Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Crusaders, the Racecourse and crowd safety!

I won't say that I 'thoroughly' enjoyed my first rugby league game but I did enjoy it more as the match progressed and I began to understand the rules...I think!

What I wasn't that impressed with was the organisation around crowd safety and it was clear that the Stewards were not used to the numbers involved or they hadn't been properly briefed (I hope they were properly debriefed for future games).

It started off with confusion over the seat numbers, whoever was responsible for printing the tickets had forgotten to put on the tickets for the Yale Stand which part of the stand, the Centre or the Town End they were for! For example there is a Row M seat 10 in both the Town End and Centre block. You then end up with dozens of people milling around in the aisles and stairways trying to decipher the tickets and generally causing an obstruction which could have been critical in the event of an emergency. The Stewards when asked just shrugged and told people to sit anywhere. This confusion lasted most of the first half and ended up in a fight between several people in the Yale stand and it was several minutes later before a number of stewards turned up and finally resolved the problem. It would have been interesting to know where all the stewards were prior to the fight because they were not at the top of the stairs watching the crowds as they should have been.

Now I don't know whether rugby league matches have to comply with football legislation over crowd safety (Lord Justice Taylor's report following Hillsborough) but if they were then they failed the safety test last night. Irrespective of what Mr Justice Taylor said about terraces I would have felt much safer standing on the terraces than sitting in the Yale Stand.

Don Touhig going?

Just picked this up from Iain Dale's blog (Quitters not fighters), Don Touhig retiring, news to me, anyone else heard it? So who is up for this safe Labour seat?
UPDATE - More on Touhig's departure here

Aberconwy Conservatives.

It would seem that one of Conwy CBC's Conservative Councillors, Cllr Dennis Tew of Deganwy has resigned from the Conservative group and although it hasn't been confirmed he could be joining Plaid Cymru. If that is the case that would be excellent news for Plaid and an absolute disaster for the Conservatives in this marginal Westminster seat especially as Deganwy WAS rock solid Tory.

Friday, 29 January 2010

TPNW

I didn't know what TPNW was until a few days ago, but it stands for Tourism Partnership North Wales which is an organisation funded by Visit Wales, itself part of the Welsh Assembly Government. Readers may recall in April 2006, Rhodri Morgan had a bonfire of the quangos taking into the Welsh Assembly such well known brand names as the Welsh Tourist Board and the WDA. We now seem to have reinvented the wheel by creating a further two quangos where previously there used to be one. What else are Visit Wales and TPNW except for glorified quangos, and that is only in North Wales.

The reason why I came to know about TPNW was from reading a comment on Maurice Jones's blog about 'Chesterification'which referred to the 2010 - 2015 Tourism Strategy for North Wales produced by TPNW.
To be honest I was not particularly inspired by reading this strategy because of the condescending way it refers to our language and culture where it describes it as:

"This is a great asset and really does make Wales a different place from England, although it can easily be off-putting and excluding for non Welsh speakers. We should aim to exude pride and confidence not defensiveness."

If Welsh culture and language is such a great asset why aren't Welsh cultural events like the Urdd and the National Eisteddfod, who visit North Wales every other year mentioned?. In fact the National Eisteddfod comes to Wrecsam in 2011 bringing with it 160,000 visitors and approx £6 to £8 million economic benefit to Wrecsam not to mention a legacy of pride in the language and all things Welsh...and there is no mention of it in this strategy.

I also wonder whether visitors to France, Spain or Greece find the speaking of their respective languages off-putting or is it only in Wales. I really cannot see the Basques or Cataluynians putting these type of negative comments about their own culture and language in their own tourism strategies...it begs the question who writes these strategies?. Finally, we need to question of who lacks the confidence here?, is it us who proudly wear our Welsh identity on a daily basis or is it these faceless civil servants who write such patronising and meaningless strategies.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Low carbon Wrecsam - coming to a village near you soon

A healthy turnout of people at Glyndwr University tonight for the Low Carbon Wrecsam event - and some interesting ideas.
First off was the idea of a carbon-neutral village. Ashton Hayes, by Chester, is aiming to be the first in England and has even turned the pub landlord's sceptical head by saving him £200 a month with low-energy lightbulbs. Reducing energy consumption is one part of the jigsaw, others are proving harder to achieve especially changing attitudes to car use (perhaps not so much of a problem in wards like mine with a third of homes without a car).
A huge amount of work is still to be done but the villagers have plans to create a local electricity supply and grid, which can feed into the wider grid but would mean cheaper energy for local residents.
The first village in Wales to take up the challenge could well be local - next Friday in Plas Pentwyn, Coedpoeth will be launching its bid to become the first Welsh community to go carbon neutral with "Canslo Carbon Coedpoeth". Good luck to the local campaigners behind that initiative. If they succeed in developing the same kind of community spirit as Ashton Hayes, it will be a real boost to the village.
The local energy theme was taken up by Michael Hughes of Llangollen, who's trying to harness the Dee's power for hydro-electricity. Not so much a case of reinventing the wheel as re-inventing the water wheel because there are at least four old schemes along that stretch of the river that could possibly be revived.
Again, the attraction is energy production that is renewable, clean and provides for the local community. Also present were practical demonstrations of how to reduce your electricity bills with smart meters from local firm PH Jones as well as a communal organic gardening project from the Ceiriog Valley.
There are lots of grassroots initiatives happening all over the area and it was a genuine surprise to see how many are developing independently.

Joining the crusade

Some Wrexham football fans have been non-plussed by the publicity and hype surrounding the Crusaders coming to the Racecourse. My knowledge of rugby league started in the 70s with the Eddie Wareing era of Big Jim Mills and other larger-than-life characters.
Jonathan Davies switching codes prompted hundreds of fans to travel across the border to watch Welsh players at Widnes or Wigan.
Now we've got the chance to see them on our doorstep and there's a real buzz about tomorrow night's game. It's something the town needs and I can't wait.
And if this is anything to go by, it's going to be a sell-out crowd.


Free School Meals in Wales

Here are some interesting data from a comparison of Free School Meal entitlement in Wales between January 2008 and January 2009:

In January 2008 only three Welsh local authorities had more than 25% of pupils entitled to FSM's - Cardiff South and Penarth, Rhondda and Merthyr. By January 2009, there were six authorities, they were joined by Abaravon, Cynon Valley and Blaenau Gwent who had more than quarter of their pupils entitled to FSM

In 2008, both Brecon and Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire had less than 10% of pupils on FSM, but in 2009, only Brecon and Radnorshire was at less than 10%

The two authorities to have seen the biggest jump in percentages have been Blaenau Gwent from 22.1% to 26.7% and Wrecsam from 15.2% to 17.7%.

The movement hasn't all been one way, 5 authorities have seen the proportions fall over the year Arfon, Brecon & Radnorshire, Carmarthen West, Gower, Monmouth and Torfaen.

These proportions are likely to worsen even though we are technically out of a recession for the simple reason that the children of claimants of contributions based Job Seekers Allowance are not entitled to FSM and CBJSA claimants will be on that benefit for 6 months before they go onto Income based JSA when their children will be entitled to FSM; just another little anomaly in the benefits system.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tories target second-home owners

Quentin Langley is not a twee village in the Cotswolds. He's a Tory academic in Cardiff University and is urging his party's candidate on Ynys Mon to target the second-home vote.

It is certainly a seat which the Conservatives can win from, technically, fourth place. It contains more English voters than almost any other in Wales as well as a great many native Welsh speakers.

One campaign idea which might have merit would be trying to persuade second home owners to vote in Ynys Mon rather than in their other constituency, though that might alienate other voters and might be difficult to organise in the timescale available.
Actively encouraging rigging an election? Poor show, Quentin.

No doubt Quentin will claim this, like our last little outing with a Tory candidate, was a tongue-in-cheek remark.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Latest care referral figures should prompt a rethink of the system

This is not the first time I've blogged on the question of underfunding of Children's Social Care. This Press release by the Local Government Association gives an indication of the increasing demands on Social Care budgets whilst those same budgets are in fact falling.

The increasing number of children being taken into care will have cost the taxpayer at least an additional £226 million in the current financial year and should prompt a rethink about how we fund the care system, council leaders said today, as they warned the climb could threaten the future of other council services intended to help all families. The sum is a combination of extra court costs and the increased bill for the number of children in council care.
The latest official figures on care referrals from Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) show the number is stabilising at a higher level, following the court case into the death of Peter Connelly.
The Local Government Association estimates 2009 / 10 will see an overall rise of 32% in the number of care applications going through the courts, equivalent to an extra £39million. Those costs include the resources absorbed in preparation and support, with social workers required to dedicate significant time to the process.
There has also been a rise in the number of children in local authority care. The number entering the care system for the first time went up by 9% during 2008 / 09, and can be expected to show an even sharper increase during the current year. That rise of 9% added around £187 million to the cost of the care population.
Council leaders warn the situation is not sustainable in the long-term, and fear schemes meant to prevent family break-up and to support children from poorer backgrounds may be sacrificed in order to foot the bill for a larger care population.
The LGA is warning that if, as a nation, it is decided the state will have to intervene more often and at an earlier stage in the care of children there will have to be a detailed look at how to produce a system which can do that effectively.
Cllr Shireen Ritchie, who chairs the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“The system which looks after children in care is feeling the strain – it was never designed to deal with the increase in numbers which we have experienced in the last year.
“There is no question of money being a factor in deciding how a vulnerable child is cared for. Wherever a child is identified as being in danger, councils and the courts will take them out of the family home if that is the best way of protecting them.
“It would be wrong to pretend that there is no cost involved in the changing attitudes to child protection. There is a price to be paid, particularly if it means a reduction in the help and support councils can offer to other families.
“There have been well-publicised arguments about whether social services should step in sooner and more frequently where children are thought to be at risk. If it is decided that, as a nation, we must play a bigger role in how families raise their children there will have to be a debate about how to fund and manage a system which can do this properly.”


Perhaps someone somewhere will take note before its too late...Gwenda are you listening?

Slip of the tongue!!

I tend to agree with Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting regarding the date of the general election. Just because three Government Ministers have 'indicated' May 6th does it really mean that, or will the election really be on March 25th?. Even the Labour MP, Tom Harris seems to have doubts over the date as well. Do three government ministers REALLY let things out inadvertantly or is this a big con to wrong foot the rest of us? So what's it to be May 6th or 25th March?

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Palin’s praise for railway

This is what Michael Palin had to say in the Shropshire Star about the Wrexham and Shropshire Trains:

Railways rarely get accolades these days, but that’s because not enough people have sampled the delights of Wrexham & Shropshire, writes Michael Palin.

It may not be very convenient if you live in Manchester or Edinburgh but I’m afraid that’s your loss. After a return rail trip to Shrewsbury last month I would advise you to move to Shropshire right away. The trains are short, but that means the staff have more time for you. Do you know of anywhere else on today’s railway where you’d hear the words “I’ll show you to your seat”?

And that’s only the start of the Wrexham & Shropshire experience. The service is friendly, unrushed and genuinely concerned with your comfort.

As it was, I had no complaints, but I know that if I had, they would have been taken very seriously. Everyone on board seems to enjoy delivering a service dedicated to raising, not lowering standards.

The route is interesting too. Leaving Marylebone – London’s most laid back and attractive main-line station – the train rolls north through John Betjeman’s Metroland and once into Oxfordshire, through long stretches of countryside.

For an hour or more you could be forgiven for thinking that the Industrial Revolution never happened. Then, as if emerging from some economic time warp, you’re suddenly in the heartland of the industrial West Midlands. Wrexham & Shropshire doesn’t have much time for Coventry or Birmingham International, both of which it sails through. The first big city it serves is Wolverhampton – lucky Wolverhamptoners.

I have had cause to visit Shrewsbury on and off over the past few years and, lacking a direct rail route, have opted for a long and often grinding slog on the motorway. Now that Wrexham & Shropshire provides a through service, I arrived in Shrewsbury, just over three hours after leaving London and feeling in altogether better shape, having done some work and enjoyed a fine meal, cooked to order on the train with food sourced from local areas.

This is not the airline food on a tray that so many trains offer, it’s like the very best home cooking.

Perhaps it lacks the hurtling speed of a Pendolino or a TGV, but Wrexham & Shropshire makes up for this in every other way. Nothing is sacrificed for speed, and yet passenger satisfaction figures are at the top end of the scale.

Which surely shows us that people rate a railway on how they’re treated on the train. Wrexham & Shropshire may seem like a throw-back to old-style comforts but I see it as a pioneer setting an example of high service standards which other lines would do well to follow.


As one who travelled on this train I would wholeheartedly concur with his comments, the comfort and customer care provided by Wrexham and Shropshire was second to none and I would very much hope that Michael Palin will take that short step from Shrewsbury to visit Wrecsam in the very near future.

Voices of Colwyn Bay

HT to Syniadau for making a connection, tenuous perhaps, between the Tory MP for Clwyd West David Jones and the 'sometimes' BNP Councillor on Colwyn Bay Town Council, John Oddy. Is it a coincidence that the title of David Jones's recent blog posting is the same as John Oddy's blog, "Voices of Colwyn Bay."? It will be interesting to see if the BNP will field a candidate in this Tory marginal seat.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Carwyn Jones and Schools!

Letter to the Editor of the Daily Post

Dear Editor,

The First Minister Carwyn Jones’s announcement that the Welsh Assembly Government will reduce bureaucracy and red tape to ensure more money gets to schools is to be welcomed (Get Cash to Pupils who need it, Daily Post, January 20th). It is however a shame that the First Minister’s review will only extend to increasing the money flowing from local authorities to schools. What about the money that flows from the Welsh Assembly’s Department for Children and Education (DCELLS) to Local Authority?, surely the First Minister is not trying to say there is no bureaucracy and red tape within the Assembly that need reviewing?. Whilst the Assembly have imposed swingeing efficiency savings on Local Authorities over the last 5 years some authorities such as Wrecsam have avoided making any cuts to School budgets over the same period.

If the First Minister cannot immediately think of an area within DCELLS where he can make massive savings perhaps he will allow me to make a suggestion. In April 2006, ELWa (Education & Learning Wales) was brought under the auspices of the Welsh Assembly Government as it was failing. A review found that approx 100 of ELWa employees were surplus to requirements; did they leave, no they didn’t they went to 4 Area Teams around Wales to support Local Authorities to improve their education provision. As one who has been closely involved with education over the last 18 months I am at a loss to explain what those 25 ex ELWa officers based in North Wales have done to Wrecsam and its schools to improve in the last 4 years. Had Rhodri Morgan and Jane Hutt taken some difficult decisions in 2006 there would be millions more pounds now available to education in Wales.

Perhaps Carwyn Jones and Leighton Andrews’s time would be better served cutting waste closer to home.

Councillor Arfon Jones.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Obama Stymied.

Twelve months more or less to the day that Obama was elected President things have seriously turned pear shaped for the Democrats. Last year they won the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives which made it easier (on paper) at least to pass difficult and controversial health care reform; the Democrats have been trying to introduce some form of universal healthcare since 1948!

Even with control over the three branches of Government the Democrats have not found it easy to reform healthcare a situation which has made more difficult with the Republicans winning the Massachusets Senate seat vacated following the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. This reduces the number of Democratic Senators to 59, one less than is required to break a filibuster.

This will now require a major policy rethink by the Obama administration to prevent the Republicans blocking legislation in the Senate. Bill Clinton found himself in a similar situation following the 1994 mid term elections when Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives for the first time since Eisenhower's Presidency in the 1950's. As a matter of interest the Democrats had held the Massachusets Senate Seat since 1953!

Looks like the Democrats are heading for defeat in the November 2010 mid term elections.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Plaid are the True Inheritors of the Radical Welsh Political Tradition

Jonathan Edwards is Plaid's parliamentary candidate in Carmarthen East. He makes a compelling case for Plaid here:

As a candidate in the forthcoming General Election, I am delighted that tonight Plaid Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones will launch our first signature policy of the campaign with a commitment to create a living pension – by raising the basic state pension to the pension credit rate on a universal basis. As someone who led on policy and political matters for the Citizens Advice Service in Wales prior to my nomination, I am only too aware of the poverty faced by pensioners and the failure of the discredited means tested benefits and tax credit systems to target those most in need across the age spectrum. Pensioners in particular consider applying for the pension credit difficult, complicated and above all demeaning.

I am also delighted that our first signature policy is a social justice policy. In the event of a hung Parliament we will now negotiate with the London parties on a basis of creating an equal society and a fair deal for Wales – as opposed to the priorities of the London parties of preserving the wealth and status of the economic elite. This policy is a clear indication that we view things differently from the priorities of the London parties in keeping their city paymasters happy. After over a decade in power and UK GVA figures indicating that inner London continues to be the richest part of the EU with well over 300% of the EU average – with West Wales and the Valleys, less than a couple of hours down the M4, languishing at around the 70% mark (one of the poorest areas of the whole EU25) – the Labour party has lost all pretence of being the party of the people. Quite how Labour Valley MPs can look in the mirror in the morning I have no idea – perhaps it’s the knowledge that they would soon be in the comfort of the Commons Tea Rooms whereby they can absolve their collective guilt.

Fuel poverty is a very important issue for me and if elected I hope to speak on this issue during my maiden speech. One of the key policy interventions Government need to embrace is the need to increase incomes amongst vulnerable groups. With £10bn of benefits and £2bn of tax credits not claimed each year, a living pension such as we have announced today will be a good start to the need to simplify the whole benefits and taxation system, and to start getting to grips with the regional and individual wealth polarisation promoted by the Tory-New Labour alliance.

The pensions issue is not something just for older people. People of my generation will support a policy such as this that offers us security when we reach retirement age. At the moment young people, unless they are fortunate to be members of the dwindling numbers of final salary schemes, face destitute and poverty of an unimaginable scale in old age despite the increasing amounts of our income we have to invest in personal pension plans.

Plaid has a proud history of securing concessions for working people when the UK Governing party finds itself in need of our support to stay in power. In 1979 Dafydd Wigley, Dafydd Ellis Thomas and the great Gwynfor Evans secured a measure to award compensation for quarrymen suffering from respiratory illnesses in the last days of the then Labour Government. Another great Welsh political radical, David Lloyd George argued that society should be judged on the basis of how it treated its pensioners. In 1908, as Chancellor, he was the driving force behind the Old Pensions Act which provided a weekly benefit for those over 70. It would be fitting following the General Election, in the event of a hung Parliament, that the price for Plaid support would depend on a new Living Pension in order to drag pensioners from across the UK out of poverty.

With all the London parties obsessed with cuts in order to placate city creditors they will inevitably attack any spending commitment as unaffordable. Well, politics is about choosing priorities. Their priorities are £80bn on a new Trident weapons system; ID cards; aircraft carriers; wars that do little to enhance our security; hugely expensive Private Finance Initiative schemes; tax cuts for the super rich; and bailing out the banks to the tune of £1.3 trillion.

Our priorities are different. Plaid is the inheritor of the radical Welsh political tradition and it’s up to us to bring forward the sort of progressive ideas such as this that will re-dress the balance between the haves and have nots.




Twitter Terror!

This unfortunate turn of events shows just how careful one has to be when online; whether its blogging, twittering or using social newtworking sites. Still feels to me a little bit 'over the top.'

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Beggars belief!

Doesn't this story beggar belief:
A police community support officer (PCSO) pictured on a social networking website with two guns has been arrested after fake firearms were seized.

Daniel Williams, 21, a PCSO with West Yorkshire Police, was arrested after a raid at the property in the Otley area of Leeds on Thursday.

It is understood police took action after a picture of Mr Williams holding two handguns appeared on Facebook.

Mr Williams has been suspended while an internal investigation takes place.

He was released from custody on Friday after being cautioned for theft, a police spokesman said.

It isn't as if there hasn't been a lot of publicity over people losing their jobs for saying stupid things on Facebook but really; a PCSO with guns! Time to look for another job I think.

Source: BBC.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

UKIP's True Colours

I have written on this blog before to argue that there is not a blind bit of difference between UKIP and the BNP. A recent decision by Pearson and Farage to move UKIP away from single issue anti Europeanism to an attempt to steal BNP votes by jumping into the immigration fray and calling for the banning of the wearing of the burka by Islamic women is clear evidence of this.

This is a cynical attempt to steal BNP's ground and its a sad day when there are two political parties fighting for what is nothing more than the bigoted and intolerant vote.

Where does this fit in with our committment to freedom and democracy? Do we not believe in free speech, freedom of expression and religious freedom? What harm does allowing a Muslim woman to wear a burka, its her choice. Today's Times leader calls it the Veil of Ignorance:

But their new policy of banning people from wearing the burka is a step towards a very dark place indeed, for them and for their followers. They should stop now, before it is too late... The call to ban the burka is deeply cynical, for the political thinking behind their policy is obvious. Very few people share UKIP’s European obsession. Indeed, in a recent poll only 3 per cent named the European Union as an important political issue. Since UKIP’s poll rating hovers at 4 per cent, this suggests that at least a quarter even of the party’s current supporters think it is being a bit of a bore. So the party has decided to change the subject. It will campaign on immigration.

It is, therefore, stirring racial discontent, for its own electoral benefit and this is reprehensible. Calling for withdrawal from the EU is respectable, if wrong-headed. Increasing fear and misunderstanding between communities is not...

The most offensive UKIP assertion is that wearing the burka is inconsistent with British values. Advocates of the policy then point out (without irony) that the French, whose example is rarely cited elsewhere in UKIP literature, are trying to implement a similar policy.

What is inconsistent with British values is picking on people quietly going about their business in religious garb of their own choice and banning it. If UKIP properly understood this country, it would appreciate that. There are Islamists who doubtless wish to ban Eurosceptics wearing tweed jackets over v-neck jumpers and checked shirts. And The Times would defend UKIP against such calls because freedom to worship, and freedom of speech, is the British value that matters above all others.


As Kris Kristofferson would say, "We all hate things we don't understand."

A Victory for Civil Liberties.

The European Court of Human Rights have ruled that Police stop and search powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was unlawful in that it violated individual freedoms guaranteeing the rights to a private life stating that the Police use of the power was arbitrary! The judges were concerned that the exercise of the power was based on nothing more than a 'hunch' or professional intiution.

Under Section 44, the Home Secretary can authorise Police to make random stop and searches in a certain area. The case arose following thec stop and search of a journalist who was ordered to stop filming a protest outside an arms fair in London's Dockland in 2003.

Even the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew has criticised Police for making excessive use of the power to stop and search. In his most recent report on anti Terrorism Lord Carlile estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 stops of people were taking place EVERY MONTH under Section 44 but NONE of the searches had resulted in a conviction for terrorism.

So much for 'proportionality' in terrorism legislation, back to the drawing board then!

Source: The Times.

Fib Dems at it again

The postman delivers another full-colour newsletter from the Lib Dems this morning - money is no object to the party that took £2.4m from a convicted fraudster and they don't have the members to deliver door to door.

On the front page, you spot the first lie:

"The Lib Dems were the only party to oppose the illegal war in Iraq."

Er, apart from Plaid Cymru, the Greens and various socialist parties.

Which makes the next sentence rather threadbare:

"Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg ... has pledged to keep on fighting for the truth in Parliament."

There is one mention of Plaid Cymru - apparently we were part of an Assembly Government trying to "force local people to travel to Swansea for NHS treatment". Except that that was the unpopular policy of Labour before the 2007 elections, something Plaid fought tooth and nail.
Once in coalition through the One Wales Agreement, Plaid successfully argued against this. The Fib Dems, a pale imitation of a party, had nothing to do with it.



It goes without saying that it was printed in England.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Shop Till You Drop....!!


The Times Leader suggests that "Shop till you drop" should become South Wales Police's new motto following their new Chief Constable (of two weeks) Peter Vaughan's comments in an interview with the highly respected, and normally highly accurate, Jane's Police Review.

Mr Vaughan believes that because he is now Chief Constable the security risks he faces by doing his own supermarket shopping has increased because of his higher profile and recognition and he will no longer be able to do his own supermarket shopping. He is quoted as saying:
"I used to be able to walk around my local supermarket but now someone else will do my shopping for security reasons."

Mr Vaughan has inadvertently got himself into the news quicker even than Richard Brunstrom which must be an achievement in itself. I'm sure Brunstrom was never the subject of a leader comment and full article in the Times, two weeks into his tenure as Chief Constable. Now Brunstrom was not known for attracting positive news stories but I'm sure he's glad he never had a story that made him look quite as silly as Peter Vaughan.!

I would quite happily bet that Peter Vaughan will never have the recognition that Richard Brunstrom had and he was quite happy to mingle on his own with crowds in full uniform and he was also quite willing to get stuck in...on or off duty.

Mr Vaughan; what is required from you is a little bit more humility and courage and evidence that you're up to the job; we look forward to seeing your performance in the rough and tumble of St Mary's Street on a weekend!

Thanks to Inside out - a jaxxland perspective, for the use of the photograph.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

36 nights of gritting

It's easy to criticise councils, but consider this: Tonight is the 36th night in a row that all trunk roads and A and B roads in Wrecsam will be gritted and all Priority 1 roads will receive treatment in the morning. Council workers have worked late nights and early mornings to ensure that the roads are gritted and to keep traffic moving.
Council staff also went to the salt mines (insert your own punchline here) last night and picked up 100 tonnes of salt to ensure Wrexham had a supply of salt for any further snow and ice.
People concerned about their bin not being emptied can leave their bins, recyclables and excess waste ready for collection over the coming days. Wrexham Council will be working Saturday and Sunday to try and catch up with missed rounds due to the severe weather experienced recently. Collections return to normal next week and Wrexham Council are advising that if missed collections are still not collected over the weekend to leave their bins, recyclables and excess waste for collection on their normal collection day.

No justification for Chesterfication


The decision to rename a Flintshire hotel previously known as 'The Gateway to Wales' as 'Days Hotel - Chester North' has been branded as a "creeping Chesterfication" of north-east Wales by Plaid Cymru politicians.

North Wales Assembly Member Janet Ryder said the decision by Wyndham Hotel group to change the hotel's name was a slap in the face for Flintshire, as the county's effort at economic regeneration was being undermined by this unjustified "Chesterfication".

She added that she would be raising the matter with Welsh planning minister Carl Sergeant:
"As minister for planning law, does the AM for Alyn and Deeside intend to do anything to prevent his constituency from being slowly absorbed into England?"
Janet Ryder added:

"This re-branding is one of the unforeseen consequences of councils like Flintshire signing up to a long-term plan called the West Cheshire/North East Wales strategy.

"We've heard about Liverpool MPs calling for a Mersey mayor that includes Flintshire and Wrexham. Now we see businesses re-branding themselves as Chester based when they're in Flintshire. Where does it all end?"


Her concerns were echoed by Plaid's General Election candidate for the Alyn and Deeside constituency Maurice Jones:
"This isn't the first company in Flintshire to mislead the public. The Holiday Inn calls itself Chester West, despite being between Ewloe and Northop. Are they ashamed to be in Wales? The Gateway to Wales was able to market itself using the dragon on the bridge and companies coming to Wales should recognise where they are located."

The West Cheshire/North East Wales strategy is aimed at increasing ties between Cheshire and north-east Wales and there has been huge opposition to it in many communities in Flintshire and Wrexham, where thousands of new houses have been built partly to meet the needs of Cheshire-based commuters. A 15,000-strong petition to the Welsh Assembly Government opposing the strategy and the related Mersey-Dee Alliance has been collected, the largest ever presented to the petitions committee. It will be debated in the Assembly next month.

Plaid's candidate for the general election in Wrexham, Arfon Jones, added:
"With an election coming up we need to know where our two local Unionist MPs, Mark Tami and Ian Lucas, stand on this creeping Chesterfication of north-east Wales. Do they know whats happening? Or is it they dont care that Welsh identity in this part of Wales is being eroded and they are acquiescing to all of this?"


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Parents and childcare during school closures

Today's snow caught Wrecsam on the hop and most schools were closed due to safety concerns or the inability of teachers to make it to work. While the kids are enjoying an unexpected holiday bonus in the snow, parents are having to juggle childcare and work at the last minute.


This issue was raised in the Senedd by Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood, who expressed concern over the impact of school closures on working parents in Wales.

She wrote to Education Minister Leighton Andrews to ask whether he has any plans to issue guidance to local authorities, requesting them to plan alternative provision for school pupils in bad weather.

The letter said:

“I have received numerous representations from parents who have been deeply unhappy at the decision made by a very large number of schools in the Rhondda-Cynon-Taf county borough to close over recent days due to the bad weather.

“Whilst many parents understand that health and safety cannot be compromised, they fail to understand why it was necessary to close the schools on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th January. For many workers, taking time off can result in either the loss of pay or the loss of much-cherished holidays.

“I accept that perhaps not all teachers have been able to get to work because many roads have not been cleared, but surely, if some staff can get in, the school could be opened?

“I’d be grateful to hear whether you have any plans to issue guidance to local authorities, requesting them to plan alternative provision for school pupils in inclement weather? I’m sure that you’ll accept that many families cannot afford to lose any pay, particularly through no fault of their own, and that public bodies should do all they can to ensure minimum disruption in such circumstances.”


The situation is particularly acute for school students facing examinations and, although I know head teachers in many schools have worked hard to re-open, there do seem to be anomalies. I hope that, when the immediate problem is resolved, there is a county-wide or nationwide strategy to ensure that schools provide some kind of provision for pupils when this kind of severe weather strikes.


Monday, 11 January 2010

Arlene Foster.

Arlene Foster is the acting First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly whilst Peter Robinson stands down for six weeks whilst the investigation continues. Foster defected from the UU to the DUP but was not known as a DUP insider and it would appear that her promotion has come as a surprise to all and sundry.

I must be honest I don't know how the acting first minister was selected but I would have expected Nigel Dodd, Deputy Leader of the DUP to take over the reins, so why didn't he? Did Martin McGuiness, Deputy FM or Sinn Fein have a say in Foster's appointment? Reading between the lines it would appear that Dodd's was more 'hard line' and less sympathetic to Sinn Fein's demands for the devolvement of Policing and Justice.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

What did the Tories expect?

Cameron's air-brushed posters didn't take long to get hammered, even if the Groucho Marx moustache was a bit childish.
Lesson 1 of political hoardings is don't leave too much white space for graffiti artists.
Lesson 2 is find a better slogan than "We can't go on like this".
It also begs a question that Cameron didn't answer on the Andrew Marr show this morning. If you're making cuts but not in the NHS, which accounts for 8% of all government spending, then how deep will cuts be in other areas - social services, education, pensions?
We know the Tories want to cut free prescriptions in Wales. What else will go with Groucho Cameron in power?

Who Governs the Six Counties?

I'm sure that Shaun Woodward the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is asking himself this question this weekend as are senior politicians in Dublin. The Sinn Fein/DUP leadership in the Northern Ireland Assembly were already at loggerheads over the devolvement of Policing and Justice to the NI Assembly with Sinn Fein in favour and the DUP being their usual sceptical selves especially Nigel Dodds the Deputy Leader.

What has come out following the Spotlight programme on BBC Ulster can have done nothing to stabilise good governance in Stormont; Iris Robinson's affair with a 19 year old was already news but her undeclared financial dealings was not. What became apparent was that her husband the First Minister was aware of these financial dealings but he had taken no steps to report these prejudicial dealings to the relevant authorities. This has resulted in him authorising an enquiry into his own actions but how can he remain First Minister whilst this enquiry takes place? Lord Trimble ex Leader of the Ulster Unionists calls for Robinson's resignation and that he should clear his name from the back benches. Sir Reg Empey the Leader of the UU is equally as lukewarm towards Peter Robinson.

The most interesting aspect to all this is how Sinn Fein will play it from now on? Will McGuinness just pull the plug on the whole thing or will they wait for the DUP to force Robinson out and possibly appoint Nigel Dodds as First Minister and will that be acceptable to Sinn Fein especially as Dodds is cooler towards Police devolvement than Robinson. Gerry Kelly on Radio Ulster this morning was totally non commmittal on Sinn Fein's tactics.

What we don't know is what damage the Robinson's have caused the DUP and whether it will result in a split with defections to the more hardline TUV (Traditional Unionist Voice). Could the Unionist vote at the General Election be split 3 ways leaving Sinn Fein as the single largest party especially as the SDLP are going through a leadership election following Mark Durkan's departure.

Interesting times ahead in the North of Ireland!

Nick Griffin...there's trouble ahead!!

It's never easy being the leader of a fascist party in a democratic society is it? And for Nick Griffin its getting harder and harder as it looks like Griffin won't be able to get his party to agree a change in the BNP's constitution to extend membership to 'non whites' by the deadline of the 28th January 2010, set by the County Court. This could result in Griffin and Simon Derby being heavily fined or even jailed if Trevor Phillips the head of the Equalities Commission decides to ask the Court to impose the sanctions. To read the full story go here

This is not the only problem that Griffin has; he also had until Friday last to explain in detail to the Electoral Commission irregularities in the BNP's financial returns. This follows the refusal of the BNP's Auditors to sign off the accounts. There is no update on the Commission's website to date.

On top of all this there is discontent within the party itself with a leading member or probably ex member now, publicly attacking Griffin and encouraging members of the BNP to join the National Front.

All in all we can just hope that all these troubles for Griffin will result in the BNP imploding before then can cause anymore tensions in this country.

Devolution and the Affluent Scots!

Research carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and reported in today's Sunday Times shows that in the decade since devolution Scotland has become the most affluent country in the UK:
Scotland is now the most affluent country in the UK, according to a new study which reveals that a decade of devolution has produced higher wages and less poverty and unemployment than in England.

The report, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, suggests the north-south divide, which previously characterised Scotland as the poorer relation, has been reversed. Scotland now has fewer families living below the breadline, more people in work and higher average salaries than England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I wonder what Stoney and his Welsh apologist mates have to say about that then?
Bring on the referendum!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Bodelwydden Referendum.

Denbighshire County Council proposal to build a 2,000 house 'commuter estate' in Bodelwydden was heavily defeated in a community referendum held yesterday. Of the 1,645 residents entitled to vote 25.8% or 425 took part, with 394 voting against the development and 30 voting for the development. Congratulations to the residents of Bodelwydden for making a stand against the Council's proposal for the LDP which is basically an unsustainable commuter estate. Unfortunately the referendum result is not binding on Denbighshire anymore than the Rhostyllen referendum was binding on Wrecsam's Planning Committee who gave the NT permission to build 233 houses on green fields on the outskirts of Rhostyllen. This is the second referendum where local communitites have voted against their respective local authorities and its about time the Welsh Assembly Government took note of local democratic wishes and start reforming Welsh Planning laws...and to bin the Wales Spatial Plan...over to you Carl Sergeant.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Spotlight on the Robinson's!

Looks like we missed a cracking documentary on BBC NI's Spotlight last night where Iris Robinson's ex toy boy together with an ex aide did a pretty good destruction job on her and her husband, Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson. So the story runs something like this Iris Robinson was friends with Kirk McCambley's father who passed away and she comforted him (he was 19 she was 59). Iris also helped Kirk to get a council tenancy from Castlereagh Council on a pub/cafe, the only problem was she was a Councillor in Castlereagh and failed to disclose an interest. She then gets two developers to lend Kirk, £50,000 which they did but then she is alleged to have asked Kirk for £5,000 cash for the deal. Basically the sky's the limit when it comes to working out which rules (Westminster/Stormont/Castlereagh) she has broken and Sir Reg Empey Leader of the Ulster Unionists is quite right to call for her resignation from all three public positions, but Iris has already said she would withdraw from public life due to depression following an alleged suicide attempt after her affair with Kirk McCambley was admitted. This is not the first time the Robinson's have been in the news, they were heavily criticised in the Daily Telegraph following disclosure of their Westminster expenses claims when they both claimed the second home allowance on their joint London second home. At the time it was estimated that the Robinson's were raking in £550,000 per annum from Westminster and Stormont.

Following on from the Spotlight programme the spotlight moves now to Peter Robinson who had knowledge of his wife's financial affairs and did nothing about them which calls into question his judgement and integrity as Northern Ireland's First Minister and whether he should be forced to resign. There does seem however that there is a great deal of reluctance amongst NI's politicians to push the issue and the press in Northern Ireland are very defensive and protective of him. The suggestion seems to be that if he has the support of the DUP then he stays. Only time will tell but personally I think he should go but there again this is Northern Irish politics and what do I know about it?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

European Election Spending - Wales

Having read Jeff's blog I decided to do the same calculation for Wales with the Electoral Commission having published the figures for the European elections:

Labour - £169,944 (0.82 votes for every £1 spent)
Conservatives - £133,788 (1.08 votes for every £1 spent)
Plaid Cymru - £97,231 (1.3 votes for every £1 spent)
Lib Dems - £82,533 (0.89 votes for every £1 spent)
UKIP - £37,743 (2.3 votes for every £1 spent)
BNP - £30,790 (1.2 votes for every £1 spent)
Jury Team - £22,215 (0.17 votes for every £1 spent)
No2EU - £12,741 (0.67 votes for every £1 spent)
Christian Party - £8,750 (1.5 votes for every £1 spent)
Green Party - £2,703 (14.1 votes for every £1 spent)
Socialist Labour Party - £207 (60 votes for every £1 spent)

The SNP seem to get more votes per £1 spent than what Plaid Cymru get but the 2009 European election wasn't the success that Plaid had hoped for. As in Scotland the Greens in Wales seem to be particularly efficient or it may be that as with the Socialist Labour Party they have a core vote whether they spend any money or not. Of the main parties it seems that UKIP have been the most effective spenders. but the same argument could apply as it applies to the Greens, they have a populist message which resonates with disillusioned anti Europeans who would probably vote UKIP whether they have an effective campaign or not.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Never mind the ballots - Tories still bashing the unions

The Tories have just announced a new scheme that will shackle workers and effectively remove a democratic union's ability to take industrial action in line with members' wishes.

This means that the management will be able to ride rough shot with our rights at work - and we won't be able to respond.

The Guardian says the Conservatives are "looking at introducing laws setting new minimum turnout thresholds." This means that a majority of people eligible to vote would have to vote yes - not just those people actually taking part in the ballot.

This would mean that trade union ballots would have a higher threshold than those for electing politicians. A case of the millionaire Cameron planning one law for the rich, another for the poor?

WAG support for the North East of Wales!

Blog readers will be familiar with the irrational rants of the Welsh apologists on various blogs including Betsan's and the comments on Wales Online/Western Mail. Like the rest of Wales the North East are blessed with these individuals like Yachadda, Tommy and Roland Cleth who hog the comment pages of the Leader, the Wrecsam and Flintshire daily with their anti Welsh Assembly tirade.

I wonder what they will have to complain about now that the First Minister has given two North East Wales AM's Ministerial positions in the One Wales Government. Additionally the Welsh Assembly Government has assisted UPM at Shotton Paper in Flintshire to create 160 new jobs with a £1.7 million grant, this is in addition to the millions that WAG has given BAE Systems/Raytheon at Broughton over the years and credit must surely go to Plaid Cymru Leader and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones for supporting manufacturing in North East Wales.

Despite what the Welsh apologists (and the Lib Dems) are saying, the Welsh Assembly Government is not ignoring the North East of Wales.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Return our DNA!

North Wales Police has been criticised by the the Tory Shadow Immigration Minister Damien Green for hoarding DNA profiles of innocent people. Green says that North Wales have received 12 requests for removal of DNA from the database and have only complied in respect of two cases a rate of 17% compared to Cumbria's rate of disposal of 79%. Public demand for removal of DNA profiles of innocent people including children came about following a successful case to the European Court of Human Rights which decreed that UK law which stated that Police powers to take and retain DNA from innocent people breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (The right to privacy etc). Go here for the full story
I recently made a Freedom of Information request of North Wales Police to ascertain information in respect of how many DNA profiles of innocent people they actually hold and I received the following response:

North Wales Police are unable to supply the information requested.
Although the way the information is held makes it easily retrievable for our policing purposes it would actually require a manual search of individual records to enable us to respond to your request.

I don't accept this and I have lodged a request for the refusal decision to be reviewed and my explanation for the review was that the Police know how many people have been arrested and how their cases have been disposed, this information is held on the Police National Computer as is details of DNA taken, North Wales Police have their own Force code so it should be fairly easy to retrieve the information requested. We shall wait and see!

Cynghorydd Caerwyn Roberts OBE

Llongyfarchiadau i'r Cynghorydd Caerwyn Roberts ar dderbyn anrhydedd OBE am wasanaeth i'r gymuned leol yn Harlech. Mae Caerwyn yn Gynghorydd Plaid Cymru dros Harlech ar Gyngor Sir Gwynedd, ac mae hefyd yn Gadeirydd Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri a wedi bod ers amryw o flynyddoedd. Derbyniodd Caerwyn yr MBE dair mlynedd ar ddeg yn ol am wasanaeth i amaethyddiaeth. Felly mae'n debyg y gallwn weld Caerwyn yn derbyn anrhydedd arall mewn blynyddoedd i ddod sef CBE am wasanaethau i'r Parc Cenedlaethol?.
Dwi'n dal yn eitha anghyfforddus gyda aelodau Plaid Cymru yn derbyn anrhydeddau yr ymerodraeth ond dyna ni, 'pawb at y peth y bo'!

Friday, 1 January 2010

RAG

RAG for Red, Amber and Green. This is system of traffic lights used to control the length of time an individual can speak in a debate and prevents those self important 'windbag' councillors from hogging the floor, has now been adopted by Flintshire as well as Ynys Mon, and is reported in today's Daily Post.

I would agree with Councillor Bernie Attridge that this is a waste of money and it begs the question about the standards and skills of those councillors who chair committees in Flintshire and Ynys Mon, if they have to resort to such methods to control meetings. I don't see this as a problem in Wrecsam and most councillors are polite and disciplined but as with all Councils we do have our notable exceptions who are particularly vociferous especially if the Press are within hearing!

Flintshire and Ynys Mon should send all their elected members on a course on Chairing skills...far more cost effective.

Tories ready for change? You're having a laugh

Today's Big Leader has an advert from the Tory candidate Gareth Hughes, where the Obama message of "change" has been taken to heart. Unfortunately for the Tories, most people don't see that electing a barrister to replace a solicitor is much of a change.
So what kind of change does the London-based barrister (and intriguingly chairman of the British Comedy Society) advocate?
There are six slogans that range from the bland to the meaningless.
Who would really oppose "From recession... to recovery" or "From battling targets to fighting crime"? There is talk of a "new schools' revolution" and "putting patients in charge" of the NHS.
Of course there is no detail in how these little matters will be achieved. This is Cameron's biggest problem - the heir to Blair with an emphasis on spin not substance.
The key question, the economy, is blamed on Labour. But, although Labour is guilty of lack of regulation of the City, does anyone really think the Tories would have imposed greater regulation on their banking and business chums?
Both Labour and the Tories want public services to be hammered to pay for the debt crisis - services that directly affect the most vulnerable people in our communities. Many of these are people who lost their jobs because of the bankers' greed.
It's just as well the barrister likes a joke. Anyone claiming the Tories represent change is having a laugh.