Thursday, 30 September 2010

Crack Down on Tax Cheats.

Please support this 38 Degree campaign against tax cheats (in fact all of 38 Degree campaigns are worthy of support)
Thousands of us have decided what 38 Degrees should do as the government plans cuts. Together we're going to push them to crack down on the billions we lose from tax dodgers every year.

Right now Chancellor George Osborne is deciding what he'll cut. We're all going to be hit by the VAT rise in January and less money for services like schools, hospitals and the police. [1] Every year a selfish few rip us off by dodging billions in tax. It's a big problem - the government says every year we lose at least £42 billion in "uncollected" tax. [2] The government needs to stand up to tax cheats and make sure everybody, including billionaires, bankers and media moguls, pays their fair share.

So here's the plan. This week we're launching our "Crack Down on Tax Dodgers" petition to pile the pressure on Osborne. Next week, together we'll start work on hard hitting adverts to publicly shame the Government into taking real action. [3] Then as our ads are hitting the media we'll take the campaign to Parliament - so everywhere Osborne goes he'll be asked "what are you doing to stop tax dodgers?"

But time's tight - the first thing we need to do is prove this is a big issue amongst ordinary taxpayers. Help make this petition massive so the government knows how many of us want them to "Crack Down on Tax Dodgers". Sign the petition now:

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Hart's Nine Lives!

I can't believe that Edwina Hart has survived Kirsty Williams's exposure of her 'allegedly' misleading the Assembly. She must have a bloody charmed life, problems within the Wales NHS are being exposed daily but we seem incapable of exploiting them so as to force a ministerial resignation. Surely she cannot possibly survive anymore bad news stories about the NHS.

Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes!!

I didn't read the Times in detail today, I try not to put money in Murdoch's pockets but I did have a quick flick of a discarded copy this afternoon whilst having my large caffeine fix at Cafe Nero. (Can't even give you a link as I refuse to subscribe to Times Online on principle.) Did I read right that Ed the Red said that "New Labour" had made mistakes on...Iraq!...City of London!...and Immigration!...and they try to claim the last 13 years of a Labour government had been a success? If the last 13 years was a success I dread to think what a catastrophe is, but the people of Iraq can probably tell us!

Red Ed also admits Labour made mistake with ID cards and 90 detention...christ, he's a closet Liberal Democrat now!

I wonder what he'll be tomorrow?

One family, 12 votes!

Ian Bone exposes the truth behind Labour's democratic election:

It's more corrupt than the Afghan election. I can reveal that the Kinnocks had no less than 12 votes in the Labour leadership election - no wonder the pantswetting Baron Kinnock was salivating over Dead Head's victory in anticipation of a juicy bone being thrown his way. Neil and Glenys had two votes each as Labour party members and affiliated trade union members plus three more votes each as members of the Fabian Society, the Socialist Education Association and the Socialist Health Association. Glenys had another vote as an MEP and Neil as a member of the Co-operative Society.
That's a dozen votes!!! Perhaps Robert Mugabe could send observers to the next one.


Can anyone beat that?

George Orwell's Animal Farm had it right: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Anti-cuts meeting slams "flaky" government


Trade unionists and community campaigners joined together to launch North Wales Against Cuts at a packed public meeting in Wrexham last night.

The campaign attracted support from prominent local trade unionists, those fighting cuts in the community as well as people on disability benefits who fear plans by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition to reduce public spending budgets by as much as a quarter.

Among the speakers were PCS union activist Steve Ryan, who works at Wrexham's tax office. He said:

"The extent of the attack on the working class is now apparent. Rises in VAT, cuts to benefits and public services all affect those worst off most. They are even getting ready to kick you out of your council house and interest rates are set to rise sharply.

"We must fight back. We must form campaign groups in all our communities. The experience of fighting the Poll Tax 20 years ago shows what determined resistance can do - it brought down Thatcher, a far stronger governement than the weak coalition we have at present. Everyone should come together now and form the resistance. Join us."

Craig Lewis, a lecturer working in Wrexham, pointed out that the Tories and their friends in the press were spinning a myth that the debt was historically high. He added:

"It's also a myth that we can't afford our public services - this is an ideological attack on the public sector disguised as a need to reduce the deficit."

He called for the maximum possible unity between groups affected by the coming cuts and said the coalition government was vulnerable because it was so "flaky".

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Leanne Wood said there were cuts to be made in the pay of top officials in the public sector but added her weight to a popular campaign against cutting frontline services.

In a comment from the floor, a local woman attacked the coalition government's view that living on benefits was a "lifestyle choice". She said: "Having MS is not a lifestyle choice".

Join the North Wales Against Cuts Facebook group here to find out more about future campaign events.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Wrecsam youngsters tell BNP to "go away"

This has made my day... go to Indymedia for pictures of the BNP packing up after the spontaneous demo.

A group of young people held an impromptu demonstration against a BNP stall in Wrexham today, which culminated in the BNP giving up and going home.The protest was started by a lone student, who was so outraged by the presence of the BNP in the town centre that he found a piece of cardboard and used it to make a placard to convey his message eloquently with just two words: 'GO AWAY.' He proceeded to stand facing the stall and announced that he wouldn't be leaving until the BNP did.

Gradually, the demonstration attracted the attention of other passers-by, who made more placards including 'SAY NO TO HOMOPHOBIA' and 'NO TO FASCISM' and acquired a rainbow peace flag. By this time there was a fluid group of around 20 or so good-humoured young people objecting to the stall and rendering the BNP all but invisible to shoppers walking down Hope Street.

In the face of this determined opposition, the BNP representatives were obviously struggling to keep their tempers and to maintain the thin veneer of respectability they had adopted. One of them advanced towards the demonstration shaking his fist menacingly and issuing threats of legal action after someone apparently called him 'Scum', but the pesky youngsters weren't intimidated by this threatening behaviour and, in the end, there was nothing for the BNP to do but to pack up the stall and do what it said on the placard.

Incidentally, the stall was campaigning for British troops to be brought home from Afghanistan.

Which Milipede did Wales vote for?

HT to Matt Raven for directing me to this extremely useful page which shows how each Constituency Labour Party voted in the Labour Party leadership battle. Now personally I wasn't particularly bothered which one of the Milipede brothers won but I suppose for ambitious Welsh MP's it was imperative that they backed the winning horse. Of the 24 MP's whose support was known, 11 supported Ed Miliband including candidates for the shadow cabinet, Peter Hain, Ian Lucas and Wayne David. There was strong support for Ed Miliband from amongst Labour AM's with 15 out of 26 supporting him. Ed Miliband also had the support of the Kinnocks and Derek Vaughan, Wales's lone Labour MEP.

With such a strong showing amongst the movers and shakers and the largest Unions, one would have expected the CLP's to fall behind Ed, but it wasn't to be. Out of the 40 CLP's only 8 CLP's suppported Ed with 32 CLP's supporting David. Despite being candidates for the shadow cabinet, Ian Lucas and Wayne David failed to persuade their respective CLP's to follow their lead and support Ed Miliband. The CLP's that supported Ed, were, Arfon, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Neath, Vale of Glamorgan, Ynys Mon and Gower.

In addition to the voting data this table also contains valuable information on Labour Party membership figures. We must assume that the column Ballot Papers Distributed relate to the card carrying members at some date in the past. If that is the case Labour party membership in Wales standing at 11,163 is indeed good news to opposition parties.

The membership data for the 40 Welsh CLP's is reproduced below:

Aberavon - 367.
Aberconwy - 168.
Alyn & Deeside - 305
Arfon - 154.
Blaenau Gwent - 310.
Brecon & Radnor - 220.
Bridgend - 288.
Caerffili - 315.
Cardiff Central - 324.
Cardiff North - 408.
Cardiff South - 375.
Cardiff West - 454.
Carmarthen East - 203.
Carmarthen West - 207.
Ceredigion - 146.
Clwyd South - 252.
Clwyd West - 161.
Cynon - 309.
Delyn - 269.
Dwyfor Meirion - 89.
Gower - 383.
Islwyn - 275.
Llanelli - 276.
Merthyr - 317.
Monmouth - 329.
Montgomery - 89.
Neath - 391.
Newport E - 250.
Newport W - 346.
Ogmore - 359.
Pontypridd - 333.
Preseli - 188.
Rhondda - 404.
Swansea E - 212.
Swansea W - 325.
Torfaen - 359.
Vale of Clwyd - 261.
Vale of Glamorgan - 373.
Wrecsam - 209.
Ynys Mon - 160.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

People before profit - a critique of the planning system

This was Cllr Carrie Harper's speech to today's Sustainable Communities conference in Glyndwr University today. It's an excellent critique of the planning system and seeks to address the unfair advantage developers have over community campaigners.

Planning affects everyone. The idea of planning at whatever level is to address the different needs of our communities in a way that protects what we value and makes provision for what we may need in the future. It should always attempt to balance competing needs for development such as housing and employment with the need to protect our environment and also maintain a sense of place and identity within our communities. In order to be sustainable, our planning system in Wales must also take into account the needs of our language, identity and culture which are all vital parts of our social fabric. As local people, those are the things that we value.

You may have noticed that a word I have used several times in describing what planning is for, is need. That is the crucial element which should be the foundation for planning whether at a national, regional or local level. It's important to remember that what the planning system provides, or doesn't provide, affects every aspect of daily life, whether that's your health, life opportunities, equality or even culture. It is the most crucial element in local government.

In reality, the whole planning system is not focussed on local needs, it's not focussed on sustainability but, in fact, the system is used as a means of justification of ever increasing unsustainable development that is based on national strategies, which are economically driven.

Very often, the economic benefits of developments are not felt by the local communities that are affected by them. For example, a commuter estate that's tagged onto a village, which very often as we've seen in many of the villages around Wrecsam and like is planned in Bodelwyddan can double or even triple the size of a village. There is no way that that kind of development brings economic benefit to those local communities. In fact the only economic benefits are to the developers and their associated consultants.

I think it's quite clear in the case of the sub-regional strategy that the plan is not based on local need. In fact it has been specified in various documents, that it is to relieve the housing pressure on Cheshire and to provide land supply for the expansion of the Liverpool City region.

What planners will say, if you read the literature from planning departments, is that we have policies in place to protect identity and language, to protect communities and so on, and that the focus of the system is on local aspirations and protecting local assets.

But what happens in reality, and you can see the results of this all around us, is that there is a fundamental contradiction in policy. On the one hand, local planning guidance within local authorities, is geared towards ensuring development is not detrimental to communities. We have policies in place in Wrecsam for instance stating that development must not be detrimental to the Welsh language or to Welsh identity.

But national guidance insists that local authorities implement housing targets, such as the population projections issued by the Welsh Assembly, these projections use figures that are 50% based on past in-migration trends and therefore are in no way related to local need whatsoever. The use of these figures creates a system that has actually generated an additional housing market. In areas that have seen a housing boom for instance, the housing levels are projected forward into future local development plans, creating a vicious cycle of unnaturally high levels of development and population growth.

In North East Wales we have seen huge levels of housing development. In Wrecsam for instance, since 1996 approximately 10,000 houses have either been built or given planning permission, a very tiny proportion of these -about 1% - have actually been affordable for local people. As a direct result of this development, the in-migration rate into Wrecsam between 2001 and 2008 was 3.5 times the Welsh average and house prices rose a staggering 60% in just 4 years.

Clearly you can't say that this is based on local need. House prices have gone through the roof, it's put major pressure on all our services such as schools, doctors, dentists, roads and at the same time the majority of local people still can't afford a house.

So how, if we have these local policies that are here to protect our local environment, heritage and the local interest, do things like the sub-regional strategy and the use of these population projection figures get implemented and override the local policies?

What we see happening is that officers have the say, it's how they interpret the policies that makes the difference. It's very often the officers' focus that is on the likes of the sub-regional strategy rather than the local picture.

For example, when forming the local development plan here in Wrecsam, I proposed 100% affordable housing, because that is the only identified need we have in the borough. That proposal was laughed at. So then we proposed having a policy of 50% of all housing allocations being affordable. Although accepted initially politically, within a couple of weeks the officers had produced a consultants report detailing why 50% affordable housing was not viable. The reason why it wasn't viable was because of developers "usual profit margins". So this really puts in context the phrase of "profits before people" and really shows clearly that their focus isn't on what is needed locally but rather on the needs of the development companies.

Another example, is a controversial National Trust development just down the road here in Rhostyllen for 223 houses. There was a policy in Wrecsam's local development plan at the time, which stated that Rhostyllen should not have development of more than 160 houses. It also went on to explain why - because the amenities in the village could not cope with any more than this. This policy was already part of a local plan that spanned a 15-year period, so before this application even came to the planning committee, there had already been at least a further 100 houses built in this village. Needless to say that not only did this application get permission, but several others after it did as well.

In looking at situations like this, which are a common experience, if a planning department claims that their focus is on local needs, why is this type of thing consistently happening in Brymbo, Gwersyllt, Ruabon, Bodelwydden, Llangollen, it's common place.

If we're going to genuinely have sustainable development - which of course is needed in Wales because of the delicate, fragile situation that our identity and language- we need better quality planning personnel and systems. For example, planning officers need to be refocussed and given a clear role. That role should not be to override the political steer, or should it be on anything other than local needs and aspirations. In order to make this happen, what is also needed is much more scrutiny and accountability of these officers to the public. Of course, it's stated that the planning process is a democratic one and that public opinion is taken into account. In my experience this is just simply not true. We all know how deficient any official consultations are and I think the lack of consultation on the sub-regional strategy absolutely illustrates this point, even by the Ministers admission only 100 stakeholders actually contributed to that process.

I think what would also be helpful would be to re-affirm in an official and strong way that planning officers work for the local community and that the planning system within the Welsh Assembly is working for the people of Wales.

For instance, I don't think it's appropriate that planning officers have unsupervised meetings with developers and generally in the planning process, much more weight should be put on local opinion. Possibly the most important point is that there should be an accessible right of community appeal against decisions, as currently once a decision is made in favour of an application, it is almost impossible to challenge. On the other hand, if an application is refused the developer instantly has the right to appeal.

Generally, the planning process and system should not be used as an enabler, rather it should be used as a filter to ensure that only sustainable and appropriate developments take place that address the needs of the local community.

Cynhadledd Cymunedau Cynaladwy yn Wrecsam


Roedd yn braf gweld cymaint o wynebau newydd yng nghynhadledd ar gymunedau cynaladwy Cymraeg gafodd ei drefnu gan Cymdeithas yr Iaith ym Mhrifysgol Glyndwr.
Daeth tua 50 i glywed nifer o siaradwyr yn trafod y mater, gan gynnwys Ffred Ffransis, Gordon James o Gyfeillion y Ddaear, Pol Wong o Deffro'r Ddraig a Roberta Owen o Transition Town Treffynnon. Siaradodd y Cynghorydd Carrie Harper yn rymus am y drefn gynllunio a sut mae'n milwrio yn erbyn cymunedau ac o blaid datblygwyr.
Yn y prynhawn daeth panel o wleidyddion - Aled Roberts ar ran y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Susan Elan Jones, Llafur, Marc Jones ar ran Plaid Cymru ac Alwyn Gruffudd ar ran Llais Gwynedd - ynghyd i drafod y pwnc. Roedd na gyfraniad meddylgar gan Aled Roberts, oedd yn llawer mwy cymodol nac mewn cyfarfodydd blaenorol ar y pwnc, roedd Susan Elan Jones yn bryderus am be oedd yn mynd i ymddangos ar y blog yma (!) a soniodd Marc Jones am y pwysigrwydd o sicrhau mai problem rhagweladwy oedd y strategaeth is-ranbarthol.
Un pwnc cyson ddaeth i'r golwg oedd methiant y Cynulliad i greu gwleidyddiaeth newydd. Yr ateb yw sicrhau mwy o bwerau a chreu ethos newydd ymhlith swyddogion (er mwyn dinistrio'r syniad mai Llundain Fach yw Bae Caerdydd) ac herio gwleidyddion i wneud mwy i warchod cymunedau, eu hiaith a'u diwylliant.

PS Roedd Susan Elan Jones yn awyddus i hawlio mai hi oedd yr Aelod Seneddol Llafur cynta' i annerch cynhadledd gan y Gymdeithas. Na, meddai Dafydd Morgan Lewis (sy'n gwybod am y pethe yma), mae Ron Davies wedi gwneud. Tybed be' ddigwyddodd i Ron?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Welsh...a second class language!!

Here is more evidence of how Welsh is ignored and treated as a second class language:

An ex work colleague Sergeant Iwan Owen is a Welsh speaker and a Custody Sergeant at Caernarfon Police Station when he was honoured by an inspection team of HM Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC)who had come to observe the booking in of prisoners. This is what Iwan had to say on his Facebook page:
I am very pleased with myself , HMIC have been in custody for three days waiting to see someone being booked in , the inspection team from the 'smoke' got all excited when I announced that a prisoner would be coming in very shortly and they could observe and listen to the process............not so excited when I went through the whole process in Welsh ...what a great day I've had

What sort of organisation but the Home Office would send monolingual inspectors from London to inspect Policing in somewhere like Caernarfon? Another good reason to devolve Policing!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pressure mounts on Cameron over Wrexham's £100m housing subsidy loss

Pressure is mounting on the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government in London to reform a housing grant system under which Wales has been “robbed” of more than £1bn over the past decade. Wrexham Council alone has lost £100 million under the system, which sees the UK claw back money from the council's Housing Revenue Account on an annual basis.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards obtained confirmation recently that the UK Government had clawed back a total of £1 billion of housing revenue account surpluses from councils in Wales.
Under existing arrangements, all but one council in Wales loses out while the cash is redistributed to local authorities - mainly in London - who can't balance their Housing Revenue Accounts.

In response to a parliamentary question, the Prime Minister David Cameron agreed it was wrong to take money from councils in this way.

He said:
“In our relations with local government, at a difficult time in terms of budgets, we should be giving it money and taking away the ring-fencing and complications and all the different grants.

“We should say, ‘There’s the money. You’re democratically elected, you decide how that money is spent’.”

The change of heart was welcomed by Cllr Marc Jones, who leads the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham Council. He said:

“Wrexham is the worst affected council in Wales - losing £11.3m last year that should have been spent on improving our council housing. It is clear from the comments by the Prime Minister, as well as those previously stated by the UK Government’s Housing Minister, that they believe the current system is unfair.

“We've been campaigning on this matter for the past year and I'm grateful to our newest Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards for taking this up so strongly in Parliament over the past few months. Wales and Wrexham in particular can't afford to be losing this amount of money, money that is desperately needed to make sure our local housing is up to standard.

“But words are useless without action. It's vital that the Conservative- Lib Dem Government take action to end this unfair system where money is shipped out of Wales.

“Under the past decade of rule by Labour, who clearly were happy with the system, Wales lost out on staggering amounts of money. I hope the Con-Dem coalition doesn't continue to treat Wales with such contempt. They must review the way the system is run at once."

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Did Tory minister lie over S4C cuts?

Betsan Powys is far too polite and the BBC is far too careful to run with that kind of scurrilous headline - but that's the only logical conclusion of her blog posting about Tory culture minister Jeremy Hunt and S4C.
It's clear from the e-mails obtained under FOI by Plaid AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas that the £2m budget cut for S4C was not a voluntary agreement, as Hunt claimed in the House of Commons. This is not just a question of niceties. It had previously emerged that any cut in the S4C budget would be illegal and it appears that the S4C board is, this time, in a strong position.
Hunt is not - if he has deliberately misled Parliament he may join David Laws in a ConDem doghouse all of his own.

There is doubtless more to come of this saga - and it may finally explain why chief executive Iona Jones departed so swiftly and acrimoniously.

Maybe it's time someone made a drama out of this crisis...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Council backs webcam move

Wrexham Council's executive board voted 5-4 to consider allowing the public to view council meetings on their computers.


Plaid Cymru Councillor Carrie Harper called for web cameras to be installed to broadcast some council meetings online. The report presented to the Executive Board gave the go ahead for officers to continue with their research into the proposed new project.

Cllr Harper, councillor for Queensway, said: "I have been working with officers over the last 12 months to get these web cams installed and was delighted by the positive reception the idea received from the majority of lead members.


"I very much hope the project will progress in the near future. If we are to move into the 21st century as a council then we need to be more pro-active in engaging with local people and ensuring the democratic process is more open and transparent.

"Many council meetings are held in the afternoon when many people are unable to attend. Having the meetings online would allow the public access to see what decisions are being taken by their representatives on their behalf."

Cllr Harper added: "The next stage will involve a detailed look at the costs involved and also which meetings we may be able to broadcast. I understand the concerns expressed by some members regarding spending money on new projects considering the Con-Dem coalition government cuts we will be facing in the coming years, although I strongly feel that this situation makes it even more vital that local people are able to see how and why decisions are being made.

"Along with more than 50 local authorities across the UK, both the Welsh Assembly and Cardiff Council are already using this technology, I would be delighted to see Wrecsam leading the way here in North Wales."

Labour fails to block new Welsh-medium school in Wrexham

Labour attempts to derail plans for a new Welsh-medium school in Gwersyllt have failed.

Today's Wrecsam Council executive board voted 8-2 in favour of pushing ahead with the proposed new school in Gwersyllt, where it will meet growing demand in that area for Welsh-medium education. The only two votes against the motion were the two Labour representatives.

Councillor Marc Jones, who leads the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham Council, said the decision would mean more choice for parents in the borough:

"It's an important step in meeting the demand for Welsh-medium education in the borough - just 9% of children currently get their education in Welsh-medium schools but a survey showed 44% of parents wanted it for their children.

"More immediately, this will be a huge relief for staff and parents at Ysgol Plas Coch, where currently there are 115 pupils being taught in mobile classrooms."


But he was furious with Labour opposition to the development:

"The attempts to derail this scheme by the Labour representatives - and risk a £4.1m grant from the Welsh Government - is nothing short of disgraceful. They know that nothing will be built without a full community consultation in the Gwersyllt area and meeting planning guidelines but they still tried to delay this move on the flimsiest of evidence. To vote against a new state-of-the-art school for our borough is scandalous."


Cllr Jones added:

"Ysgol Plas Coch, which currently takes many children from the Gwersyllt area, is already bursting at the seams. By the time a new school opens, Plas Coch will effectively be double the size it was designed for. That's why it was so annoying to hear councillors bleating about conditions in English-medium schools when kids in Plas Coch have been taught in Portakabins for the past three years.

"With a growing school-age population in Wrexham, there is no threat to local English-medium primary schools or Bryn Alyn. That's another red herring used by Labour to try to block the new school. This will be a much-needed additional school - the first new Welsh-medium school for more than a decade.

"I'm very glad both officers and leading councillors have been able to secure this extra investment for Wrexham at a time when money is becoming so tight."



UPDATE: The situation in Plas Coch demands a new school.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Dog fouling on playing fields puts youngsters at risk

A tiny minority of dog owners are putting children's health at risk by allowing their pets to foul playing fields.

That's the view of Councillor Marc Jones, of Whitegate ward in Wrexham, after watching his son play football on a local pitch at the weekend. He said:

"The pitch next to Whitegate Industrial Estate has to be checked every week by a man with a spade before each game. It's disgusting that owners have allowed their dogs to foul the pitch without cleaning it up.

"I'm a dog owner myself and it's not rocket science to take a bag with you when you're taking the dog for a walk. I'm concerned that kids playing football on this pitch could be at risk of developing toxocara canis, which is found in dog mess and can in some cases cause blindness. Only a fortnight ago a young girl in Manchester suffered an eye infection due to dog fouling in a local park - she could lose her eyesight as a result. I don't want the same thing happening to a child here.

"As a parent, I don't want to put my sons at risk of this while they're playing football or rugby."


Cllr Jones said the problem of dog fouling was a general concern in the Wrexham area and was a priority for action by both the police and local council. He stressed that it was an irresponsible minority that was causing the problem and urged all dog owners to use a bag or scoop to take home their dog's mess.

He added:
"Dog wardens are aware of the problem and have the power to levy fines for dog fouling. This is particularly the case on marked-out pitches."


NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Toxocara canis is a roundworm found in dogs. Roundworm eggs are found in dog mess, which can easily be picked up by young children. This causes stomach upsets, sore throats, asthma and in rare cases blindness. The eggs can remain active in the soil for many years, long after the dog mess has weathered away.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Dragon Badges on North Wales Police uniforms.

The latest on this story is that NWP wanted to replace the Dragon motif on uniforms with the Prince of Wales feathers and the motto Ich Dien (I serve). Once the Police Authority found out about this they apparently kicked off good style describing the decision as 'political suicide.' The furore was such that Chief Officers decided to retain the status quo and keep the Dragon badges.

Good on the Police Authority, there seems to have been a massive change in accountability and challenge following a change of leadership at Chief Executive and Chair level.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

EDL no show today

The planned EDL static protest against the new mosque in Wrecsam didn't materialise today in Queen Square. Instead, the only right-wingers present were five or six BNPers (the usual suspects plus regular Leader online commentator "Tommy") who lurked and then slunk away disappointed that their brand of bigotry has no support in our town.
The fascists had tried to mobilise support against the mosque in the derelict Miners' Institute on the basis of concern for the loss of the town's heritage. If that was their real concern they'd be protesting against Nev Dickens destroying the Mines Rescue Centre but the truth is that they're trying to dress up their racism and sugar coat it for local consumption. Some people may swallow their lies but even they were nowhere to be seen today.

Dysgu gwers i Peter Black.

Braf di gweld fod y Rhyddfrydwyr Democrataidd yn Brydeinig wedi gwylltio Peter Black drwy basio cynnig yn ymwneud a Chymru er nad oedd ganddynt y pwer i neud dim yn ymwneud a Chymru oherwydd datganoli. Mae Peter yn cyhuddo ei gyd Ryddfrydwyr o fethu deall datganoli; dwi ddim yn siwr iawn lle mae Peter wedi bod ond mae'r ffaith fod pleidiau Llundain ddim yn dallt datganoli wedi bod yn gwbwl amlwg i gefnogwyr Plaid Cymru ers nifer o flynyddoedd. Croeso i'r byd lle mae pobol go iawn yn byw Peter, hwyrach y gnei di a dy dim bach o Ryddfrydwyr Democrataidd Cymreig fwy o ymdrech rwan i ennill refferendwm.

Welsh dragon badge for police uniform.

Despite being one of his biggest critics, I always knew there would come a day when I would miss Richard Brunstrom. I don't miss him because of policing methods but I miss him for his commitment to Wales as a nation and to the Welsh language as a living working language in North Wales. In August 2007, Richard Brunstrom decided to introduce a Welsh Dragon badge (Y Ddraig Goch) to North Wales Police uniforms. At the launch of the initiative at the Mold Eisteddfod Mr Brunstrom said;
"I'm sure you will agree that the new badges look splendid, symbolic of the reemergence of Wales as a true nation, of which we are proud."

The decision was met with a mixed response both internally and externally with many inside the organisation claiming that it 'politicised' the Force; (and I thought Welsh symbols belonged to the people of Wales and not to political parties!)

The most vociferous political opponent was Clwyd West's AM and ex Police Authority member, Darren Millar who said,
"I think it's a barmy idea. It is going to cost more money to produce these badges at a time when they are taking bobbies off the beat and they are cash strapped,"

Who else but a Tory would say that a display of Welsh national identity was 'barmy.'?

Well it seems that North Wales Police still contain plenty of them little Englanders on whom Richard Brunstrom has had little influence and who now seek to reverse the tide towards a Welsh civic identity made under his command.

In this quarter's Focus/Link (Joint publication between North Wales Police and the Police Federation), the Force's Clothing Committee have recommended that 'the dragon insignia' is removed from the uniform apparently for cost reasons.

This is a retrograde step in the development of Welsh civic society with it's uniquely Welsh institutions and an attempt to take us back to the bland uniformity of the Police Service of England and Wales. If we are getting rid of one insignia for cost reasons, are we getting rid of the other, the Germanic three ostrich feathers from the helmets and dress uniform epaulettes; and the Force emblem topped with the Crown?

It would appear from the report that this decision was made by the Chief Officers despite the fact that the wearing of insignia is not an operational matter but more of a policy matter for the Police Authority and I wonder if it has been discussed by them?, I doubt it.

What's in a name? - electoral boundaries a farce

Plans by the Con-Dem coalition to reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies in Wales from 40 to 30 have prompted the Electoral Reform Society to look at re-drawing the boundaries.
Personally the sooner Wales has zero MPs in Westminster from Wales, but until then we need strong representation for our communities. North-east Wales suffers disproportionately as it will be left with just four MPs instead of the current six.
The dangers of such a dramatic reduction - far greater proportionally than that facing England - is that Welsh geography is ignored by those drawing up the maps. Look at this effort by the Electoral Reform Society, which commissioned some CACI research to map the new constituencies.
Take the new Wrexham and Brymbo/Gwersyllt seat - this all but unites the Clwyd South and Wrecsam constituencies but, bizarrely given the name, does not include Brymbo! Instead it manages to put Brymbo in a new "Shotton, Hawarden and Buckley" constituency that also includes Flint, despite it being a natural part of any Wrecsam constituency.
Another curious one is "Halesworth and Blaenau Ffestiniog" (altogether now - where the hell is Halesworth?) which reaches from Betws y Coed to Caersws and to the English border at Guildsfield.
"Prestatyn and Flint" will also include Corwen, Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant and Dyffryn Ceiriog!
"Llandudno and Deganwy/Llandudno Junction" is lumped with the Llyn pensinsula while Caernarfon and Bangor unite with Ynys Mon. It's an absolute hotchpotch.
Leighton Andrews has highlighted the failure to understand the topography of Wales in the Rhondda and there are doubtless other delights awaiting us.

UPDATE: National Left has also pointed out the consequences of this exercise in his area.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Labour's toxic PFI legacy

Slowly but surely the PFI chickens are coming home to roost. The Private Finance Initiatives were used extensively by the UK Labour government (and to a lesser extent in Wales) but they are now unravelling as a financial model. With this sort of general criticism and the obvious shortcomings in the St Athan PFI scheme, how long before the Con-Dems are forced to cancel that project? That's one cut I could support.


The Ministry of Defence's biggest ever private finance initiative (PFI) is "inappropriate" and not proving value for taxpayers' money, according MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The £10.5bn, 27-year Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) programme – which is to supply air-to-air refuelling and passenger transport planes – is just the latest of a string of PFI deals to attract criticism.

The most serious charge levelled by the PAC, chaired by Labour's Margaret Hodge, is that the MoD should have grasped that a PFI may be suitable for projects with a clear specification – such as building a school or a hospital – but it does not work well with less predictable plans likely to be changed along the way. "Using PFI to procure the FTSA project was inappropriate and has not secured value for money," Ms Hodge said.

Under the deal for 14 modified Airbus A330s, AirTanker Ltd, a consortium of Babcock, Cobham, Rolls-Royce, Thales and EADS, continues to own the aircraft but is contracted to provide to the military when required. The group is also contracted to service and maintain them.

There were signs of trouble with the PFI structure from the beginning. Although the MoD started the procurement in 1999, the deal negotiations took twice as long as anticipated and the contract was not signed until March 2008. Delivery is also running behind schedule – when the first of the planes is delivered next year it will be five and a half years late. Even then they may not be equipped to fly into danger zones such as Afghanistan.

Even before the final FSTA deal was agreed, the contract was proving too inflexible. It is "simply astonishing" that the MoD did not decide until 2006 that the new aircraft should be able to fly into high-threat environments such as Afghanistan, says the PAC. Four years later the decision to fit the necessary protective equipment to the aircraft has still not be taken, because of the cost implication for the MoD of changing the original contract specification. If the decision to armour the 14 planes is taken, it could add hundreds of millions of pounds to the bill, and delay the scheme still further. In the meantime, the military is relying on old Tristars and VC10s, some of them dating back to the 1960s.

In 2004, the MoD project team itself recommended the PFI be scrapped in favour of a more traditional procurement structure, because of the need for greater flexibility in defence equipment programmes. But the department ploughed on regardless, and the final deal is the biggest defence PFI deal ever.

Both the MoD and the Treasury come in for scathing criticism, with Ms Hodge saying the Treasury should have challenged the MoD's failure "to conduct a robust evaluation of alternatives" to PFI. The PAC also sets out "significant shortcomings" in the procurement process, including the MoD's inability to compare the costs put forward by AirTanker with those likely to be incurred under a standard purchase contract. The department is also criticised for the expense of the over-running procurement and a lack of leadership skills.

AirTanker rebutted the criticisms, claiming the programme is running on time and that the scheme will not only provide double the aircraft of the fleet it is replacing but will also cost around 30 per cent less. "AirTanker believes that the FSTA programme offers value for money to the UK MoD and the taxpayer," a spokeswoman for the company said.

Private finance initiatives that have failed the taxpayer

Metronet

The most spectacular private finance initiative failure was the collapse of Metronet in 2007. The deal between Metronet, Tube Lines and Transport for London (TfL) was put together in 2003 to upgrade London's creaking Underground network. Within five years, the Metronet consortium collapsed, costing taxpayers £2bn as its functions were taken over by TfL. Earlier this year Tube Lines was also bought out by TfL.

HM Revenue & Customs estate

The PAC concluded in April that the PFI deal covering ownership and management of 60 per cent of the HMRC's estate is also failing to deliver value for money. The 20-year deal signed by Mapeley Steps Contractor in 2001 has cost the taxpayer 20 per cent more than expected so far, the PAC said.

NHS

Latest estimates suggest that the NHS faces a £65bn bill for 103 new PFI hospitals with an estimated value of £11.3bn at the time they were built. The Government says the schemes provide value for money. But some trusts are now handing over more than 10 per cent of their annual turnover.

Housing

More than four-fifths of local authorities' 25 PFI housing projects are over budget, the National Audit Office said in June. Nearly half are running at more than twice the anticipated cost. And the average delay is two-and-a-half years.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Alaw Ward

BREAKING NEWS:

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board are considering closing Alaw Ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd. Alaw Ward is the cancer ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd and a decision to close will be devastating news for the people of North West Wales and the fact that patients and relatives may well face a lengthy journey to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwydden. Our predictions of centralisation of services without public consultation is and was accurate despite denials the the Board.

What did you do after the war, daddy?


This plaque stands on a house in Pentre Gwyn in the Whitegate ward. The local council was rightly proud to have built 3,000 homes in the 13 years after the Second World War - a time of great hardship, of rationing, of rebuilding damaged infrastructure and dealing with returning soldiers and refugees.
Despite this, the council pressed ahead with an investment programme to improve housing for the people. At the time, the UK deficit was running at 200% and more of the UK's GDP. As the graph shows, the high level of government debt in those post-war years continued into the 1960s.



Today we're constantly bombarded with the notion that the UK deficit is historically high, that it's unsustainable and the Con-Dem government has to cut essential public services to balance the books. The truth is that the books haven't been balanced for the past 70 years, whether it's Labour or Tory running the show.
The millionaires running the UK government and their allies in the Tory newspapers are happy to spin this line because they won't be affected by reduced spending on schools, health, housing, social services and other services we have taken for granted.
But what both central and local government understood in those crucial post-war years is that creating work, investing in public services and improving key sectors like housing are vital if we are to avoid a depression.
At all levels, the challenge now is to resist the Tory and Lib Dem spin calling for cuts, cuts, cuts and make a comprehensive argument for better use of public money to create jobs, improve the environment and renovate those houses that were built in the post-war era.

£1 billion lost to Wales in housing subsidies scandal

Confirmation that the great housing subsidy rip-off continues to improverish Welsh councils... Jonathan Edwards MP has done us a great service here in Wrecsam in keeping this in the spotlight.

Wales loses £1bn to London in ‘rent scandal’
Sep 13 2010 by Martin Shipton, Western Mail

WELSH local authorities have been robbed of a staggering £1bn since the National Assembly was set up because of a discredited rule that forces them to send council house rent money to the Treasury.

Last night Plaid Cymru finance spokesman Jonathan Edwards said the loss of so much money to Wales was a major scandal that could not be allowed to continue.

The figures were released as union leaders today warned UK public bodies face losing up to 200,000 jobs because of the squeeze on public sector finances. Across Wales, two councils and two police forces alone have already confirmed nearly 2,000 job cuts are likely.

Mr Edwards, the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, established the scale of the £1bn loss following a Freedom of Information Act request to the Assembly Government. A similar request made to Whitehall resulted in a response that the Treasury did not hold a record of money sent it by the 22 Welsh councils.

Under existing arrangements, councils that raise more from council rents than they have to spend in maintenance on the homes must send the surplus to the UK Government. The cash is then redistributed to those local authorities which spend more on refurbishment and repairs than they receive in rent. Records of the transactions for each council are known as the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).

In England the system has been criticised on the basis that tenants in well-managed authorities have effectively been subsidising those in areas where the council has not been running its housing account efficiently. But in Wales only one council – Merthyr Tydfil – has shown a net gain since the Assembly came into being. The figures disclosed to Mr Edwards show that the other 21 councils have lost sums ranging from more than £139m in Cardiff to just under £2m in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

In June UK Housing Minister Grant Shapps described the system as a mess and confirmed the continuation of a consultation on proposed changes begun by his Labour predecessor. But the consultation, which was completed on July 6 and whose results are currently being evaluated, relates only to England.

Mr Shapps said in June: “For far too many years this unfair system has tied the hands of councils, stopping them from best meeting the housing needs of the communities they serve.”

Under his proposal, councils would keep all the rents they collect from their homes and all receipts from any sales of housing or land. In return, councils would take on some additional housing debt.

Last night Mr Edwards said: “This is a major scandal. I knew the overall figure would be high, but I am surprised and shocked to learn that Wales has lost more than £1bn.

“It’s essential that this is sorted out. It is wholly wrong that Wales – officially the poorest nation in the UK – should be losing money that ought to be available to councils to spend on improving their homes. Ultimately it’s the tenants who are missing out. In effect, Wales is subsiding local authority areas in England that are in some cases much more prosperous.

“It is to the credit of the Assembly Government that it has supplied me with the figures I was seeking. On the other hand, I think it is pretty bad that the UK Government doesn’t seem to be aware how much it has received from Welsh councils over this period.

“The HRA system doesn’t apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and in England the proposal is to reform it. Wales could soon be the only part of the UK where these iniquitous arrangements apply.”

Mr Edwards pointed out that the current system acted as a disincentive to councils to hold on to their homes. If they transfer ownership of the properties to a housing association, their HRA is shut down. The new social landlord is allowed to keep any surplus.

He added: “I know Deputy Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies is very concerned about this situation, which was allowed to continue for many years by the previous Labour Government. It’s crucial that pressure is brought to bear on the Westminster coalition to ensure Wales can extricate itself from these arrangements as soon as possible.”

Wrexham Council leader Aled Roberts, housing spokesman for the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), said: “We have been trying to get this matter resolved for years, but the previous Finance Minister at the Assembly Government didn’t seem keen to push it. It should have been resolved as long ago as 2000 or 2002. It’s high time it was sorted out, especially as Welsh councils are doing so badly out of this system.”

Figures from two years ago show that London authorities Islington and Hackney received HRA payments of more than £58m and £48m respectively. Manchester received £34m.

Meanwhile, research published today revealed more than 200,000 public sector jobs have already been axed or are at risk of being lost after massive spending cuts even before the Government unveils its spending review.

Figures from the GMB union suggest 150,000 jobs were lost or are at risk in more than 150 councils, hospitals, Government departments, police authorities and fire services across the UK.

Another 90,000 jobs are thought to be at risk because of the knock-on effect on private companies that supply goods and services.

And union leaders heading for the start of the TUC Congress in Manchester today fear the 240,000 total could double as a result of next month’s spending review.

Across Wales the biggest job losses in the pipeline, according to the GMB round-up, are at North Wales Police where 560 jobs are under threat, Powys Council (500), Carmarthenshire Council (500) and Dyfed-Powys Police (300).

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “Current job losses already announced in the public sector of nearly 150,000 are just the tip of the iceberg heading for our services and our economy when the comprehensive spending review finally hits home next month. Unemployment and cuts in public services follow the appointment of a Tory-led government like night follows day.

“It was the excesses of the bankers, not high public spending, that caused the recession. The deficit in public finances is mainly due to the loss of 6% of national output because of the recession.”

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said a cam-paign of civil disobedience was needed to fight spending cuts.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “The Government’s swingeing cuts across the public sector are causing widespread misery. They are obsessed with making cuts no matter what the cost to jobs and services.

“There are realistic alternatives including fairer taxation, clamping down on tax dodgers and the tax havens for the super-rich. We should be looking across to the US where they are injecting money into the economy to keep it moving, not risking a double-dip recession.”


This is an issue we first raised back in March and, until we get justice, we'll keep on raising it so that we can improve our housing stock and ensure we have homes fit for the 21st Century.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The National Assembly and Scrutiny of Ministers.

There is increasing concern across Wales about the inefficiencies and waste within NHS Wales, it's seven Health Boards and their multi billion pound budgets. The concern also extends to a perceived lack of accountability of a dictatorial Minister of Health and an inability to scrutinise and challenge decisions of Health Boards on a local level because there are no elected members on the Health Boards.

This leaves the committees of the National Assembly for Wales as the only source of accountability, scrutiny and challenge of the Minister of Health and NHS Wales.

The two committees that would conceivably challenge and scrutinise the work of the Minister and NHS Wales are the Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee chaired by Darren Millar AM and this committee has the following remit:
As set out in Standing Order 12, the main function of scrutiny committees is to examine within their remit the expenditure, administration and policy of the government and associated public bodies.

The Committee’s remit covers:

* Health
* Local Government
* Public Service Delivery

The other committee is the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Jonathan Morgan AM with the remit of:
The Public Accounts Committee ensures that proper and thorough scrutiny is given to Welsh Government expenditure, and that all public bodies in Wales operate to the highest possible standards in the management of their financial affairs. It does this so that the people of Wales can be confident that their money is being spent wisely and well.

The role of the Public Accounts Committee is to examine the implementation of Welsh Government policy and the activities of public bodies. The Committee examines reports prepared by the Auditor General for Wales on the accounts of the Welsh Government and other public bodies, and on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which resources are employed in the discharge of public functions. The Committee makes specific inquiries into issues of interest or concern arising from these reports. In doing so it may hear evidence from the responsible accounting officers and other civil servants and call for relevant papers. It then reports and makes recommendations on its findings. In conducting its inquiries, the Committee cannot question the merits of any policy objectives of the Welsh Government or other body under review.

The National Assembly’s Standing Order 13 provides full details of the procedures and operation of the Committee.

I can't see anything in the workstream of these two committees to indicate that they have undertaken any scrutiny into waste within NHS Wales despite clearly falling within their remits.

As well as members of the One Wales Government it will be interesting to see how the Con-Dem opposition on these committees will explain their inactivity in this so called scrutiny process.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

NHS Wales Support Services.

I am indebted to jaxxlanders for drawing my attention to an NHS Wales organisation called the NLIAH who they describe in a comment on Valleys Mam blog on the NHS as:
We have previously flagged up the non-role of the National Leadership & Innovation Agency for Healthcare (NLIAH) which spends £10.4 million on “developing and providing programmes and support to the NHS in Wales, together with NLIAH’s staff and running costs”. It frankly does nothing except provide a haven for incompetent managers who have been kicked upstairs.

I then decided to have a look at the extent of NHS Support Services and I was frankly shocked at the extent of the services required to support the seven multi billion pound local health boards:

National Programmes and Services.

Cancer

* Cancer Genetics Service for Wales
* Cancer Services Co-ordinating Group
* National Collaborating Centre for Cancer (NCC-C)
* North Wales Cancer Network
* South East Wales Cancer Network
* Velindre Cancer Centre
* Velindre Medical Physics

Corporate

* Business Services Centre
* Community Pharmacy Contract
* GMS Contract
* Oxygen Contract

Heart

* Cardiac Networks of Wales
* Mid & South West Wales Cardiac Network
* North Wales Cardiac Network
* South East Wales Cardiac Network

Information and Technology

* Freedom of Information
* Health Solutions Wales
* Informing Healthcare
* Wales Accord on the Sharing of Personal Information
* Welsh Minimum Systems Specification

Medical or Clinical Related

* All Wales Clinical Pathway for Normal Labour
* All Wales Medical Genetics Service
* Artificial Limb and Appliance Service
* Children & Young People's Specialised Services
* Clinical Engineering Device Assessment and Reporting
* Mid and West Wales Critical Care Network
* NHS Direct Wales
* North Wales Critical Care Network
* Practice Nurse Information and Support Network
* South East Wales Critical Care Network
* TWOGS - Trainees in Wales Obstetric and Gynaecology Society
* Welsh Blood Service

Medicines

* All Wales Medicines Strategy Group
* Community Pharmacy Wales
* Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
* Nurse Prescribing Support Network
* Prescribing Services
* Therapeutics and Toxicology Centre
* Welsh Medicines Partnership - Yellow Card Centre
* Welsh Medicines Resource Centre (WeMeReC)

Mental Health

* All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network
* Mental Health Act Commission
* Wales Mental Health in Primary Care

Other Services

* All Wales Antenatal Routine Enquiry Into Domestic Abuse Care
* Capital and PFI Audit Services
* Doing Well, Doing Better - Standards For Health Services in Wales
* Expert Patients Programme Wales
* Eye Care Wales
* Healthcare Excellence
* Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW)
* National Patient Safety Agency
* National Service Frameworks
* North Wales Neurosciences Review

Professions

* Health Informatics Professional Development Programme (HI-ProfILE)

Public Health

* Global Health
* Health Challenge Wales
* Health Protection Agency (HPA)
* Public Health Wales Health Protection Division
* Stop Smoking Wales
* Welsh Health Impact Assessment Support Unit (WHIASU)
* Welsh Healthcare Associated Infection Programme (WHAIP)

Screening

* Antenatal Screening Wales
* Bowel Screening Wales
* Breast Test Wales
* Cervical Screening Wales
* New Born Hearing Screening Wales
* Welsh Cytology Training School

Statistics and Research

* Congenital Anomaly Register and Information Service (CARIS)
* CRC-Cymru (Clinical Research Collaboration)
* Health Solutions Wales Information and Statistics
* Wales Cancer Trials Network
* Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit

Supporting Organisations

* Delivery & Support Unit
* National Leadership & Innovation Agency For Healthcare
* NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights
* NHS Counter Fraud Service (Wales)
* NHS Welsh Language Unit
* Welsh Health Estates
* Welsh Health Legal Services
* Welsh Health Specialised Services (WHSSC)
* Welsh Health Supplies
* Welsh Risk Pool

Now it may be that many of the above organisations provide a much needed and worthwhile service to hospitals, especially the cancer and screening services but they still need to be accountable to ensure they continue to provide value for money. How do we know that they provide value for money, who audits them or are some of the more dubious 'supporting services' just a depository for surplus staff that Edwina is protecting?

There is one organisation that intrigues me as Lead Member for Children and Young People where my responsibility includes children's social care as well as Child health and disability and that is the Children & Young People's Specialised Services. Despite attending Wrecsam's Children and Young People Framework Partnership with THREE senior officers from the Local Health Board who purport to look after children's interest I have NEVER heard of this organisation, but I intend to find out more!

The next step is to make a Freedom of Information request to ascertain the budget of these individual organisations and the numbers they employ. I will also be writing to the Welsh Audit Office to ascertain how many of these 'supporting organisations' have been audited and whether there is scope in rationalising and reducing them. As we always suspected the NHS in Wales is a bureucracy gone mad!

Let battle commence...and watch this space!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Where has Peter Hain been?

We always thought that Peter Hain lived in a world of his own and this article in today's Western Mail just goes to prove it.

Hain is complaining that Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board are running down services in Hain's constituency Neath Port Talbot and transferring them to Morriston Hospital in Swansea. Well he is not alone in that concern we have written in this blog about our concerns that services at Ysbyty Maelor are being run down and transferred to Bodelwydden and Bangor.

Whilst all this is going on the Chief Executives of the seven Health Boards (Five of whom are Labour apparatchik's) have their hands tied by the dictatorial health minister Edwina Hart preventing them from reducing surplus managerial posts in the seven health boards following the amalgamation 12 months ago.

Why is it that the only ones complaining of waste in the Welsh NHS are a couple of Plaid Councillors in North East Wales and two backbench AM's Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Chris Franks?

This is what Rhodri Glyn Thomas had to say:
"Obviously there has been a commitment to safeguard frontline spending on health and schools, but I believe there is still a lot of scope even within the health and education to tackle waste,”

“It was completely ridiculous, for example, to reorganise the NHS in Wales nine years ago creating 22 local health boards. That meant 22 chief executives, 22 finance directors and 22 medical directors.

“All that happened was that in many cases middle managers were over-promoted into jobs with salaries of £100,000 and more.

“The original error was compounded when the reorganisation was reversed and senior managers were allowed to stay on with their big salaries, even though their jobs had disappeared.

“In my local area of Carmarthenshire, the county council has just announced it is looking at cutting 500 jobs. It’s the relatively low-paid workers they are planning to cut. How about the people at the top, who are on very high salaries?”


This is how the Western Mail reported on Chris Franks's Freedom of Information request on pay protection:
Senior NHS executives who failed to win top jobs in Wales’ new health boards will have their six-figure salaries protected for up to 10 years, it emerged today.

Under the organisational change policy, negotiated with trade unions, more than 120 former NHS directors and managers have been redeployed elsewhere in the health service and the Welsh Assembly Government.

And they will have their salaries – which could be as high as £195,000 a year – protected for years.

Those directors who have 15 years of service in the NHS will continue to be paid their old salary, plus benefits, for 10 years, according to information obtained by Plaid Cymru.

The revelation comes as the NHS in Wales is facing the prospect of making unprecedented savings of £1.9bn over the next five years as public sector funding is slashed.

And it follows the news last week that rank-and-file NHS staff in one of Wales’ largest organisations have had a cap put on overtime payments in a bid to save money.

At least three of Wales’ seven health boards are introducing bans on agency and locum staff, while others are carrying out reviews of hospital services which could result in cuts.

So here we have it Mr Hain, front line services being cut back to save money whilst still employing senior executives in non existent jobs; a decision made by a minister in Mr Hain's own party and one that the Welsh Labour Party have failed to challenge and that includes the First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Edwina Hart's dictatorial running of the Welsh NHS needs challenging, it is bureaucratic and wasteful and there MUST be an expectation amongst rank and file Plaid Cymru members that their ministers in the One Wales Government bring Edwin Hart to task over this fiasco of a reorganisation.

Labour's shortlist for Clwyd South revealed

Word reaches us from within Labour ranks of Clwyd South of a great unease about their next Assembly candidate. Perhaps the most revealing thing about the shortlist of Labour candidates we've received for the once-safe seat of Clwyd South is the lack of a credible local candidate.
Conspicuous by their absence are Stella Matthews, Alwyn Humphreys and the much-missed Nick Colborne (who made such an impression in the Montgomery general election campaign).
Which leaves us with a shortlist of eight that is dominated by one former Assembly minister, Alun Pugh, with no connection with the seat. He was AM for Clwyd West until he lost that in 2007 and has since worked for the Snowdonia Society and stood as Labour's Arfon candidate earlier this year.
Challenging him are a ragbag of county and community councillors from neighbouring areas - three from Flintshire, one from Rhyl - and a PR consultant from Cardiff. Then there are the wild cards.
They don't come much wilder than David Taylor - the "brains" behind the Aneurin Glyndwr blog. Once Leighton Andrews's controversial researcher, he then became a special adviser to Peter Hain. Was last seen heading off to help the Australian Labor Party with their election campaign. Despite this, Julia Gillard won.
Another name that raised a smile was that of David Foulds - a former Labour county councillor in Rhyl and ex-Denbigh night club owner. Like many Labour councillors, he was involved in the Wrenewal used furniture charity and took the aforementioned Stella Matthews to industrial tribunal after she gave him a bad reference.

The list in full:

1. Bruce Woodfine-Jones - community councillor from Cefnybedd
2. David Taylor - originally from Cerrigydrudion
3. Aaron Shotton - Deeside-based County Councillor
4. Cheryl Williams - Rhyl-based County Councillor
5. Ken Skates - Ex-Leader journalist, Pantymwyn community councillor and researcher for David Hanson MP
6. David Foulds - ex-Denbigh night club owner
7. Alun Pugh - Ex-Labour AM and minister.
8. Simon Evans - consultant with RCL consulting, based in Cardiff.

With no personal vote for the Labour candidate, the race for Clwyd South looks wide open between Labour, Tory and Plaid.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Druid...non aligned?

Total Politics have just published their 50 top non-aligned blogs.
Coming in at number 37 is our dear friend from Ynys Mon, the Druid; a blog that I would be hard pressed to describe as non-aligned. The Druid's blog is probably more 'conservative' than the traditional Welsh Conservative blogs of Dylan Jones Evans, David Jones and Cardiff Blogger. It is also what is commonly described as an 'attack blog' in it's hostility and partisanship against certain political parties, in this case, Plaid Cymru and Labour.

The Druid is most certainly not a non aligned political blog.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Workless Households in Wales.

The Office for National Statistics have today published their ,'Work and worklessness amongst households 2010,' statistical report which paints a picture of a worsening situation in Wales with nearly 23% of all households being workless this is up from 20.7% in the same quarter of 2009. In actual figures this relates to 178,000 households in 2009 and 226,000 in 2010. Unusually for any measure of prosperity Wales is not on this occasion the bottom of the pile. In 2009 Inner London, the North East and the North of Ireland had a higher proportion of workless households. By 2010, the North of Ireland had overtaken Wales and Inner London was the same as Wales, only the North East was worse than Wales. So whilst all regions have seen an increase in workless households the situation seems to deteriorate more rapidly in Wales and the North East.

One can only guess at the state of play this time next year following the comprehensive spending review and massive reductions in public spending.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

European Petition.

I have previously written about the European Citizens Initiative a method of petitioning the European Commission. The Socialists in the European Parliament are to be congratulated in their bid to use the ECI petition to change the law to tax 'financial speculation', or as we know it, a Tobin tax or Robin Hood tax. To succeed this petition must get a million signatures from nine EU countries. I very much hope that Plaid Cymru and their EFA group colleagues in Europe will join with the Socialists in supporting this very worthwhile campaign to tax speculation.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Reasons to be cheerful

Tomos Livingstone of the Western Mail has this interesting article about Plaid's prospects over the coming year:

Shouldn't Plaid Cymru lighten up?
Interesting piece this morning from Vaughan Roderick on why Plaid Cymru have plenty of reasons to be cheerful. A bit like the world economy, Plaid are at risk of talking themselves into a depression; lots of senior figures seem very gloomy, and Vaughan is right to point out that things aren't as bad as they seem.

Essentially his argument is this - come the 2011 Assembly elections the Conservatives will, surely, be less popular than they are today as spending cuts start to bite. Plaid, therefore, have a good chance of leap-frogging the Tories and finishing second to Labour in the popular vote. Opinion polls are already pointing in this direction.

Careful targeting of constituency seats (rather than hoping for goodies on the regional list), could, says Vaughan, reap big rewards for Plaid - subject to the usual caveats about picking decent candidates, etc.

He's right, of course. Plaid do have problems, and the party's poor performance in the General Election - still stuck on three seats, no closer to winning Ceredigion or Ynys Mon and not mounting much of a challenge in the valleys - has only darkened the mood.

And the medium-term issue of what to do once Ieuan Wyn Jones decides to step aside as leader remains unresolved, with Adam Price deciding not to stand in next year's Assembly elections.

But the paradox is that, despite underwhelming electoral performances, Plaid remain amongst the most successful parties around in achieving their strategic aims.

If there is a 'yes' vote in next year's referendum on the Assembly's powers, Plaid can realistically claim to have played their political hand to maximum possible advantage, presiding over the creation of a Welsh parliament without making a sustained electoral breakthrough themselves.

Maybe the seaside air in Aberystwyth will help lift Plaid's spirits.


The sea air will certainly dispel the silly season stories about Plaid. The biggest problem Plaid members face at the minute is choosing the most able candidates for the regional list - in the North, and elsewhere, that's a genuine dilemma as there are some very capable candidates.

Plaid is also making the running in challenging the Lab/Con consensus on wealth creation and the need to move the focus away from the City of London to places like Wales. Jonathan Edwards doesn't mince his words here:

“Successive UK Governments have been guilty of basing their economic policy on the financial sector in London.

Consequently, under Tory and Labour administrations, there has been increasing regional and individual wealth polarisation. Inner London, despite the recession, continues to be the richest part of the EU, while West Wales and the Valleys, just a few hours down the M4, is among the poorest.”


He makes an excellent case for the devolving of economic powers, which the Con-Dem coalition is proposing for the North of Ireland.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Liberal Democrat Blogs.

Out of the 75 top Lib Dem blogs only 6 of those are Welsh Liberal Democrats and only Peter Black appears in the top 20...at a static 17, same as last year. The other five are:

22. Freedom Central.
24. Ffranc Sais
25. Dib Lemming
39. Matt Raven
58. Mike Priestley.

Despite being pretty much of a non-entity in Scotland the Scottish Liberal Democrat blogs are pretty prominent with three in the top ten.

We await with interest to see how many Welsh Labour blogs are in the top 100 Labour blogs...probably less than six!

UPDATE - And at 37, Liberal Smithy.
Of the 100 top Labour blogs only 2 spring out as being Welsh, Paul Flynn and Huw Lewis.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Tobin Tax.

Plaid Cymru have long advocated (1970's) the introduction of a Tobin tax, which is also known as the Robin Hood tax, and this is how we described our stance in the 2009 European election manifesto:
Plaid Cymru also believes that it is high time that the banks give something back to the people for whom they work. To this end, we call for a Europe-wide tax on international banking transactions which would raise billions for meeting global challenges such as international development and climate change. Every time currency is traded across European borders by bankers, this Tobin tax would help to stabilise the volatile money markets, encourage accountability
and promote responsibility in the banking sector.

The introduction of this tax has met with opposition in the past from the London parties, the city of London, as well as international financial regulators like the International Monetary Fund (IMF)and the EU.

This article in today's Observer indicates that there has been some new thinking around the introduction with both the IMF the EC now backing its introduction and even Tory Chanchellor, George Osborne warming to the idea.

This is a real vindiction of Plaid Cymru's economic competence and their relevance to both UK and European wide monetary policy making.

The Tories listen to you!

Much has been said about Andy Coulson, David Cameron, NOTW and the Tory party; but for me this sums up the whole saga brilliantly -

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Congratulations to the Crusaders

Well done to the Crusaders for winning a place in the play-offs of the Superleague in their first season at Wrecsam. Tonight's game against Hull KR was end-to-end stuff with the game only clinched in the last two minutes with a great try. "Captain Jack" Sammut was the game changer and deserved man of the match.
Some longstanding Crusaders fans from Bridgend, speaking after the game, were full of praise for the switch to Wrecsam: "Without the move, the Crusaders would never have made the play-offs".
Mike Turner, Crusaders chief executive, joined in the celebrations in the Turf afterwards, saying he'd never seen at atmosphere like tonight. For me, it was as good an atmosphere as some of the legendary Wrexham FC cup games of the 70s.
Excited? You bet.
Let's hope those in the directors' box - who included one John Prescott - enjoyed the fun.

Breaking news: Lib Dem AM facing challenge from Aled Roberts

The Lib Dem AM for North Wales Eleanor Burnham will be facing a challenge from Aled Roberts, currently Wrecsam Council's leader, ahead of next year's Assembly elections.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Lib Dems...going, going, gone!!

Let's hope that we see a lot more stories like this in Wales between now and May. I wonder how Peter Black and Freedom Central will spin this one?

Pethau Bychain.

Mae heddiw y 3ydd o Fedi wedi cael ei ddynodi yn ddiwrnod y Pethau Bychain sef diwrnod i ddathlu yr iaith Gymraeg ar-lein ac i annog mwy o ddefnydd o'r iaith ar-lein.
Dwi hefyd wedi gneud addewid i neud mwy o ddefnydd o'r iaith wrth flogio, defnyddio Gwyneblyfr neu Gweplyfr ac hefyd drwy drydar (@arfonj).

Yn lle blog gwleidyddol penderfynais sgwennu blog diwylliannol ond hefo neges gwleidyddol, sef ail dynnu eich sylw at eiriau T H Parry Williams;

Hon
Beth yw’r ots gennyf i am Gymru? Damwain a hap
Yw fy mod yn ei libart yn byw. Nid yw hon ar fap

Yn ddim byd ond cilcyn o ddaear mewn cilfach gefn,
Ac yn dipyn o boendod i’r rhai sy’n credu mewn trefn.

A phwy sy’n trigo’n y fangre, dwedwch i mi.
Dim ond gwehilion o boblach? Peidiwch, da chwi

 chlegar am uned a chenedl a gwlad o hyd;
Mae digon o’r rhain, heb Gymru, i’w cael yn y byd.

Rwyf wedi alaru ers talm ar glywed grwn
Y Cymry bondigrybwyll, yn cadw swn.

Mi af am dro, i osgoi eu lleferydd a’i llên,
Yn ôl i’m cynefin gynt, a’m dychymyg yn drên.

A dyma fi yno. Diolch am fod ar goll
Ymhell o gyffro geiriau’r eithafwyr oll.

Dyma’r Wyddfa a’i chriw; dyma lymder a moelni’r tir;
Dyma’r llyn a’r afon a’r clogwyn; ac, ar fy ngwir,

Dacw’r ty lle’m ganed. Ond wele, rhwng llawr a ne’
Mae lleisiau a drychiolaeth ar hyd y lle.

Rwy’n dechrau simsanu braidd; ac meddaf i chwi,
Mae rhyw ysictod fel petai’n dod drosof i;

Ac mi glywaf grafangau Cymru’n dirdynnu fy mron.
Duw a’m gwaredo, ni allaf ddianc rhag hon.

Ydy neges cryf y gerdd yma yr un mor berthnasol heddiw ac roedd hi pan sgwennodd T H hi hanner can mlynedd yn ol? Ar drothwy refferendwm arall pwy ydy gwir elynion datblygiad ein hiaith a'n diwylliant?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A level playing field?

Two stories in the press in the last week have raised questions whether the North Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service make prosecution decisions based on similar criteria.

First of all take the strange case of Gwion Jones who wrote derogatory offensive comments about the English on his Facebook wall and was prosecuted following a complaint by his ex employer who is English.

The second case concerns the furore on Facebook regarding the fact that the Wrecsam Muslim Association have purchased the Miners Institute in Grosvenor Road with the intention of using it as a mosque.

Those of you of a sensitive disposition may wish to avoid the Facebook pages for fear of being offended by some of the vitriolic anti Islamic comments so I have copied some of the comments and readers can judge for themselves whether they are as bad or worse than what Gwion Jones said:
I know this sounds Racists but its not..Show them the contempt they showed our people...go bomb the building and show them they cant have everything they want without repercussions.

yes but sometimes sacrifices have to be made..up here in Scotland not far from where I live there was an old heitage brewery similar situation to this one..in an underhand deal with the council the muzzies ended up with it as a mosque..Now ...people up here didnt like that so it Mysteriously got burned down late one dark night..no one knows how it happened..lol but the mosque is no more and has since moved into central glasgow....ok we lost an old building but we still have the memories etc of it..but we dont have the stinky muzzies wailing at 5 am in the morning either..lol.

Now the chances are that you will agree with me that these comments are probably prosecutable but when I asked a senior Police Officer whether they would prosecute I was reminded of the 'fine line between committing a crime and freedom of speech'.I wonder if that same Police Force applied the same standard to what Gwion Jones said or is it one rule for anti English comments and another one for anti Islamic comments.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Yale College A Level Results.

These figures have only become available:
98.6% were grades A*/E (Wales 97.1%)
75% were A*/C (Wales 73.8%)
5.5% were A* (Wales 6.5%)
21.6% were A*/A (Wales 24.4%)
Total number of grades - 1143.
To compare with Wrecsam's three schools that provide 6th Forms go here

Eironi'r Iaith yn Wrecsam!!

Er gwaethaf ein hymdrechion i ddarbwyllo prif swyddogion Cyngor Sir Wrecsam o bwysigrwydd yr iaith Gymraeg ag eu dyletswydd i gydymffurfio hefo Deddf yr Iaith mae o'n teimlo'n aml fel brwydr ryda ni'n golli.

Cymerwch y sefyllfa ddiweddar o Adran Gynllunio Wrecsam yn cyhoeddi dogfen ymgynghorol Canllawiau Cynllunio sydd am:
ehangu ar y gofynion cynllunio sy’n ymwneud a’r Iaith Gymraeg a Chymunedau Cymreig o fewn polisi cynllunio GDP1 rhan g) yn Cynllun Datblygu Unedol Wrecsam.

Mae y ddogfen yma ar gael ar wefan Gymraeg a Saesneg y Cyngor fel y disgwylir yn ol cynllun iaith Gymraeg y Cyngor. Yn anffodus y ddogfen Saesneg yn unig sydd ar gael; sefyllfa eironig iawn o feddwl pwrpas y ddogfen.

Mae hyn yn dangos yn glir, (hyd yn oed mewn adran lle mae na nifer o Gymru Cymraeg yn gweithio) nad ydynt yn deall y pwrpas ar angen i ddarparu gwasanaeth drwy gyfrwng y Cymraeg neu yn ddwyiethog.

Planning a future for our communities and our language

Wrecsam Council is launching a consultation into how its planning guidance can better protect the Welsh language and Welsh communities - the document in question - WCBC: Consultation on Welsh Language and Welsh Communities Local Planning Guidance Note 31 - is only three pages long so please take some time to read it and respond.

The consultation lasts until September 27 and Plaid Wrecsam's views will be published here in due course.