Monday, 31 May 2010

Whose the dummy!

Just like the Alabama that I remember, nice, tolerant, understanding people...as long as you're not a bleeding heart liberal!

Israel - a rogue state

Just a week after The Observer revealed that Israel attempted to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa, Israel has demonstrated it is no better than a rogue state. Its military machine have acted as pirates in boarding a peaceful humanitarian aid ship in international waters, using live ammunition and killing at least 16 peaceful campaigners. The ship was part of a flotilla taking aid to Gaza, where Israel operates an effective blockade of the Palestinian people.

This report from one of the ships as the raid was taking place is naturally confused but reveals that Israel is resorting to state terrorism to silence its critics. Many of the people on board were Turkish but also on board were German MPs and other prominent peace campaigners.

The BBC has featured an Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, who tried to claim that the ships "could" have been carrying missiles and also that the Israeli soldiers came under fire. It's not the first time Regev has put up this kind of defence - last time it was to justify the bombing of innocent civilians in Gaza - yet the BBC continues to unquestioningly accept the Israeli line.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Laws goes...first coalition reshuffle!

With David Laws's resignation, Danny Alexander replaces him as Chief Secretary at the Treasury and Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk replaces him as Secretary of State for Scotland. Not once do the Scots get a Scottish MP as Secretary of State but twice and a Lib Dem at that. What do we get in Wales? A bloody Tory from the Home Counties.

No Lord Marek then!

Wrecsam Tories will be particularly disappointed that their newly found socialist defector hasn't been elevated to the House of Lords. Many were banking on him getting a peerage just to get him out of the way for the Assembly elections. Having Marek around for the Assembly elections is a nightmare scenario for Wrecsam and South Clwyd Tories as many were less than enamoured when they heard, and neither were they anywhere near as enthusiastic as Nick and Cheryl were about having John Marek in their ranks.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Cardiff shake-up to expand Welsh education rejected

It's all very well for Leighton Andrews to launch the Welsh Medium Education Strategy in a blaze of publicity but what of Carwyn Jones's decision to reject Cardiff City Council's plans for a new Welsh School in the west of the city...so much for meeting parental demand for Welsh education. The First Minister has succumbed to the 'segregationist' arguments of local politicians. This decision must surely raise questions as to Welsh Labour's committment to Welsh Medium Education throughout Wales.

NHS board consultation on Welsh language branded ‘a sham’ by Wrexham councillor

From today's Daily Post:
The Betsi Cadwaladr health board’s consultation on the Welsh language has been described as “a sham”.

Arfon Jones, Plaid Cymru councillor for Gwersyllt West, Wrexham, criticised Wales’ largest health organisation for planning to approve its language scheme today – the same day as its own consultation on it ends.

Mr Jones Children (Additional Learning, Families and Support) leader on Wrexham Council said: “How on earth can they approve a strategy on the exact day consultation ends? They won’t have time to include consultation comments in the draft before approval and, as such, it has been a sham consultation.

“This strategy is very aspirational and will be very difficult to meet the targets it sets itself, which would suggest that all it does is tick a box to satisfy the Welsh Language Board.”

Cllr Jones claimed none of the board’s top 10 managers spoke Welsh. He said: “You have to ask how representative of our community are these people? They are certainly not answerable to the local community, despite having a billion-pound budget.”

Cllr Jones said far more democratic accountability was needed to ensure the Welsh language got “a fair hearing in our hospitals and health service”.

A board spokesman said: “A progress report will be presented to the board at its meeting on May 27. Any responses to the consultation received at a late stage will be considered before the health board submits the final scheme to the Welsh Language Board.

“Responses to the consultation have applauded the Health Board for conveying a positive message that it is keen to collaborate and work openly and transparently on matters relating to the Welsh language within the health service in North Wales.

“The positive approach of chief executive Mrs Mary Burrows who has shown a genuine commitment to the Welsh language has also been well received.”

He said the managers were recently shortlisted for a Welsh Assembly award for “Promoting the Establishment of a Bilingual Organisation”. Cllr Jones’ claim that none of the 10 top managers spoke Welsh wasn’t disputed.

The board serves 676,000 people across North Wales. A third of its 18,000 staff speak Welsh and courses are offered “to all staff.” The board has three general hospitals – Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan and Wrexham Maelor as well as 22 smaller hospitals and over 90 health centres.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Pragmatic View.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas's pragamatic view on what needs to happen to protect front line services is to be welcomed and I'm glad I'm not alone in the belief that there are massive savings to be made within the public services in Wales. It may well be unpalatable to cut back on jobs but it is totally irresponsible to waste taxpayers money on keeping people in non existent jobs. Perhaps now that the matter has been raised by an ex Minister we can have an open and frank discussion on what needs to be done rather than burying our heads in the sand and hoping that the cuts will go away...they won't.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Great Repeal

Whatever else we might say about the Con-Lib Dem coalition they can't be faulted for this great piece of legislation to push back the state and restore some of our civil liberties and human rights. No identity cards, no unlimited storage of DNA of innocent people and the right to peaceful protest.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

This legislation is a very powerful piece of legislation which allows the state to use directed surveillance such as overt (CCTV) or covert cameras, use electronic means like phone tapping and use "Covert Human Intelligence Sources" or CHIS's, also commonly known as 'informants.' When this was first introduced I was a Police Inspector and I agreed with it, thinking it was to target major criminals, drug dealers and terrorists. Never did I imagine though that it would be used for minor infarctions like 'fly tipping,' neighbourhood disputes, anti social behaviour and the like. Big Brother Watch have recently produced a report the Grim RIPA which highlights the extensive uses that local authority makes of the legislation which targets low level crime and nuisances.

Plaid Panteg has summarised the use of RIPA by Torfaen Council here and I wholeheartedly agree with Marcus's observations.

In Wrecsam (Page 64) there have been 31 uses of RIPA 2008 to 2010 with only 2 prosecutions arising from the authorisations, a paltry 6.5%. They were predominantly for Illegal waste/Fly Tipping (9), Drug dealing (9) and Noise Nuisance (8). What I find worrying here is why did Wrecsam Council get 9 RIPA authorisations to deal with 9 cases of drug dealing when the Police should have applied for those authorisations.

Back in March I became aware that regulations around RIPA were being changed to allow local elected members more powers to challenge and scrutinise RIPA policy etc and I used the opportunity to raise the matter with Scrutiny staff, This was the email I sent:

I presume that scrutiny of the Council's use of this legislation falls to Corporate Governance Scrutiny Committee. The use of this legislation has serious privacy and civil liberties issues as it allows for covert surveillance i.e. fly tipping. It was originally designed to target 'top notch' criminals but its use has now been extended to all areas of our lives. There is a Commissioner who has an overview of this process and inspects procedures and record keeping. I am not aware that any oversight committee of the Council has ever received a report following an inspection.

I was particularly pleased to note that in the latest issue of LACORS that new RIPA Orders have been finalised and come into force on the 6th April 2010, these orders require:
1. Higher rank officers authorise use of RIPA - What level will operate in WCBC?
2. Who will lead on this on SMT at WCBC?
3. Councillors should review WCBC use of Act and set policy annually.
4. Councillors also to consider internal reports on the use of the Act, at least on a quarterly basis (There is nothing on the forward work programme)

Would it be possible to have a report on how the Authority intends to comply and what the scrutinising procedures will be.

Following on from that, I had a meeting with the Strategic Director who leads on RIPA, the Chief Legal and Democratic Officer and the Leader of the Council where I was reassured that the Commissioner who inspect Wrecsam's use of RIPA was satisfied with our proportionate use. Despite a requirement to bring annual reports to Scrutiny and the Executive Board the last opportunity Wrecsam Councillors had of scrutinising RIPA use was a report in June 2008.

I am still waiting for any reports on the introduction of the new RIPA Orders.

Perhaps readers of this blog will check the data for their own authorities and where necessary challenge them on their use of of RIPA powers. Elected Members in Ceredigion should be particularly concerned as their authority was the only one in Wales who failed to respond to Big Brother Watch's FOI request within 27 days.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Ymgynghoriad ar Gynllun Iaith Gymraeg - Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Betsi Cadwaladr.

Dyma'r cysylltiad i fynd at ddogfen ymgynghorol Cynllun Iaith Gymraeg y Bwrdd Iechyd (BI). Peidiwch a disgwyl gormod a gewch chi ddim o'ch siomi!

Dyma fy ymateb i'r ymgynghoriad:
Yn gyntaf oll, gai ddeud mae yn ddiweddar sylweddolais fod y cynllun yma allan i ymgynghoriad. Doeddwn yn gwybod dim amdano na’r cyfarfod cyhoeddus yn Wrecsam ac mae hynny yn wir am fy nghyfoedion sydd yn ymwneud a diddordeb mewn hybu yr iaith a derbyn gwybodaeth drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yn lleol.

Mi ryda chi’n son y dylai y Gymraeg ar Saesneg i fod yn gyfartal ond ffoniwch unryw swyddfa nyrs y gymuned yn ardal Wrecsam a glywch yr un gair o Gymraeg ar y neges ffon. Hefyd sut ellwch ‘ymrwymo i’r egwyddor’ ac wedyn deud ‘pan fo hynny yn bosib.’ Fe fydd pawb yn defnyddio’r esgus o fethu ddarparu gwasanaeth Cymraeg trwy ddeud, bod hi’n “amhosib gneud hynny”.

Yn ail gai ofyn faint yn union o Gymru Cymraeg sydd ar y Fforwm Iaith yma, oes na rywyn sydd yn annibynnol i’r BI? Mi ddylsa rywyn o Fwrdd yr Iaith fod yn aelod o’r Fforwm yma?

Mi rydach yn son am hyrwyddo’r iaith ond ddim yn deud yn union faint o staff rydach am ei hyfforddi i Lefel 1, 2, 3 ayb fel targedau. Hwyrach fod angen gweld sut mae Heddlu Gogledd Cymru yn trefnu ei hyfforddiant drwy gysylltu a Meic Rayment.

I fod yn onest dogfen hefo dyheadau uchelgeisiol iawn ydy hon ond mae o’n teimlo’n yn fwy fwy fel ryw ‘dic mewn bocs’ na rywbeth mae’r BI a gwir ddiddordeb yn ei hyrwyddo.

Gawn ni weld os neith petha wella yn Wrecsam on teimlo rydw i y byddaf yn dy ebostio yn amal iawn gyda'r problemau sylweddol sydd yn Wrecsam mewn darparu gwasanaeth cyfartal yn y Gymraeg a Saesneg.


Mae ganddoch dan ddydd Mercher 27ain o Fai i ymateb i'r ymgynghoriad drwy ebostio
eleri.hughes@wales.nhs.uk

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Strategaeth Addysg Cyfrwng Cymraeg.

Yn Ebrill 2010 cyhoeddodd y Gweinidog Dros Addysg Leighton Andrews, Strategaeth Addysg Cyfrwng Cymraeg, gwnaeth hynny yn Gymraeg mwn datganiad i'r Cynulliad.

Ar yr 11ed o Fai cyhoeddodd y Cynghorydd Marc Jones y blog yma yn dilyn cyfarfod o Fwrdd Gweithredol Wrecsam lle roedd Cynghorwyr Llafur yn gwrthwynebu cais i fynd am ysgol Gymraeg newydd yn Gwersyllt gan gynnig y dylse y Cyngor fynd am ysgol ddwyiaethog mewn ysgol yn y sector Saesneg sef ysgol Gynradd Sirol Gwersyllt.

Mae yna farn unfrydol fod ysgolion dwyiethog mewn ardaloedd di Gymraeg ddim yn gweithio a bod angen trochi plentyn mewn gwersi Cymraeg o leiaf 70% o'r amser i'r blentyn fod yn rhugl yn y Gymraeg; neith hynny byth ddigwydd mewn ysgolion sector Saesneg yn Wrecsam.

Dyma a ddywed y strategaeth am y gwahaniaeth rhwng addys cyfrwng Cymraeg ag addysg ddwyiaethog:

Fel arfer bydd addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg rhwng tair neu bedair oed a thua saith oed yn golygu sicrhau darpariaeth drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yn bennaf. Rhwng saith ac un ar ddeg oed (Cyfnod Allweddol 2 o’r cwricwlwm cenedlaethol), caiff sgiliau Saesneg eu datblygu hefyd drwy ddefnydd priodol o’r iaith fel pwnc a chyfrwng. Un o’r ystyriaethau allweddol yw natur y cydbwysedd ieithyddol rhwng y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg, a dwyster y mewnbwn cyfrwng Cymraeg sydd ei angen er mwyn i ddysgwyr fod yn rhugl yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg dros amser. Derbynnir yn gyffredinol y dylai o leiaf tua 70% o amser y cwricwlwm fod drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg er mwyn i ddysgwyr feistroli’r iaith yn ddigon cadarn i’w galluogi i’w defnyddio mewn amrywiaeth eang o gyd-destunau yn hyderus ac yn rhugl. Mae Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru yn derbyn yr egwyddor ganolog hon ar gyfer ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg ar lefel gynradd ac uwchradd. Mae diffinio ysgolion yn ôl y ddarpariaeth Cyfrwng Cymraeg (Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru, 2007) yn ategu’r egwyddor
hon.

Defnyddir y term ’darpariaeth ddwyieithog’ i gyfeirio at amrywiaeth eang o leoliadau addysgu a dysgu lle y defnyddir y Gymraeg i raddau gwahanol wrth gyflwyno’r ddarpariaeth. Felly, gall ’ysgolion dwyieithog’ gynnwys yr ysgolion hynny lle cyflwynir cyfran helaeth o’r cwricwlwm drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, yr ysgolion hynny lle
ceir dwy ffrwd – ffrwd cyfrwng Cymraeg a ffrwd cyfrwng Saesneg – a addysgir ar wahân, a’r ysgolion hynny lle yr addysgir dim ond ychydig elfennau o’r cwricwlwm neu yr addysgir nifer fach yn unig drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Mewn colegau addysg bellach yn benodol, gall darpariaeth ddwyieithog gyfeirio at sefyllfaoedd lle yr addysgir
dosbarthiadau ar yr un pryd yn y ddwy iaith, neu lle mae cyrsiau yn cynnwys modiwlau cyfrwng Cymraeg.

Bydd deilliannau ieithyddol y mathau gwahanol hyn o ddarpariaeth yn amrywio’n sylweddol. Os yw dysgwr o gefndir Cymraeg yn mynychu ysgol ddwyieithog, gall cwricwlwm cytbwys drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg fod yn effeithiol o ran sicrhau rhuglder yn y ddwy iaith. Dyma’r achos mewn rhai ardaloedd
yng Nghymru. Fodd bynnag, os nad yw sgiliau iaith dysgwyr yn y Gymraeg yn cael eu hatgyfnerthu gan y teulu neu’r gymuned, nid ydynt yn debygol o fod yn hollol rugl a hyderus yn y Gymraeg pan fyddant yn dysgu mewn lleoliad dwyieithog.
Felly, nid yw darpariaeth ddwyieithog bob amser yn sicrhau bod unigolyn yn datblygu i fod
yn siaradwr dwyieithog. Mae’n bwysig bod datblygiadau polisi yn cael eu cynllunio ar sail dealltwriaeth fanwl o’r amrywiaeth eang o ddeilliannau a gaiff dysgwyr drwy ddarpariaeth ddwyieithog. Dylai lleoliadau dwyieithog geisio darparu cymaint o ddarpariaeth drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg ag y bo angen er mwyn i ddysgwyr fod yn rhugl
yn y ddwy iaith.


Mae angen i'r Blaid Lafur yng Nghymru fod yn fwy cyson ac mi ddylai Leighton Andrews ac eraill egluro polisi Cymru'n Un ar addysg Gymraeg i'w grwpiau Llafur ar gynghorau Wrecsam, Caerdydd ag Abertawe. Ar hyn o bryd mae ganddo ni y sefyllfa o'r Blaid Lafur yn lleol yn gwrthwynebu polisiau eu Plaid ei hunain ar lefel cenedlaethol.

Cod Derbyn Plant i Ysgolion.

Mae pob llywodraethwr mewn ysgolion Cymraeg wedi dod ar draws y problem o ymateb i'r galw am addysg Gymraeg; fel arfer mae yna or-alw aruthrol a nifer o rieni yn siomedig.
Mae y Cynulliad wedi cyhoeddi "Y Cod Derbyn i Ysgolion" sydd yn gosod canllawiau trylwyr ac ar y wyneb rhai sydd yn ymddangos yn ddigon teg. Ond o edrych mewn i'r mater mae yna wahaniaethu rhwng gosod meini prawf ar gyfer gor-alw mewn er enghraifft ysgolion Cymraeg ag ysgolion ffydd.

Mae y cod yn deud:
Wrth bennu meini prawf ar gyfer gor alw rhaid i awdurdodau derbyn beidio a gwneud y canlynol:

Mabwysiadu meini prawf sy'n dethol disgyblion ar sail gallu neu ddawn...Mae'r gwaharddiad cyffredinol ar feini prawf seiliedig ar allu yng nghyswllt ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg, yn cynnwys y gallu i siarad Cymraeg

Yn nes ymlaen a thra'n trafod addysg ffydd mae'r cod yn datgan:
Gall ysgolion sydd wedi ei dynodi'n rai crefyddol eu cymeriad roi blaenoriaeth yn eu trefniadau derbyn i aelodau ffydd neu enwad penodol.

Mae hyn yn fy marn i yn gwahaniaethu rhwng ysgolion crefyddol ag ysgolion Cymraeg ac mae angen herio y Cod yma ar sail cydraddoldeb.

Mae'r cod hefyd yn datgan:
Wrth bennu meini prawf ar gyfer gor alw rhaid i awdurdodau derbyn beidio a gwneud y canlynol:

Pan wneir cais am le mewn dosbarth derbyn, rhoi blaenoriaeth i blant sydd wedi mynychu dosbarth meithrin yr ysgol.

Mae polisi sydd yn gwahardd plant sydd wedi bod yn y meithrin mewn Ysgol Gymraeg rhag mynd i'r derbyn yn gwbwl annheg, os ydy ymrwymiad rhieni mor gryf dros addysg Gymraeg drwy yrru ei plant i'r dosbarth meithrin mi ddylsen nhw dderbyn blaenoriaeth i'r dosbarth derbyn.

Mae'r sefyllfa a ddisgrifir uchod wedi digwydd mewn ysgolion Cymraeg yn Wrecsam lle ryda'n wedi colli plant rhugl eu Cymraeg o'r sector addysg Gymraeg oherwydd rheolau gwahaniaethol fel y Cod Derbyn i Ysgolion.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Oath of Allegience.

Congratulations especially to Andrew George the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives for taking the oath of allegience in Cornish; and his hard work in gaining official recognition for the Cornish language is to be commended. Likewise it was nice to see so many Welsh and Scottish MP's take the oath in Welsh and Gaelic; personally I would like to see all Welsh MP's take the oath in Welsh, it shouldn't be too difficult:
Yr wyf yn addo, trwy gymorth y Goruchaf, y byddaf yn ffyddlon ac yn wir deyrngar i’w Mawrhydi, y Frenhines Elizabeth, ei hetifeddion a’i holynwyr, yn ôl y Ddeddf, yn wyneb Duw.

MP's have to take the oath in English first, then either Welsh, Gaelic or Cornish.

It is not only MP's that have to swear an oath of allegience but many public servants including the Police. The problem here is that there are different oaths for England and Wales, Scotland and the North of Ireland. The oath of allegience for Police Officers in England and Wales swears allegience to the monarch whilst the oath in Scotland and the North of Ireland doesn't:
England and Wales:
"I . . . . . of . . . . . do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law."

Scotland:
"I hereby do solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of constable."

The North of Ireland.
"I... hereby do solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of constable, and that in so doing I will act with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all individuals and to their traditions and beliefs."

Shouldn't Police Officers and Public Servants in Wales not have the same rights as those in Scotland and the North of Ireland? Oaths of allegience's should be to the public we serve not the Monarchy.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Leighton Andrews's reforms

It is very commendable of Leighton Andrews to commission a study into how much of the education budget goes into teaching and learning and the fact that 77% of the schools budget is used for 'classroom activities.' I wonder if the PWC study extended as far as determining whether the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) provided value for money especially the four Area Teams which were created in 2006 to relocate the 100 or so ex employees of ELWA the failed quango that was absorbed into DCELLS following Rhodri Morgan's 'bonfire.'

More waste and less for frontline services...again!

Edwina Hart's Charity - Jobs for the boys and girls!

This is a letter I sent to the Western Mail today in response to their headline story about the NHS facing a £500 million black hole. It doesn't need to be like that...

Dear Editor,

I am in full agreement with your Comment, “NHS needs re-thinks to cure its sick finances.” (Western Mail , May 19th). There is an urgent need to make efficiency savings within the NHS in Wales, and those savings are there to be made. There are literally hundreds of bureaucrats earning millions of pounds in jobs that have disappeared since 22 Local Health Boards amalgamated into seven. No jobs have been lost because of the Assembly Government’s “no redundancy policy.” Taxpayers money should be used to fund ‘front line health services’ not non- existent public sector jobs.

Secondly and due to financial pressures, services are being rationalised and centralised. Despite being North Wales’s largest town services’ at Wrecsam’s Maelor Hospital are being downgraded in favour of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and in some instances Ysbyty Gwynedd, a round trip of some 150 miles. This makes a mockery of Edwina Hart’s call for the NHS to reduce its carbon footprint.

The Health Committee of the National Assembly needs to start challenging and scrutinising the work of the Health Minister Edwina Hart about the management of these new Health Boards, we cannot allow this waste and inefficiency continue; we can and must do better.

Yours sincerely,


Councillor Arfon Jones

Welsh Essential.

This is a letter which I wrote to the Western Mail in response to Dr Sibani Roy's letter of the 12th May 2010, where she claims that a requirement to be able to speak Welsh for particular jobs discriminates against non Welsh speakers.

Dear Editor,

I would be grateful if you could allow me an opportunity to reply to Dr Sibani Roy’s letter (Plaid and Language, May 12). As is the case in Wrecsam, I’m sure that one of the biggest employers in Colwyn Bay is Conwy Borough Council and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. Perhaps it would strengthen Dr Roy’s case if she provided evidence to support her assertion that the need for SOME jobs to be Welsh essential is discriminatory.

Let’s take Wrecsam as an example, 14% of the population of Wrecsam County Borough Council speak Welsh but only 5% of the Council’s 6,450 staff speak Welsh and less than 10 non teaching council posts are deemed to be Welsh essential. Of teaching jobs in Wrecsam 190 are Welsh essential, which is hardly surprising when we have 5 Welsh medium primary schools and one Welsh medium Secondary School in the County Borough. Incidentally Wrecsam spend LESS than 0.1% of the budget on Welsh language translation.

Perhaps Dr Roy can obtain similar figures from Conwy County Borough Council and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd so we can examine the data and ascertain whether her assertions are based on fact or just on her perceptions.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Arfon Jones.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Charging Orders and Orders for Sale.

At last year's Plaid Cymru Conference the following motion, moved by myself and seconded by Marc Jones was passed unanimously:

1.Conference calls upon Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament to seek an amendment to the Charging Orders Act 1978, to prevent creditors obtaining a charging order to recover an unsecured loan unless the loan exceeds £30,000 or 25% of the value of the value of the asset; whichever is the greater.
2.Conference calls upon Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament to call for the sections of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, that allows for creditors to impose a charge without recourse to the County or High Court to be revoked.

The Ministry of Justice have now launched a consultation exploring whether minimum thresholds should be introduced on orders for sale applications which is the end result of the grant of a charging order on an unsecured debt. The Minsistry of Justice have previously announced that they would NOT be implementing any of the provisions within Part 4 of the Tribunal, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. The Office of Fair Trading have also announced a review of charging orders. This is everything we asked for in our motion to conference.

Whilst most of the credit for these changes will be claimed by Citizens Advice lobbying activity; Hywel Williams MP is also to be congratulated for making our motion a reality by introducing changes at Westminster and also influencing the Ministry of Justice to make the relevant changes.

This shows how influential Plaid Cymru can be even with a few MP's. It most certainly puts paid to the argument that a vote for Plaid Cymru is a wasted vote.

(Source : Citizens Advice Bureau Social Policy Bulletin March 2010)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Fair Pensions for All.

Some of you will have noticed that I have been having a bit of a ding dong debate with the Druid about Plaid Cymru's 'flatlining' at the recent election. Now the Druid believes our 'failure' (his words) was down to the launch of our signature policy of Fair Pensions where it was 'spun' by the press as an unaffordable policy which we could never implement because we could only get a maximum of 40 MP's in Wales. This fails to recognise the strength of the 'progressive left' within parliament many of whom would identify and support such a policy.

Now this is what the Western Mail said in its headline,
"Promise of a 30% pension increase set to give Plaid a running start in the battle for Commons seats"

It then goes on to report:
“Under Plaid’s plans for a living pension everyone from the age of 65 will receive a guaranteed state pension at the rate of pension credit – which next year would amount to £202 per week for a couple. We know that many pensioners in poverty do not apply for pension credit.

To ensure that every pensioner gets pension credit up to minimum income guarantee of £132 (single) and £205 (couple) doesn't mean an increase of 30%, it just means they get their entitlement which currently they don't.

Perhaps I could clarify by using an article from one of my election newsletters:

"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 per week. Many older people don't 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 don't know about Pension Credit, because its means tested people have to apply for it.

Many people have saved for their retirement and because they have savings they think they cannot have anymore money but that is not the case. The first £10,000 of savings is not counted when calculating Pension Credit. Married couples who have incomes of £250 per week may still be entitled to some Pension Credit.

There are 13,500 people over 65 in Wrecsam and only a third of them are in receipt of Pension Credit. Research suggests that a further third of all pensioners are eligible for Pension Credit but don't get it; this means that 4,000 older people in Wrecsam are losing out. I and Plaid Cymru believe that Pension Credit should be included in the State Retirement Pension and then everyone gets it automatically. That extra £35 a week would make a massive difference to the lives of those people not getting Pension Credit."

The failure to take up Pension Credit SAVES the government nearly £6 billion a year.
Rather than criticising Plaid Cymru you should be joining with us in ensuring a fair and equitable society.

On a more personal note, if you want a hand to claim you pension credit (you can claim from 60!) just email me, always willing to help an old adversary.

Wales needs to do efficiency savings!

We can argue as long as we like, and blame whoever we want about next year's block grant settlement to Wales but the truth of the matter is that there are likely to be cuts to the budget and 'whingeing' about it is not going to do anything to reduce its impact on 'front line services.' Note that at this point I separate out the difference between "protecting public sector jobs" and "protecting front line services". The SOLE purpose of public services is to provide support and assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. The role of the public sector IS NOT to retain expensive bureaucrats in non existent jobs as what has happened after the bonfire of the quangos in 2006 and latterly with the amalgamation of the twenty two Local Health Boards into seven trusts. These rationalisations should have realised massive efficiency savings by cutting out waste but they haven't

If the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board cut just 5% of its £1.1 BILLION budget it would realise £50 million in savings, this is a quarter of the £220 million that Plaid Cymru estimate the block grant will be cut by next year. The BCU Health Board is just the tip of the iceberg there are another 6 Health Boards which are likely to be just as wasteful not to mention the 22 Local Authorities.

As Brian Morgan says in his excellent article in the Western Mail recently,
"Is it not time we changed tack and accepted “the folly of pumping ever more government expenditure into unreformed public services”? We now need to step back and ask the fundamental question: is it not time we changed the way we do things in Wales?

There are other links to articles and blogs here and here

Irrespective of which party we support and which party is in government we should not be condoning waste and inefficiency and we should start addressing the problem NOW and not next April when the cuts come in.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Druids Take on Plaid Cymru and the Election.

The Druid sets out his reasons why he thinks that Plaid Cymru 'flatlined' in the election and failed to make any gains. The Druid disagrees with Welsh Ramblings's assessment that it was down to the Leader's debates. The Druid argues that it was Plaid Cymru's policies that let them down, particularly the Pensions policy where Plaid Cymru intended to raise pensions by 30% which the Druid thought was a 'cynical' ploy and that the public wouldn't be taken in because it was unaffordable. The Druid also claimed that Plaid Cymru would never be in a position to deliver on its promises.

What has happened since proves the Druid wrong, Plaid Cymru's Pensions policy is no less affordable than Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems policy to increase personal tax allowance from £6,500 to £10,000, which would cost £26 billion to implement. Whilst Plaid Cymru flatlined the Lib Dems LOST 6 seats and still ended up with five cabinet seats and a real opportunity to implement their personal allowance tax plans albeit in stages.

Perhaps the Druid should ask himself why Plaid Cymru had a hard time over their pensions policy in the Western Mail when the Lib Dems went about their business unchallenged as regards the affordability of their tax plans!

It could quite as easy been Plaid Cymru and the SNP in the coalition had they both not 'flatlined', and they would then have stood a real chance of implementing this pension policy.

I believe that Plaid Cymru's problem in Westminster elections is convincing the electorate of our relevance and that a vote for us is not a wasted vote, especially because of the problem the electorate seem to have in distinguishing, policy wise between Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

It would have been interesting had we had Single Transferable Voting in this election and to see how many second preference votes Plaid Cymru would have had from Liberal Democrat AND Labour voters.

In concluding can I just suggest to the Druid that one can rely too much on statistics especially as 'correlation doesn't automatically imply causation.'

The Best Thing I've Read All Year

I thought that this heart rendering letter sent to a newspaper in Vermont from the mother of a son who is gay should gain as much circulation in the UK as possible in the hope that it will eventually reach the desk of Teresa May the Equalities Minister, who has consistently voted against much of the legislation which aims to give gay couples equality and the same rights as everyone else.

It is frankly a disgrace that young gay people are pushed to attempting suicide by the bigotry and intolerance shown towards them especially as much of it is in the name of religion.

If you wish to sign a petition calling on Teresa May to resign because of her past record towards gays go here.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Tired of the Lib-Con love-in?

Or why you still can't trust some politicians...

At the Lib Dems' 2008 spring conference, Nick Clegg said: "The day before I was elected leader, Mr Cameron suggested we join them. He talked about a 'progressive alliance'. This talk of alliances comes up a lot, doesn't it? Everyone wants to be in our gang. So I want to make something very clear today. Will I ever join a Conservative government? No."
Nick Clegg is now deputy to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Read more here.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Arkell v. Pressdram 1971

Whilst I was following links in Jack of Kent's blog about the David Osler libel case, I came across the case of Arkell v Pressdram 1971, where Arkell sued Private Eye for libel. I've reproduced a summary of the case below. Note Private Eye's response to a letter from Arkell's solicitors:

Arkell v. Pressdram is an otherwise obscure libel action initiated against the British satirical magazine Private Eye. The substance of the alleged libel was that Arkell was accepting bribes. What made the action famous, and a point of reference years later, was the following exchange of letters:

Solicitor (Goodman Derrick & Co.)
We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd. His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory. We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter. Mr Arkell's first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.

Private Eye
We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell's attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

What more would one wish to add?

Bloggers and Online Media Libel Case Struck Out

Great news from the High Court in London today when Mr Justice Eady threw out a libel/defamation case for Abuse of Process. I won't publish details of the claimant but the defendant was David Ostler a journalist and popular left wing blogger. Details of the case can be found in the press release issued by defending counsel and further commentary by Jack of Kent. This is the second succesfull defence of a libel claim in recent weeks, the first being the Simon Singh case who succesfully defended a libel case brought by the British Chiropracter Association.

There is still a need for some serious libel reform so please sign this petition.

Unravelling

It hasn't taken long for things to start to unravel for the Liberal Democrats with the resignation of a senior party activist and founder of the blog Lib Dem Voice, Rob Fenwick. To understand Rob's rationale for resigning read his blog here
I'm sure there are many thousands more people who voted Liberal Democrats who feel the same as Rob.

Gillan me softly with her lies...

We welcome new contributors and we're delighted to publish Plaid Hightown's considered rant about our new colonial governor

So, Cheryl Gillan is the new Secretary of State for Wales.

This is apparently no problem because the last Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was Welsh- actually he was in fact Shaun Woodward MP for St Helens South- I hope her political awareness will be sharper as Welsh Secretary!

This is how Cheryl Gillan ‘justifies’ her appointment despite representing an English constituency during an interview for BBC Wales.

However, this reveals a more worrying truth about the Conservative party and its attitude to Wales. Cheryl Gillan fails to mention the track record of MPs who have held the post of Secretary of State for Wales since its creation in 1964 and, more importantly, their constituency base. Under Labour governments all have represented Welsh constituencies. The Tories are reverting to sort by opting for an English MP to hold this post, as every other Welsh Secretary they have selected.

But not to worry, Cheryl was born in Wales (by all accounts she hasn’t lived here since the age of 11) and shares that worthwhile passion for singing that ensures a strong identity with the Welsh people!

Peter Hain (granted there may have been past differences between this party and the Honourable Member for Neath!) was born in Kenya, but represented a Welsh constituency and this surely gave him a firmer mandate to be appointed Secretary of State for Wales than a tenuous claim of being born in Wales!

Gillan’s claim is ludicrous for other reasons. Since the post of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was created in 1972 there has only been one candidate for the two main British parties elected as an MP for an Ulster constituency. This was Stratton Mills who within a year had joined the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland, becoming the first MP to represent this party. Apart from this, most people who voted in the recent election are fully aware of the political situation in Northern Ireland to understand why the government ministers for Northern Ireland are from other nations of the United Kingdom. Cheryl Gillan’s attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the Welsh nation with this feeble assertion either takes us for mugs or she is completely out of touch.

The truth is the Tories have not changed their attitudes towards Wales and still clearly believe we are incapable of taking care of our own affairs or having our own voice in the cabinet to deal with Welsh affairs. Despite having 10 coalition MPs from Wales who could have been appointed to this post (a novelty for the Tories this century!), the Tory Prime Minister has opted for his privately educated friend.
This will be a test of their attitude towards devolution and it will be interesting to see their viewpoint on the forthcoming referendum on more powers for the National Assembly. As a conduit between the administration in Cardiff and the government in London the Welsh Secretary will have a vital role to play. Indeed, despite being a “strong voice for Wales in the shadow cabinet”, she currently has no clue what she will do in office!

It proves that, despite all the pre-election rhetoric of restoring Parliament for the people and ensuring a democracy that represents the public and not the politicians, the London-centric parties have no interest in providing such a solution for Wales and its people. They managed to find a suitable Scottish MP to fulfil the corresponding role in Scotland- what have the 10 Welsh Con-Libs done to be ignored so?
A further reason to rue the missed opportunity to form a coalition that would have commanded the right to claim it represented the broader electorate of the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

In the national interest?

The Lib Dem and Tory vote combined in England was 66%
The Lib Dem and Tory vote combined in Wales was 46%
The Lib Dem and Tory vote combined in Scotland was 36%

Much was made of governing in the "national interest" when we all know that the interests of City banksters and big business are at odds with the interests of workers, the sick and the elderly. Let's see whether whose interests Con-Lib coalition represents...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Tarian Cymru - a shield for Wales

News that Brown has gone and Cameron will be PM means Wales faces "savage cuts" that will impact heavily on our public services.
Plaid has a vital job to do as "Tarian Cymru" - a shield for Wales.

Put up or shut up on Welsh-medium education

Three weeks I wrote this post asking whether Welsh-medium education was a council priority for certain officers.
It helped spur a great deal of positive movement within the council to put forward plans for a bid for Welsh Government money to provide a new Welsh-medium school in the north of the county (effectively Llay or Gwersyllt).
The basis for such a new school could not be clearer. As well as an independent survey of parents in 2007 demonstrating demand, there are presently 138 children from Gwersyllt and Llay in either Ysgol Plas Coch or Ysgol Bodhyfryd, both in town. That has led to mobile classrooms in Ysgol Plas Coch to meet the demand - the school is now taking an intake of 60 per year as a temporary measure.
Despite this clear evidence, Labour councillors showed a fierce resistance to the facts. The demand for Welsh-medium education was described as "anecdotal" and there were dire warnings of building a 210-strong school that would be "half empty".
This line of attack then extended to talking of Welsh-medium education being "segregationalist" and that communities would be divided unless Welsh-medium education took place within English-medium schools. This would place Wrecsam out of step with mainstream thinking on bilingual education and, in a predominantly English-speaking area, it's understand that creating an Welsh-speaking environment in school is vital.
It's time for Labour to put up some facts to back up their views on this subject.
Unfortunately their opposition extended, in the end, to proposing an amendment that the bid for the Welsh-medium school be excluded from the funding application to the Welsh Government. Thankfully that narrow-minded and frankly spiteful move was voted down 7-2 but it's clear from today that Labour in Wrecsam remains a party opposed to the expansion of Welsh-medium education.

Labour's Abuse of Power!

It was Labour who passed the Terrorism Act 2000 which contains Section 44, the most draconian piece of legislation to restrict our civil liberties and is an abuse of power. It's the second time that Grant Smith an architectural photographer has been apprehended by the City of London Police for taking photographs of buildings and London's skyline. The European Court of Human Rights have found that Section 44 powers are illegal and breach our human rights but the Police still use them. To read the full story go here and to join the Facebook group, "I'm a photographer not a terrorist" go here

Will an agreement with the Lib Dems tone down Labour's anti civil libertarian obsession? Let's hope so and let's revoke Section 44.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Nigel Farage.

Wasn't it ironic that Nigel Farage the Eurosceptic ex leader of UKIP was pushed into third place in Buckingham behind John Stevens a former Conservative MEP who co founded the Pro Euro Conservative Party in 1999, to fight anti Europeanism in the Tory Party.

So even in the heart of middle England an europhile candidate can beat an eurosceptic candidate. It now begs the question of exactly how anti European we really are?

Canlyniad Etholiad Wrecsam.

Er fy mod wedi cynyddu pleidlais Plaid Cymru o ryw 1700 i 2000 (6.15%), rhaid deud mae digon siomedig yr oeddem ni gyda'r canlyniad ond o weld be sydd wedi digwydd trwy Cymru gyfan y dylsem fod yn hapus ein bod wedi cymyddu o gwbwl. Cwympodd mwyafrif Lucas o 6,000 i tua 3,500, a chododd pleidlais Tom Rippeth a Gareth Hughes a mi gafodd y Blaid ei gwasgu fel canlyniad. Y sioc fwyaf dwi'n meddwl oedd y bleidlais Geidwadol yn Wrecsam a hwythau heb neud fawr o ymdrech; mae hyn yn dangos natur grai y bleidlais Geidwadol yn Wrecsam. Braf oedd dweud mae gwael iawn nath UKIP (750) ar BNP (1100)a mi bwdodd John Humberstone yr ymgeisydd UKIP gan fod y BNP wedi ei guro a ni arhosodd i'r canlyniad! Does dim gwell na gweld pleidiau yr adain dde yn pwdu nagoes? Mae gen i ofn fod y Rhyddfrydwyr Democrataidd wedi methu ei siawns orau i gipio'r sedd tro yma a dwi ddim yn eu gweld yn gallu rhoi yr adnoddau i mewn i'r frwydr nesa eto fel y gwnaethom y tro yma.

What happen's next?

Over the last few days many of us have read a few newspapers and have tried to make sense of the general election result but to me it was still as clear as mud until I read this short summary by the Nosemonkey's Eutopia blog. A coalition of progressive parties in Westminster seems the obvious way forward. I just cannot see a Lib Dem/Tory coalition working out especially not on the question of PR...this has got to be the line in the sand for Clegg.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Wrecsam: Who will be smiling tomorrow?

The last lap of the election race has almost been run and Wrecsam's electorate could turn up a surprise.

That makes it difficult to make any certain predictions for a seat that have been solidly Labour since 1997. Ian Lucas were sitting on a substantial majority and had 45% of the vote in 2005. There's no doubt that % will be severely reduced by the morning.
The Liberal Democrats have been spending money like a drunken Lottery winner to try to win a seat in North Wales. They may well succeed.
The Tories, with a weak candidate and a non-existent campaign, have stalled and concentrated their efforts in Clwyd South.
Plaid is on course for its best result in Wrecsam for a generation and Arfon Jones has worked tirelessly to take the message out to a new audience - how many voters in Golly and Lavister have been canvassed before?! Arfon's team of volunteers have been fantastic in getting newsletters, postcards and last-minute leaflets out across the constituency.
It will be interesting to see whether the blanket media coverage for the big London parties outweighs our grassroots efforts.

Who will be smiling in the morning? We will... as we see the dawn in with Betsan and Vaughan and a bottle of bubbly!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Leader ad


This advert appeared in yesterday's and today's Leader - one way to ensure the message gets through the media blackout.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

LIB DEMS VOTE LABOUR HERE

The Daily Mirror has today published a tactical voting guide on how to keep the Tories out in marginal seats. One of those marginal seats is Aberconwy where they are suggesting that Liberal Democrat voters vote for Ronnie Hughes to keep Guto Bebb from winning...doh!! They just haven't a clue as to Welsh politics have they, where the hell did they find their political affairs team from?

How did I know this? No I didn't buy it, I read the front page on the stand.

Lucas Rattled.

It is obvious by the number of Ministerial visits to Wrecsam Constituency that Ian Lucas is rattled and Labour are really concerned they might lose Wrecsam on at least an 11% swing. On Saturday we had the Lord Adonis coming here to give the demoralised Labour team a lift, yesterday it was David Miliband gathering support for a leadership bid undoubtedly. Today we are expecting the great man himself, Gordon Brown, don't know where, don't know when. Initially it was Glyndwr University then it was Sharps in Llay but no one's too sure. One thing is clear Gordy doesn't want to meet the public this is just another stage managed photo opportunity to promote Lucas's candidacy.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Domestic Bliss!!



(Click on photos to enlarge)
Domestic bliss!! Is this what its like in Jessica Morden's house? Labour and Plaid posters side by side!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Responsiveness of Candidates.

As Prospective Parliamentary candidates we receive 100's of emails and I try to respond to them all and I get some positive feedback. Many comment on the fact that other candidates have failed to respond. If candidates can't respond what hope is there for the public when some of those candidates are elected? I don't think the lessons of the expenses scandals have been learnt, prospective candidates still take the electorate for granted and are unresponsive to their demands.

For a good example take www.Theyworkforyou.com's survey of all candidates, and this is the response from Wrecsam candidates 3 days before polling day:

Candidates in Wrexham

* British National Party Mel Roberts - survey not emailed, not posted, not filled in
* UK Independence Party - UKIP John Humberstone - survey has been emailed, not posted, not filled in
* Conservative Party Gareth Hughes - survey has been emailed, has been posted, not filled in
* Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales Arfon Jones - survey has been emailed, has been posted, has been filled in
* Labour Party Ian Lucas - survey not emailed, has been posted, not filled in
* Liberal Democrats Tom Rippeth - survey has been emailed, has been posted, not filled in.

Ask yourself who is the candidate most responsive to constituents?

Nick Griffin in his "moderate" days

The Cook Report exposed Griffin for the holocaust-denying racist that he is. He's now learned to moderate the language but here he is in less guarded moments.

Love music, hate censorship



Nick Griffin can spout hate on Question Time but young Asian rappers like Sabotage have their anti-facist music banned from commercial radio stations. This is censorship by an establishment that tolerates fascism and hate groups.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

'Come clean on Trident' challenge to Liberal Democrats

PRESS RELEASE

The people of Wales need to know where the Liberal Democrats stand on the independent nuclear deterrent, according to a Plaid Cymru candidate.

The Liberal Democrats were challenged to explain their position by Plaid Cymru's Wrecsam candidate Arfon Jones. At present the Liberal Democrats oppose a "like-for-like" replacement of the upgrade of the Trident missile system because of the 100 billion expense but remain committed to a nuclear deterrent.

Arfon Jones is challenging the Liberal Democrats ex-leader Lord Ashdown, who is also a defence expert and is due to visit Wrexham on Monday, to come clean on their policy on replacing Trident.

Arfon Jones said:
"Nick Clegg said he opposed Trident but favoured a less expensive option but failed to explain further his partys policies on the independent nuclear deterrent. He just talks about alternatives but what are these alternatives?

Nick Cleggs waffle around the question points to the fact that Liberal Democrats policy is only skin deep and does not bear scrutiny."


He added:
Liberal Democrat policy has not been scrutinised at all during this election campaign, its been all spin and no substance. They portray themselves as some ethical party full of moral values when in fact they are no different from the Tories or Labour when it comes to peace and justice.

"Plaid is clear - we will not replace Trident nuclear missiles and that will save 100bn. It is neither affordable financially or morally.

NB - New blog Policy Diffusion, not too fussed about the Lib Dems either, but not for the same reasons as us, we quite like the idea of a balanced parliament. Don't suppose Policy Diffusion has anything to do with Rupert Murdoch do they?

Plaid's new mobile advertising


Plaid's banner works overtime around Wrecsam constituency... more guerilla marketing.

Plaid united for May Day



Mayday turned out to be a good day for Plaid in Wrecsam today - 16 activists came out (including a dedicated supporter from Liverpool!) along with Janet Ryder and Arfon Jones to hammer the message home in Wrecsam town centre with a PA system and our well-travelled banner that Plaid is a real contender in both seats. Leaflets, stickers and posters were flying off the stall.

Doesn't the banner look good?