Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Total Politics -Top 50 Welsh Blogs

Here's the Total Politics Top 50 Welsh Blogs; and yes Plaid Wrecsam have climbed from tenth to second. Thanks to all contributers, those that have posted and those that have voted for us.

Here's the top 50

1 (3) Blog Menai
2 (10) Plaid Wrecsam
3 (6) Syniadau
4 (14) Hen Rech Flin
5 (7) Vaughan Roderick
6 (12) Miserable Old Fart
7 (11) Cardiff Blogger
8 (26) Betsan Powys
9 (16) Peter Black AM
10 Everyone's Favourite Comrade
11 Blog Guto Dafyyd
12 (12) Pendroni
13 (41) Wales Home
14 (5) Welsh Ramblings
15 (35) Freedom Central
16 (18) Bethan Jenkins AM
17 Ffranc Sais
18 Dib Lemming
19 The Druid of Anglesey
20 (13) Valleys Mam
21 (36) Blog yr Hogyn o Rachub
22 (23) Glyn Davies MP
23 Plaid Panteg
24 (15) Polemical Report
25 (49) A Change of Personnel
26 (24) Leanne Wood AM
27 (20) Politics Cymru
28 (42) Blog Answyddogol
29 Liberal Smithy
30 Inside Out - A Jaxxland Perspective
31 (45) Alun Williams
32 (28) Gwilym Euros Roberts
33 Institute of Welsh Affairs
34 (29) Dylan Jones-Evans
35 (22) Borthlas
36 (30) Paul Flynn MP
37 (27) David Cornock
38 Morfablog
39 Red Anorak
40 Mike Priestley
41 (44) 07.25 to Paddington
42 Blog Golwg
43 Plaid Cymru Llundain
44 (53) Rene Kinzett
45 (32) This is My Truth
46 (46) Denverstrope
47 Independence Cymru
48 Grangetown Jack
49 Blog Rhys Llwyd
50 (8) Cambria Politico

Pot, Kettle, Black!

Now I'm no big fan of Gordon Brown but this article in yesterday's Guardian has really wound me up. For the White House of George Bush to have the cheek to call into question the competency of another world leader is crass in the extreme. History may not look too kindly on Gordon Brown's career but it's likely to take a far dimmer view on the warmongering incompetency of the Bush Presidency. For the Bush White House to have 'grave doubts' about the premiership of Gordon Brown is like the 'pot calling the kettle black.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Plaid selects Assembly candidate for Wrexham

Jobs, education and safeguarding public services will be the priority of Plaid Cymru's candidate for the next Assembly election in Wrexham.

The party has chosen local councillor Marc Jones to challenge Labour for the Assembly seat in Wrexham.

The councillor for Whitegate said:
"Plaid Cymru has made steady progress in Wrexham over the past few years thanks to an influx of new members and our four county councillors. The next challenge is to ensure that the area has a strong voice in the National Assembly."

Councillor Jones is married with two children who attend schools in the town. He has worked as a journalist for the Leader as well as being a current affairs producer for BBC and ITV Wales before establishing himself as a freelance TV producer. He produced a hard-hitting documentary about disgraced Wrexham FC owner Alex Hamilton for the Week In, Week Out programme on BBC Wales.

Cllr Jones said:
"I'm delighted to have been chosen to fight Wrexham's corner on behalf of Plaid. This is a very important time for the town and surrounding area. Many people are losing their jobs and people are worried about their futures as the new coalition government in London attacks public services.

"People who work in the public sector or who use those services are likely to face the brunt of the cuts, despite the fact the economic crisis has been caused by a tiny minority of greedy bankers and a lack of regulation by successive UK governments.

"Punishing the many for the faults of the few isn't fair and I will take every opportunity to ensure that that message gets across in the coming months. We all need public services at different times in our lives - whether schools, hospitals, social services or refuse collection - and Wrexham is no exception.

"Plaid Cymru has moved on in the past few years. As well as being a radical campaigning party of the people, it is now also a party of government in Cardiff as well as making a real impact on the local council. Whether it's ensuring much-needed affordable housing, improving our schools or making sure we have enough allotments to meet demand, Plaid is delivering in Wrexham.

"Because of that, our vote is steadily increasing in the area. With the help of a fantastic campaign team, I hope to persuade enough people that we also need a Plaid Cymru AM to speak up for Wrexham and its people in Cardiff."

He added that there would three key themes to his election campaign - jobs, education and protecting frontline public services. Cllr Jones said:
"The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition of cuts in London is going to slash public spending in Wales while bankers enjoy their multi-million pound bonuses. We need to challenge the Tory/Lib Dem case for cuts and also criticise Labour for squandering so much money over 13 years on schemes that have not delivered.

"For example, in the NHS Labour has presided over two disastrous reshuffles of health boards and locally we now see dozens of senior managers being paid more than £50,000 each when they have no jobs. That's a scandal when nurses in key frontline services at the Maelor are concerned about their futures."

Picking Winners!

I beg to differ with Betsan Powys assessment on how important Wales is to Labour leadership candidates. Here in Wrecsam we have had visits from Ed Miliband and yesterday both Ed Balls and Andy Burnham turned up at Gwersyllt Resource Center to address the massed ranks of Wrecsam Constituency Labour party...all 40 of them!

Ed Miliband on his visit attracted a 100 plus to his meeting but that is hardly surprising when Miliband the Younger is backed by our popular and illustrious member of parliament, Ian Lucas who had spent considerable effort in drumming up support by writing to all 52 Councillors inviting them to the meeting.

So there we have it, Labour only have somewhere around 50 activists with sufficient interest to turn out to hear senior party members speak. I wonder how many of the 11 Labour Councillors turned up?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Cymreigio Sainsburys - o ran iaith a cynnyrch

Mae cwmni Sainsbury wedi penderfynnu fod angen Cymreigio eu archfarchnadoedd o ran iaith a chynnyrch. Dyna oedd y neges glir roddwyd i griw bychan o Gymry Cymraeg sy'n siopa a gweithio yn Sainsbury's Wrecsam gan gyn-reolwr sydd wrthi'n gwneud ymchwil i siopau'r cwmni ledled Cymru.
Mae'n debyg mai chwant rheolwyr unigol sy'n penderfynnu faint o gynnyrch Cymreig sydd ymhob siop ac roedd canmoliaeth i'r ymgais wnaethpwyd hyd yma yn Wrecsam (mae'r rheolwr yn Wyddel).
Roedd yna feirniadaeth am ddiffyg arwyddion, diffyg digon o gynnyrch Cymreig (yn enwedig caws) a diffyg bathodynnau ar staff sy'n medru'r Gymraeg - beirniadaeth adeiladol a gafodd ei groesawu. Gwnaeth un cwsmer y sylw fod Tesco yn cynnig gwasanaeth Cymraeg ar eu tiliau awtomatic.
Mae'r archfarchnadoedd i gyd yn amlwg ar ras i drio ennill cwsmeriaid newydd ac yn deall fod llawer o siopwyr yng Nghymru am gael cynnyrch lleol, cynnyrch Cymreig ac arwyddion dwyieithog go iawn. Mae lle felly i ni fel defnyddwyr gychwyn rhyw fath o "ras arfau" rhwng yr archfarchnadoedd - chwarae un yn erbyn y llall er mwyn sicrhau fod archfarchnadoedd Cymru yn llawn o gynnyrch Cymreig. Mae hynny'n rhoi cyfle i ni wedyn ehangu'n diwydiant bwyd cynhenid ac ehangu'r math o gynnyrch ymhellach na'r cig oen a cawsiach arferol - mae angen datblygu diwydiant prosesu bwyd Cymreig.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Mines Rescue Centre: A Dickens of a mess

The demolition of the Mines Rescue Centre on Maesgwyn Road is another example of our town's heritage being taken from us by unthinking or cynical developers.
The site's owner Neville Dickens can't claim ignorance on this matter. A powerful local campaign spearheaded by councillors Phil Wynn and Malcolm Williams, himself a former miner who trained at the centre, made it clear what the feeling in the town was about this building's importance for our industrial heritage - in particular given the links with the 1934 Gresford disaster.
The developers' first attempts to demolish the site prompted CADW - a body not noted for its speed of movement normally - to impose an immediate protection order.
This was blatantly ignored within days and it appears the building has been so badly damaged that it will have to be demolished. Dickens, who spends much of his time in Spain these days, is proving to be very elusive and has refused to comment to the press about his involvement in this debacle. He was not so reticent when he wanted media attention during his days as a director and shareholder in Wrexham FC.
CADW and Wrecsam Council are, I understand, both considering what further steps to take and it's important that the right message is sent out to future developers in Wrecsam.

Gwasanaeth Cymraeg y Swyddfa Bost.

Mae nifer o fobol sydd yn derbyn ei pensiynau hefyd yn derbyn gwasanaeth 'stampiau cynilo' i dalu biliau mawr fel nwy a thrydan. Fel y gwelir mae y gwasanaeth yma yn dod i ben. Sylwch or linc yma nad oes tudalen Gymraeg gan y Swyddfa Bost. Mae y sustem 'stampiau cynilo' wedi ei gyfnewid am Budget card. Yr unig problem gyda y cerdyn yma ydy bod y ffurflen gais ar gael yn Saesneg yn unig medda dau o bostfeistri Meirionnydd. Trist o beth ydy meddwl mae ar ol blynyddoedd o ymgyrchu yn erbyn y Swyddfa Bost mae nhw'n dal ar ei hol hi cyn belled mae darparu gwasanaeth Cymraeg yn y cwestiwn. Mae gwefan y 'Post Office' yn uniaeth Saesneg ond os chwiliwch Google am 'swyddfa bost' fe gewch wefan y 'Royal Mail' gyda tudalen Gymraeg a ellir ei disgrifio ond fel 'tokenism gwael.'Galwer ar Bwrdd yr Iaith i weithio gyda'r Swyddfa Bost i ddarparu gwasanaeth Gymraeg o safon.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Wrecsam GCSE Results - Press Release


Wrexham pupils are celebrating success! Today’s GCSE and vocational examination results are the best ever achieved in the county borough, as educational standards improve in Wrexham for the sixth successive year.

61% of pupils in Wrexham schools achieved the Level 2 threshold. This is 5% more than last year. More than 9 out of 10 pupils (91%) of pupils achieved the Level 1 threshold which is in line with Wrexham’s 2009 figure. Thresholds are performance measures that take into account all qualifications, including GCSE, vocational and key skills qualifications.

GCSE passes at grades A*-C have increased again. There were 59.2% passes at grades A* - C. This is an improvement of 2.3% on last year’s results in Wrexham, an improvement rate that is twice the national rate. As in 2009, over 98% of passes were at A* - G.

1309 pupils sat over 50 different subjects at GCSE and gained qualifications in over 20 vocational courses.

John Davies, Wrexham’s Chief Learning and Achievement Officer said:

“These are outstanding results! Pupils and teachers, with support from parents and carers, have worked very hard indeed to achieve this excellent level of performance. These results also include a wide range of vocational qualifications that many Wrexham pupils have taken in schools and in partnership with Yale College, the Youth Service and others as part of the broad curriculum offered through the Learning Pathways 14 – 19 collaborative programme. Congratulations to everyone!”

Councillor Aled Roberts, Lead Member for Corporate Leadership and Children (Schools and Safeguarding) said:

“There have been many outstanding achievements by pupils of all abilities. I congratulate schools, teachers, pupils and their families on this year’s splendid results and wish all our students well as they move on to post-16 education, training or employment. We will continue to support our schools as together we aspire to achieve educational excellence for young people in Wrexham!”

Congratulations in particular to Ysgol Rhiwabon, Ysgol Darland and Ysgol Bryn Alyn who saw the proportions that gained 5 A* - C increase by 22%, 12% and 9% respectively. 77% got A* - C at Darland, 65% at Rhiwabon and 56% at Bryn Alyn

Monday, 23 August 2010

Solar Electricity.

As a result of my previous post on this subject I have received a number of enquiries from readers who wanted more information; so here goes:

I'd long been interested in renewable energy but like most people didn't take the plunge because of lack of knowledge and the cost. That all changed when I asked Wrecsam council officers who were involved with the council's 'Reducing Carbon Footprint' corporate priority for advice and assistance with environmental projects in my ward.

I then had a survey carried out by Northern Solar a Liverpool based company that was recommended which indicated that the roof was 70% south facing and had capacity for 16 photovolaic panels (2.96KWp). The system performance was calculated using the Government's Standard Assessment for Dwellings, which indicated that the system would produce 2222KWh of electricity per annum and offset 1262Kgs of carbon. It is also anticipated that electricity savings could be around £350 per annum. The feed in tariff for the electricity produced is 41.3 pence per KWh which is 2222 x 0.413 = £917 together with the £350 is over £1200 per annum. The feed in tariff income is tax free and only 5% VAT is payable on installation costs. This of course is all dependant on getting more sun than we've had so far this August!

Now to the hard part...the cost! The whole system cost just over £11,000 which seems expensive but if the system performs as anticipated it will show a return on investment of about 10% as well as the very generous tax incentives. It beats investing money elsewhere...where else can one get a 10% return? I anticipate that it will take 9 years to pay off capital costs against a system lifespan of 25 years.

I had the system fitted on the 29th July and in the 23 days since then the system has produced 232 KWh's of electricity which is 10% of anticipated performance. Daily the system produces an average of 10kwh (summer) with 15 to 18kwh on clear sunny days to 6kwh on cloudy/rainy days like today; but irrespective what the weather is the system produces in daylight and not just sunlight.

Many people will however have been put off by the cost but there other options like that provided by Isis Solar and similar companies who 'rent' the roof space, provide the pv panels free but take the feed in tariff, but the householder gets the benefit of the electricity use saving. There are also various Welsh Government initiatives like Ynni'r Fro for community development initiatives or Arbed funding for housing in Community First areas.

I very much hope this blog has been of assistance but for detailed information and other sources of renewable energy go to the Energy Savings Trust or the Carbon Trust for businesses.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Local Councillor Turns up the Heat in Bid to Reduce Emissions

Local Councillor Arfon Jones is leading from the front in his own personal battle to reduce his carbon footprint by installing solar panels at his home in Gwersyllt.

He has had installed 16 photovoltaic (PV) panels on his roof which will produce 2222 KWh of electricity in 12 months and save 1262 Kgs of carbon. Arfon believes that this is one way to reduce his carbon footprint by producing clean, renewable energy and reduce his electricity bill by £300 a year.

Arfon, said:

"I believe that the work of a local councillor is not only to help people with their problems but also to set an example and be a community leader. Wrexham Council has committed to reducing its carbon emissions and energy use and I believe this should also be reflected in our communities."

"It's difficult to encourage residents to do the right thing if we're not doing it ourselves! I also believe that global warming is a real threat and that people need to take responsibility for their environment and to try to reduce their own carbon footprint and my contribution is to produce my own energy."

"I would encourage anyone who is concerned about their carbon emissions and protecting the environment to consider photovoltaic panels. They only took a day to install and the savings over the years will pay for the initial investment"

Friday, 20 August 2010

EDL banned from Bradford.

Congratulations to Bradford City Council and the Home Secretary for having the courage to ban the EDL from marching and inciting racial hatred in Bradford on the 28th August, the bank holiday Saturday.

Theresa May and the local council have decided that a demonstration by the English Defence League planned for bank holiday weekend may not go ahead.

Approving an order by Bradford City Council, she said that the march, planned for 28 August, should be banned in the interests of public safety.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: 'Having carefully balanced rights to protest against the need to ensure local communities and property are protected, the Home Secretary today gave her consent to a Bradford Council Order banning any marches in the city over the bank holiday weekend.

'West Yorkshire Police are committed to using their powers to ensure communities and property are protected and we encourage all local people to work with the police to ensure community cohesion is not undermined by public disorder.'

Despite the ban, groups could still hold static demonstrations in the city.

I have previously argued that organisations that incite racial hatred can and should be prevented from marching.

The rationale behind the decision is outlined in James Brokenshire's letter to the Chief Executive of Bradford City Council.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Precious few heroes

HT to Syniadau for bringing this video on Scottish independance to our attention.

Precious Few Heroes: The case for Scottish independence from Rough Justice Films on Vimeo.

Whether you're for or against an independent Scotland, or maybe you're not entirely convinced either way, this film makes the positive case for Scottish independence in a light-hearted, self-effacing fashion.

Forget the historic grudges, the ancient battles and the unjustly romanticized idols, Scottish independence isn't about "us and them", it isn't about anti-Englishness, it isn't about ownership, it isn't even about the SNP!

Written by Jack Foster and Alan Hunter

Wrecsam A - Level Results.

Congratulations to pupils and teachers of Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Ysgol Maelor, Penley and Ysgol Rhiwabon for achieving excellent results in this year's A-Levels. Rhiwabon's results show considerable improvement on last year, something in the region of 10%, but further school by school analysis will be subject of further comment once all information is to hand.

Once again, students in Wrexham schools have achieved excellent A Level results.

Today’s results show an overall A level pass rate of 99.1% which is 2% higher than the all Wales figure of 97.1% as well as almost 2% higher than last year’s performance in Wrexham. 71.6% of A Level results in Wrexham are A* – C grades; this is a 5% improvement on 2009, with 17.4% graded at A* or A. The A* grade has been awarded for the first time this summer at A Level.

The pass rate for the Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma qualification, taken by almost half this year’s sixth form leavers, is 98.4%. These results are even higher than last year’s exceptionally good performance and well above the Welsh figure of 81%. Students who achieved the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification were successful in both their A level subjects and the full range of key skills qualifications.

97.1% of Wrexham sixth formers also achieved the Level 3 threshold. This is 2.9% higher than last year’s validated figure. The Level 3 threshold performance measure takes into account all qualifications, including A and AS Level, vocational and key skills qualifications.

John Davies, Wrexham’s Chief Learning & Achievement Officer says: ‘These are excellent results! They reflect the hard work and commitment of our young people, their families and teachers. Schools can be proud of their achievements. I wish all our students well as they move on to higher education, training or employment. Well done everyone and congratulations!’

To read the Welsh Government press release go here

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Llais Gwersyllt!

Dyma y rheswm am y diffyg blogio! Ond peidiwch a phoeni mi fyddai nol mewn ryw fis neu gynt os neith rywbeth fy nghythruddo fi ddigon.

This is the reason I'm not blogging for the present! Dislocation of the elbow!
Enjoy the break... I will be back.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Benefit fraud, errors and the missing £17 billion

Citizens Advice's Director of Policy Teresa Perchard has a damning indictment of David Cameron's recent comments on benefit fraud. She said:

“Citizens Advice acknowledges that the £1.5bn cost of fraud in the benefit system must be recovered, but we are very concerned at the government's persistent tendency to roll fraud and error figures together. Errors account for the remaining £3.7bn of the £5.2bn figure quoted. Some errors are caused by benefits claimants failing to report their circumstances correctly, more often than not because the system is so complex. But just as many are caused by government agents giving the wrong advice or managing a claim inaccurately - Citizens Advice Bureaux see numerous cases of papers getting lost in the system because there is no proper tracking mechanism.

“Either way, the complexity of the system causes considerable extra expense for the government and distress for customers. We accept that the government aims to tackle the issue of error through its current plans to reform and simplify the system, and we urge the Treasury to recognise the importance of accepting the DWP's current proposals for a full reform of the tax, tax credits and benefits system as a holistic solution.

“In the meantime, the £5bn cost to government through fraud and error is dwarfed by the £17bn* of benefits and tax credits that remain un-claimed every year, because people don't know they are entitled to claim, or because the system is too complicated. The danger of making benefits more difficult to claim is that people in real need will not receive the money they need to pay their rent, keep their families warm, or feed their children."

* 2008/09 Government figures, released June 2010: £12.7bn unclaimed means tested benefits plus £5bn unclaimed tax credits.

This, according to the coalition's cheerleader-in-chief in Wales Peter Black, is a ringing endorsement of the Con-Dem coalition's crude and populist attacks on benefit claimants. Dream on, Peter.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Unemployment falls in Wales.

The Office of National Statistics today released Labour force data which shows that unemployment in Wales has fallen by 3,000 in the 3 months to June 2010 compared to the 3 months to March 2010. Unemployment fell from 133,000 to 130,000 or 9.3% to 9%. This data follows the pattern throughout the UK
Other data of interest from the statistics are the % of 16 to 64 year olds who are economically active: 73.5% (76%), and economically inactive: 26.5%(24%). Previous quarter figures are in brackets.

Whilst these figures are indeed a step in the right they need to be treated with caution and no predictions of economic recovery can be made until we have seen several quarters of falling unemployment.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The fastest u-turn in the West?

Ernie may have been the fastest milkman in the West but even he couldn't match the speed of the u-turn done on free school milk by the Tories over the weekend.
In brief - the UK health minister argues for abolition of free school milk for under 5s to save £50m a year. Cameron hears echoes of "Thatcher milk snatcher" (when Margaret Thatcher was a minister in the early 1970s she abolished free school milk for 7-11 year old pupils). Cameron executes swift u-turn and bins the policy.
The cynic in me suggests that Cameron may have played up the swiftness of the binning to distance himself from Thatcher. Who knows what is spin and substance in the ConDem nation anymore?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Two Steps Forward...

British banks have just declared their half yearly results and on the face of it they seem to have come through the worse of the crisis with Lloyds and RBS showing big increases in profitability; but that is only the half of the story as this excellent article from today's Herald Scotland shows. Small and Medium enterprises in Wales will continue to struggle to obtain funding for expansion and job creation especially when interest rates go up and the banks pay back the 'soft loans' to the UK Government.

Housing Benefit.

The Con-Dem coalition have wasted no time in attacking the welfare system and consequently the most vulnerable in our society. Amongst the most controversial proposals are the changes to Housing Benefits and in particular the impact of a reduction of 10% in Housing benefit to those that have been on Jobseekers Allowance for more than 12 months. Housing organisations and the Citizens Advice Bureau are universally agreed that the changes proposed undermine current committments to ending homelessness and reducing poverty. The Department of Work and Pensions have undertaken their own equalities impact assessment on the government's proposals, which supports the concerns of the welfare rights organisations.

There are various proposals relating to Housing Benefit, but I would like to examine in detail the impact of reducing Housing Benefit by 10% on those that have been on JobSeekers Allowance for more than 12 months in Wrecsam County Borough Council. For ease of calculation I will assume that all JSA claimants are single, living in one bedroomed private sector accommodation and in receipt of the Local Housing Allowance for Wrecsam.

The current rate of JobSeekers Allowance for a single person over 25 years of age is £65.45 a week. As at November 2009, there were 3,400 JSA claimants in Wrecsam who were claiming on average £60.85 each a week, which equates to a total of £206,000 a week or £10.8 million a year for Wrecsam.

The Local Housing Allowance for a one bedroomed flat in Wrecsam is £86.54 a week, therefore under government proposals, a claimant who has been on JSA for over 12 months can expect to lose 10% Housing benefit which is £8.65 a week or a 14% reduction in income. That is the reality of the government's proposals. A 14% reduction in income would be a worry for anyone but for someone who only gets £65 a week then a 14% reduction is a massive hit. These proposals will only increase individual poverty and the likelihood of becoming homeless. Additionally it will reduce benefits to the local economy of £1.5 million which if equated across Wales is a significant reduction in economic activity and spending power.

What is particularly worrying about the government's proposals is that they haven't been thought through and they are unequal. Those on JSA are not the only ones entitled to Housing Benefit, but so are those aged 60 plus who are entitled to Pension Credit.

Pension Credit is awarded to those over 60 years of age who are on a low income, the current rate of guaranteed Pension Credit is £132.60 a week and anyone on PC also gets full housing benefit. Additionally one can have savings of £16,000 and still receive guaranteed Pension Credit and thus full Housing Benefit.

So let's compare the situation of 2 unemployed single people living in Wrecsam, one is aged 59 and the other aged 60.

The 59 year old has no savings and gets £65.45 JSA and £86.54 Local Housing Allowance towards their rent. After 12 months the LHA is reduced by 10% which equates to a 14% reduction in income.

The 60 year old who has no income but savings of £16,000, gets £132.60 per week guaranteed Pension Credit together with £86.54 LHA towards rent which is NOT reduced by 10% after 12 months.

These two examples illustrate the unfairness and inequality within a small part of the welfare benefits system and the government's proposals will only compound this inequality.I find it really hard to understand how socially minded Liberal Democrats within the coalition can support measures that INCREASE poverty and inequality.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Wrexham losing out on research funding

Wrexham is losing out on key funding for research that would help create high-skilled work for the area.

Councillor Marc Jones, who leads the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham council, said:
"We're fortunate in having Glyndwr University in Wrexham, which has developed a reputation for research excellence in areas such high-end telescope technology as well as aeronautical expertise.

"This kind of research and expertise has spin-offs in terms of skilled work both within the education sector and the wider world of employment. That's essential if Wales is to move on from being a low-wage economy to being a 21st Century economy with a skilled workforce and research-driven industries.

"That can only happen with the right investment and that's where Welsh universities are losing out. There are seven research councils in the UK funding specialist work in this field and Wales is losing out. For example, out of £700 million spent by the Medical Research Council last year, just 2.2% was spent in Wales.

"These research councils are not subject to a fair funding mechanism that would enable Wales to get its fair share of the money available."

He said the current allocation of UK spending in Wales was through the Barnett Formula. This allocates 5.6% of central government spending to Wales, which recent reports had demonstrated was inadequate.

Cllr Jones added:
"If the Medical Research Council’s money alone was subject to the Barnett formula, which is widely held to understate the needs of Wales, we would receive 5.6% of the total spend - that's £40 million last year alone. Compare that with the £60 million annual deficit that Welsh universities recently told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that they face. We need fairness in allocating this funding or our Universities won’t be able to do serious research at all.

"The need for fair funding for research is urgent. Glyndwr, like all our Welsh universities, is fighting against a system that rewards previous success and responds to priorities that aren’t necessarily reflecting the needs of the local economy.

"This month saw the Welsh Government’s Economic Development Strategy being unveiled by Plaid's Ieuan Wyn Jones. It has some important things to say about the failure of past Labour administrations to jumpstart our economy.

"It also makes a break with previous strategies by focusing on funding research and development. But the publication of the strategy also throws into relief the tiny share of UK research council spending that our Universities receive.

"Wales has some cutting-edge hi-tech companies but we need to see more so that we create quality well-paid jobs for future generations."

Friday, 6 August 2010

Being Labour helps gets you a job in Wales

Being a Labour Party member means you're twice as likely to be appointed to a public body than other parties, according to research by Plaid Cymru.

A Freedom of Information request to the Welsh Assembly Government has revealed the political activities of all applicants. It shows that more than a third (36%) of those applicants identifying themselves as Labour activists were appointed to public bodies in Wales while just one in six applicants (16%) identifying with other parties were selected. Those applicants who did not declare any political activism were also less likely to be appointed than Labour applicants.

Cllr Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid group on Wrexham Council, said:
"These public bodies are hugely influential and are responsible for vast amounts of public money. The Freedom of Information answers show that a disproportionate number of Labour activists are being appointed in comparison with those of other parties. They are also more likely to be appointed than those without any political links.
"Why is that happening? Either Labour Party activists are better qualified for these jobs or they are getting an unfair advantage because of their party contacts."

Out of 141 Labour applicants, 51 were appointed. Applicants who described themselves as Plaid, Liberal Democrats, Tory or others amounted to 203 but just 33 of these were appointed. A further 1644 did not have any declared political activism and 375 of these were appointed (23%)
Cllr Arfon Jones, another Wrexham councillor whose research revealed the details, said:
"The original FOI asked for political affiliations, which is a broader category than 'political activists' so it may be that the figure under-estimates the number of Labour members appointed to public bodies. But even so, the figures are striking."
He added that the figures excluded NHS appointees in Wales. He said:
"In the NHS in Wales, the Labour dominance is even more marked with at least four of the seven chairs of the new NHS Trusts occupied by Labour Party members. Is it really the case that these are the best people for the job or is it because of their contacts? This croneyism and looking after political allies has to end for the good of public services in Wales."


1. Summary of findings

Political affiliation - Number applying - Number appointed - % of those applying that get appointed
Labour 141 - 51 - 36%
Plaid 69 - 16 - 22%
L Dems 26 - 4 - 15%
Tories 28 - 2 - 8%
Others 80 - 11 - 14%
Total other parties 203 - 33 - 16%
No activism 1225 - 345 - 28%
Didn't say 421 - 30 - 16%

2. Here are the full details of the FOI request by Cllr Arfon Jones.

Request for Information – reference 4358

Thank you for your request which was received by the Assembly Government on 26/06/2010. You asked the following questions:

Question 1 – How many applications have there been for public appointments in the current term of this government (since May 2007)?

Question 2 – How many of those applications were successful?

Question 3 – In respect of Question 1 how many of those applications for public appointments identified their political affiliations on the application Form as:
· Labour

· Plaid Cymru

· Liberal Democrat

· Conservative

· Other

· No affiliation declared.

Question 4 – As above, in respect of Question 2, political affiliations of successful applicants.
§ An explanation of how the above figures are affected by any agreement on the retiming of the impact of UK public expenditure changes on the funding available to the Welsh Assembly Government.

As I indicated in my acknowledgement letter of 5th July, applicants are not asked to identify their “political affiliation” – applicants are asked to identify any “political activity” and for the purposes of responding to this request I interpreted “political affiliation” as “political activity”. You confirmed you were content with this interpretation and therefore information has been provided on this basis.

As outlined in my acknowledgement letter, it is only possible to interrogate electronically, some of the databases holding the information you requested in part 3 of your request. I estimated that it would take 6 hours to extract the information which is available electronically and approximately 40 hours for the remainder. In light of this, to provide a full answer in respect to question 3 would far exceed the appropriate limit established in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate limit and Fees) Regulations 2004. Therefore, in relation to question 3, I have only provided the information which was available electronically.

Annex 1

Request for Information: Public Appointments

Question 1 – How many applications have there been for public appointments in the current term of this government (since May 2007)?

Answer – 2916

Question 2 – How many of those applications were successful?

Answer – 459 appointments made

Question 3 – In respect of Question 1 how many of those applications for public appointments identified their political affiliations on the application form as:
· Labour

· Plaid Cymru

· Liberal Democrat

· Conservative

· Other

· No affiliation declared

· Labour 141

· Plaid Cymru 69

· Liberal Democrat 26

· Conservative 28

· Other 80

· No activity declared 1225

· No declaration made or 421

information not available.

Question 4 – As above in respect of Question 2, political affiliations of successful applicants.

· Labour 51

· Plaid Cymru 16

· Liberal Democrat 4

· Conservative 2

· Other 11

· No activity declared 345

· No declaration made or 30

information not available.


Question 3: Information covers all public appointment exercises conducted since May 2007 and completed by 30 June 2010 (information obtained from electronic databases and excluding NHS public appointments (available hard copy only).

Information on political affiliation is not collected. The information provided relates to political activity declared.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ecclestons closes

The closure of Ecclestons bakery is baffling at first sight - a thriving business with an excellent local reputation. The owner apparently tried to find a buyer but it's not clear whether he considered selling it to the 40+ staff who have now lost their jobs.

I've tried contacting the bakery to see if there is a way to retrieve the situation. We need jobs in Wrecsam and there is help available (e.g. from the Wales Coop Centre) to set up community interest companies to help run enterprises like this. The workers at the bakery and the shops affected (in Wrexham, Chirk, Coedpoeth, Llangollen, Corwen and Bala) have an option and it's disappointing that the owner didn't consider that before immediate closure.

I hope it's not too late for some kind of rescue bid.