Friday, 30 April 2010

Griffin

BNP fuhrer Nick Griffin took calls on a Radio 4 phone-in today. Here's one priceless exchange:

Caller: "Would you say I was British Mr Griffin, if I have three grandparents born abroad?"

Griffin: "Well, I can't see you down the radio"

Interviewer: "So would it make a difference what his skin colour was?"

Griffin: "Well no, of course not."


He did his usual claim that the "indigenous" people can claim their ancestry back to 1208, a curiously precise date. Then Martha Kearney asked a killer:

Interviewer: "The Royal family came from Germany. Are they indigenous?"

Griffin: "Um, well, they are a mixed-up family, but they're fully integrated."

I'd say he floundered, but that would be an insult to bottom-feeding flatfish.

Honoured by M'Lords

Wrecsam will be honoured on Monday with the presence of TWO Peers of the Realm, the Lord Adonis, Labour's Transport Secretary, who will be meeting Ian Lucas and executives of the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Rail at Wrecsam Railway Station; and the Lord Ashdown ex Leader of the Liberal Democrats who will take a Q&A session at the Catrin Finch Theatre at Glyndwr University.

Two peers in Wrecsam during the last week of an election and on a bank holiday as well must indicate something; perhaps were in for a surprise come Thursday!

We're being robbed!

Please see below a letter that was published in The Leader today. Not only are we not getting sufficient funding from Westminster, we are handing money back to London:

Dear Editor,

It is an accepted fact by now that Wales is underfunded annually to the tune of £300 million. Rather than rectify this situation whichever London party gets elected there will be cuts to the public sector in Wales of about £2.8 billion over the next 5 years, these cuts will disproportionately hit Wales more than the rest of the UK because we are more dependent on public sector jobs than other areas.

Not only do we get less in Wales than we should but we are returning money from Wales to the Treasury just like John Redwood did when he was governor general. Wrecsam Council receives £30 million a year in council house rents, the Council get to keep £19 million to carry out repairs and maintenance on their council house stock. However £11.2 million of this is ‘snatched; by the Treasury as a housing subsidy to subsidise inner city councils in London and elsewhere. Twenty one of the twenty two local authorities in Wales pay this housing subsidy, totalling a £100 million a year.

It would be interesting to see whether the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrats candidates in Wrecsam Constituency will join with me to condemn this disgraceful and unjustified transfer of monies between Wrecsam and the Treasury and to fight for it to be retained in Wrecsam for the benefit of our tenants.

Yours sincerely,

Arfon Jones.
Prospective Plaid Cymru Candidate,
Wrecsam Constituency,

Let's be in no doubt that this situation will continue if the Tories and Labour are elected. I very much doubt that Clegg and the Lib Dems will use anything that will be of benefit to Scotland or Wales as a bargaining chip to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

The only way to do away with this disgaceful tax on housing is by voting Plaid Cymru, the more votes we get the better it will be for Wales, after all what has Lucas and Welsh Labour done about this in the last 9 years...nothing!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Stock transfer's hidden dangers

Gwynedd tenants' recent decision to vote for stock transfer has revealed the hidden dangers of such a move. In a great article in Golwg magazine, not yet online, it's revealed that more than 100 pieces of council-owned land are also being transferred free to the new private housing association along with the council's entire housing stock. It includes playing fields and car parking.
The new company will, of course, be free to build, develop or sell that land. It's unthinkable that any other organisation would simply hand over such valuable assets.
What's more disturbing is that councillors and tenants were not aware that this was part of the deal. But it's too late now - tenants cannot be re-balloted to transfer back to the council.

The same situation would have occurred in Wrecsam had we transferred the council housing stock to a similar organisation. Thankfully we did not and the council is now using those parcels of land to build 400 affordable homes in a joint venture with the Welsh Government.

PS One of the first moves by the new association was to spend tenants' rents to appoint two people on £300 a day to oversee job interviews. Despite Gwynedd being the most Welsh-speaking area of Wales, neither speaks Welsh and therefore could not assess competency in the language for staff who will be dealing with the public.

No other result is possible


The future is blue or red, according to Labour's Clwyd South hopeful Susan Jones.
In a letter sent out to people in Rhos, she says:
"This election in Clwyd South is a straight choice - between Labour and the Tories. No other outcome is possible"

In Rhos, Tories are an exotic breed. People point at them in the street, like twitchers spotting a rare bird blown off course. Boris Johnson was one such visitor and now there's John Bell, who can't even get Tory councillors out to help his feeble campaign.
People in Rhos won't vote Tory, as Susan well knows. So which party is she worried her home village is turning to?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Looise Hughes...again!!

It is common knowledge that some members of Llais Gwynedd have had a colourful past and have been of interest to the British establishment's Security Services for many years (Tryweryn to be precise)

I wonder how many Llais Gwynedd's members knew of their fellow councillor Louise (Looise) Hughes's past as described in her election leaflet:


Someone who has worked for Army Intelligence AND the Police is not a natural recruit for Llais Gwynedd, especially as she doesn't speak Welsh either.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Paxo stuffing - a Newsnight first

Jeremy "Paxo" Paxman is usually the one who puts politicians on the spot, so it's nice to see Eurfyl ap Gwilym giving Paxo a good old stuffing on Newsnight last night. I particularly liked the bit when Paxo mutters "oh God" under his breath as he fails to find the right statistic.

Lucas Out


I'm not sure if the householder added the "Out" or whether it was someone else, but this is from the Cefn Road at Pentre Gwyn.

Monday, 26 April 2010

I agree with Arfon

Tonight's TCC accountability meeting in Wrecsam was of a far higher standard than that in Clwyd South. All four candidates were capable speakers, although the probing questions revealed some serious differences between the parties.
Arfon Jones, Plaid's candidate, managed to provide by far the most relevant answers to the local problems being posed. While others waffled about climate change and the Living Wage, he provided concrete and specific examples of how Plaid was delivering on these matters. We learned, for example, how Plaid councillors' persistence coupled with the unions, had helped Wrecsam council deliver a first step towards a Living Wage. The Tory could only refer to Boris Johnson in London - perhaps reflecting how remote he is from local politics.
Questions from the floor on Trident, Afghanistan, MPs' sleaze and affordable housing showed that the 100-strong audience were progressively inclined.
Ian Lucas, the sitting MP, didn't like the accusation that he was a member of a war-mongering party (yes, he was his usual thin-skinned self) and rather desperately claimed that the £100bn Trident nuclear system was needed for "protection". From Iran and North Korea apparently.
The Lib Dem sat on the fence and the Tory was energetically pro-Trident. Only Arfon said it was financially and morally unaffordable. Arfon also stood out as he described Afghanistan as "our Vietnam" and said Plaid was the only party to oppose that war from the outset, calling for a phased withdrawal like the Dutch and Canadians in the coming year.
On sleaze, Lucas apologised for being part of a system that failed in Westminster over expenses, although denying he did anything wrong personally. You get the feeling he'd been made to say it. Many who see the profit he has and will make from his state-subsidised second home will disagree about his culpability.
There was a real anger amongst the audience about bankers' bonuses - Arfon said we should emulate Barack Obama's cap on bankers. Lucas countered that we couldn't because the USA is a continent. Doh!
Tom Rippeth, the perennial Lib Dem loser, started a groove that would recur: "I agree with Arfon". Mmm, is this just a Lib Dem thing?
On affordable housing, Arfon went for the jugular - why is Wrecsam paying £11.5m to subsidise London councils through an outdated housing subsidy and why has the present MP done nothing to stop this? The others waffled platitudes while Lucas had the cheek to defend developers who didn't want to pay their share of the council's additional burden (road improvements, schools and other services) that otherwise the taxpayer would pick up.
From attending both Clwyd S and Wrecsam TCC accountability meetings, it's apparent that the only people talking about local issues and championing the constituency's needs are the Plaid candidates. Without exception, the other London party candidates took their brief from central office and failed to engage with the very real anger in the area. TCC deserve a real pat on the back for organising a series of well-attended debates. More please!

Labour bleats about media bias

It seems both Tory and Labour are starting to realise the inequity of the presidential debates but it's highly amusing that Labour is blaming the broadcasters when the big London parties have hogged the airtime for themselves. According to the Independent:

"In a sign of frustration in the Labour camp, the party launched a protest against Britain's broadcasters yesterday for the way they had covered the campaign. It wrote to the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 outlining their concerns the leadership debates and the polls had dominated the campaign, while policies had not been examined in detail."


T
he party of spin complains about being outspun.

The ground war and the air war

This interesting post by blogmenai deserves a wider audience, not least because it chimes with a growing feeling that local campaigns will determine the election result as much as the much-hyped TV broadcasts.
Blogmenai quotes an Irish politician, Tommy McEllistrim, who was unfancied in a by-election but who stormed through against all expectations.
McEllistrim said this after the count:
"In modern elections there's an air war and a ground war. We lost the air war hands down, but we won the ground war hands down. That's why we won the election."

The air war, of course, is the media-based battles that the broadcasters and journos have obsessed about. The ground war is that oddly traditional battle that involved knocking doors, hitting high streets, getting your message across consistently over months and years rather than the three-week election frenzy. Even hustings meetings are well attended because people want to know whether the person they vote for can be trusted not to repeat the mistakes of previous MPs on sleaze, lobbying and expenses.
I suspect those grassroots campaigns are passing under the radar of the official media, which is Twittering itself to death about those broadcasts. Time will tell!

Ron Davies speaks out for Plaid

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Stat Porn.

It's been 12 months to the day yesterday since I started using Google Analytics to measure site usage for the blog Wrecsamplaid. In the last 12 months we have had 25,868 hits on the blog with 38,285 page views and 10,066 unique visitors. In addition to Analytics measurable hits, the blog also has feeds to Facebook Networked blogs and on Wikio. Thanks to everyone for taking time out to read our blogs, it makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Why we need housing reform in Wales

by Cllr Carrie Harper

An article from the Daily Post today highlighted a recent Welsh Assembly Government report which confirms thousands of migrants from England are using a loophole in the Welsh housing points system to jump the queue for social housing in Wales. Currently Welsh local authorities give priority to people who are classed as homeless and also those who are released from prison (unlike Wales, there is no housing priority for ex-offenders in England), the guidelines generally state that people only have to be resident in Wales for six out of the last 12 months to receive priority for housing.

The study included Anglesey, Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Gwynedd. According to the Daily Post:
"It found that most incomers move from Merseyside, Manchester and the West Midlands to towns like Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Prestatyn, Caernarfon, Pwllheli and Aberystwyth."

Well over 6000 migrants had moved into these counties between mid 2005 and 2008.

Although Wrecsam was not included in this study, the same concerns were voiced by local councillors here about six months ago during scrutiny committee and executive board meetings discussing changes to the local points system, with the vast majority of councillors arguing for local people to receive much more priority for social housing than they do currently. Council officers opposed many of the proposals put forward due to potential clashes with statutory legislation that gives ex-offenders and those classed as homeless priority for housing.
The same issues were voiced by many councillors, especially those from the villages around Wrecsam where social housing is particularly scarce. They were clearly angered at the current system which sees local people who have been on waiting lists for years by passed for homes within their own communities. In Wrecsam changes were made to the points system but unfortunately they still don't go far enough.

Social housing stock has decreased dramatically in Wales since the right to buy scheme was introduced by Thatcher, this housing was never replaced and we're now left with huge waiting lists and many thousands of people desperate for homes. Affordable housing, either to buy or to rent, has not been a priority for our local authorities, yet precious land resources have consistently been sold off for private development seemingly without concern. In areas like Wrecsam where there have been huge amounts of non-affordable development over recent decades, we will no doubt be looking to develop parts of the green barrier in the future to cater for our own local housing need which has been largely ignored to date.

To make matters worse, the vast majority of local people have been completely priced out of the general housing market. Studies in North East Wales attribute the dramatic house prise rises in recent years to the in-migration of a wealthier population from the North West of England. In areas like Wrecsam the buy-to-let market has also created another barrier, with private landlords increasing prices well beyond local reach. Both WAG and local authority policy is also clearly geared to attracting large amounts of in-migration, with housing projections for our local development plans being heavily based on past in-migration trends and development plans such as the North East Wales/West Cheshire sub-regional strategy further exploiting the inequalities in the housing market.

There are inevitable knock-on effects to the current housing crisis we face, especially in terms of these large increases in population. There is massive pressure on community cohesion, the environment, pressure on services such as hospitals, doctors, dentists, roads etc and the obvious impact on our identity and language. I never fail to be amazed when I ask questions about the studies there have been into these issues to find that very few have ever been acknowledged let alone explored, yet the current thinking is to carry on regardless.

There can be no doubt that the people of Wales are suffering because of policy dictating that we must cater for the housing wants of another, wealthier country. All aspects of housing in Wales must be scrutinised and reformed to ensure that the discrimination that currently exists is urgently addressed. Whether it be the lack of affordable housing, holiday homes or commuter estates, many of our communities and services in Wales are being stretched to breaking point. This cannot be considered sustainable in any way shape or form.

As a councillor who hears regularly from local people struggling to access any form of housing in the area I would say this: providing basic needs such as a home for the local population is not difficult, although many members of the civil service will stress the opposite at length. This hurdle has been cleared quite comfortably for the last several thousand years. All that is needed is a bit of common sense, ensuring our systems are fair and not open to exploitation and a shift in thinking across government that doesn't give priority to developers profit margins but instead to the needs of the local population.

Every picture tells a story!


When I saw this photograph of the Welsh Liberal Democrats leader talking to a "Police Officer" and being an ex Police Officer, my "suspicions were aroused" as to the photographs authenticity; because the "officer" had no identifying numbers on his epaulettes.

I did however give the Welsh Liberal Democrats the benefit of the doubt until I saw this story on the BBC Wales website:
The Liberal Democrats have been attacked for using a party employee to pose as a nurse on an election leaflet.

The leaflet, promoting Cardiff North candidate John Dixon, shows him talking to a woman in nurse's uniform.

But the identity of the 'nurse' has been revealed as a researcher for the Liberal Democrat AM Mick Bates.

Public Authorities in Wales are very reluctant to get involved in any way whatsover with prospective political candidates during an election campaign and rightly so due to their need to be impartial. Parties should therefore not seek to mislead the electorate by using these kind of tactics. I very much hope that the Police Officer in the photograph is genuine as there is an offence of, 'Aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring the offence of impersonating a Police Officer.'

A Welsh Labour Party spokesman sums up the situation succinctly, saying:
"Its one thing pretending your leader could be Prime Minister, quite another having your staff pretend to work for the NHS.

"Every picture tells a story, and this picture says you can't trust a Lib Dem."

Clwyd South hustings

Apart from the Labour candidate's Trident "moment", tonight's TCC-organised public meeting to hold the Clwyd South candidates to account was a real insight into those hoping to replace the woeful Martyn Jones.
About 150 people were present in Ruabon and could judge for themselves the varying quality of the candidates as they answered questions on a range of issues from local job losses to dental care and Trident.
Perhaps it was his recent eye operation, but the Lib Dem candidate did not seem very focussed and failed to answer some questions. Mind you, the Lib Dem policy of "not renewing Trident on a like-for-like basis" is enough to give anyone double vision. Get well soon Bruce.
John Bell, the Tory, was ill-prepared and struggled to convey Tory policy throughout the evening. This was not the performance of a man who was confident of victory.
Susan Jones, the Labour candidate, was obviously on a mission to pick a fight with the Tory - although they had most in common policy wise. She was unaware of local issues, not surprising for someone who's lived in London for so long, and even believed Objective One funding had benefitted Wrecsam (it was Obective Two funding that paid for regeneration in the urban villages). Poor briefing by her supporters.
This blog is biased of course, but Janet Ryder stood out for a number of reasons - not only did she understand that some issues were devolved (e.g. free bus passes) but from her experience of working in the Assembly for the past decade she focussed the audience on the issue of fair funding. An impartial outsider would have believed she was the defending MP.
Coupled with the warm reception Plaid's getting in the urban villages of Clwyd South, is there a Ceredigion 92 surprise in the air? Just asking...

UPDATE: One previously floating voter not only decided to vote Plaid on the basis of tonight's meeting, he joined the party!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Council to charge £200 for Help the Heroes event in War Memorial hall

Councillor Carrie Harper said:
"I was shocked to learn that Wrecsam Council are to charge the organisers of a Help The Heroes event at the Memorial Hall in Wrecsam over £200 to host the event planned for June 12th.
"Caia Park Residents Panel have been trying to organise the charity event to raise money for injured servicemen and women. Due to the large cost involved in hiring the Memorial Hall several residents have now got together to do a car boot sale this Sunday to try to raise money towards the cost so that the event can go ahead.

"I commend the residents for coming together to raise funds for the cost of the Hall but am disgusted that they are in the position where they have to. It is also even more of an insult considering the venue is actually the War Memorial Hall, you would think there would be no question of charging a charity at all, let alone these over-the-top rates. These men and women have put their lives on the line and this is how we repay them? I think it's shameful.

"I've written to both the Chief Executive and the Council Leader expressing concern about the situation, I very much hope Wrecsam Council have a re-think."

Lempit Opik taking time out!

According to Iain Dale, Lempit Opik is doing a mock leaders debate where Lempit will be Gordon Brown; Iain will be Nick Clegg and Lance Prince will be David Cameron. This is on Radio 5 Live now.

As Iain quite rightly says of Lempit:
Quite why Lembit has agreed to tak part in this is anyone's guess. I'd have thought that seeing as he's fighting a marginal seat, he ought to be devoting himself to his constituency. But then again, he hasn't been doing that for years now, has he?

This is yet another example of Lempit taking the people of Montgomeryshire for granted. He obviously didn't pick up a sense of dissatisfaction with him from the audience at the GE2010 debate from Welshpool.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Clegg has got some explaining to do!

The Daily Telegraph have returned to the expenses scandal looking at donations to Nick Clegg's personal account.
The Liberal Democrat leader was paid regular monthly sums by three senior businessmen during 2006.

The same account was used to pay his mortgage, shopping and other personal expenditure, documents seen by this newspaper show.

Sir Alistair Graham a former chairman of the Committee into Standards in Public Life described the arrangement as 'irregular.' He goes on to say:
Given that he’s been very holier than thou about these things, it would seem he has some explaining to do to his party and the electorate. One would expect donations to be paid to a party account – that would be the most straightforward arrangement. It would now make sense for someone independent to check these accounts.

I wonder how the Liberal Democrats will spin this one

Ehangu addysg Gymraeg yn Wrecsam - ydio dal yn flaenoriaeth gan swyddogion addysg?

Heno, mi ddaru pwyllgor craffu Plant a Phobl Ifanc Wrecsam glywed fod cynlluniau i ehangu addysg Gymraeg drwy agor ysgol newydd yng Ngwersyllt yn y fantol.
Mae angen i'r cyngor roi cais gerbron Llywodraeth y Cynulliad i gael arian o gronfa "Ysgolion 21ain Ganrif" a does fawr o amser er mwyn gwneud hynny mae'n debyg. Oherwydd y prinder amser i wneud achos teilwng, doedd y swyddogion ddim am gyflwyno cais i ariannu ysgol Gymraeg newydd.
Mae angen gofyn lle yn y byd mae'r swyddogion yma wedi bod - 18 mis yn ol cafodd y swyddogion arweiniad clir iawn gan fforwm addysg Gymraeg y cyngor i godi ysgol newydd yn ardal Gwersyllt er mwyn ateb y galw a thynnu pwysau oddiar Ysgol Plas Coch yn Rhosddu.
Ers hynny, does na fawr ddim wedi digwydd er bod ateb y galw cynnyddol am addysg Gymraeg yn y sir i fod yn flaenoriaeth gan y cyngor.
Oherwydd maint y galw am addysg Gymraeg, mae dau ddosbarth ym Mhlas Coch eisoes mewn cabanau. Dwy flynedd yn ol cafodd rhieni, athrawon a phlant Ysgol Plas Coch addewid mai am ddwy flynedd yn unig y byddai'r cabanau - rhywbeth dros dro er mwyn pontio'r cyfnod cyn agor ysgol newydd. Mae'n debyg y bydd yr addewid hynny'n cael ei dorri rwan ac fel rhiant dwi'n andros o flin fod swyddogion mor ddi-hid.
Roedd un pwynt calonogol o bosib - oherwydd maint y twf mewn addysg Gymraeg, mae angen dechrau cynllunio rwan ar gyfer ehangu darpariaeth addysg Gymraeg uwchradd. Mae rhywfaint o le i ehangu gan Ysgol Morgan Llwyd ond mae na ystyriaeth yn cael ei roid i ail ysgol uwchradd Gymraeg yn y sir. Wnai'm dal y nghwynt ar ol profiad ysgol Gwersyllt.

DIWEDDARIAD: Ddyliwn i ychwanegu mod i'n hynod o flin fel cynghorydd hefyd, ond dwi'n fwy gobeithiol fod datblygiad mwy positif ar y gweill ar ol codi stwr neithiwr.

Flying the flag

Some unpleasantness on the campaign trail today... a pompous young man from another party approaches two Plaid activists engaged in some "direct democracy" (aka hanging a banner over the A483). He says "it's just not on" and demands it is removed. When he gets an emphatic answer in the negative, he stomps off to sit in his swish car and phones to complain the Electoral Registration office at Wrecsam Council.
And then he drives off, having presumably seen the banner while on the dual carriageway. It certainly made an impact with the hundreds of motorists who were able to see our cheap and cheerful banner.
Why resort to a bit of guerilla marketing? Well, we haven't got access to non-domiciled millionaires to pay for our campaign like Labour and Conservative, nor convicted fraudsters who donated £2.4m to the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems refuse to pay it back to those defrauded by their generous donor.
Next time Mr Pompous decides to have a go, perhaps he'll consider the phrase "mae angen aderyn glan i ganu".

Personality Politics with no substance!

Despite the Lib Dems jump in the polls some of us are more cynical as to Clegg's capabilities and that the leader's debate was more about personalities than about the substance of his policies. My cynicism about Nick Clegg was well founded when I read about a senior aide believed to be John Sharkey the Lib Dems campaign 'guru' who had left hand written notes about the Lib Dems strategy for the Leaders debate in the back of a London cab. The cabbie handed the dossier over to the Sun who published them here. They make revealing and interesting reading. The following paragraph in the article should worry everyone who has been taken in by Clegg following the first Leaders debate:
Aides preparing him for the three TV debates - the second is tomorrow night - reveal themselves to be in a panic about his answers to even the most basic questions.

It seems that his staffers seem to agree with his opponents that he is more spin than substance.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Deutsche Bahn to bid for Arriva

Readers will recall that I am a big fan of Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway (WSMR) which has direct trains from Wrecsam to London Marylebone. WSMR's parent company is the state owned German transport group Deutsche Bahn. Having been spoilt by travelling on the WSMR I was then less than impressed in having to revert to the overcrowded Arriva Trains Wales to travel to Cardiff or anywhere else in Wales if it comes to that.

I was therefore very pleased to read in today's Sunday Times that Deutsche Bahn have made or will be making a £1.6 billion bid for the Arriva Group. Let's hope that it's succesful and that we can get the same level of service from Arriva following the takeover as we get from WSMR. Perhaps it will then be time for the Welsh Assembly Government to re negotiate the franchise with Deutsche Bahn so we can then have a world class rail system in Wales.

Plaid Candidates praised by the Lib Dems

I'm sure I'm speaking on behalf of my ex Police colleagues and Plaid Cymru candidates, Dylan Rees and Phil Edwards in welcoming praise from the Liberal Democratic candidate for Delyn, Bill Brereton:
Liberal Democrat candidate for Delyn, Bill Brereton, spent more than 30 years with North Wales Police and retired after reaching the rank of deputy chief constable.

He is impressed by the fellow former officers who are standing for election, saying: “You’ve got some very good people who want to contribute. I might disagree with them on policy, but you’ve got some good people who want to do things.”

To read the full article go here

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Dark horse in an open race


Curious little leaflet from the Labour candidate in which he pledges to campaign to restore the link between pensions and wages.
Why not just do it, seeing as Labour was in power for 13 years? But it is nice to see him responding to Plaid's Fair Pensions pledge.
Likewise the idea of campaigning for more manufacturing jobs - what did he do while business minister to bring jobs to Wrecsam?
His support for police community support officers is welcome as Labour councillors in Wrecsam voted against them.
He also mentions Yale further education college, the NHS, affordable homes and rail links - all devolved issues on which the Assembly will decide.
He will also "respect Wrexham's Welsh heritage", which makes our culture and language sound like a museum piece but is a welcome step forward from his moronic criticisms of Welsh-language announcements at railway stations and attempts to put the dragon on the Union flag.
"Act to the highest standards of public life" could involve an apology for his expenses claim.
"Work with partners to create a greener, fairer world" - nice.
Most curiously, the leaflet claims the election in Wrexham is a two-horse race - Liberalitis is obviously catching. Except it's now a race between Labour and the Tories. In truth, the Lib Dems were second last time and will make it an open race among the London parties while Arfon Jones is the dark horse sneaking up on the rails.
Nobody's falling for the "Don't let the Tories back in" line any more - we've seen 13 years of pink Tory rule with PFI, privatisation, warmongering, job cuts and union bashing.

Sunny outlook in Ceredigion, cold front in Montgomery

News that weather presenter Sian Lloyd is joining the Plaid Cymru campaign trail in Ceredigion prompts a thought... will she stop off in Montgomery on the way home to back Heledd Fychan's feisty campaign against Sian's former fiancee and Daily Sport columnist Lembit Opik?

Councillor Louise Hughes.

I had to laugh when I saw this story in today's Daily Post, yes Louise Hughes the Llais Gwynedd Councillor for Llanegryn is to stand as an INDEPENDENT in the General Election against Elfyn Llwyd in Meirionnydd Dwyfor...what is the point? Clearly other members of Llais Gwynedd are opposed to this otherwise Louise would have stood as a Llais Gwynedd candidate.

Incidentally the prospective Llais Gwynedd candidate in next year Assembly elections for Meirionnydd Dwyfor, Councillor Gwilym Euros Roberts, has been charged with two counts of assault and is due to appear before Dolgellau Magistrates on the 29th April 2010.

I wonder how much longer Llais Gwynedd will last as a political entity?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

How will the Lib Dems and Tories spin this story

One of the regular spin stories you get out of Lib Dem and Tory politicians in the North East of Wales is how badly the area is funded from the Welsh Assembly Government in 'distant' Cardiff. The evidence is somewhat different as this good news story from the BBC shows:
Plans for a multi million pound link road to Wrexham's Industrial estate, which employs 8,000 people, have been given the go-ahead.

The assembly government decision follows a public inquiry after objections from landowners who may now face compulsory purchase orders.

The new £25m road will replace the single lane country road which currently leads to the estate.

The site is home to firms like Kelloggs, JCB and Tetrapak.

Work on the link road was due to start in September but was delayed in February, due to a change in the tendering process.

The Welsh Assembly Government advised Wrexham council to revise the bidding process and minimise the risk of "price escalation".

Councillors approved the change, and work will not start until Spring 2011.

There have been hopes for an improved road scheme for several years, with many businesses frustrated at delays.

A first phase A534 dual carriageway was built but the second phase involves two feeder roads to the north and south.

I wonder how the Lib Dems and Tories will spin this story so as to maintain the perception they wish to perpetuate, of Wrecsam's 'victim status.'

Monday, 12 April 2010

Is there a doctor in the House?

You would normally pay attention if you got a leaflet from a doctor talking about an NHS inquiry.

Except when the leaflet is a bit of Lib Dem trickery masquerading as a survey "to get the best for our local NHS".

You see, Dr Tom Rippeth is not a GP or any kind of medical doctor.

He's a Bangor-based oceanographer with a PhD in "Controls on stratification in a fjordic system". When he's not pining for the fjords, Dr Tom is Lib Dem candidate for Wrexham and is expecting voters to answer a mind-boggling 47 multiple choice questions on health and a few other matters (like how you'll vote!). Anyone who answers all that will probably need a doctor to deal with the writer's cramp.

The only problem is that the good doctor is standing for Parliament and, as any fool knows, the NHS is one of those devolved areas where the Assembly Government makes the decisions. So no matter how many people allow themselves to be examined by Dr Tom, he can't do a thing for them in House of Commons.

Councils to get £146m new homes incentive

This from localgov.co.uk Early Riser:

Councils will be given a share of £146million to plan and deliver new homes, housing minister, John Healey, has confirmed.

The Housing and Planning Delivery Grant (HPDG) provides a direct incentive for councils to work with partners in the public and private sector to ensure that new homes are built where they are needed. It is an additional top up to mainstream funding.

Mr Healey said: ‘While many councils are playing their proper planning role, some are failing to identify land for the homes their communities need. Ensuring land is available for housing is vital to help secure both house building and economic recovery.

‘A shortage of new houses pushes up house prices, council waiting lists and private sector. This incentive will also ensure that all councils are taking action now and will give the housebuilding industry greater certainty and confidence in the economic recovery.’

The average grant councils receive is approximately £390,000, paid to 375 authorities.

I wonder if Wales will get a Barnett consequential of 6% of this amount which is £11.7 million or £530,000 for each of the 22 Local Authorities in Wales?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Labour Tactics - Callous and Despicable!

Politics doesn't get much lower and cynical than a Labour flyer being sent to cancer patients warning them that their lives could be at greater risk from a Tory government. An 80 year old cancer sufferer from Nottingham, and reported in today's Sunday Times, called the tactic 'callous' and 'despicable.'

Will this Labour government stop at nothing to maintain their hold on power?, their cynicism is beyond belief and gives a whole new meaning to the 'nasty party.'

Plaid in the Park


Arfon Jones is not the only Plaid candidate standing for election in Wrecsam in the coming month.
Steve Jones is also standing in a Caia Park community council by-election in Wynnstay ward, where voting takes place this Thursday (April 15).
Activists will be out delivering his election leaflet later today - meet in the Queensway sports centre at 3pm (those of you who are still walking after yesterday's epic session in the heat!)
Steve is standing on a ticket of ensuring that public money spent in the Park goes on projects needed by the community rather than on bureaucracy and empire building.
Good luck Steve!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

What happens in Europe if the Tories win?

The Economist states that the awkward relationship between Britain and Europe is about to get much worse if a Tory government is elected. To read the article Britain and Europe: Not Playing their Game, go here

With a whole new bunch of potential Tory eurosceptic MP's in parliament perhaps parties like Plaid Cymru the SNP and the Liberal Democrats can influence a Cameron Government without it being a 'hung' or balanced parliament. Will this be a repeat of John Major's difficulties over the Maastricht Treaty? We can but hope!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Sharp end of the RMT strike

Interesting insight into the way the state judiciary, politics and the ruling class interweave. Who'd have thunk it?

The Sharp end: the strikebreak judge, her banker brother and their privatiser father

The judge who imposed a court injunction against the RMT banning strike action at Network Rail has close family ties with Goldman Sachs one of the principle dealers raising money for the transport firm.

Mrs Justice Sharp is the sister of Richard Sharp who until recently ran Goldman Sachs' European private equity fund. Goldman Sachs is a principle dealer for Network Rail's 34 billion Debt Issuance Programme.

The Sauce is not suggesting impropriety or conflict of interest in the court case but merely commenting on the closeness of the British judicial system to major corporate interests a relationship which deserves greater scrutiny when strike action is barred by the High Court.

Dame Victoria Madeleine Sharp imposed a temporary order on the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union strike despite a 54 percent vote among signal workers because of technical inaccuracies and discrepancies in the ballot records.

The ruling moved TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, to say: 'It's becoming increasingly easy for employers, unhappy at the prospect of a dispute, to rely on the courts to intervene and nullify a democratic ballot for industrial action on a mere technicality.

The judge's brother Richard was until his resignation one of the longest serving partners in the UK for Goldman Sachs with an estimated personal wealth in 2004 of 125m mostly shares in the firm - and annual bonuses of between 5m and 10m, according to reports.

Goldman Sachs is named on the Network Rail website as dealers for both the 30 billion Multicurrency Note Programme and 4 billion Commercial Paper Programme. There is no suggestion by The Sauce that Sharp was involved in either programme.

Sharp left the firm after he found [himself] in the spotlight following a series of hostile deals that were later attacked by then Goldman chief executive Hank Paulson. Among such deals was an offer of 800m to finance Philip Green's attempted takeover of Marks and Spencer.

Union members' rights

Mr Sharp Junior also has close connections with the Conservative party: Boris Johnson announced with great fanfare during the London elections that Sharp would be appointed a senior advisor for the Mayor's Fund.

Dame Victoria Sharp's life will be unfamiliar to many of the Network Rail workers who have been told their democratic ballot for strike action is invalid because of a legal technicality: she was educated at the independent North London Collegiate School, became a QC and took her seat at the High Court under Labour in 2009.

The judge is the daughter of Lord (Eric) Sharp of Stanmore in the London Borough of Harrow who was a confidant of Margaret Thatcher and was handpicked by her Conservative government in the 1980s to privatise Cable and Wireless.

Lord Sharp, who died in May 1994, was chair of Monsanto today famous for genetically modified crops until approached by Conservative Secretary of State for Industry Sir Keith Joseph to steer the groundbreaking telecoms privatisation.

The ruling by Mrs Justice Sharp is just the latest from the High Court imposed through the strictest interpretation of the 1992 Trade Union Act which demands accurate records of balloted union members are presented to the company.

The same part of the act was used by Mrs Justice Cox to prevent the British Airways cabin staff from striking over Christmas last year.

Tories Slammed.

The heads of an alliance of four Welsh national housing organisation have slammed the Tories's blocking of the Housing LCO at Westminster, in a letter published in today's Daily Post.
Keith Edwards, Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, John Puzey of Shelter Cymru, Joy Kent of Cymorth Cymru and Nick Bennett of Community Housing Cymru have put their name to a letter which states:
"It is our unambigious view that the measures in the Housing legislative competence order currently with the UK government are urgently needed if we are to address the most serious housing problems we have faced in a generation."

The Tories or more specifically David Jones MP is opposing the LCO because it contains a clause that suspends the 'right to buy,' but we know the Tories from the days of Thatcher think the 'right to buy'is a sacred cow even though it's done nothing but exacberate housing shortages by reducing the council house stock in Wrecsam alone, from 18,000 to 11,000 houses.
The Alliance go on to say,
"The order would hugely increase our capability to provide housing for homeless people and those with support need and would help us to ensure that we have a housing system that is fit for purpose now and in the future."

So there we have it, David Jones and the Tory party are more interested in maintaining a discredited Tory ideology than they are in providing a housing service fit for purpose for the people of Wales.

Monday, 5 April 2010

May the sixth be with you

So Brown is heading for Buck House tomorrow morning to officially ask permission of Mrs Windsor to dissolve parliament and have an election on May 6.
Once that archaic little ritual is out of the way, expect wall-to-wall coverage of the "main parties" (LibLabCon) and the increasingly presidential nature of the race, regardless that there are actually 650 individual elections taking place across the UK.
Non-domiciled millionaires will shell out small (and untaxed) fortunes to allow the LibLabCons to stuff their glossy leaflets through your doors, while Plaid relies on the hard work of its grassroots members to get its message across.
Good luck to Arfon here in Wrecsam - where Plaid has already put in more work than its ever done for an election - and all Plaid candidates across Wales.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Same old Tories!

As if we didn't know already but the Tories haven't changed their views and attitude on equality issues as this Plaid Cymru response to Chris Grayling's comments demonstrates:

Commenting on the fact that senior Conservative, Chris Grayling, has been recorded suggesting people who run bed and breakfasts in their homes should have the right to reject homosexual guests, Plaid Cymru's candidate in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Jonathan Edwards said;
"The past few years have seen growing consensus amongst progressive parties when it comes to equal rights for gay people. Plaid Cymru is proud that we have campaigned along side others to introduce equality and fairness on this issue. "We are therefore extremely concerned that the man who would become home secretary under a tory government holds such regressive views. Of course, the tories do have a track record of being on the wrong side of the argument when it comes to equality and it seems that these views are still alive and well in the Conservative Party."

Mark Thomas's " The People's Manifesto"

Mark Thomas on his website gives the background to his People's Manifesto:
"As folk may know I have spent the past year touring the country getting audiences to propose, discuss and vote for policies to make the world a better place. The end result is the People's Manifesto published by Ebury Press (out 28th Jan 10)"

The People's Manifesto is an excellent and funny read and my two favourite policy suggestions are:
" The Daily Mail should be forced to print on the front of every edition the words: 'This is a fictionalised account of the news and any resemblance to the truth is entirely coincidental."

and secondly,
"Anyone who supports ID cards should be banned from having curtains."

Have a read, there's a lot more like that...and worse!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Better Education and Skills for Employment

Last year Wrecsam Council established three Corporate Priorities and one of them was reduce the number of NEETS or those young people who are not in education, employment and training. Concern had been raised about the high number of young people leaving education and not moving onto further or higher education, vocational training or employment. There were 145 or 9.6% of the Year 11 Cohort that were classed as NEETS in 2008 and Wrecsam Council's ranking was 18 out of 22 with a higher than Wales average.

Careers Wales have recently published their School Leavers Destination data for 2009, which shows a massive improvement in Wrecsam Council's performance and shows that the number of Year 11 Young People identified as being NEETS in 2009 has fallen to 72 or 5% of the Year 11 cohort with Wrecsam now ranking at 11 out of 22, and performing better than the Wales average.

What is surprising here is the destination of those Year 11 pupils who in 2008 were NEETS. The proportion of Year 11 pupils staying in full time education has only increased by 2% in Wrecsam whilt in Merthyr it has increased by 7.5%. This would indicate that many Year 11 pupils in 2009, have left and gone into employment. Although Wrecsam have increased the number staying in FT education by 2%, most authorities in Wales have improved by MORE than 2%, with the Welsh average being up 3%. Wrecsam is ranked as 22 out of 22 in the numbers of Year 11 staying on in FT education with 76.4%, with the best authority, Monmouthshire having 87.3% of their pupils staying on in FT education, with the Wales average being 82.2%.

We must of course exercise caution with this one off annual data and seek to maintain the improvement and ensure it is not a blip.

(Grateful thanks to Jan Jones, Performance and Development Manager with Wrecsam Council's Children and Young People's Department, for the number crunching)

Regional hopes hang on a political deal

This is Michael White's Political Briefing (The Guardian) take on Plaid and the SNP's joint Press Conference on their terms for sustaining a minority government in power after the election. Welsh politics rarely touches the pages of the Guardian so I decided to reproduce the article in full:
Westminster's political and media elite may speculate endlessly about the prospects for a hung parliament after 6 May. But Alex Salmond, Scotand's first minister,who runs a minority administration at Holyrood,prefers a less threatening adjective. He calls it a "balanced" parliament" and claims to be an expert at managing such a beast.

He may be bluffing. These are interesting, if risky, times for nationalists, including the BNP variety. They all see narrowing opinion polls as a rare opportunity to exercise disproportionate influence over central government, as do the Liberal Democrats, whose eternal hopes of being the powerbrokers are better than for 35 years, possibly 80.
But the nationalist parties are determined not to be left out. This week the SNP leader and his Welsh counterpart, Ieuan Wyn Jones of Plaid Cymru, staged a press conference in London to set out their terms for sustaining a minority Labour or Tory regime. They did not attract muchpublicity in insular Fleet Street, although they went live on Sky and were filmed by a Catalan TV crew.

Barcelona's post-Franco nationalistshave been squeezing extra cash from Madrid since 1980. That is what Plaid and the SNP seek to do as well. Each case is different. Salmond governs alone, aware that his Labour, Tory and Lib Dem rivals in Edinburgh will thwart him as much as they dare to do without provoking fresh elections this side of the due date, May 2011. Wyn Jones is deputy first minister to Labour's Carwyn Jones in coalition at Cardiff Bay.

Their "Celtic bloc" statement both ruled out formal coalition "with either Tweedledum or Tweedledee" at Westminster, not that either big party is likely to ask, and ruled in a shopping list of tradeable goodies: "fair" funding for the Celts; protecting local services and the vulnerable; help for a greener economy; and support for business growth. That wishlist could translate as a high-speed rail link from London to Swansea, an end to Trident and to ID cards, and something called "Barnettisation" of English public spending budgets, the Olympics and prison building for instance.

Barnettisation (named after then Treasury minister Joel Barnett) is the formula devised by a Labour minority government in the 1970s to boost spending in Scotland and, less so, in Wales. In the turbulent 1974 parliament Plaid had three MPs, the SNP 11. They mattered. So on small-ticket items, they did good business with the Callaghan government. So did the Ulster Unionists and then Liberals, who even formed an informal Lib-Lab pact in 1977-78, but took no ministerial posts.

In the economic crisis of 2010, deeper but also more global, the scope for small bribes for tacit support, or strategic absence, remains, but it is limited, financially and politically. If the SNP get 10 seats (recovering Scots Labour is currently ahead by 37% to 24%)and Plaid five, the Lib Dems are still likely to have at least four times as many. The Northern Irish are deemed more reliable. In any case the generous Barnett formula (20% higher per head) can also go down in a cuts crisis, though something called "negative Barnett consequentials" would mitigate the blow.

SNP strategists may favour a Tory government as helpful to independence. But David Cameron, like Gordon Brown, is a unionist at heart and not stupid – while Ireland and Iceland's financial plights alarm wavering Scots.

The chances are that a minority Cameron government, if there is one, would do as Salmond does, sail on alone. And what would be the issue on which the Celts could persuade the other unionist parties to unite to bring him down?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Llais Gwynedd's hit list


It hasn't been a great couple of weeks for Llais Gwynedd councillors.
First Councillor Louise Hughes was thumped in the chest in the street by an unknown man for advocating a prison in her area - apparently he was concerned it would attract criminal elements (like himself presumably).
Then her colleague Gwilym Euros Roberts was arrested at a Blaenau Ffestiniog hotel at 7am after allegedly assaulting his wife and a man who was with her. The man in question was Cllr Dylan Richards, a fellow town councillor Gwilym defeated in the county council elections.

A victory for freedom of speech!

Congratulation to Simon Singh on his victory at the Appeal Court against a libel action bought against him by the British Chiropracter Association. I initially reported on this story here and then more on libel here and here

This is how the BBC reported on the story:
A science writer has won the right in the Appeal Court to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action.

Simon Singh was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association over an article in the Guardian in 2008.

Mr Singh questioned the claims of some chiropractors over the treatment of certain childhood conditions.

High Court judge Mr Justice Eady said last May the comments were factual not opinion - meaning Mr Singh could not use the defence of fair comment.

However, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley ruled the High Court judge had "erred in his approach" and allowed Mr Singh's appeal.

Mr Singh described the ruling as "brilliant".

He said: "It is extraordinary this action has cost £200,000 to establish the meaning of a few words."

In the article in April 2008, Mr Singh suggested there was a lack of evidence for the claims over conditions such as colic and asthma.

The British Chiropractic Association alleged that Mr Singh had effectively accused its leaders of knowingly supporting bogus treatments.

This is a victory for common sense as well as freedom of speech and we all look forward to legislation in the new parliament to curb the misuse of our antiquated libel and defamation laws.