his views in North Wales Police's Focus Link. I have now obtained a copy of Mark Davies's article and is reproduced below with his permission:
Regulation A19 is redundancy through the back door

As I write this piece we have just had the coalition government’s comprehensive spending review (CSR). We waited months for that and now it has been announced we must digest it all and wait to see what it will mean to us in North Wales.

However, before we have digested the CSR or have a detailed answer to how it will affect North Wales Police (NWP), a decision has almost been made – NWP is one of the first forces in the country to take steps toward invoking regulation A19 and compulsorily retire officers who have completed 30 years service.

What the CSR indicates is that police forces will have to find savings of about 20% over the next four years. Compared to the scare-mongering predictions of between 25 and 30% leading up the CSR there is very little to breathe any sigh of relief over.

We can (and should) prise the luxury cars from the NWP employees who have that perk. There are bound to be other examples of waste and inefficiency (as we are a relatively large organisation), but as more than 80% of NWP’s costs are wages, then deep cuts in the workforce are inevitable.

The government has emphasised the importance of maintaining ‘front-line services’ but has not defined what they are. Let us be clear that there will have to be cuts to services. How big and where I do not dare predict. NWP is not 20% inefficient. If we were, then the senior officers who have been in post for several years should fall on their swords now.

I am a simple soul and consider that answering 999 calls and attending emergencies is pretty core to front-line services. So I find it odd that those areas are among the first areas to be scrutinised and facing the prospect of a chop in NWP.
As it stands, it is not possible to make sworn police officers redundant in the traditional sense. Volunteers are being sought among our civilian colleagues and everyone is expecting that there will also be some forced redundancies among our non-warranted colleagues.

The ogre of redundancy is bound to be a huge worry for anyone facing it. For the victims of redundancy, the workers and their dependants, it is a massive blow financially with huge ramifications that in the worst case scenario can break up relationships and ruin people’s lives.

The process of how A19 for officers will happen, when and even if in NWP is yet to be decided. The draft procedure has been circulated for consultation.

I think, Regulation A19 is another name for redundancy for police officers. The financial blow to those officers forced to retire by the regulation being invoked will be softened by their pension. However, those officers have chosen to carry on working and want to choose when they retire. Their reasons for wishing to carry on working may be financial or just love of their work. Being forced to retire is bound to be a blow to those officers – they are no longer wanted by NWP, they are redundant. The repercussions for them and their dependants are softened by their pensions but potentially, the outcome is similar.

So the application of A19 needs to be done sensitively, transparently and fairly. There is no one who should be able to claim they are essential and avoid A19.

My understanding is that Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard objected to this article on several points, the main one being that the article talks of cuts to 'front line services' and the ACC did not want to raise concerns amongst the public that the cuts would or may result in a deterioration in front-line services.

Now there is a fundamental issue here of the North Wales Police being straight with the public and telling them the truth about the impact of the cuts or not!

A similar situation arose last night in a meeting between Wrecsam Councillors and Senior Police Officers who included, Ian Shannon, Deputy Chief Constable, Tal Michael, Chief Executive of the Police Authority and the Chair of the Police Authority, Alan Lewis. My colleague, Cllr Hugh Jones challenged the Police about their consultation document on the Future of Policing in North Wales and raised the question of whether the Police were being 'honest' with the public which elicited quite an angry response from Mr Shannon and Mr Lewis. The general consensus amongst Councillors was that both Mr Lewis and Mr Shannon were 'thin skinned' and not keen on being challenged on the REAL impact of these cuts. Seems the impasse between Inspector Mark Davies and Gareth Pritchard are following the same lines.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

More arrests over Plas Madoc Communities First

The lengthy criminal investigation into Plas Madoc Communities First is starting to bear fruit. This is from the BBC news..

A second man has been charged after an investigation into allegations of financial irregularities involving a scheme to regenerate one of Wales' most deprived housing estates.

Police said a man, 35, from Manchester, had been charged with four offences of money laundering and one offence of fraud in relation to the Communities First scheme at Plas Madoc, Wrexham.

He was bailed and is due to appear before magistrates on 31 December.

The investigation continues.

On Tuesday, a 46-year-old man was charged with theft and fraud as part of the same investigation, and is also due in court in Mold on 31 December.

Another man, the scheme's finance officer Andy Bunning, and co-ordinator Miriam Beard, were suspended earlier this year after an auditor's report revealed management weaknesses and a "fundamental lack of financial control" within the Plas Madoc Communities First project.

Mr Bunning later resigned and Ms Beard was dismissed following a disciplinary hearing.


Word on the street is that Bunning will be done for admitting fraud against the CSA while the two men are said to be related to Miriam Beard.

The wider political question is what this scandal means for Communities First. Despite some examples of good practice, it's now widely accepted that CF has failed miserably to achieve what it set out to do within the poorest 180+ communities in Wales. That's because there were no benchmarks set at the outset, no targets set for completion and an overall failure to define the scheme's perameters. In short, it was a recipe for throwing money at impoverished communities in the hope they would improve.

This blog has mixed views of Communities First. Unlike Labour, we are not slavishly for the bureaucratic top-down scheme. Unlike the Tories, who want to stop funding altogether, we do believe that the poorest communities in Wales need capacity building to develop new employment and opportunities. We do not believe in abandoning these key areas. There are models of good practice in terms of how to engage with the local community and actually respond to their needs - Hightown in Wrecsam is one small example.

Unfortunately, the experience of the past two years suggests that Labour ministers want to bury their heads in the sand - not least in the way they have constantly trumpeted Caia Park Communities First as a model of good practice. More on that later.

Tories plan extra £4m cuts for Wrecsam

The Tory "alternative" budget for Wales would mean an extra £4.4m in cuts for Wrecsam.

The Tories, who have laughably tried to pose as the party to defend the NHS (while virtually privatising it in England), were forced to explain how they would ringfence health spending in the light of WAG facing budget cuts from the UK government.

The budget was slipped out in a press release on the day of last week's student protests - a good day to bury bad news as they say.

Among the Tory "ideas" was an additional 1.5% cut to every local council budget - on top of the existing cutbacks imposed.

Plaid's Eurfyl ap Gwilym - scourge of Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight - has crunched the numbers and here's what the Tories would cut from each local council budget in real terms:

Isle of Anglesey 3,038,114
Gwynedd 5,465,372
Conwy 4,703,120
Denbighshire 4,355,462
Flintshire 6,016,013
Wrexham 4,442,081
Powys 4,990,116
Ceredigion 2,261,995
Pembrokeshire 5,201,787
Carmarthenshire 6,954,764
Swansea 8,992,538
Neath Port Talbot 6,393,560
Bridgend 5,339,769
Vale Of Glam 4,899,205
RCT 11,183,241
Merthyr Tydfil 2,804,854
Caerphilly 8,165,050
Blaenau Gwent 3,527,828
Torfaen 4,216,282
Monmouthshire 3,128,221
Newport 6,322,036
Cardiff 5,723,012

Total 118,124,420

That's an awful lot of teachers, care workers, refuse collectors to sack.

I wonder whether the Tory candidates in Clwyd South and Wrecsam will be trumpeting this in their election manifestos?

Focus - Link

Focus - Link is a joint magazine between the North Wales Police Federation and the force. It is aimed at serving Police Officers, Police Support staff and retired officers and staff. It is normally a pretty informative magazine especially to those of us who have retired. Articles by Federation representatives can at times be challenging towards the Force and sometimes even controversial. I have however never seen the following published before:



Inspector Mark Davies is the Chairman of the North Wales Police Inspectors Branch Board, who represents ALL Inspectors and Chief Inspectors and it is particularly worrying that the force are refusing to endorse an article written by a representative of the middle management of the force.

Perhaps the Force should make a statement reassuring us that the managers of the force are working together for the benefit of the people of North Wales.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Bob Russell MP

Bob Russell is the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester and this is what he wrote to a constituent in response to presumably a negative letter about the Royal Wedding.


Clearly Mr Russell is not a Republican then!

I wonder if a 7,000 majority in the general election is sufficient if he continues to write anymore letters like that to his constituents?

Copyright and credit - Guido Fawkes

Subsidy for Electric Cars

The UK Government will provide £43 million of subsidies to purchasers of nine makes of electric (hybrid) cars to promote low carbon transport. This could be as much as £5000 per purchase This is a welcome development especially as businesses have been able to claim 100% cost of purchase of hybrid vehicles against tax and this just levels the playing field for private motorists.

Unfortunately we in Wales are unlikely to benefit from the availability of this subsidy because there NO electric charging points in Wales. This is what Hywel Williams MP had to say about the Department of Transport ignoring the needs of Wales yet again:
“The Welsh Assembly supported a joint private and public sector consortium bid, including Cardiff City Council and the Energy Savings Trust amongst others for funding from the 'Plugged In Places' initiative.
“This would have introduced electric car charging points in the city centres of Cardiff and Bristol and along the motorway network between the two cities.

“However, while the Department for Transport have announced the funding of three new projects in England - alongside three which already exist - and new projects in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, they haven’t supported this bid for Wales and the south-west of England.

“This seems to mirror the situation for internet broadband recently, where the bidding process again saw Wales frozen out, without any good reason being given.

“I would like to see an explanation from the Department for Transport as to why this scheme, which is environmentally friendly and economically positive, is not being supported.

“At present, there is not a single electric car charging point in Wales, with the funding going to locations elsewhere.

“Plaid called for this in our 2010 general election manifesto and in the “4 Wales 4 Scotland” campaign that we launched last Spring, so that we can have the infrastructure to make our transport greener.

“With the electrification of the Great Western Railway line still in the balance, it is a shame that we are once again being left behind by the Department for Transport in London.”

Another Con Dem U turn.

Yesterday's Guardian reported that Chris Huhne is backtracking on the coalition government's committments to supporting green renewable technology and reducing carbon emissions:
The government's environmental bank is likely to be scaled back to begin life as a fund, jeopardising billions of pounds of badly-needed loans to green technology.

The green investment bank (GIB) was devised by the chancellor, George Osborne, when in opposition as crucial to the development of green energy projects such as clean coal plants and offshore windfarms in the UK.

Now the cabinet minister in charge of seeing the plan come to fruition – a devoted ambassador for the idea of a bank – has floated the possibility of a staggered introduction.

This would see it initially set up as a more limited fund unable to raise finance by issuing "green bonds" to back green projects.

Chris Huhne, the energy and climate change secretary, appears to concede the Treasury's concern that the liabilities taken on by the GIB would be added to the government's budget book.

Tomorrow Chris Huhne will also make an announcement about electricity generation, "On Thursday Huhne will announce other measures which he says will amount to the biggest change to the electricity market since privatisation in the 1980s." The question that needs to be asked is whether Huhne will interfere with the Feed in Tariff incentive for renewable energy which has been very successful since being introduced in April of this year. If Huhne does tinker with the Feed in Tariff financial incentive it may well affect Wrecsam Council's plans to put PV panels on 3000 of its south facing council houses.
Ministers hope to make cleaner ways of generating electricity more competitive, along with measures including a tax on carbon emissions that would make coal and gas plants more expensive to operate.

The Guardian has also learned that Huhne's plan will breach a Conservative pre-election pledge on cleaning up coal plants.

In a speech to environmentalists in October last year, David Cameron repeated his party's pledge to introduce rules requiring new power stations to be as clean as a modern gas plant.

This would have required energy companies to fit experimental equipment which captures and stores carbon emissions (CCS) to about two-thirds of their new coal plants.

But the policies unveiled on Thursday are expected to recommend that CCS is fitted to only a third of coal plants. Huhne declined to comment.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Iain Dale departs!

Iain Dale has announced today that he will cease or severely curtail his blogging and political activities to concentrate on his two businesses, Total Politics and his Publishing Company as well as his daily radio show. Whilst I rarely agreed with Iain Dale's Conservative view of the world his blogs were alway well written and entertaining and he will undoubtedly leave a big void in the political blogosphere.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Anglesey's new blogger

An interesting addition to the Welsh blogging community promises to give The (Tory) Druid a run for his money.
Croeso mawr iawn i ysbryd Iolo Morgannwg - http://angleseylaudanum.blogspot.com

Sunday, 12 December 2010

'Open the books' challenge to developers

Brymbo housing developers pocket £17 million dividends

Developers who want permission to build an extra 150 homes on the old Brymbo Steelworks estate have pocketed more than £17m in dividends in just two years.

Brymbo Developments Ltd recently had a planning application to build another housing estate on the former steelworks site rejected by Wrecsam Council, a scheme the company said would help pay for a key road to link the site with the existing village of Brymbo.

But councillors are now demanding that BDL explains where money from the sale of the existing 500 houses on the site has gone. Accounts filed for 2005-6 reveal that the company made £16.4m from land sales - and paid its shareholders £14.7m in dividends. In 2006-7, a further £2.5m was paid out to shareholders in dividends. Accounts for the past two years have not yet been submitted.

The company's failure to build the link road has been condemned by Plaid Cymru's group of councillors.

Cllr Marc Jones, who leads the Plaid group, said:
"We have every sympathy with residents in Brymbo, and in particular those living in the new housing, who desperately want this road built. It is a disgrace that the developers have been allowed to get away without putting in the basic infrastructure to support this development.

"Residents bought their homes on the understanding that the road would be built and community facilities opened. There should have been a clear agreement, legally enforceable, between the developers and the planning authority to ensure a timescale for opening a new school, shops and the road.

"We have argued consistently that allowing housing developments without developing the accompanying infrastructure causes huge problems for existing and new communities.

"BDL is claiming that it needs money from both this new housing development and a supermarket to pay for the spine road. We challenge BDL to come clean and open its books, so that the people of Brymbo and Tanyfron can see where the money has gone. We believe the cost of the road is a fraction of the money paid out in dividends to company shareholders.

"In addition to that, we should not forget that BDL received £8.5m from the Welsh Development Agency to clear the site almost a decade ago."

He added:
"The latest accounts filed in Companies House by the developer raise other questions. Why is Brymbo Developments Ltd owed £304,000 by a company in which its main shareholder is a partner? That money could build key parts of the spine road. The people of Brymbo deserve some straight answers to some straight questions."


According to the accounts, BDL's ultimate parent company Parkhill 2000 Ltd is owned by three men - 90% is owned by Colin Cornes of Shifnal, Shropshire, and the rest by two other Shropshire-based businessmen - Niall Crabb and P J Smyth.

An interview with Senator Dominic Hannigan, Seanad Éireann

Guest Blog by Plaid Hightown.


There have been some very dramatic events unfolding in Ireland over the last few weeks so we thought that it would be interesting to hear from someone in the eye of the storm.

Dominic Hannigan is an Irish Senator who has been chosen as the Labour Party candidate for the constituency of Meath East, a constituency that saw some of the most dramatic changes of the Celtic Tiger period of Irish history, in the forthcoming general election. Dominic is spokesperson for Labour in the Seanad Éireann on Commuter issues, Environment, Local Government, Foreign affairs and Defence for. Dominc has very kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the Plaid Wrecsam blog.

The Irish Government has introduced wide ranging cuts in response to the financial crisis, what have been the day to day affects on the people of East Meath?

People on the breadline are finding it more difficult to get by. Cuts to social welfare, to a widow’s pension, to a carer’s allowance, will directly reduce the standard of living for many people. Also, the money they get goes directly into the local economy in East Meath – it’s not saved away. So, any reduction has a knock-on impact on local shops and services.

The Government accepted even more drastic cuts as part of the pre conditions for the IMF intervention in the Irish nations affairs as a socialist what proposals do you have to alleviate the adverse effects of these cuts?

We would renegotiate the deal with a view to minimising the impact.


What would the Irish Labour Party have done differently to Fianna Fail if it had been in power in 2008?

The big thing ….we would not have given the bank guarantee, which we believe was a terrible decision. We were the only party who saw the dangers. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein etc. all voted for it.

What regulatory reform in the Irish financial services sector would you be advocating if elected to the next Dail?

See our manifesto next month.

You are known for your interest in Irish language education, what lessons do you think Ireland and Wales can learn from each other in relation to this area?

The benefit of a tv station – it’s been a tremendous success here and is helping to improve every day use and understanding of the language.
Also, Irish language schools have also been a wonderful development. It’s great that so many kids have access to a gaelscoil close to their homes.

In the UK we are facing a year of political reform with referendums on devolution and the AV system, what reforms, in the coming years, of the Irish political system do you feel are necessary?

I expect that we will see a fundamental review of the way our system operates, including serious proposals in relation to our bi-cameral system. I have recently spoken about my view that the time has come for a referendum to be held on the abolition of our Upper House. I would imagine that this, and other proposals could very well be in our manifesto next month

Lib Dems going the same way as the PD's?

Iain Dale in his blog poses the question whether the Liberal Democrats will cease to exist as a poll undertaken by Lord Ashcroft shows that only 54% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 would do so again.

This is nothing new in coalition politics with the demise of the Progressive Democrats in Ireland being a case in point. The Progressive Democrats were formed in 1985 following a fallout between the founder of the PD's and Charles Haughey and in 1987 they won 14 seats out of 166 in the Dail pushing Labour into fourth place. The PD's were a free-market, economically conservative party, very similar to the 'Orange Book' wing of the Liberal Democrats which is currently in the ascendancy within the party. The PD's were minority coalition partners with Fianna Fail on four occasions and they were,
largely credited with shaping the low-tax, pro-business environment that contributed to Ireland's Celtic Tiger economic boom during the 1990s and 2000s.

Despite their apparent economic competence the PD's were wiped out in the 2007 General Election losing 6 of their 8 seats and the party folded in 2008 with the remaining two TD's becoming independents within the Fianna Fail and Green coalition.

Whilst I don't think the Liberal Democrats will cease to exist they will probably remain as Westminster's third biggest party albeit with about half the seats. The situation in Wales and Scotland is different where the demise of the Liberal Democrats seem far more likely because there is an alternative in Plaid Cymru and the SNP. We won't have to wait long for the Welsh/Scottish theory.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Confusion Reigns !

This time the confusion seems to reign within the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS)...or does it?

Yesterday, Friday the 10th December 2010, was the closing date for bids for funding for Band A school building and improvement grants under the 21st Century Schools programme and many if not all local authorities will have submitted bids, some reasonable like Wrecsam's £23 million to Flintshire's £82 million. One thing that is sure is that not all these bids will be funded as Dr Chris Llewelyn explains. Those that will be funded will start in April 2012 until 2015 when Band B bids will be called for.

The predecessor funding formula for school building prior to April 2012, was the School Building Improvement Grant (SBIG) which delivered in 3 tranches with the third tranche being delivered in 2011/12, included in that tranche is the £4.2 million for the proposed Welsh Medium Primary school in Gwersyllt.

On Wednesday of this week the 8th December 2010, Directors of Education received the following email from the Capital Funding Branch of DCELLS:
The purpose of my e-mail is to advise that the Business Minister will be issuing a Written Statement over the course of the next few days and that statement will make reference to tranche 3 projects that have been approved and that these project will be deferred until financial year 2012-13.
However, you will be aware that we are currently arranging meetings with Directors to discuss all transition projects including T3. Decisions on how we meet our commitments in line with budget availability will be made once those discussions have

So it would appear that the Tranche 3 SBIG funding is being deferred until 2012/13 which is also the year 21st Century Schools is supposed to commence,so is the 21st Century School Programme being deferred for a year as well?

Now we all know that Leighton Andrews is a shrewd operator and is this a move to re-direct some capital funding to subsidise University tuition fees for Welsh students because of the funding gap? Any cut backs to school building capital will undoubtedly be sidestepped by Leighton and blamed on the Westminster coalition's Comprehensive Spending Review. Blaming the deferrment of Tranche 3 of SBIG on Westminster will not wear, the SBIG funding was allocated at the start of the programme 3 years or more ago, even before the recession. There is no reason to defer SBIG T3, as the Minister has already allocated £478 million for capital expenditure on schools over the next 3 years.

We need answers to some questions...before the recess!

UPDATE - Too late; recess starts Monday 13th December 2010 until the 9th January...nice one Mrs Hutt, release bad news when Assembly members are not in Cardiff.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Inspections, Inspections, Inspections!!

The downside of being a Lead Member for Children and Young People is the time and effort that I have to put aside to prepare for inspections whether it is by Estyn or CSSIW. Last week we had ten Estyn Inspectors in Wrecsam for the week inspecting the Local Education Authority. I have just been told today that TEN CSSIW inspectors will descend on Wrecsam in January for 3 DAYS to inspect the Local Safeguarding Childrens Board which is frankly an outrageous waste of money. In addition to that there will be an annual inspection of our two Children's homes, Tanydre and Tapley Avenue; there will be the annual inspection of our Adoption Service...and our Fostering Service, which are separate inspections! Then we will probably have a Safeguarding inspection sometime in 2011 and your guess is as good as mine whether we will have an inspection of Youth Services and Youth Justice in the next 12 months.

Oh yes, I forgot, the schools, all eighty of them which will need inspecting using a new format introduced by Estyn to make sure no inspector loses their jobs. Estyn have changed the system of inspection now to grade schools as Excellent, Good, Adequate or crap. We've been told no one gets excellent and if you get adequate you get re-inspected in 12 months and of course if you're crap you're in special measures so that only leaves you one grade to get if you want to get left alone for 5 years to teach children.

If all this wasn't so serious it would be funny. But can you imagine how much this all costs across all the twenty two authorities?...it must be millions, which could be going into front-line teaching and social care. Again it's not only the actual cost of the inspection, but it's the cost of preparation time for the authority's officers and teachers.

I firmly believe one of the reasons that our education standards are poor and falling is that there are too many people inspecting and distracting front line staff away from what they really should be doing.

It's all very well for Leighton Andrews to demand that local education authorities spend more of their budgets in schools but he should start with his own department and reduce the burden and cost of this stifling inspection regime. The same should apply to Edwina Hart and Gwenda Thomas with CSSIW.

General Election Expenditure.

The Electoral Commission have published candidates and political parties expenses for the 2010 General Election and they make interesting reading. In Wales political parties spent over £2 million with the Conservatives leading the way with £1.1 million, Labour with £500,000, Liberal Democrats on £330,000 and Plaid Cymru on £145,000. In addition to that, candidates in constituencies have to declare their own expenditure.

In Wrecsam the candidates expenditure was:

Labour £ 9,216
Plaid Cymru £ 3,179
Conservatives £ 9,269
Liberal Democrats £ 12,193
UKIP £ 1,150
BNP £ 400

In Clwyd South the candidates expenditure was:

Labour £ 7,366
Plaid Cymru £ 2,041
Conservatives £ 19,967
Liberal Democrats £ 2,213
UKIP £ 986
BNP £ 400

Throughout the UK each candidate spent on average over £6,000 on their campaign with the 4,000 candidates spending in all, over £25 million with the parties spending approximately £31 million. The total spend on the 2010 General Election was therefore in excess of £55 million which is a lot of money but again way off the spend of an American election.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Brymbo housing "blackmail" fails to sway planners

In a dramatic vote, Wrecsam's planning committee has decided not to grant planning permission for another 150 homes on the old Brymbo steelworks. Councillors voted 7-5 to reject the plan.
The application by Brymbo Developments Ltd was a re-hash of a previous planning permission from 2006 and would have meant more than 650 houses had been granted permission on the site.
The company argued that the development was needed on the site, a green field next to the Brymbo Sports and Social Club, to pay for the spine road through the steelworks. But a confidential report, outlining the financial situation, was not available for councillors on the night.
Opposition was led by Plaid councillors Marc Jones and Carrie Harper, who argued that the development was against the council's own planning policies.
Brymbo Community Council was also fiercely opposed to the development, describing the planning application as "blackmail" because the company said it had to build the houses to be able to afford the spine road.
Cllr Marc Jones said he was very sorry that the people of Brymbo and Tanyfron had had to put up with the lack of progress on the site for 20 years since the steelworks closed in 1990. He added that BDL had an opportunity to seal the deal back in 2006, when they failed to provide the necessary assurances for the council that - in exchange for building the houses - they would also build the road.
He added that back in 2006 the company was also offering to develop and safeguard the site's important heritage area but that, in this planning application, that promise had been abandoned.
Cllr Carrie Harper emphasised the over-development of the site already - the new housing has effectively doubled the size of Tanyfron.
She added: "I am stunned that this application has even come to us tonight as it breaches so many of our local planning policies and even more bemused as to why planning officers are recommending approval. The whole thing needs investigating."
Despite claims by local Tory councillor Paul Rogers that the village was behind the application, the only local comments were all opposed to the scheme. Cllr Marc Jones said: "Local villagers are obviously fed up with being spun a line by the developers and it was right that the planning committee reflected that strength of feeling and ensured that the council stuck to its own policies."
He said BDL now had a responsibility to fully develop the site as promised more than a decade ago - by providing the road to link Brymbo and Tanyfron, the proposed new school and a new shopping centre.

Keep the post public


The postal service is under threat for the third time in a decade, and we face the prospect of losing a cherished public institution. The CWU posties' union is at the forefront of the campaign to save it from privatisation under the FibDem-Tory coalition:

Throughout its long history, Royal Mail has provided a vital public service to isolated rural and urban communities alike across the length and breadth of the country, providing a unique one-price-goes-anywhere daily service. We are convinced that privatisation will lead to widespread closure of Post Offices, jeopardise the uniform tariff and universal service for letters and lead to a deterioration of services, particularly for small businesses, domestic customers, vulnerable groups and communities.

Privatising the Royal Mail is deeply unpopular:

- A YouGov poll in August 2010 showed that only 15 per cent of the public agree with privatising Royal Mail while 60 per cent believe the Royal Mail should remain a wholly publicly-owned organisation

- An ICM poll last year found that 78 per cent of the public believed selling Royal Mail would be a bad deal for the taxpayer and 82 per cent of believed prices will go up

Royal Mail is a successful company in a strong position:

1. Royal Mail made £321 million profit in 2009 and £404 million in 2010, a rise of 26 per cent

2. The modernisation of Royal Mail is fully funded. There is no need for external financial investment from private backers

3. The recently agreed Business Transformation Agreement 2010 provides an outline for the modernisation of Royal Mail in a highly competitive market and already has the full support of both staff and management

4. Royal Mail is experiencing a period of prolonged stability for the first time in a decade. The upheaval of a sell-off would undo the good work that has already been done, and undermine any further successful implementation of the agreement

Improved model

In order to help Royal Mail keep its competitive edge in a constantly evolving market, the CWU proposes that the company should follow a business-centric model. In its recommendations, the CWU proposes that business leaders with experience of the private sector would be employed to expand the knowledge and expertise within the company.

In addition, the CWU recommends that regional business boards be created to give local employees a grassroots voice in national decision-making.

The focus of the Keep the Post Public campaign is to maximise pressure on the coalition to get them to understand the public are opposed to privatisation, and to persuade the Government to think again.

CWU is supporting the formation of local, broad-based campaign committees in partnership with residents and members of other organisations.

For further information on our campaign, please contact the CWU at info@cwu.org.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Wrexham BNP Councillor arrested!


It sounds to me like a BNP street stall in Liverpool City Centre descended into total mayhem as a number of BNP activists and anti Fascists were involved in a bit of a slanging match resulting in a number being arrested. One of the ones arrested was non other than Mike Whitby a Coedpoeth Community Councillor:
"On the BNP side, organiser Mike Whitby strode amongst the protesters with his megaphone, calling everybody a paedophile. It took the police about 15 minutes to realise that his actions were provocative and decide to arrest him. He was last seen being dragged up Church Street, still frothing at the mouth, his feet sliding across the wet pavement like he was on skis. This spectacle wasn’t lost on the public, most of whom could only shake their heads in derision."

I have quickly scanned Wrecsam Council's Code of Conduct and I'm pleased to announce that Councillor Whitby would appear to have breached several aspects of the code...now where is that address for the Ombudsman!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Na i'r Toriadau

Er y tywydd brawychus yn Gaernarfon heddiw roedd yn dyrfa fawr o tua pedwar cant wedi ymhel yn y Sgwar i wrando ar nifer o siaradwyr yn galw am ymgyrchu yn erbyn toriadau y llywodraeth Doriaidd ai cwn bach; fel deudodd rywyn... Silyn Roberts o Unsain dwi'n meddwl, wrth son am Lloyd George 'yn troi yn ei fedd,' gyda'r datblygiadau diweddaraf.

Er fod rhan fwya o'r siaradwyr yn son am doriadau i'r gwasanaethau cyhoeddus, dim ond un soniodd am y drydydd sector sef Bethan Russell Williams, pennaeth Mantell Gwynedd a sydd yn gyfrifol am hybu y drydydd sector yng Ngwynedd.

Mae be mae Bethan yn ddeud yn ddigon gwir, un o bolisiau mawr David Cameron yw " Y Gymdeithas Fawr;" ond mae y gymdeithas fawr yma yn barod ar ffurf y drydydd sector, sydd yn cael eu hariannu gan fwya o'r sector gyhoeddus fel awdurdodau lleol ar Cynulliad. Be mae y drydedd sector ei hangen i'w gwneud yn fwy o 'gymdeithas fawr' i'w i gael ei hariannu yn deg; ond gyda'r toriadau sydd ohoni; y drydydd sector sydd yn colli ei harian gynta tra mae y sector gyhoeddus yn amddiffyn ei gwasanaethau.

Dyma yr union beth ddigwyddodd yng Nghyngor Wrecsam dydd Mawrth diwethaf pryd torrwyd arian Shelter Cymru yn gyfangwbwl...£45,000 y flwyddyn ar argymhellion swyddogion fod y Cyngor yn cynnig gwell gwasanaeth yn fewnol...rwtsh llwyr. Pleidleisiodd y Rhyddfrydwyr Democrataidd ar Toriaid i ddileu yr arian er fod elusen fel Shelter Cymru yn rhan o syniadaeth Cameron am Gymdeithas Fawr. Pleidleisiodd Plaid Cymru a Llafur yn erbyn y toriadau.

Be oedd yn fwy sinigaidd fyth oedd i Aled Roberts fynd allan yn gyhoeddus ddau ddiwrnod wedyn i neud sylw ar yr ymgyrch i roi statws dinas i Wrecsam lle dwedodd fod cadw gwasanaethau yn bwysicach na labelu tref Wrecsam. Ddigon gwir ond biti na fasa Aled wedi meddwl am hynny pan ddaru o bleidleisio i ddileu gwasanaeth gwerthfawr Shelter Cymru.

Beth sydd angen ydy penderfyny prun ydy'r asiant, elusen neu sector gyhoeddus fwya addas i ddarparu gwasanaeth o safon.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Sharp doubles production of PV panels at Llay

Good news for jobs in Wrecsam and especially the renewable energy economy in Wales...

WREXHAM, Wales, Dec. 3, 2010 — Photovoltaic (PV) panel producer Sharp Manufacturing UK announced it will invest $56 million to double the production capacity of the PV panels it makes at its Wrexham solar plant, the Welsh Assembly Government said.

The investment is in response to growing European demand for PV panels. Three new assembly lines will be created, which will double the company’s production capacity of PV panels to 500 MW.

Currently employing 750 people at the site, the company plans to hire several hundred additional workers.

“As a global company, Sharp could have chosen anywhere to invest, but selected Wales because of its tech-savvy workforce and government support for business,” said Geraint Jones, head of the Americas for the Welsh Assembly Government. “Sharp’s location in Wales helps reach Europe’s fast-growing solar panel technology market.”

In addition, this month the company will launch a new renewable energy academy at the facility to train workers to install solar panels that will power homes and business.

The plant opened in 2004 with an annual capacity of 20 MW, with continued expansion ever since.


Sharp is also launching an academy to train up installers to MCS standard.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Tweet of the Day


HT to @carlmaxim London Zoo (Crazed Chimp at a typewriter pant-hooting at the world.) for today's best tweet:
Vladimir Putin now flying to Zurich to thank Sepp Blatter in person and return his daughter to him safe and unharmed. #worldcup2018

Who said this?

Yes who said this in response to the English press's virulent attack on the Welsh Government having the audacity to go their own way:
Devolution is about states doing things differently and if the English feel so badly done by then they can always change their own policies. However, in the spirit of constructive debate I felt it was important to address two particular myths with some facts of our own:

1. Public spending per head in London is higher than that in Wales. So claims that we are better off than the rest of the Uk is nonsense. In any case, any rational public policy would distribute funds according to need so Wales is actually underfunded.

2. The amount of money raised from taxes in Wales is actually more than the Welsh Assembly spends in total. So claims that English taxpayers are subsidising Welsh policies are wrong.

Got to be a Plaid Cymru politician hasn't it, no one from the Brit parties would have the bottle to criticise their paymasters would they? I'm afraid you're wrong the words were written by non other than Peter Black. Is he really moving towards Plaid Cymru's view of the world?

Labour hypocrisy on council housing (Flintshire style)

Aaron Shotton, leader of the Labour opposition group on Flintshire Council, is leading the campaign against stock transfer as 15,000 face a ballot on switching to a housing association for a landlord.

His principled stance against this privatisation policy is only partly undermined by the final paragraph in the story:

Cllr Helen Brown, executive member for housing, spoke out about claims that the council was pushing for stock transfer.
She said: “The council is taking a neutral stance.
“The decision to go to ballot was made in 2007 and approved by the full council and Cllr Shotton, as leader, moved the motion.”

From the horse's mouth

Prince William today led England's 2018 World Cup presentation to FIFA by telling members:

"I love football, we English love football and it would be an honour for us to host the World Cup."

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Rhieni Dros Addysg Gymraeg


Mewn cyfarfod yn Ysgol Plas Coch heno ma penderfynwyd yn unfrydol i sefydlu cangen o Rieni Dros Addysg Gymraeg yn sir Wrecsam. Ddaru pawb mwy neu lai oedd yn bresennol wirfoddoli i fod ar y Pwyllgor a gymaint oedd y brwdfrydedd etholwyd Cadeirydd (Jeremy Salisbury) ag ysgrifennydd, Sarah Hopley-Vernon, y ddau yn riaint i blant yn Ysgol Plas Coch. Diolch o galon i Ceri Owens, Swyddog Datblygu RhAG am ei chefnogaeth. Fe fydd y pwyllgor nesa am 7 o'r gloch ar y 5ed o Ionawr 2011.

Good news for Yes vote in Wrecsam

Today's ICM/BBC poll on voting in the referendum on greater powers in 12 weeks' time is the biggest sign so far that a decisive "yes" vote is in sight with the right campaign. A 53-24 majority among all voters - the "yes" vote increases to 77% of all those "certain" to vote.
Significantly, all 22 council areas are reporting a "yes" vote - a major change from 1997 when it was the West and Valleys that swung it. For us locally, the most heartening change is that, according to Vaughan Roderick, Wrecsam is the second strongest area in favour of greater powers. Granted the sub-sets of the poll are very small, but this would be in line with the overall political changes locally in the past decade.
On a very cold day, it warms the cockles.

UPDATE: Full details here. The North sample is still too small to be scientific at 231 but is an indicator of the mood locally. It shows a broadly similar result to the national picture:

Yes: 61%
No: 25%
DK: 14%


Wrecsam is 68%-15%!

Daily Mail froths at mouth at tuition fees "apartheid"

The Daily Mail virtually explodes with Middle England outrage this morning. How dare the Welsh look after their students while our poor little lambs are "punished"?
What the frothing-at-the-mouth report fails to mention is that the punishing is being done by the Fib Dem-Tory coalition in London.
The intro in particular captured that very special resentment the Daily Mail does so well:

Britain was facing a future of tuition fees apartheid last night as Welsh students were told they will be exempt from higher charges.


Apartheid? Really? So presumably the ability of some people to pay £30,000 a year to ensure their kids get a privileged school education at Eton is also a class-based apartheid. Or is that somehow different?
If it wasn't such a laughable and unsustainable argument, using the term "apartheid" would be hugely offensive to those who fought that racist regime.

The atmosphere in Daily Mail towers must be so splenetic that one sub, who wrote the picture captions got completely carried away:

'Revolution': Police with riot shields stand at the base of a graffiti-daubed Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square last night. The news Welsh students will have their fees subsidised threatens to trigger fresh protests

Now I wonder who's going to protest? The NUS has welcomed the move as have the university lecturers' union UCU. The only protests it's likely to spark is from the Fib Dem backbenchers who must be pig sick of being outmanoeuvred at every turn.

Tories call for public sector pay freeze - but not for themselves

The Tory idea of fairness is not an universal concept. It usually only applies to other people, so that - for example - only other people pay taxes while they have offshore accounts.

The latest example of this is Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne's hypocrisy over a public sector pay freeze.

On November 12, a National Assembly official wrote to all AMs confirming that they would not receive a pay increase for the next four years. The decision was recommended by the Remuneration Board set up to fix AMs’ pay and allowances, and agreed by all four parties.

Within minutes, Mr Bourne had emailed back, saying: “Probably worth adding that I believe it is also agreed, I hope so anyway, that our staff who are paid less than we are will not be subject to a freeze.”

Days later, Mr Bourne shifted his position and backed the idea of a pay freeze for all public sector workers earning more than £21,000.


A Senedd insider said: “This is utterly hypocritical from the Conservative group leader Nick Bourne.

“He cannot on one hand suggest a civil servant in the Assembly who earns just over £21,000 should take a pay freeze, and on the other hand protect his own publicly funded staff from the same freeze.”


One law for the plebs, another for the Tories it seems.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly... Tories and True Wales


Paul Rogers - Tory candidate for Clwyd South











John Broughton - Tory agent for Clwyd South and True Wales campaigner





Nick Bourne - leader of the Tory Party in Wales






Which one is the real face of the Tory party in Wales?

First, there's the official version - Nick Bourne and his 12 Tory AMs have signed up to the "yes" campaign and greater powers for the Assembly.

Then there's the grassroots version - John Broughton, the Tory agent for Clwyd South and a dedicated campaigner for the "no" campaign through True Wales. So dedicated is this Corwen-based right-winger that posted this on Twitter:

My statement to every candidate for the Welsh Assembly election in May 11 - if you support additional powers I will not help in any way


Finally, there's the Paul Rogers dilemma. Will he come out and back his leader? Or will he stay out of the fray and hope the whole issue goes away? He certainly did the latter when it came to the vote in Wrecsam Council earlier this month. Cllr Rogers was nowhere to be seen.

But as the referendum approaches it's clear that Broughton is getting more and more excitable, so expect to see him put greater pressure on his candidate to come out as a devo-sceptic. That won't go down well with the party hierarchy, but then they're not delivering his leaflets...

Funding cut for housing charity slammed

The decision to cut funding for a housing advice charity have been slammed by Plaid Cymru.

Shelter Cymru's £44,000 annual grant from Wrexham Council that enabled it to provide specialist housing advice for people facing homelessness has been cut.

Plaid Cymru councillor Arfon Jones, who sits on the council's executive board, was fiercely opposed to the funding cut and tried to persuade fellow councillors that a compromise deal that saw the charity receive £18,000 from the council would be in both Wrexham's and Shelter's best interests.

He said:
"The decision to cut the funding from Shelter makes no sense at a time when the council admits the demands on its own homeless services has risen 17% in the past year. All the councillors present accept that Shelter is doing a good job. My argument is that Shelter is doing a job that the council cannot provide in many cases as it could lead to a conflict of interests.

"In addition, Shelter is the only housing advice team locally that can offer expert legal advice for people facing re-possession and eviction and I am very concerned that we will lose that expertise at a time when evictions and homelessness are rising due to the recession."


Cllr Jones added: "Shelter is facing funding cuts from other sources and I would suggest that continuation of any services by Shelter in this county would be under threat if the council cuts its funding entirely."

He said that would mean the following cuts:

- No representation for council tenants facing eviction in court.

- No independent review of homeless decisions.

- No independent advice on appealing decisions of the local authority.

- No representation in court for home owners facing repossession

- Assistance with suitability of accommodation.

- Advice on disrepair including disrepair in council housing.

- No representation for home owners because they are not eligible.

He said:
"I honestly believe that if we cease to fund Shelter Cymru completely the numbers of homeless applications WILL increase, possibly quite significantly. There is no advice provider in this County Borough than can provide the level of expertise in housing issues that Shelter can."

Councillor Marc Jones, for Whitegate ward, supported his fellow Plaid Cymru councillor. He said:
"The rise in the numbers of people using the council's own homeless service shows that this is not the time to be cutting this specialist service.

"The council has a Homeless Prevention Fund, which is currently meant to be used to stop people being made homeless. I have concerns about the efficiency of this fund. This could be used more effectively to fund the council's advice service rather than clawing back money from Shelter."


Despite the arguments, councillors voted 6-2 to cut all funding for Shelter Cymru.

Fees support for Welsh students hailed by Plaid

The Welsh Assembly Government’s announcement that Welsh students will not have to pay any extra tuition fees has been welcomed by Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru candidate in Clwyd South. He said that this was a clear example of a Plaid-driven Government putting principles into action.

While basic tuition fees in Wales will rise, students from Wales studying anywhere in the UK will not have to pay any extra cost with the balance being met by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Mabon ap Gwynfor said:
“This is a principled decision made by the Welsh Assembly Government. Higher Education should not be the preserve of the wealthy, but instead everybody should have equal opportunity to attend any University of their choice based on merit.

“I have personally campaigned against student tuition fees for 12 years, leading students from what was NEWI (now Glyndwr University) on marches in London back in 2000. This is a lesson to the Liberal Democrats on how to put principles into action when in Government. Both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have turned their backs on Welsh students. This is a clear example of a Welsh Government responding to Wales’ needs.”

Mabon ap Gwynfor said that this policy announcement would help secure Glyndwr University’s future:

“The policies implemented in London of slashing the Higher Education budget in England, which will result in less money being transferred over to the Welsh Assembly Government, and opening up Higher Education to the market further by significantly raising fees, threatens to damage Welsh universities. The Welsh Assembly Government have tried to minimise the effects of the Tory-Lib Dem Higher Education funding policies as much as possible in order that Welsh students and Welsh universities continue to contribute to the development of our society.”

He was supported by Marc Jones, Plaid's Assembly candidate for Wrexham, who said:
"Welsh students and their families can now see what a progressive government can do. Even with the limited powers the Assembly currently has and the budget restrictions placed on it by London, it has made a brave decision to invest in the next generation's education.

"This is in complete contrast to the Lib Dem-Conservative government in London, which has decided to increase annual tuition fees to £9,000. This will help make a university education something that only the rich and privileged can afford in England while the Plaid-Labour government in Wales keeps the doors open for people from all backgrounds."

Top NHS bosses grab 30%+ pay rises

Substantial pay rises were made to top health board managers when the money should have been invested in frontline services, says Plaid Cymru.

The revelation comes as under-fire management at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board faces growing criticism over a possible reconfiguration of many of its services across the north of Wales.

The most significant pay rises between 2008-9 and 2009-10 include:

Chief Executive £150,000 to £190,000
Medical director £30,000 to £70,000
Director of nursing £95,000 to £120,000
Director of planning £100,000 to 120,000
Director of primary care £60,000 to £120,000

The top executives also had large rises in their pension pots with the Medical Director topping £1m and the chief executive's increasing in real terms by £110,000 in one year to £745,000.

Plaid Cymru's Llyr Huws Gruffydd, who tops the party's North Wales list, said:
"At a time when we're being told that we're all in it together, it cannot be right that top pay at our NHS board is rising to these levels.

"The pay rises for some of these executives is excessive when compared with the pay freeze public sector workers across north Wales are facing.

“This money should be prioritised for key frontline services not directed into the pockets of already highly paid executives. These individuals have a moral duty to play their part in these hard times.”


Plaid Cymru's Wrexham candidate for the Assembly Marc Jones said:
"Staff and patients will be astounded at these rises - it's very damaging for morale within the NHS. Plaid wants public money spent in the right places not raising the pay of top executives.

"Cuts imposed by the London government on the Welsh budget have seen public services in Wales having to tighten belts. It's important that senior managers realise that includes them as well."



• Full details of pay and pensions for senior managers on p54 of this report

Friday, 26 November 2010

Betsi's Spin Doctors!

One of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board's more obscure directorate is the Governance and Communications Directorate with a staff of thirteen and a massive budget of over three quarters of a million pounds. The directorate is headed by Grace Lewis Parry on a generous salary of £95,000 a year.

One would have thought that with such a generous budget Grace would have managed to spin the Health Board out of all sorts of negative press that has appeared in the Welsh daily newspapers surrounding the Health Board's disastrous attempts at implementing their Maternity and Child Health Review as well as other reviews.

No, it was not to be; the negativity around the Health Board was so bad that they had to employ a Public Relations Consultant, Eryl Jones from Equinox for six weeks work at a cost of nearly £10,000 to help spin them out of trouble.

Where does it all end?

More problems for Cowen.

The first preference votes in the Donegal South West seat are now counted with Pearse Doherty the Sinn Fein candidate having nearly double (39.75% to 21.2%) the first preference votes to Fianna Fail's, Brian O' Domhnaill. Barring a disaster on the second preference votes it looks like a Sinn Fein gain from Fianna Fail which reduces Brian Cowen's majority in the Dail down to two independants with a difficult budget to pass, not to mention a January General Election.

It's going to be an interesting couple of months in Leinster House, any bets on how Fine Gael will vote on the budget?

UPDATE - Fianna Fail concede defeat.

How journalism works ("Wrexham Council boss wages anger")

This is today's front page in the Wrexham Leader:


WREXHAM Council has come under fire over plans to award its chief executive a pay rise.

Isobel Garner’s salary could jump to an estimated £109,000 at a time when the local authority has said it is looking to cut its budget by £7 million.

The increase represents a 1.4 per cent pay rise for Ms Garner, who currently earns £107,472.

The move has been branded “unacceptable” by some members, who say it sends out the wrong message in the current difficult economic climate.

Marc Jones, county councillor for the Whitegate ward, attacked the planned increase saying: “When many council workers are facing uncertainty about their jobs and pay freezes, it’s unacceptable that the authority's highest paid officer should be receiving a pay rise.

“I couldn't support the recommendations made in the report and the feeling among councillors was that belt tightening has to start at the top.

“More fundamentally, I would also question the whole way in which executive pay is decided within the public sector. The advice from outside consultants is always to match salaries to their equivalent in other authorities.

"To do so in our chief executive’s case could have meant a 20 per cent pay rise and that was rightly rejected by councillors. Highly paid consultants are helping to inflate top salaries in the public sector.”

Cllr Malcolm King, the county councillor for Wynnstay ward, said: “Unfortunately I can’t comment on the merits or otherwise of any individual’s pay or employment conditions.

“But given that so many people are losing their jobs or having their pay frozen and even cut, members of the public and probably some of our own staff may feel this is extremely unfortunate timing to say the least. One could very easily sympathise with that view.”

Caia Park community councillor John Humberstone said he was stunned by the pay level, particularly when many people in the town are facing a bleak Christmas with the prospect of job losses and wage cuts.

He said: “I think this is inappropriate and distasteful. I would call on her to lead from the front and not take the rise. A figure of £100,000-plus is an awful lot of money for the council tax payers of Wrexham to fund.

“I don’t think it is right that someone on that kind of wage is getting a rise at this time. The price of goods in the supermarkets is the same for everyone and so many are struggling to make ends meet.”

A statement from the authority says it reviewed its senior pay levels on Monday. The recommendations were made by a politically balanced pay and reward panel with external advice. Staff are not involved in reviewing their own pay.

“The chief executive’s pay is openly available on our website. However the report to council was considered confidentially for reasons that it was still in a negotiation phase,” the statement said.

“Council recommended formal consultation with the employees affected and consequently the information on pay levels remains confidential. The chief executive’s pay has not been reviewed for a number of years.

“Clearly the council is engaged in making efficiency savings and one of the key terms of reference of the pay and reward panel was affordability and consistency.

“As a result the recommendations currently being consulted on involve minimal changes to current pay levels. The chief executive’s pay level changes by 1.4 per cent and the strategic and performance director’s pay does not change immediately although they do transfer to incremental scales, consistent with the rest of the organisation.”

A council spokesman added the award is not likely to be implemented for the next three months because consultation now takes place between the employees affected and the pay and reward panel.

The local authority’s website currently lists Ms Garner’s gross annual salary as £107,472.


Despite what some political opponents believe, my response was based on the Leader's reporter contacting me for a quote based on the council's own press release, which revealed the chief executive's 1.4% pay rise.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Hate Crime in North Wales.

The Daily Post reported today that 1800 hate crimes had been reported in North Wales over the last 5 years and the report goes into some detail as to the ages of the alleged perpetrators. One of the categories of hate crime recorded is Welsh English relationships and I have previously blogged on this subject here and here and it concerned the case of Gwion Jones from Porthmadog who was heavily fined for making anti English comments about his ex employer on his Facebook page.

Following on from these blogs I then made a Freedom of Information request of North Wales Police and posed the following questions:
1.The total number of hate incidents reported in your force area in the 12 months ending on the 31st July 2010.
2.The number of those incidents that were anti English hate crimes.
3.The number of those incidents that were anti Welsh hate crimes.
4.As of Tuesday 31st August what proportion of those incidents as at 2) above were detected
5.As above for 3)
6.Finally how many prosecutions took place in respect of Q 2 and 3.

On the 29th September 2010, I received a response from North Wales Police which was in effect a 'refusal' under Section 17(5) of the Freedom of Information Act that answers to most of the questions were available on the North Wales Police website

North Wales Police's Monthly Information Bulletin shows that in the year to end of July 2010, there were a total of 147 Hate crimes of these 12 were categorised Welsh/English hate crimes and 58% of them were detected. North Wales Police 'refused' to provide a breakdown of those 12 crimes stating that,
"...would involve manually reviewing each record...The cost of providing you with the information is above the amount to which we are legally required to respond."

Section 12 of the Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limits) Regulations 2004, states that public authorities do not have to supply the information if it costs £450 or above to retrieve the information at £25 per hour. This means that North Wales Police are refusing on the basis that it will take MORE than 18 hours to scan 12 crime reports! I was also refused an answer to the number of prosecutions on the basis that the Ministry of Justice holds that information.

This frankly is a deliberate attempt to withold information and NOT to comply with the Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act which directs agencies to provide advice and assistance to applicants, which will be the subject of a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office.

Not only did I just make this FOIA request to North Wales Police but also to the other three forces in Wales and all the Scottish Police forces. Whilst many were as unhelpful as North Wales Police others like Dyfed Powys Police provided all the information requested as did some Scottish forces.

The lessons to be learnt here is not to accept no as an answer and to determine whether the public authority has acted reasonably and complied with the Act.