Sunday, 28 February 2010
My old adversary Cllr John Oddy of Colwyn Bay writing on his blog is quite scathing in his attack on UKIP's lack of organisation along the North Wales coast. John is critical of both the Wales Chairman Warwick Nicholson who is also the Clwyd West candidate, and Mr Mahoney. It would appear from John Oddy's blog that he was quite keen to join UKIP but didn't, accusing Mr Nicholson of 'dithering' as to whether he could attend an UKIP meeting. Now I wouldn't like to speculate about Mr Nicholson's motives but could it be something to do with John Oddy's past connections with another right wing party.
Whilst checking out my facts on the UKIP website, it would appear that the party have selected 22 prospective candidates out of 40 seats including Mr Mahoney whose bio describes him as a staffer for John Bufton the UKIP's Welsh MEP.
I was however under the impression that Roy Norry was standing for UKIP in Alyn and Deeside but there is no mention of him on the candidates list. I wonder what has happened there?
Saturday, 27 February 2010
Nigel Farage’s insults to the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy are degrading and humiliating for other British nationals and for Britain’s reputation in Europe (leading article, February 26).
MEPs are entitled to question Van Rompuy’s appointment, but when Farage called him a “damp rag” and an “assassin” — caricatures that are rather difficult to reconcile — he tripped from the political into the personal. Describing Belgium as a “non-country” is the hackneyed put-down adopted by those who believe the global map should still be coloured red. Our European colleagues are not amused, and who could blame them in the face of such juvenile and ignorant behaviour?
Like a lager lout on a coach trip, Farage finds himself being given an ever widening berth by other British MEPs fed up with having to apologise for a fellow national. It is at moments like these that we need a European ASBO.
Nigel Farage is a disgrace, his arrogance and condescension is beyond belief. What right has to call Belgium a non country for calling for autonomy for the Flemish part and the French speaking Walloons. With a bit of luck his rudeness followed by his lack of remorse on Question Time will hopefully result in considerable electoral damage to UKIP, I hope Bercow thrashes him in Buckingham.
Labour 200 (37%)
Lib Dems 193 (35%)
Independent 68 (13%)
Conservative 60 (11%)
Plaid Cymru 25 (5%)
The Lib Dems blame the loss on 3 other candidates splitting the anti Labour vote but we would expect them to say that wouldn't we. The by election was caused by the sitting Lib Dem Councillor resigning due to ill health. There doesn't seem to be any local issues that affected the vote but there were criticisms on some Lib Dem blog that their campaign didn't succeed in getting out the vote. In the current climate it would appear that it wasn't so much as Labour winning the seat but rather the Lib Dems losing it.
Other byelections in England had the BNP and UKIP getting a reduced proportion of the vote (Liverpool Fazakerley for BNP and Evesham South for UKIP).
Friday, 26 February 2010
According to the Press Gazette, the beleaguered regional newspaper industry continues to lose print readers at an alarming rate. Only two out of 86 daily regional titles managed to increase sales between July and December. Figures released today show a similarly dire situation in Wales:
- South Wales Evening Post - 43,644 (down 8.8%)
- South Wales Echo - 36,928 (down 11.1%)
- Daily Post - 32,864 (down 5.0%)
- Western Mail - 30,133 (down 10.6%)
- South Wales Argus - 25,035 (down 7.6%)
- Wrexham Leader - 18,368 (down 8.5%)
It remains to be seen whether the Leader's switch to a morning title helps stem the losses and whether that, in turn, impacts on the Daily Post. That has seen the lowest circulation fall in percentage terms - is that because of its willingness to campaign and break stories?
Jaxxland concludes by half-heartedly arguing for a print equivalent of the BBC. Although the figures look grim for the news corporations, local newspapers have proved resilient in the past. If they can cope with the internet challenge in a more imaginative way than they have so far, can continue to flourish. I hope so.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Wrecsam's total budget is £208 million up from £200 million in the last financial year, this is made up of £125 million Revenue Support Grant from WAG, £37 million Non Domestic rates and £44.6 million Council Tax.
The budget was passed by 34 votes to 10, with 1 abstention, with Labour voting against the budget despite there being no cuts to schools or essential front line services. To be honest the leader of the Labour Group was floundering in his attempt to justify voting against the budget.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
LETTER TO THE EVENING LEADER
It was good to see Mark Brittain in his Evening Leader column (24 Feb, 2010) accepting that Plaid Cymru's current MPs "punch well above their weight".
Their record in exposing the 'cash for honours' scandal as well as impeaching Tony Blair and exposing Labour's shady links with the Mittal brothers marks them out as independent and original thinkers in Parliament. Indeed The Independent's Westminster reporter Simon Carr recently described the three Plaid MPs as more effective than all the 63 Liberal Democrat MPs put together.
Mr Brittain then goes on to argue that smaller parties such as Plaid can't really wield any power because of the big two parties. This is usually a line trotted out by the Tories and Labour (and occasionally the Lib Dems) to argue that a vote for Plaid is a "wasted vote". It's a line that suits the establishment, who want to maintain the status quo of two major parties wedded to the bankers and big business rather than putting the people of Wales's interests first.
As well as perpetuating a failed and discredited political set-up, it also reduces the real choice for voters fed up with paying for MPs' duckhouses, moats and flip-flopping second homes. Plaid offers a strong independent voice across Wales in this coming election, one that is pro-public services and wanting a fair pension for the elderly.
People will vote Plaid in this coming election because they are offering something different to the big three London parties. Voters understand that politics is sometimes about principles and beliefs and not just about power. In the words of the American socialist Eugene Debs: "It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it".
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Last week the Irish Minister of Defence, Willie O’Dea, hard man of the largest party in the governing coalition, Fianna Fail, resigned. Today Trevor Sargeant, the Junior Minister for Food and Horticulture and former leader of the Green party, the junior party in the coalition, also resigned.
On the surface these events appear to be completely separate and unfortunate occurences for an extremly unpopular Government. However the talk in Dublin is that Fianna Fail blame the Greens for the resignation of O’Dea, and that the controversy that emerged this afternoon ending in Sargeant’s resignation was payback for the Greens behaviour last week.
Willie O’Dea‘s troubles began last year when speaking to a journalist from The Limerick Leader. He stated that local Sinn Fein candidate, Nessan Quinlivan, was involved in the running of a brothel. Naturally enough, Mr Quinlivan objected and pursued a defamation case against Mr O’Dea. Mr O‘Dea, who happens to be a barrister, swore an affadavit that he had not made any such allegations about Mr Quinlivan. There was however one slight problem, the conversation between the bold Willie and the journalist had been recorded. Mr Quinlivan was duly awarded damges in Decemeber 2009.
Questions began to emerge about Mr O’Dea’s behaviour in this case in the Oireachtas at the beginning of the month. Mr O’Dea felt he had done nothing wrong despite accusations of perjury being made in the chambers of the Dail and the Seanad. A vote of confidence in the minister was called and the Green party members supported O’Dea. However things began to unravel when Green party chairman Senator Dan Boyle tweeted that he had no confidence in Willie O’Dea. The following day the Dail had to be suspended due to the rowdy behaviour of members. O’Dea then went on to RTE radio’s lunchtime news programme and gave a robust and ill judged defence of himself in which he stated that he had been a victim in the whole affair. Mr O’Dea resigned later that day.
All was well again in Dodge until about 11 am today, when an article appeared in The Evening Herald newspaper stating that in 2007 the aforementioned Mr Sargeant had written on behalf of a constituent who was under Garda investigation using Department of Agriculture stationery. At 5 pm today Mr Sargeant resigned his ministerial post.
Now, one resignation is unfortuante but two is careless. What is emerging tonight is a question as to why a letter that An Garda Siochana recieved two years ago has emerged less than a week after Willie O’Dea had to suffer the indignity of resignation; a resignation that many in Fianna Fail felt had been forced by Dan Boyles ‘treachorous tweet’. In particular, the Minister for Justice speaking on RTE issued a strong denial that he was responsible for any leak, and then continued to attack the Green party for listening to their membership.
If it emerges that Fianna Fail is the source of the leak it is inevitable that the Greens will have to walk and force an election that would undoubtedly result in Fianna Fails worst electoral showing in the party’s history.
We may well criticise the European institutions but at least they have the courage to take on these fund managers and traders who exploit and damage our companies value and they intend to announce a clampdown tomorrow of short selling following the recent collapse of the Euro and the Greek financial crises.
Good for them I say, they are showing Brown and Darling the way in regulating irresponsible trading. For the full story go to Euractiv
No one knew that the premises were bail hostels, even though Clearsprings were supposed to notify Police, Probation and the Local Authority, although the Police claimed they had no knowledge. The most important thing was that local people had no knowledge of the hostels, the first they knew about it was being woken in the middle of the night by fighting or Police attendance. Neighbours found it difficult to contact Clearsprings and when they did they were less than helpful.
The big question was however, who were these people and what were the offences they had committed?, did they pose a risk to the local community? nobody knew, but one thing we can be sure of was that they weren't supervised, even though the offenders were either on early release or bail conditions there was nobody from Clearsprings present 24/7 to ensure they complied with conditions. I have long had concerns about Clearsprings since an ex Police colleague of mine got a job with them and after a day of training left because of concerns he had regarding the role and responsibilities, especially around a lack of supervision.
Needless to say that it was only a matter of time before something serious would happen and this occurred in a hostel in Stockton, Teeside, when two inmates of a Clearspring hostel murdered a third and a judge criticised controls at the hostel. I suppose we should count our blessings that nothing similar happened in Wrecsam.
The Government would seek to reassure us that prisoners who are released early are properly supervised and those that pose a risk are assessed and supervised by a multi agency public protection panel (MAPPA and MARAC), but clearly this is not the case as this untimely dealth in Stockton testifies.
The good news out of all this is that the Prisons Minister, Angela Eagle has now re tendered the contract and awarded it to Stonham, a charity which specialises in housing vulnerable adults, let's hope that the terms of the contract ensure that each hostel has 24/7 supervision and that local residents are informed. I will seek reassurances from Angela Eagle to that effect.
“It is disappointing that the Welsh Government did not adequately plan the Communities First programme. Flaws in its initial construction have allowed fissures to develop throughout the programme as it has progressed, making achievement of its ambitious goals more difficult.”
So much for Rhodri Morgan's 2001 flagship plan to reduce poverty by empowerment. So there we have it a significant proportion of the £214 million wasted, £140 million of that on administration. For a detailed account of the background go to Valleys Mam.
For us in Wrecsam we are still waiting the WAO report into the running of Plas Madoc Communities First which will probably not make pleasant reading for WAG officials when it is published.
Monday, 22 February 2010
Figures obtained by an Assembly Member have revealed that Local Education Authorities in North Wales are spending millions catering for excluded pupils – and the amount is rising each year.
North Wales Regional AM, Mark Isherwood, and Clwyd West AM, Darren Millar, who obtained the figures, were shocked to learn just how much is being spent in the region on Pupil Referral Units (PRU). Each local education authority has a duty to make arrangements for the provision of education in or out of school for all children of compulsory school age. If children may not receive suitable education for any period for reasons such as illness or exclusion from school, these arrangements can be made through Pupil Referral Units.
Figures for 2007-2008, the latest available, show Wrexham spent the most out of the five authorities, a staggering £1.829m, up £278,000 on figures for 2003-2004.
The truth behind these figures are quite different, for starters Pupil Referral Units are not only for children who have been excluded from school but two of the four units in Wrecsam are for children who have not been excluded i.e there is a unit for girls of school age who have children.
Officers analysed the figures quoted by Messrs Millar and Isherwood and came to the conclusion that they included a lot more than the costs of the PRU's and services to excluded pupils. The disaggregated figures are as follows:
For information the total cost of the PRU's in 2003/2004 was as
follows: Gross £601k Net £467k, this compares to the 2007/08 figures of Gross £854k Net £612k
The net figure is the cost to Wrecsam, the gross figure is additional grants from other sources so the £1.829 million is three times more than the ACTUAL cost to Wrecsam CBC.
Tonight's lesson is that you should alway treat Tory statistics with an awful lot of caution, it is after all only the Tories who could confuse 5.4% and 54%...doh!!
It was magnanimous of Stephen Hester the Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland to turn down a £1.3 million bonus for overseeing a £5 billion loss at the bank this year. However it is a disgrace that the bank which is 84% owed by us the taxpayer intend to pay their investment bankers total of £1.3 billion in bonuses, an amount which is difficult to visualize. Suffice to say that £1.3 billion is enough to fund ALL hospices in the UK for the next 12 months. This clearly shows how far the Labour party have become removed from their original values. In Wales we are fortunate in that those that care about social welfare have another choice, Plaid Cymru, a party with a social conscience, and who wish to see taxpayers money being used to improve the lives of all and not just a select few.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Aviemore is not a particularly attractive town, it has developed as a tourist destination since the arrival of the railways around 1860 and was further developed in a rather hideous fashion in the 1970's with the building of the Macdonald Resort hotels with the Four Seasons towering over the resort.
Can we really imagine the Snowdonia National Park granting planning permission for an 8 storey concrete monstrosity in Llanberis? I can't see it myself. Talking to people who knew Aviemore before the arrival of Macdonald's Resorts there was major opposition to this development in the mid 70's and it makes one wonder who gave the planning permission, the local authority or the Cairngorms National Park; if it existed then.
I wonder what the Section 106 settlement (or similar) was to get planning for this building?, a minimum of a new school I would suggest!
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
I would be grateful for an opportunity to reply to Mark Isherwood’s letter (Devolution Can Work for Wales, Leader, February 10th)
Mr Isherwood writes in praise of the Mersey Dee Alliance (MDA), the Regional Plan and the Wales Spatial Plan. I really don’t have a problem with cross border partnerships that benefit BOTH SIDES of the border but these partnerships are not equal, these plans aim to build 20,000 homes in North East Wales, but what does North East Wales get as an economic benefit from this partnership? What has it had up to now, has it had new jobs or better transport?
If you can answer that question Mr Isherwood you are doing better than the three representatives of the MDA who gave evidence to the Assembly’s Petitions Committee. Even the highly regarded North Wales Economic Forum are hard pressed to identify benefits arising from these plans and question what they have delivered from North Wales.
Mr Isherwood as an ex manager of a Building Society may well be happy to see Wrecsam, Flintshire and Denbighshire covered in concrete but I and thousands of other residents of these three counties are not.
Monday, 15 February 2010
How to explain the coming referendum in ways that does not involve "another step", "tidying-up exercise" and "we still won't have Scottish-style powers" is difficult. So perhaps we should be grateful to Carwyn Jones for giving us a very clear idea of what we'll be voting for sometime in the next year or so.
Hat tip to WalesHome.org for pointing up this:
Welsh political watchers were also treated to Carwyn Jones with Andrew Marr yesterday morning. At bleeding last, a face to face interview with Wales’s leader and the man who could, in three months time, be the most senior elected Labour politician in Britain. And he did well. To me, the high point was the clever analogy about getting more powers for the Assembly.
“Well, I could talk about the constitutional situation in Wales, but can I explain it in this way? You hire three workers. With two of them, you give them a full set of tools. Call them Scotland and Northern Ireland. The other worker, you give that person an empty box and you say, ‘Each time you need a new tool, come to me, explain why you want that tool and then I’ll decide whether I’ll give you that tool.’ That’s Wales. What we want is a full set of tools in the same way as Scotland and Northern Ireland, so we can do the job properly.”
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
"What a relief to see Elfyn Llwyd in the House yesterday, still alive and asking questions. He's always more interesting than he looks. Tiny Plaid Cymru are a great parliamentary asset. Blair and Mittal's £2m, that was them. They kicked off Cash for Honours. The Blair Impeachment project, they did that too. Llwyd and Adam Price (they are two-thirds of their party) have probably had more effect on Parliament than the entire Liberal Democrats."
Says it all doesn't it!
Tonight's planning committee was a bit of a marathon - four hours of debating the local development plan. And we're still not finished. The final decision lies with the executive board and I sense that will also be a long-drawn out affair.
The packed gallery waited patiently to hear about the travellers' camp sites at Chirk and Brymbo. They had to wait three hours for a decision.
Before that, the thorny issue of affordable housing was raised by Plaid councillors.
The first amendment from us was a simple cap on house building above the planned limit - this was a "belt and braces" approach to limit the kind of over-development we've seen in recent years.
This shouldn't have been contentious and officers acknowledged that but it was voted down 14-6.
Our second amendment - to raise the affordable housing threshold from 30% to 50% on housing developments - was opposed by officers. The plan claims it will deliver 2200 affordable homes over 15 years, but it's already fallen behind that target and I think it's based on an over-optimistic set of assumptions.
Claiming 640 homes through a village exemption scheme just doesn't add up - not one has been built under the same scheme in the current plan.
The 30% target was put forward after a consultant's report said 50% affordability was not viable for developers. Funny that it is viable in a number of authorities, including nearby Conwy. The officers couldn't explain why that example had not been studied more fully. After a lengthy debate, the 50% amendment was lost - by just 9-10.
Labour was split 2-2 as were the Lib Dems, and I will await the final decision of the exec board with interest. I just hope those voting against a radical but achievable target never complain about a lack of affordable homes in their wards.
Housing plans for the old Groves site were the next challenge. Local councillor Carole O'Toole called for a more imaginative use of this strategic site and for a mixed scheme that satisfied the existing covenant on education and training, work and some housing as well as protecting the green spaces.
I proposed that the plan include that and, for a change, backed a winner. If we're serious about creating a capital for North Wales here, these key sites have to be used more creatively.
Next up was the travellers' sites - but that's for another post.
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Sunday, 7 February 2010
The leaflet then goes on to say "Labour Help - or Tory cuts" wow what a statement to make eh, 12 years of a Labour government, massive deficits high rates of unemployment poor regulation of banks, massive bail outs of banks, child poverty on the increase and local government budgets slashed. Is that what Labour call Help, I'm sure the ex workers of Flexys, JCB and Air Products would have something to say to our esteemed Business Minister about his non existant Help! I could go on and on but suffice to conclude with another misrepresentation, "Labour - working to make life fairer to Wrexham people." Is that what abolishing Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance will do then?
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Please sign up for this initiative, support local businesses and save jobs as well as saving money.
UPDATE - Saved £14 on a 2 course dinner at Za Za's, Overton Arcade, High St, Wrecsam,
last night and very nice it was too!
Dim ond gobeithio y cawn y canlyniad iawn yn dilyn ymchwiliad Adran Safonnau Masnachol Sir y Fflint.
A oes na esiamplau eraill o Aelodau Seneddol Llafur Cymreig wedi newid ei hagwedd tuag at yr iaith?
Thursday, 4 February 2010
The man campaigning to become the next MP for Wrexham has pledged to fight for a "Living Pension" for every pensioner in the area.
Councillor Arfon Jones, of Gwersyllt, is standing for Plaid Cymru in the coming General Election and is backing his party's campaign for a Living Pension.
"As a candidate in this election one of my main concerns is that of elderly poverty, those people who have worked all their lives only to struggle on a small pension of 95 a week.
"Many older people dont know that they are entitled to a minimum guaranteed income of 130 per week for a single person or 198 for a couple. This is because they dont know about Pension Credit and, because it's means tested, so people have to apply for it.
"Many people have saved a little for their retirement and because they have savings they think they cannot have any more money, but that is not the case."
Cllr Jones, who also volunteers at the Citizens' Advice Bureau one day a week, said:
"The first 10,000 of savings is not counted when calculating Pension Credit.
"Married couple who have incomes in the region of 250 per week may still be entitled to some Pension Credit. There are 13,500 people over 65 years in the Wrexham Constituency and only a third of them are in receipt of Pension Credit."
"Research suggests that one third of all pensioners are eligible to Pension Credit but dont get it. This means that about 4,000 older people in Wrexham are losing out to the tune of 140,000 a week - or 7.2 million a year.
"I and Plaid Cymru believe that Pension Credit should be included in the State Retirement Pension and then everyone gets it automatically - 35 a week would make a massive difference to the lives of those people currently not getting Pension Credit."
Cancer charities and hospices would benefit under a new scheme to tax tanning booths by Plaid Cymru.
Councillor Arfon Jones, who is challenging to be Wrexham's next MP, wants further measures to regulate tanning booths. Cllr Jones said he welcomed moves to ban under 18s from using tanning booths as well as calls for booths to be supervised, but didn't feel it goes far enough.
Cllr Jones said:
Tanning booths can cause skin cancer and we should do what we do with other harmful pursuits like smoking and drinking - tax them to discourage use. In the United States they intend to impose an additional 10% surcharge on tanning salons to pay for new healthcare proposals.
Cllr Jones added:
It is very difficult in Wales for us to impose our own tax because tax-raising powers have not been devolved but we could introduce it as part of non-domestic rates. There are over 400 tanning booths in Wales and if they were to pay on average a 1000 harm tax each, that would equate to nearly 5 million in a decade. The money would then be distributed to cancer charities and hospices in Wales.
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Monday, 1 February 2010
The National Assembly's petitions committee came to Wrecsam today. It's an innovation that allows Welsh citizens to raise their concerns directly with their representatives and this was a well-attended session.
No surprises there - first up was a evidence regarding a petition of nearly 20,000 names opposing the West cheshire/North East Wales sub-regional strategy.
Carrie Harper, Pol Wong and myself spoke for 15 minutes and then answered questions from the committee, arguing that the impact of the strategy on Wrecsam, Flintshire and Denbighshire was negative in terms of housing, local services, communities, Welsh identity, the environment and our carbon footprint. The key argument was that this was to the detriment of Assembly policies and that this was why the Assembly should reconsider its role in the strategy. We also wanted a specific North-east Wales Spatial Plan to reflect the needs of our communities and local people, wherever they come from originally.
In response, Cllr Dennis Knowles (leader of Wirral Council and chair of the Mersey Dee Alliance) droned on about the strategy for the full 15 minutes.
Backing him up were Wrecsam Council leader Aled Roberts and Flintshire's deputy leader Tony Sharps.
Sharps made an, er, interesting contribution after initially admitting that he hadn't prepared as he wasn't expecting questions. Apparently we need more people moving into north-east Wales because we don't have the skills to meet demand at Airbus and other factories in Flintshire. That'll be an eye-opener to the many hundreds of skilled local engineering workers who have lost their jobs in the past year. It also begs the question of what Airbus's own extensive apprenticeship scheme is doing if they can't meet demand at the plant.
Aled Roberts claimed that Network Rail only want to deliver the Bidston-Deeside part of the rail line, which was news to everyone present.
The feedback after the meeting from friend and neutral alike was very positive. It's safe to say this was far more constructive debate than last February's Wrecsam Council scrutiny committee, when three councillors opposed the council's role in the Mersey-Dee Alliance. The questioning from the petitions committee was sharp and exposed many of the holes in the sub-regional strategy.
Whether that's enough to change the Assembly on this matter remains to be seen, but the pressure put on defenders of the current unsustainable strategy is mounting.
Following a Freedom of Information request to North Wales Police about the cost of policing the march I received the following response:
We can...provide information regarding the combined cost of the WDL and EDL march in Wrexham on the 21st November 2009.
The total figure to date is £217,854. This figure could change subject to further invoices being forwarded for payment.
All costs fall to North Wales Police.
So there we have it, the costs of allowing racists to enjoy their freedom to spread hate and intolerance. What else could North Wales Police have spent this money on?