Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Scotland Running Out of Land for Wind Farms

The Boxing Day edition of Herald Scotland carried two excellent news stories here and here on Wind Turbine renewable energy projects in Scotland and the fact they are reaching capacity with 1349 wind turbines already built and a further 2738 turbines being progressed. Needless to say that neither of these important news stories seemed to have made the wider British press despite its significance for England and Wales.

Also published recently was the Energy Trends Report for Quarter 3 of 2011 by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The tables at the end show that Offshore Wind Farms generate much greater Gigawatt hour of electricity per megawatt capacity than what Onshore wind farms do, but we must wait for the 4th Quarter publication of Energy Trends before we can make detailed comparisons over the last 3 years.

Finally this is a link to an interactive RenewablesUK map which shows where windfarms in their various forms of development are located. What surprises me here is the large number of Wind Farms located on the North East coast of Scotland...I was always led to believe that the west i.e. Wales was the best place to locate windfarms...clearly not the case according to this map.

Llythyr i Golwg.

Dyma lythyr yn ymateb i'r erthygl a ymddangosodd yn Golwg ar y 18fed o Ragfyr, "Economi bregus i helpu'r Coleg Cymraeg."

Annwyl Olygydd,

Braf oedd darllen yr erthygl ar y Coleg Cymraeg (Golwg Rhagfyr 15fed), a chytunaf a Hefin Jones mae talcen caled fydd denu myfyrwyr i addysg bellach drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Un o’r problemau mwyaf o ddenu myfyrwyr i astudio drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg ydy fod niferoedd mawr o ddisgyblion sydd yn rhugl yn y Gymraeg mewn ysgolion dwyieithog yn dilyn cyrsiau TGAU ac wedyn Lefel A trwy gyfrwng y Saesneg. Cymerwn ni fel esiampl, Ysgol Uwchradd Tywyn ac Ysgol y Gader Dolgellau. Yn Ysgol Tywyn y flwyddyn yma eisteddodd 48 o ddisgyblion arholiad TGAU Cymraeg iaith gyntaf ond ni ddilynodd yr un o’r 48 yna unrhyw gwrs arall drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Mae’r sefyllfa chydig yn well yn Nolgellau lle eisteddodd 60 arholiad TGAU Cymraeg iaith gyntaf ond dim ond chwarter y rhain ddilynodd cwrs TGAU Mathemateg trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.

Tybed faint o’r 700 o fyfyrwyr a ddangosodd ddiddordeb yn y Coleg Cymraeg sydd wedi ei haddysgu mewn ysgolion penodedig Gymraeg a faint mewn ysgolion ‘dwyieithog?

Os ydy'r Coleg Cymraeg am ffynnu, a oes angen diwygio addysg uwchradd Gymraeg tuag at greu fwy o ysgolion penodedig Cymraeg hyd yn oed yn y siroedd hynny sydd yn Gymraeg ei naws.

Cynghorydd Arfon Jones

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Nadolig Llawen / Merry Christmas

Mae hi wedi bod yn flwyddyn lwyddiannus mewn sawl ffordd (ennill y refferendwm ar bwerau ychwanegol, sicrhau ysgol Gymraeg newydd yn Wrecsam ac ymgyrchoedd lleol eraill).

Ar drothwy blwyddyn newydd, rydan ni hefyd yn cofio colli ein cyfaill Barrie Price, cynghorydd Rhiwabon. O un bleidlais yn unig, methodd y Blaid â chadw'r sedd yn is-etholiad Rhiwabon.

Daw cyfle eto fis Mai, pan fydd y Blaid yn Wrecsam yn sefyll y nifer fwyaf o ymgeiswyr erioed yn yr etholiadau cyngor.
Tan hynny, Nadolig llawen i chi gyd!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Gold Plated Pensions!

One of the arguments put forward by the Government as to why public sector pensions need to be reformed is that they are unaffordable and provide the recipient with a far superior pension than that afforded to workers in the private sector. The reality is somewhat more sobering.

A total of 10,978 retired public sector workers are members of the Clwyd Pension Fund, 72% or 7,948 of them receive LESS than £5,000 per annum in gross pension whilst 82.6% get less than £7,500 per annum.

What this means in effect is that 80% of retired public sector workers in the Clwyd Pension Fund get less pension than what the government decrees to be the minimum income guarantee (pension credit)of £137.35 a week.

The result of the government changes will be to pay less pensions to public sector workers but have to make it up to the minimum income guarantee by paying the individual extra Pension Credit.

The crass stupidity of this coalition government knows no bounds.

Double whammy for the Government.

Yesterday was a victory for common sense when the High Court overruled the government's arbitrary decision in October to halve the feed in tariff for renewable energy from 43.3pence to 21pence. Mr Mitting the High Court Judge described Greg Barker and the Departement for Energy an Climate Change (DECC)'s decision as 'legally flawed' opening the way to a delay in implementing the reduction.

This defeat was quickly followed by two influential select committee reports which were reported as saying:
The government's rush to cut a subsidy for people who generate solar electicity on their roofs was clumsily handled and may have fatally damaged a growing industry which had the potential to provide tens of thousands of jobs, says a new report by MPs on two influential select committees.

Joan Walley MP, the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee further said:
"It doesn't make economic sense to let the sun go down on the solar industry in the UK. As well as helping to cut carbon emissions, every panel that is installed brings in VAT for the government and every company that benefits from the support is keeping people in work. The government is right to encourage people to focus on saving energy before fitting solar panels, but these proposals will stop nine out of 10 installations from going ahead, which will have a devastating effect on hundreds of solar companies and small building firms installing these panels across the country."

The rationale behind the government's decision to reduce the feed in tariff was the fact that the cost of installing solar pv had fallen 30% and that the cost of the subsidies to household bills would be £26 for every household per annum in 3 years time or £950 million a year. The £950 million figure seems to be completely off the wall as the total cost of Feed in Tariff from the 1st April 2010 to 30th September 2011 is only £45 million or £1.80 per household. How DECC come up with a figure twenty fold more than the current cost of the Feed in Tariff is beyond me and it seems beyond Mr Mitting as well.

Congratulations to Friends of the Earth and the two solar companies who bought this action.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Wales and Scotland scarred by Wind Turbines?

I'm grateful to Our Solar Future for bringing this quarterly report to my notice. It is a report by Ofcom E-Serve on the renewable energy feed in tariff which provides some useful information as to who has what renewable technology.

I found that the installed capacity of various technologies was particularly revealing; in Scotland for example 39% or 15.8MW of the installed capacity of 40.6MW was produced by wind technology with only 31% produced by solar.

In Wales 18% or 3MW of the 16.8MW capacity was produced by wind technology and 77% by solar.

Whilst Wales and Scotland have 57.4MW installed capacity this is only 18% of the UK's total installed capacity; but Wales and Scotland produce 66% of the total installed capacity from wind for the UK, which would indicate a disproportionate scarring and exploitation of our landscapes compared to the low number of wind installations in England

Enough is enough, it is time to make a stand against onshore wind installations in Wales, there has been enough scarring and destruction of our landscapes.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

.cymru Top Level Domain Name (TLD)

Below is a copy of an email from .dotcym who have campaigned for Wales to get their own Top Level Domain (TLD), but yet again we have been badly let down by Carwyn Jones and Edwina Hart who seem set to hand over this significant project to a commercial organisation Nominet based in Oxford:

dotCYM has been ready for years to apply for a TLD. The company was structured to ensure that it was accountable to the Welsh community. The technical side was ready to sell domains worldwide. dotCYM has even secured a $185,000 loan to pay for the application in case the Welsh Government reneged on its promise of a loan.

dotCYM were, however, unable to convince the civil servants that Wales should have its own TLD, run from Wales, by the Welsh and accountable to the Welsh people. "What's wrong with .uk?", "why don't we just get Nominet to do it for free? ". The civil servants showed no ambition or imagination. No understanding of top-level domains and no urge to work towards bringing innovation, expertise, jobs and money to Wales.

Unfortunately, before the submission date was announce by ICANN, the governing body of names on the Internet, (12th January 2012 - 12th April 2012) there was a change of government. dotCYM warned Plaid Cymru and Ieuan Wyn Jones, who was the minister responsible for a TLD for Wales, that unless they took urgent steps to guarantee that the Welsh TLD would be run from Wales there was a high risk that the new Labour minister would approach Nominet to apply for a .wales.
Nothing was done. Edwina Hart became the Minister responsible and she has refused to talk to or meet dotCYM and the civil servants approached Nominet to bring them into the game.

Carwyn Jones and Edwina Hart have stated that the Welsh Government has no interest in doing anything except for giving one applicant the "letter of no objection" that is needed as part of the application. It is unheard of for a Government to show so little interest in its own top-level domain. The London, Scottish, Basque, Galician and Breton Governments are working very close with their local applications for their names online.

Nominet has commissioned London Economics, LE Cymru and YouGov to create a document that shows that the name of the TLD should be .wales instead of .cymru, although the majority of the people of Wales want a .cymru. Instead of doing its own research the Government seems to be clinging on to every word of this research document. Yes, since the civil servants don't understand TLDs the Government is taking advice from the document commissioned by the corporation trying to protect its monopoly of the market! dotCYM has never been consulted and there is no one else to questions Nominet's misleading polls and research.

Last Friday the Government invited potential applicants to compete for the letter of no objection that's required from the Government as a part of the application to ICANN (http://sell2wales.co.uk/notices/display.html?NoticeId=28474).. With a deadline of 6th of January, just three weeks away and over the Christmas holidays, this makes it almost impossible for dotCYM to find the 300,000 investment it needs and so the civil servants and the Government have successfully paved the way for Nominet, an Oxford-based company, to take ownership and control of .wales (and they may go for .cymru as well if forced to). Once Nominet owns Wales' name and brand online, the Welsh will never regain control of it. Nominet are not accountable to the Welsh people in any way. They can create a Welsh front with an Advisory Committee and even open an office in Wales with a token Welsh-speaker to give phone support, but that doesn't change the fact that the policy will be decided by people foreign to the Welsh community.

Of course, as well as losing ownership and control of our TLD, this will result in the loss of the jobs, special expertise and money that would have come into Wales.
Nominet has tried to persuade the London and Scottish governments that it should own and run their TLDs. Both rejected the idea and are working with local companies to deliver a successful TLD. Nominet may eventually run the technical side of .london but it would not own and control it. The Bretons, Basques and Galicians are doing the same - a local company, accountable to the people it represents, cooperating closely with the Government. But this is not the case in Wales where there was no support or interest in a local initiative.

It's very unlikely that dotCYM will be able to put a bid up against Nominet on the 6th of January. Even with the big potential return of investment we've found that companies can't make decisions quickly enough to turn this around before the deadline. If someone has access to money that they are able to invest, please contact us.

All hope is not lost. A top level-domain is not a devolved issue; the last word resides in London. The real letter of no objection must come from Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. dotCYM hopes that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians can show the leadership needed here to try to save this grave injustice and ensure the Welsh keep control of their name online.

You, as dotCYM's supporters, have as much power as dotCYM now to try to make the Government realise the error of its ways and keep control in Wales and ensure that there's an application for a .cymru as well as a .wales. dotCYM had the resources to apply for and run a TLD but not to compete against Nominet. Your help is now vital.
You can contact your local AM and MP. More Labour politicians need to become aware of the situation and Conservative and Lib Dem politicians can put pressure on the UK Government. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London has experts in Internet governance that understand the importance of community TLD applications such as ours to increase diversity and competition on the Internet. Since this is not a devolved issue it's important that they realise that it's their responsibility to ensure that Wales gets the TLD it wants and needs and not one that has its policy decided in Oxford.

For more details on the situation or information on how you can help please contact me (maredudd@dotcym.org) and follow us on Twitter (@dotcymru)


Please contact your Member of Parliament.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

No more Takeaways near schools in Wrecsam

Wrecsam Council are the first local authority in Wales to approve a Planning Guidance Note for Hot Food Takeaway which seeks to impose a 400 metre exclusion zone around schools and colleges for new hot food takeaway applications.

Whilst there has been some healthy skepticism by elected members for the proposal based mainly on 'nanny state' arguments, difficulty in enforcement and effectiveness; members supported the proposal 9 to 1 following strong representations by Dr Andrew Jones, Director of Public Health for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board as well as wholehearted and overwhelming support by Wrecsam's Senedd yr Ifanc.

A recent Judicial Review has found that social objectives like restricting planning consent for takeways and the like near to schools are a 'material consideration' in determining planning applications.

Let's hope that other Welsh local authorities will follow Wrecsam's lead and introduce similar guidance. There is after all little point in promoting Appetite for Life and healthy eating in schools if takeaways are allowed to open unrestricted nearby.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Daily Fail (2)

Readers will recall the Mail Online's major 'cock up' in reporting the incorrect story on the Amanda Knox trial from Italy back in October this year. The Mail Online incorrectly reported that Knox's appeal against conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher was dismissed when in fact it had been upheld and she had been released.

Although pleasing to note that the Press Complaints Commission have upheld a complaint against the Daily Mail in respect of accuracy (or lack of it as was the case here) but they have no sanction to punish the Mail and to ensure it won't happen again.

What is needed is a complaints procedure for the press that has teeth.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Miriam Beard jailed - but what about the rest?

There's justifiable anger about Miriam Beard stealing more than £50,000 from one of Wrecsam's poorest communities:
When Miriam Beard "milked" a charity out of more than £50,000, she stole from one of Wales' poorest communities.
As the former co-ordinator of the Plas Madoc Communities First Project, it was her job to ensure the charity's funds helped improve the Wrexham community.Many residents believe the money could have enhanced life for those on the estate, particularly children.
Beard, 56, of Henllan, Denbighshire, was jailed for 32 months on Friday at Caernarfon Crown Court.
She was appointed the charity's co-ordinator in 2003 after working as a welfare rights money adviser for Wrexham council's social services department. Even before she began work, she had misled the organisation. During her trial - before she changed her plea to guilty - Mold Crown Court heard she had concealed her past by claiming to be 10 years younger than she was.She claimed that she left university and went straight to work after obtaining A levels and GCSEs.In reality, she had been due to sit six CSE examinations, failed three and failed to turn up for three, and never went to university, the court heard.
She had also been convicted of offences of dishonesty and other matters in the 1970s, and in 1979 went to prison for conspiracy to defraud.
Her most serious crime though, according to many Plas Madoc residents, was stealing money that could have improved the lives of local children.
The charity was intended to provide activities to boost the quality of life for local residents.According to the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2011 - which breaks the country down into 1,896 small areas - Plas Madoc is ranked the 24th most deprived in Wales.
Welsh government statistics on Communities First areas (dated 2001), said nearly 83% of people lived in rented council accommodation or housing from a registered social landlord.
Figures suggested more than 10% of households were overcrowded.
Tracey Pritchard, Post Office worker: "There used to be a youth club here, but that's gone. It was somewhere for the children to go at night, at least, but there's nothing here anymore."There's a leisure centre, but I don't think half the people here can afford to use it."
Resident Laura Hughes, 32, an unemployed carer for her autistic daughter, said: "My daughter was going to a group called Reflections, but they had to stop it. The children would play and learn there."You don't rob £50,000 off places like this. People haven't got any money."
But there are plenty of questions as yet unanswered and there are suggestions that there are more revelations about money stolen or wasted on hotels, fancy meals and alcohol by Miriam Beard and others.
What has happened to Andrew Bunning, the Plas Madoc Communities First finance officer, who resigned after admitting defrauding the state?
Above all there has been a deafening silence from two very important sources.
Firstly the trustees who employed Miriam Beard and allowed her to buy a car with "petty" cash, buy a caravan and not advertise its existence to locals and failed to check her claims that she had a degree and no criminal convictions. Why was a woman with so few relevant qualifications allowed to take such a powerful post without safeguards?
Firstly, the trustees have yet to apologise to the people ripped off, have yet to hold up their hands and be accountable. They have presided over this disaster and should resign. The fact that they haven't says everything about their lack of accountability.
Secondly, the Welsh Government who set up the Communities First programme a decade ago. More than £200 million has been spent in our poorest communities and, although Plas Madoc is an extreme example of what can go wrong, there is also a huge question about the effectiveness of the programme in many areas. What have they achieved? Would they survive if government funding was pulled? How have they empowered those communities? It seems that these questions are belatedly being addressed as the next stage of Communities First funding comes on stream in October 2012... 10 years too late for places like Plas Madoc.



Fuel poverty and the energy lobbyists

Struggling to pay rising energy bills? Wondering why nothing is being done?
Two stories that tell us so much about who really runs thing in UK plc and how badly Wales does from being governed from London.

First is the news that big energy firms who effectively supply all the UK's electricity as well as multinationals such as Shell Oil have "leant" 50 staff to the UK Government.
The revelation came after Freedom of Information requests by Green MP Caroline Lucas:
"Companies such as the big six energy firms do not lend their staff to government for nothing – they expect a certain degree of influence, insider knowledge and preferential treatment in return. At such a pivotal time in the UK's energy and climate change policy, as ministers must get to grips with the realities of climate change, rising costs and energy insecurity, the strong presence of vested interests is a real cause for concern."

These firms also lobbied the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc) to make sure they were able to continue charging rip-off prices for fuel:

Decc declared 195 ministerial meetings with energy companies and their lobby groups and 17 with green campaign groups. The big six energy companies, which provide 99% of the energy used in UK homes, feature prominently, with 34 face-to-face meetings and a further seven with trade bodies representing their interests.

"Cash-strapped UK households are struggling with rocketing bills driven by the spiralling price of gas that the big six energy firms rely on to fuel their power stations," said Friends of the Earth executive director, Andy Atkins. "It's time to break the cosy relationship between the government and energy giants, and help new British companies provide clean home-grown energy we can all afford."

This might explain the growing scandal of four in ten Welsh households being in fuel poverty, as revealed in a Guardian exclusive:
A quarter of all households in England and Wales have now fallen in to fuel poverty following an autumn of steep increases in energy bills and stagnating incomes.
The dramatic increase in fuel poverty - up from nearly one in five households last year to one in four now - will be highly embarrassing to the government, which has a statutory obligation to eliminate fuel poverty by 2016. It now looks certain to fail to meet its legal duty.
Previous government projections forecast that this year would see 4.1m households in fuel poverty, which is defined as those who have to spend 10% or more of their income to achieve adequate warmth and light.
The breakdown reveals some startling differences - 17% of households in south-east England living in fuel poverty while Wales has 40%, more than double.

With the UK Government tucked up in bed with the energy companies, is it any wonder that the voices of those struggling to pay rapidly rising fuel bills is being ignored?

Cancer patients made to beg for benefits - whose fault?

The last sentence of this piece by Laurie Penny says it all:

Cancer patients are to be made to beg for their benefits. It sounds like a joke, doesn't it? After 18 months of cuts, austerity measures and scantily disguised attempts to punish the poor for the failings of the financial sector, somehow this Government still retains the power to shock. A report to ministers by Professor Malcolm Harrington, the government adviser on testing welfare recipients, contains proposals that those undergoing chemotherapy in hospital be forced to prove their unfitness for work before receiving the bare minimum of benefits required to live out what may be their final weeks in comfort. It may be one of the most monstrous minor outrages against human dignity ever enacted by a Labour government.

Yes, a Labour government. It seems to have escaped public notice that it was Labour that pioneered the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system, requiring everyone in receipt of sickness benefits to negotiate a bureaucratic fun-house of forms, fit-for-work tests and bizarre inquisitions in remote buildings that may or may not be accessible by wheelchair. The Tories added their special brand of barbarity to the process, but by 2010 the damage was done – and cancer patients were not exempt from Labour's original proposals to placate the tabloids by pursuing "scroungers".

In three years of research and campaigning on the ESA, I have collected countless stories of pain and humiliation – the result of a policy administered by Atos Origin, the private company with a £300m contract giving them responsibility for the work capability tests. The man with crippling arthritis who was required to walk until he collapsed from pain. The girl with serious mental health difficulties who was made to strip to show her self-harm scars, and was thrown off benefits anyway. Mental health charities have informed the Government that the tests are already prompting suicides, and are likely to lead to more.

All this for a system with such a high failure rate that the appeals process costs the Exchequer tens of millions of pounds a year – and barely shaves anything from a benefit fraud bill already dwarfed by the cost of tax avoidance and evasion by the super-rich. Callousness and inefficiency: the demon offspring of the hell-marriage between pitiless Thatcherism and New Labour neuroticism.

It would be easy, at this point, to adopt the clichéd radical posture of throwing up your hands and declaring that all mainstream parties are the same. They are not all the same. There is, however, so little clear air between the welfare policies of this Government and the previous one that anyone who believes in a society that cares for the needy is left to feel their vote is being held hostage – by a party whose sole claim to electability seems to be that the Tories are worse.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

School Banding in Wrecsam.

Despite what the analysts say about school banding in some areas it seems to have been pretty accurate overall in Wrecsam. Most people with any knowledge of education in the county would have predicted that St Joseph's Anglican and Catholic School would top the band with a 1 and that Ysgol Clywedog, Ysgol Rhosnesni and Bryn Alyn would be in Band 4 or 5; this would have been in line with August's GCSE results.

The one surprise for most people would probably be Ysgol Rhiwabon who came in Band 1 ahead of Darland, Maelor and Morgan Llwyd who were in Band 2, but is another acknowledgement of the excellent work that has been going on in Ysgol Rhiwabon over the last year with big improvements in the 5 A*- C GCSE grades.

Banding:
St Joseph's Catholic and Anglican High School - Band 1.
Ysgol Rhiwabon - Band 1.
Darland High School - Band 2.
The Maelor School, Penley - Band 2.
Ysgol Morgan Llwyd - Band 2.
Ysgol y Grango, Rhosllanerchrugog - Band 3.
Rhosnesni High School - Band 5.
Ysgol Bryn Alyn - Band 5.
Ysgol Clywedog - Band 5.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.

Diddorol oedd darllen atodiad y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol yn Golwg wythnos yma oedd yn hysbysebu ysgoloriaethau; ac yn gneud i fi feddwl faint o fyfyrwyr sydd yn dilyn cyrsiau'r Coleg Cenedlaethol sydd ddim yn cael ysgoloriaeth? Fasa rywyn yn meddwl fod 'na ddigon o ddisgyblion wedi cael ei haddysgu mewn unai ysgolion Cymraeg penodedig neu ysgolion dwyieithog Gwynedd ai thebyg, fel bod ddim angen cymhelliad ysgoloriaeth.

Dwi wedi gneud ryw chydig o waith yn ddiweddar ynglŷn â dewisiad iaith disgyblion mewn ysgolion dwyieithog yn yr hen sir Feirionnydd ac mae'r dewis yn amrywio gyda niferoedd mawr o ddisgyblion Ysgol y Moelwyn ar Berwyn yn astudio mwyafrif pynciau drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Wedyn mae gennym ni Ysgol Ardudwy, lle eto mae mwyafrif bychan yn dilyn cyrsiau drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Mae pethe’n dirywio tuag at dde'r sir, hefo mwyafrif disgyblion Ysgol y Gader yn dilyn cyrsiau drwy gyfrwng y Saesneg e.e. Mae 60 o ddisgyblion yn dilyn cwrs/eistedd arholiad Cymraeg iaith gyntaf ac 11 ail iaith; ond dim ond 15 o’r 60 sydd yn astudio Mathemateg drwy'r Gymraeg. Mae'r sefyllfa yn debyg yn bron pob pwnc.

Mae'r sefyllfa yn Ysgol Uwchradd Tywyn hefyd yn wael gyda 48 o ddisgyblion Blwyddyn 11 flwyddyn yma yn ddigon rhugl i ddilyn cwrs Cymraeg iaith gyntaf ond ddim un wan jac o’r 48 yn dilyn unrhyw gwrs arall drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.

Y cwestiwn amlwg sydd yn codi yw, o le mae myfyrwyr i'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol yn mynd i ddod o? O'r ysgolion dwyieithog traddodiadol neu o ysgolion penodedig Cymraeg. Fe fydd hi'n werth gweld y data mewn rhyw flwyddyn neu ddwy.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Trust the trust

As of today, Wrexham FC is owned by us, the fans. The Wrexham Supporters' Trust has played a blinder in securing ownership and freed us from the horror of dodgy owners and freeloaders.
Despite all those who doubted and, in some cases, conspired against the Trust - they have delivered and deserve our support. We have never doubted them.

We're on top of the league and on top of the world.

Llyr Huws Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru AM for North Wales, put it rather well:

"I am absolutely delighted that the deal has finally gone through. The Wrexham Supporters' Trust has already shown its business acumen and proven to have a steady nerve under pressure - as is evident from the rollercoaster ride of the past few months. My congratulations go to them for all their hard work in securing this deal.

"This has been a long time coming and I hope that the democratic ownership of the club now puts to bed the nightmare years of Hamilton, Gutterman and all the others who have sought to profit at the expense of North Wales's premier football club.

"As someone once said, this isn't the beginning of the end it's the end of the beginning. A bright new future beckons for this great club. Things are going the right way on the football field and we now have the chance to make sure things to the right way off the pitch as well."

Firefighters back public sector strikes


Great turnout from Wrecsam firefighters in support of the N30 strike today.

Biggest march in Wrecsam in living memory


About 700 marchers joined the protest by public sector unions in Wrecsam today, including many who were not on strike today - including RCN nurses and firefighters. The mood of sympathy and solidarity was very evident throughout the town.
Plaid Cymru distributed 500 leaflets to marchers and passersby and the turnout marks a real escalation in the growing conflict between workers and the ConDem government.
A rally is currently being held in the Little Theatre. With hindsight we should have booked the "big" theatre!


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The strike in Wrecsam

Plaid Cymru will be marching in solidarity with public sector workers in Wrecsam tomorrow, as surveys reveal growing support for the strike among the general public.
Whether you're out on strike on November 30 or supporting the campaign against public sector cuts to pensions and services, join us at Queen Square at 11.30am.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Q and A's

Which one is right?:

Wrexham CBC Q and A:

Q I am not a union member but I don’t want to cross the picket line on 30 November. Can I take part in the industrial action?

A .Yes. As a non- union member you are deemed to be taking part in “unofficial strike action”. However, as there will be colleagues taking part who are union members and thus taking part in “official action” you will be protected from any breach of contract claim that could be made against you.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Q and A:

Q Can I take strike action if I am not in an union?

A Staff not in a Trade Union will technically be in breach of their contract if they do not attend work on the 30th November. Staff are therefore strongly advised to attend work as usual, if they do not belong to a trade union.

Be interesting to see if non TU member employed by the BCU is disciplined for refusing to cross a picket line!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Colledion Steddfod Wrecsam.

Dwi wedi peidio blogio ar y pwnc yma gan obeithio neith y tymer wella ond annhebyg ydy hynna o ddigwydd felly waeth i fi gael deud fy neud.

Yn gyntaf oll mae angen datgan siomedigaeth fod Steddfod arbennig o lwyddiannus fel Steddfod Wrecsam wedi gneud colled ariannol o £90,000, ac mae rhaid hefyd datgan fod y targed lleol o £300,000 ar targed noddi o dros £400,000 mwy neu lai wedi ei chyrraedd.

Y broblem hefo Steddfod Wrecsam fel nifer o Eisteddfodau diweddar ydy gormod o bethau ymlaen a dim digon o fobol i'w mynychu. Er enghraifft, roedd gan Faes B ddau lwyfan ym Mhrifysgol Glyndŵr, roedd gan Faes C lwyfan a gweithgareddau yn Ysgol Bryn Offa, roedd Theatr Bara Caws yng nghlwb RAFA ac roedd nosweithiau hynod lwyddiannus Cymdeithas yr Iaith yng nghlwb yr Orsedd Ganolog; ac ar ben hynny roedd Cyngherddau drudfawr yr Eisteddfod yn y Pafiliwn. Nawr, mi fues i mewn pedwar gweithgaredd yn y Pafiliwn, un yn Faes C a dau yn yr Orsaf Ganolog, ac ar wahân i'r Pafiliwn roedd popeth arall yn ddigon fforddiadwy.

Yr ail broblem ydw i'n weld ydy cost tocynnau am y cyngherddau nos; roedd tocynnau i'r Cyngerdd Agoriadol hefo'r Tri Thenor ar Cyngerdd Pop hefo Caryl tua £30 punt yr un, oedd tu hwnt i nifer o selogion y Steddfod ac oni bai fy mod yn teimlo dyletswydd i fynd fel aelod o'r Pwyllgor Gwaith mae'n debyg faswn i wedi ffendio rhywle mwy fforddiadwy hefyd.

Yn drydydd mae cwestiwn mawr sydd wedi ei ofyn ers rai blynyddoedd rŵan, a hynny ydy, a yw artistiaid sydd yn perfformio yn ecsploetio'r Steddfod ar cynulleidfaoedd drwy drin yr ŵyl fel ryw fath o 'bonws Dolig ariannol? Er bod gen i ddim yn erbyn yr artistiaid gymerodd ran yn y Cyngerdd Pop roedd diffyg arweinyddiaeth, defnydd o gerddorfa ar ffurfioldeb yn ei neud yn gyngerdd diflas, difflach a heb fymryn o awyrgylch. Y teimlad cyffredinol oedd bod y cyngerdd yma i S4C ac i neb arall; mewn ffordd roedd y gynulleidfa yno i sybsideiddio S4C i neud rhaglenni.

Diddorol iawn fasa gwybod yn lle mae'r golled o £90,000 wedi dod o? Y teimlad cyffredinol ydy mai ffioedd afresymol o uchel i RAI artistiaid sydd yn gyfrifol.

Mae'r ateb i'r broblem yn ddigon syml yn fy marn i a hynny ydy rhoi gorau i'r cyngherddau uchel ail drudfawr (neu cael mwy o noddwyr i ariannu) a mynd yn ôl at ein gwreiddiau a chael gweithgareddau traddodiadol llai ei maint mewn lleoliadau lle gall cynulleidfaoedd fod yn rhan o'r gweithgareddau. Hefyd mae angen cadw be sy'n gweithio fel gigs Maes C ac mi ddylsa y Steddfod adael i Gymdeithas yr Iaith ail afael yn yr awenau a rhedeg gigs Maes B; allwn i ddim fforddio'r 'sbats' blynyddol yma!

Mae hi'n gwbl amlwg o'r trafferthion y cawsom wrth godi arian fod yna brinder yn gyffredinol a bod pobol yn gwario llai; hwyrach ei bod hi'n amser i'r Steddfod sylweddoli hynna ac yn arbennig artistiaid fwyaf drudfawr Cymru a lleihau ei disgwyliadau cyn iddynt brisio ei hunain allan o'r farchnad.

No to TeamGB.

This is what Alex Ferguson had to say about Team GB:
"Speaking as a Scot I would say it is a no-no for us in case [world governing body] Fifa seizes the opportunity to try to make the home countries play together as Great Britain all the time, and we wouldn't want that,"

Friday, 25 November 2011

Another Con Dem U-Turn.

The decision by the Ministry of Justice to remove the Youth Justice Boards from the threat of abolition as part of the Public Bodies Bill is to be welcomed. There has long been uncertainty surrounding long term planning and funding for Local Authority Youth Justice Management Boards who are responsible for preventing youth offending and re-offending. This is an area which is ripe to be devolved to the jurisdiction of the Welsh Government so as to avoid the tripartite funding mechanism which is in place at the moment. The Youth Justice Board in Wales must be the only body with such complex funding systems with the Home Office providing funding to the Community Safety Partnerships, the Ministry of Justice to the Youth Justice Board and the Welsh Government to all 22 Local Authority Youth Justice Services. With such uncertainity over funding streams it is impossible to plan ahead. Now is the opportunity to change.

Wrex recycling opens new stall at People’s Market


A recycling project established by the Caia Park Partnership is about to open a new stall on the People’s Market in the town centre. The project which aims to sell used babies and children’s clothes collected locally has gone from strength to strength in the last few months. The new stall will be open from Thursday 24th November and local supporters are urging residents across the borough to call in and pay them a visit.

Wrex Recycling now has 11 red recycling clothes bins installed across Wrecsam, with all profits generated being reinvested to expand the project itself and also to support local initiatives.

Queensway councillor Carrie Harper who has been involved with the project from the start praised the work of staff and volunteers in taking the project to its next phase: “Wrex recycling is an exciting project and the only one of it’s kind in Wrecsam. The team have already reached the finals for the Wales Recycling Awards for ‘Community Recycler of the Year 2011’ for their efforts in getting it off the ground. Staff members and volunteers at the Caia Partnership collect and sort the clothes and prepare them for re sale, the clothes are top quality and I’m sure the stall will be very successful”.

Project organiser Tracey Prandle said: “ We’re really excited about the stall and are looking forward to the opening. We collect all sorts of used items such as clothes (Adults,childrens and babies),shoes, bags, belts, bedding and hangers. We’ll also come to collect these items from residents if they have 3 bin bags or more for us. The new stall means we now have a base to distribute these items in the centre of Wrecsam which is a huge step forward for the project.”

Wrex Recycling now has red clothes banks installed across the borough at the following locations:

The Red Dragon pub car park Prince Charles Road
The Hand pub car park Holt Road
Water Ways garden centre car park Holt Road Llan Y Pwll
Kings Mills pub car park Kingsmills Road
Travellers pub car park
Kingsmills Road Plas Coch retail park, opposite DW Sports
Island Green retail park, first car park
Co op store car park, Rhosymedre
Co op store car park,Johnstown
Cross Foxes pub car park, opposite pub
Somerfield car park, Gwersyllt

Items can also be dropped off at the Caia Park Partnership itself, residents can get in touch on 01978 310 984. Alternatively for more information, the project has a Facebook Page which can be found under ‘Wrex Recycling’

Y ffordd newydd Basgaidd o gyfathrebu?

Mae'r erthygl yma ar golwg.360 yn haeddu mwy o drafodaeth, yn enwedig yn sgil diflaniad tebyg papurau dyddiol Cymreig dros y blynyddoedd nesaf. Yng Ngwlad y Basg mae newyddiaduraeth tanddaearol wedi goroesi wedi degawdau o arbrofi.
Ydio'n bosib creu llwyfan arlein tebyg i Goiena yma yng Nghymru, sy'n debyg i Wlad y Basg o ran ei natur gymunedol/blwyfol a chryfder cyfryngau lleol/rhanbarthol yn hytrach na chenedlaethol? Oes modd dod a phapurau bro, radio arlein, blogiau, gwefannau cymunedol a ballu at ei gilydd i greu rhwydwaith Gymraeg o newyddion?
Yn sicr mae'n well bet na trio atgyfodi dadl Y Byd byth a beunydd.

Mae'r un ddadl yr un mor berthnasol i'r cyfryngau Saesneg yng Nghymru wrth gwrs.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

New bus service for town centre

A new 19-seater bus service will run between the train station, bus station right down to the High Street and then Eagle's Meadow as part of efforts by the council to attract more shoppers to the town centre.
The move, which was backed by the council's Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee, comes after a long battle by myself, Cllr Carrie Harper and Cllr Keith Gregory to get the buses back into the High Street.
Despite initially sounding keen, the private bus companies decided against this and now the council is developing its own service that will come down Regent St and pick up passengers on the way.
This will be a great bonus for those who are less mobile and find it difficult to walk all the way from the bus station to the High Street.
It will mean some loss of parking spaces for Blue Badge holders but there will be some compensation because they will be able to park from 9am.
Darren Williams and his team deserve praise for working through a novel solution to answer the needs of shoppers and traders in what has been a very difficult balancing act.

The last Post?

News that Liverpool Daily Post (an entirely separate animal to the Daily Post produced in Wales) is to go weekly will send shivers down many journalists' spines.
The Liverpool DP only has a circulation of 8,200 and is part of the Trinity Mirror group that has also seen the Birmingham Post go weekly. Although the Western Mail and Daily Post (Wales edition) are still a long way from that kind of circulation, it appears to be a group tactic to deal with falling circulation.
The Leader too, which is rumoured to be about to ditch its Mold HQ and move to the Deeside print headquarters, has seen dramatic falls in circulation - currently below 17,000.
The ability to adapt to rapidly changing ways of accessing news and media generally will determine which media outlets survive the next few years. But the further erosion of the Welsh newspaper industry would be a disaster, albeit one largely of their own making.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Join the march against cuts in Wrecsam on November 30

This from the North Wales Against Cuts campaign:

PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS MARCH AGAINST CUTS IN WREXHAM ON NOVEMBER 30

Hundreds of public sector workers are expected to take to the streets of Wrexham next Wednesday, 30 November, to protest against the Tory-Liberal Democrat government's cuts agenda.

The march and rally, which starts in Queen Square in Wrexham town centre, is one of hundreds being organised across the UK as part of a TUC day of action by millions of trade unionists protesting against cuts in their pensions and the wider government cuts.

Strike action will see health workers, school teachers, council workers, tax inspectors, lecturers and civil servants join the march with community activists such as disability campaigners also getting involved.

Peter Jones, of the UCU lecturers' union and a leading member of the alliance of public sector trade unions behind the march, said: "There's incredible anger that public services are being cut and workers' pensions are being raided to pay for the reckless gambling of the bankers.

"This day of action is all about public sector workers saying 'enough is enough' to the government about their pensions being cut while they're expected to pay more and work longer. As well as those affected directly, there are millions more who will be hit by cutbacks in services and benefits. This march is for everyone - whether in the public sector, private sector or among the growing army of unemployed - affected by the cuts."

He added: "Thousands of people work in the public sector in this part of Wales, whether in the NHS, the council, schools or civil service. This attack on workers, many of whom are low paid, will have a major knock-on effect on the local economy. That's why trade unionists have banded together to form North Wales Against Cuts - we must fight back to defend our jobs, homes and families, schools and hospitals among others."

The march through town begins in Queens Square at 11.30am and will end with an indoor rally at the Grove Park Little Theatre on Hill Street at 12.30pm.


Friday, 18 November 2011

Health and Social Care.

It's been over two years since the report, "Setting the Direction" was published. The key purpose of this document was to:
"... to set out a framework aimed at assisting LHBs in the development and delivery of improved primary care and community based services for their local populations; particularly for those individuals who are frail , vulnerable and who have complex care needs."

It goes on to identify key elements of the framework as:
"close alignment of health and social care in a system that delivers preventative, pre-emptive, reactive and rehabilitative care focused around the needs of the individual;"

Despite the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board being responsible for the GP Out of Hours service in the Wrecsam area it seems that the service is unaware of how to contact carers outside normal working hours.

In response to a recent complaint I made regarding a lack of joined up/seamless working between Health and Social Care in Wrecsam I received the following explanation from Grace Lewis Jones, Director for Communications for the Trust:
"The GP Out of Hours have never been made aware of the existence of a specific 24/7 Care Service based at Plas yn Rhos, but Dr .... is now in the process of investigating the remit of the Plas yn Rhos Service...

"As a direct result of ..........'s experience the Out of Hours Service are now reviewing their system for accessing social care at night to ensure it still remains appropriate."

Where have the Out of Hours Service been over the last 2 years?

Perhaps this is something for the Community Health Council to address.

Our Unambitious First Minister.

This is a letter I wrote to the Daily Post AND which was published today. The letter is in response to our First Minister's Institute of Welsh Politics lecture and reported in the Daily Post here:

Dear Editor,

Much has been written about Carwyn Jones’s competency as First Minister since May of this year, but nothing demonstrates his timidness and lack of ambition for Wales than his lecture to the Institute of Welsh Politics at Aberystwyth and reported in the Post, Nov 15th, ‘Carwyn sets out Devo Limits’, where he seems to be content to sit back and to pick up the crumbs left by Scotland’s march to independence. What sort of First Minister allows the governance system in HIS country to be decided by Scotland’s relationship within the UK? Shouldn’t he govern to meet the needs of the people of Wales?

What the people of Wales need is a constitutional change to be able recall moribund politicians like Carwyn Jones who are not delivering for the people of Wales.

Cynghorydd/Councillor Arfon Jones,

Ruabon by-election

Ruabon by-election result

Dana Davies (Lab) 231
Pol Wong (Plaid Cymru) 230
Andy Kendrick (Ind) 155
Adam Owen (Tory) 59

Llongyfarchiadau mawr i Pol am wneud cystal mewn tair wythnos o ymgyrchu.
Congratulations to the victor. Roll on May 2012.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Question Time, Ruabon style


Question Time came to Ruabon on the eve of the county council by-election. Or rather it didn't for three of the four candidates as they failed to turn up. Only Pol Wong, Plaid Cymru's candidate, faced questions from voters that ranged from planning to parking.
Stella Matthews, the mother of the Labour candidate and also the agent, turned up and tried to get the meeting cancelled on the grounds that they had refused to take part. She had also earlier told people in the village that the meeting had been cancelled and tried to insist to one shopworker that she take down a poster advertising the event. This annoyed the shopworker enough to bring her along to the meeting but by then Stella had gone.
It's a shame the other candidates didn't stay to listen to the concerns of local people. It's a shame that they treated the democratic process with such contempt. If they're not willing to answer to the people before they're elected, what hope is there of them being answerable once they're in post?
Fortunately, the signs for tomorrow are good. The campaign has entered its final 24 hours and Pol is on course to retain Barrie Price's seat for Plaid Cymru.

Use your vote on Thursday - vote Pol Wong

Labour Market Statistics.

The Regional Labour Market Statistics (November 2011) were released today and overall it shows an increase in unemployment and claimant counts. The total number of unemployed in Wales had gone up from 122,000 (April/June Quarter) to 137,000 in the second quarter.

The situation for the 18 to 24 age group has again worsened with the numbers of claimants in that age group who have been claiming for more than 12 months having doubled between May and October this year with 900 more long term claimants.

Ieuan Wyn Jones is quite right in warning the First Minister that Wales is in danger of losing a whole generation to the ranks of the unemployed. Plaid Cymru are also right in opposing the government's budget and demanding more emphasis on economic development.

It will be interesting to see how the First Minister and the Government will spin these statistics, best guess is... let's blame the Con Dem government in London!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Scottish Tories are still in disarray!

I wrote a few weeks ago about the race for the leadership of the Tory Party in Scotland and the bad feelings and dirty tricks that were going on. Despite electing the establishment favourite Ruth Davidson MSP as their new leader the simmering discontent seems set to continue as Ms Davidson fails to command the loyalty of the 15 MSP's in the Tory Group with defeated leadership candidate Murdo Fraser refusing the Deputy Leadership whilst his campaign manager Liz Smith refused Ms Davidson's attempt to move her from Education spokesperson to Rural Affairs. It therefore appears that the new deputy leader will be another defeated leadership challenger Jackson Carlow MSP who came in third in the Leadership elections. Ms Davidson's immediate concern will however be her inability to form a front bench team of spokespersons to scrutinise and challenge the work of the SNP Government.

It seems therefore that Ms Davidson will not enjoy a leadership honeymoon period that most new party leaders benefit from. Perhaps there are lessons here for all political parties who are considering electing new leaders and that is to gain the support of the MSP's who you intend to lead, or as the Scotsman leader said in an aptly titled piece, "Tories’ new leader reaps what she sows as rivals kick back":
The reasons for this mood of rebellion among Tory MSPs is obvious to all, and should be to Ms Davidson herself. Many of the party’s few tribunes at Holyrood voted for her rival Murdo Fraser, who yesterday refused her offer to remain as deputy leader, the position he occupied under Annabel Goldie, and promptly walked off to the back benches after being refused the job he wanted of leading the Tory campaign against independence.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hunterston - a tale of two energy policies

Today, North Ayrshire Council rejected a planning application for a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston. This decision is to be welcomed because it was to be sold on the basis that emissions would be 25% less (and increasing over the years to 90%) because of CCS Technology (Carbon Capture and Storage). This is as we all know unproven and untested technology and to grant planning permission on such technology would be grossly negligient on the part of the council.

One thing that struck me when I heard the report today was that the final decision would rest with the Scottish Ministers. Had the same thing happened in Wales, say Wylfa B, the final decision would have been taken by Chris Huhne (or is the unelected unaccountable Infrastructure Planning Commission still in place?) and not Welsh Ministers - a situation that our Prime Minister Carwyn Jones finds preferable!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Plas Madoc Communities First - heads should roll

The Plas Madoc Communities First scandal first erupted in October 2009 when a BBC Wales radio programme aired concerns about misuse of public money. The concerns had been raised by whistleblower Mandy Bostwick, who had been employed briefly by PMCF. Her concerns were backed by Plaid's Janet Ryder AM, despite attempts by the police, PMCF and the local council to rubbish both her claims and general credibility.
To her very great credit, Mandy Bostwick stood her ground in the face of intimidation and the blackening of her name in a campaign orchestrated by Miriam Beard.
Janet Ryder's office was called following the radio programme by an incandescent Miriam Beard demanding that she attend a public meeting for the people of Plas Madoc to express their anger. She agreed but the meeting mysteriously never took place as the police and Wales Audit Office started investigating.
Throughout this sorry saga, recorded at length on this blog, the trustees who oversaw the project failed to take a lead. Among them is Councillor Paul Blackwell. This is what he had to say in December 2009, six weeks after the allegations were made in the media but a full TEN MONTHS after Mandy Bostwick took her concerns to the directors of PMCF:

Yesterday Plas Madoc Councillor Paul Blackwell, who sits on the PMCF board said the scheme was fully co-operating with the investigation.

Coun Blackwell said: “There is full co-operation with the investigation and at the moment there is no evidence of any wrong doing.”

Well it's there for all to see now.
For their failure to oversee a project that has spent millions on the Plas Madoc estate, for their failure to take seriously the whistleblowing of an employee, the directors of Plas Madoc Communities First should hang their heads in shame and resign.

Welsh Government Inspection Regimes!

I have written previously, in critical terms of the demanding and bureaucratic nature of Welsh Government inspection regimes i.e. Estyn, CSSIW and HIW (Health Inspectorate Wales) and their lack of joined up thinking.

Towards the end of last year (perhaps beginning of this year) Wrexham's Local Safeguarding Children's Board was inspected by a team that consisted of representatives of CSSIW. HIW, Estyn together with HMIC (Police Inspectorate) and HMIP (Probation Inspectorate) spent 3 days there looking for bad practise to justify their existence. A few months later Wrexham's LSCB amalgamated with Flintshire and 10 months later CSSIW produced its report on Wrexham LSCB, which frankly has little value because of the structural changes.

The CSSIW also produced an overarching report on all 19 LSCB's in Wales and the most interesting part for me was this:

LSCBs operate within a complex framework of partnerships and
organisational structures. These include Health, Social Care and Well
Being Partnerships, Community Safety Partnerships, Children and Young
People’s Partnerships (CYPP) and Local Service Boards (LSB); four
police authorities, seven local health Boards and 22 local authorities. On
the one hand, this results in many of the same people sitting on more
than one partnership, which can lead to the responsibilities of the
partnerships becoming blurred (e.g. some CYPPs taking responsibility for
safeguarding) and on the other hand a range of different people from one
agency being involved in different partnerships and there being little
clarity about how the cross cutting issues are dealt with.


Doesn't this just sum up what is wrong with the whole system?

Welsh Government creating partnerships and Welsh Government Inspectorate criticising them because they don't understand how they are supposed to work together; were they supposed to work together? If the Inspectorate don't know how it all works together then we would be hard pressed to explain how these partnerships deliver outcomes for children

I shall say it again, what is needed is a rationalisation of the bureaucracy; we cannot afford to have more people checking than we have doing.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Plas Coch roundabout - no traffic lights, no congestion

The roadworks on the Plas Coch roundabout by Homebase currently mean that's it's down to one lane and there are no lights in operation. Despite this, I've sailed through at various times of the day.
Should we turn the traffic lights back on when the roadworks are finished? One for the highways dept to ponder.

Miriam Beard trial - 2

Criticism of trustees as well as Miriam Beard

A fraud trial heard today how an internal auditor from the Welsh Government found significant and fundamental failures in the financial controls of one of its scheme set up to alleviate poverty.
It led to a full investigation which uncovered a culture of generosity among staff in the Plas Madoc Communities First project.Clare Collett, of the Welsh Government's internal audit service, made a two day visit to Plas Madoc in 2009 for a review of the files and found the failures in the financial controls in place.
In evidence at Mold Crown Court, she said that there was confusion about the ownership of a caravan which was used by residents for holidays at Rhyl.Co-ordinator Miriam Beard, who is on trial for fraud charges she denies, told her that the charity owned the caravan but said that they had kept it fairly quiet because they did not want the residents to know.
It was felt that if they did, then they would feel that they would have a right to use the caravan when they wanted to.
The prosecution say Beard purchased the caravan for £9,000 then paid rent for it to one of her sons but then claimed that he was being paid to maintain it and keep an eye on it.
It is alleged that she defrauded the charity by paying more than £25,000 into the bank account of her elderly father, names as a Mr D Gay, and then diverting the money to her own.It was invoiced as providing drama tuition for young people although it is claimed her father knew nothing about it.
Beard claims that the money was paid out with the approval of the board when it was not used up at the end of the financial year – so that it would not have to be returned to the Assembly. It was later used for future projects, she says.Miss Collett said Beard had said that she had given her fuel card to Sinead Moynihan, a Hollyoaks actress, and had told her that it was to be used once a week when travelling to Plas Madoc to provide drama classes.
But the prosecution say that her son, who was Miss Moynihan's partner, ran up a £4,000 bill on the fuel card. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the actress.
Cross examined by Russell Davies, defending Beard, Miss Collett agreed that problems in financial controls were previously identified in 2003 during a review by Wrexham council but there was no evidence of any follow-up.
Mr Davies said that while his client was in the dock, the Welsh Government audit raised wider concerns than her role and said there were control weaknesses throughout the organisation. He said the board of trustees had not effectively discharged its duties.
He suggested that his client was an creative and artistic person rather than an accountant, and was not qualified to coordinate and control financial matters.
Mr Davies said that while Beard's two sons had been employed by the charity, it was clear that other people, including board members, had families working for it.

Beard, 55, is alleged to have milked the charity, set up to improve the large estate near Wrexham, one of the poorest in Wales, out of more than £54,000.
Beard, of Tryfan Uchaf at Henllan near Denbigh, denies 12 charges of fraud in a position of trust and one of joint theft with her husband.
James Beard, 46, of the same address, denies eight charges - six charges of fraud and two of theft.The case continues.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Farm Subsidies.

Whilst Gregory Barker argues that Feed In Tariffs for Renewable Energy need to be reduced because it adds £26 to each households energy bills a year, Caroline Spelman on the other hand is quite happy to continue creating more and more farm subsidy millionaires from the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) grants which costs each taxpayer (not households) a £107 a year.

This is how the Guardian reported on the CAP a few weeks ago:
Britain will try to "substantially" reduce European subsidies handed to millions of farmers each year but will resist European commission plans to limit payments to the richest...

Britain will argue that the commission's plan to cap the amount of money paid to Europe's biggest farmers is unworkable, and would lead to artificial changes of ownerships. In addition, it will argue that proposals to pay younger farmers more in order to encourage new entrants into the industry would prove unworkable.

The campaign group farmsubsidy.org says there are 1,212 farm subsidy millionaires across Europe, including 268 in Germany, 174 in France and 29 in Britain. Charities such as the RSPB and corporations such as Nestle are believed to receive more than £1m a year. The Queen qualified for £473,500 in farm aid in 2009 for Sandringham farms.

Several government ministers and their families receive large sums from Europe. The environment and fisheries minister Richard Benyon's family estates received over £200,000 in EU farm subsidies in 2009, the farming minister Jim Paice and the Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson both have farms, and David Cameron's father-in-law, Lord Sheffield, is a wealthy landowner believed to be receiving large EU subsidies. Benyon resigned his chairmanship of the family estates business when he became a minister.

In total, nearly 200,000 farmers in Britain received payments of £3.3bn in 2009, up from £2.6bn in 2008, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has enforced an information blackout on the subsidies paid to the richest.

Sugar and dairy processing companies were among the largest recipients of European farm subsidies last year. The number of farmers and food companies who received individual payments of more than €1m this year increased by more than 20% on the previous year, according to farmsubsidy.org.

So there we have it the Con Dem government want to reduce the CAP but not to the richest which means that if they have their way small farmers in Wales will suffer; whilst the Duchy of Cornwall, the Queen, Nestle and Tate and Lyle will continue to add to the millions of pounds of taxpayers money that they've already accumulated in farm subsidies since 1999.

Retrospective Consultation!

Yes, retrospective consultation is a new one on me as well, but obviously isn't to Gregory Barker MP, Climate Change Minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The hapless Mr Barker has been given the 'poisoned chalice' job by Chris Huhne of consulting on a reduction in domestic feed in tariff for renewable energy. He is so anxious to be rid of the job that he announces that the reduction of the Feed in Tariff will be introduced on the 12th December 2011; a full 11 days before the consultation ends on the 23rd December 2011!

I now have a whole new understanding of 'meaningful consultation.'

Plas Madoc Communities First trial - 1

For legal reasons, comments should avoid prejudicing the ongoing case against Miriam Beard.


Plas Madoc housing scheme boss 'milked £54,000'
James and Miriam Beard arriving at Mold Crown Court for a previous hearingThe head of a scheme to regenerate a deprived housing estate "milked" £54,000 of its funds for herself and her family, a jury has been told.
Miriam Beard, 55, who ran Plas Madoc Communities First Project at Acrefair, Wrexham, also hid her previous convictions, Mold Crown Court heard.Mrs Beard, of Henllan, Denbighshire, and her husband James, 46, deny a number of fraud and theft charges.
Prosecutor Karl Scholz said the case centred on dishonesty, deceit and lies. Mr Scholz said the case was primarily orchestrated by Mrs Beard. He said Plas Madoc Communities First Project was a registered charity set up to improve the local community.
Mrs Beard had been appointed its co-ordinator in 2003 after working as a welfare rights money adviser for Wrexham council's social services department. But Mr Scholz alleged that she concealed her past by claiming to be 10 years younger. She claimed that she left university and went straight to work after obtaining A levels and GCSEs.
In truth, Mr Scholz told the court, she had been due to sit six CSE examinations, failed three and failed to turn up for three. She never went to university.He said Mrs Beard did not disclose her criminal record and had been convicted of offences of dishonesty and other matters in the 1970s. Mr Scholz said that she had served a prison sentence in 1979 for conspiracy to defraud.
He said Mrs Beard was answerable to no-one at the scheme apart from a board of trustees who apparently had very little hands-on knowledge of what was taking place. He added that she was, in effect, using the assets of the charity for her own ends and "milked" £54,000 from it.
The court heard Mrs Beard found a way to pay her son Daryl Kelly £18,300 on the pretext that he owned a holiday caravan on the coast and was renting it to the project for the use of residents. When checks were made, she changed her story and said she was hiring him - at £18,300 for two years - to maintain and keep an eye on it. The caravan was at all times owned by the charity.
The charity also paid £3,000 for a vehicle for Mr Kelly and the evidence showed that he bought another vehicle for £2,000 and sold it to the charity for £8,000.
She also arranged for him to use her fuel card and he ran up a £4,000 bill over a 15-month period, it was alleged. It was alleged that she arranged for two cheques, totalling more than £25,000, to be paid into her father's account for running or providing services for children. The court was told that no such services were provided. The money was then withdrawn and paid into her account and there was no suggestion that her father knew what was going on.
The court heard that Mrs Beard had produced a document outlining youth activities that were proposed which, among other things, would help quell the stigma attached with Plas Madoc, she said. Drama groups were planned to build confidence and self-esteem, together with football, rugby, healthy eating sessions and drama producers, directors and make-up artists would give talks. Other issues would be tackled including bullying, drugs, alcohol, environmental issues and the programme would end up with a presentation to showcase the youngsters' achievements.
But the platitudes contained in the document she prepared was all a tissue of lies, said Mr Scholz. He said she had arranged for building materials and the hire of a digger which she needed for work at her home at Henllan to be invoiced to the charity together with two hotel bills at the Wild Pheasant in Llangollen. Mrs Beard denies 12 charges of fraud in a position of trust and one of joint theft with her husband. Her husband denies eight charges - six charges of fraud and two of theft.
The trial, before Judge Rhys Rowlands, is expected to last two weeks.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Freedom of Information Act - Decision Notice (BBC)

On the 6th June 2011, I made an FOIA request of the BBC to determine the composition of the BBC Question Time audience from Wrecsam because it was generally felt that the audience was not representative of the Wrecsam area. The BBC refused to provide the information based upon a statutory exemption in the Act.

The Information Commissioner upheld the BBC's position and the comprehensive decision notice is shown below.

fs_50401168

The fact that the BBC is specifically exempted by the Act is perverse, a public service broadcaster funded by licence payers (a form of taxation) should be open and transparent but it is not. The Freedom of Information Act should be amended to include the BBC as a public body.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Not the greenest of governments after all!

Another Con Dem promise of being the greenest government ever will be dumped on Monday when Chris Huhne the Climate Change Secretary will allegedly reduce the Feed in Tariff on renewable electricity from 43.3 pence a Kilowatt/hour to 21pence, or a 50% reduction. The claim in the report is that it is a levy on housholders electricity bills and the government are increasingly concerned about rising bills:
The feed-in tariff scheme, introduced 18 months ago, has been a huge success and has led to 100,000 households installing solar power.

This is because the levels on return on a typical £10,000 investment have been very generous, at about seven per cent per annum – far in excess of rates that can be found in the banks.

This has sparked a mini-solar boom, and from fewer than 500 companies employing about 3,000 people before the FIT was introduced, there are now 3,000 companies with a 25,000 workforce, which has been predicted to expand to 360,000 by 2020.

Yet the Government has become nervous of the subsidy's cost, as it is paid not from the Treasury but by a levy on household electricity bills – an increasingly sensitive subject – and wants to limit it.

..."Coming from a Government that said it would be the greenest ever, this is completely misguided and will be a devastating blow for the solar industry," said Howard Johns of Solar Trade Association.

"Solar installation will be limited to a few rich people, and all the installation going on in solar housing will stop. Hundreds of companies will go bankrupt."

What Howard Johns says is quite right, if the Feed in Tariff is reduced by 50% thousands of jobs in solar PV manufacture will go in places like Sharp in Llay as the reduced incentive will make people think again on spending £10,000 when it will take 18 years to recoup their original investment. Solar renewable energy generation will grind to a halt.

Arguments in support of a reduction in FIT are flawed; it is claimed that the FIT subsidy is paid through a levy on household bills which is quite right but which only adds 5% to the bill...compare this to the 30 to 50% increase in energy prices over the last two years. The FIT subsidy is therefore money well spent to reduce our carbon footprint and to generate renewables

A rough calculation of the cost of the Feed in Tariff since its introduction in April 2010, is around £800 million (based on 100,000 houses having produced 3,500 KWh and being paid 43.3p per KWh), this is the same as the PROFITS of nPower and Scottish Power put together for the last year. Imagine what the profits of all the gas/electricity producers are? No doubt it would dwarf the cost of the FIT subsidy.

Chris Huhne and the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition have rolled over and acquiesced to the anti climate change Tory agenda.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Campaign banner unveiled in by-election


The new campaign banner is unveiled on the main entrance to Rhiwabon - you can't miss it!

Former Labour councillor backs Plaid candidate in Ruabon


A former Labour councillor is the latest to back Pol Wong's campaign to become the new Plaid Cymru councillor for Ruabon.

Cyril Williams, who represented the village for 27 years as a Labour and then independent councillor, said:

"I have known Pol for many years and am fully supporting his campaign. He will make a great contribution for Ruabon as our councillor."

Mr Williams, who lives in the same street as Pol's martial arts school, is the latest community figure to back the by-election candidate, who was chosen by Plaid Cymru after the sudden death of their popular councillor Barrie Price.

Cllr Price's wife, Elaine, also urged voters to come out to vote for Pol. In a statement of support she told voters in Ruabon:

"I would urge you to give your support to the Plaid Cymru candidate to carry on the good work Barrie had started and intended to continue."

Pol Wong, who has run martial arts classes in his village gym for the past 15 years, said:

"Elaine is a very well-respected person in her own right in the village and worked tirelessly alongside Barrie for the benefit of the community. I'm very humbled to have her backing.

"The same can be said for Cyril, who has been a good neighbour of mine for many years and is also a hugely respected figure in the village.

"We've had a great response on the doorstep so far and intend to step up the campaign in the coming week. We will knock on every door in the village so that people can tell me of their concerns and problems."

* Get involved in Plaid Cymru's election campaign in Rhiwabon: contact 07747 792 441 or e-mail plaidwrecsam @ gmail.com



Deisebau Newydd i'r Cynulliad

Dyma ddwy ddeiseb newydd sydd ar wefan y Cynulliad:

Adolygiad Asedau ac Eiddo

Rydym yn galw ar y Cynulliad Cenedlaethol a Llywodraeth Cymru i gynnal Adolygiad Asedau ac Eiddo ar eu hadeiladau a / neu eu heiddo unigol i leihau nifer yr eiddo nad yw n cael ei ddefnyddio n ddigonol ac i ddefnyddio r cyfalaf a gaiff ei arbed i ariannu Rhaglen Ysgolion yr 21ain Ganrif.

Gwybodaeth gefnogol - Mae gan y Cynulliad Cenedlaethol swyddfeydd yn Rhodfa r Tywysog, Bae Colwyn, ac mae gan Lywodraeth Cymru swyddfeydd yng Nghyffordd Llandudno, nad ydynt yn cael eu defnyddio n ddigonol ac sy n rhannol wag. Nid oes cyfiawnhad dros ariannu dau adeilad sydd mor agos at ei gilydd yn yr amseroedd ariannol caled hyn i drethdalwyr yng Nghymru. Gwerthfawrogir bod Llywodraeth Cymru a Chynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru yn ddau sefydliad ar wah n ond nid oes rheswm pam nad oes modd iddynt rannu r un adeilad. Mae r un sefyllfa yn wir mewn ardaloedd eraill yng Nghymru hefyd mae n debyg.
Mae'r linc yma

Targedau Ailgylchu ar gyfer Byrddau Iechyd

Rydym yn galw ar Gynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru i argymell wrth y Gweinidog Iechyd ei bod yn cyflwyno targedau ailgylchu sy n gosod rhwymedigaeth gyfreithiol ar fyrddau iechyd yng Nghymru ar lefel sy n debyg i r hyn a osodir ar Awdurdodau Lleol .


Gwybodaeth Gefnogol - Nododd cais Rhyddid Gwybodaeth diweddar fod Ysbyty Maelor yn Wrecsam wedi cael gwared ar 1,200 tunnell o wastraff y llynedd (nad yw n cynnwys unedau trydanol WWEE). Dim ond 3 y cant o r gwastraff hwnnw a gafodd ei ailgylchu ac aeth 55 y cant i safleoedd tirlenwi, gan gynnwys yr holl wastraff bwyd. Mae r diffyg ymrwymiad hwn i ailgylchu n annerbyniol a chan fod nifer o gyfleusterau ailgylchu lleol ar gael, ni ellir ei esgusodi. Cyfanswm y gost o waredu gwastraff o Ysbyty Maelor yw tua £350,000 bob blwyddyn, a phe byddai hyn yn batrwm cyffredinol drwy Gymru, yna byddai r gost yn tua £5 miliwn.

Mae'r linc yma

This blog draws attention to 2 new petitions on the Assembly Website; to access the petitions click on the above links and then select English in the top left hand corner of the webpage.

Taffy is a Welshman - Alun Rees

Alun Rees wrote this poem in response to the anti-Welsh 18th Century nursery rhyme: "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief, Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef".

TAFFY IS A WELSHMAN

Taffy is a Welshman,
Taffy is no thief.
Someone came to Taffy's house
and stole a leg of beef.

Taffy made no protest,
for he doesn't like a row,
so the someone called on him again
and stole the bloody cow.

They stole his coal and iron,
they stole his pastures, too.
They even stole his language
and flushed it down the loo.

Taffy is a Welshman,
Taffy is a fool.
Taffy voted no, no, no
when they offered him home rule.

Six days a week upon his knees
Taffy dug for coal.
On the seventh he was kneeling, too,
praying for his soul.

And now the mines are closing down
and chapel's had its day,
Taffy still lives upon his knees,
for he knows no other way.

Now sometimes Taffy's brother
will start a row or so,
but you can bank on Taffy:
he doesn't want to know.

For when they hanged Penderyn
he had nothing much to say,
and when Saunders Lewis went to jail
he looked the other way.

Taffy is a Welshman
who likes to be oppressed.
He was proud to tug his forelock
to a Crawshay or a Guest.

They give him tinsel royals,
so he has a pint of beer,
and sings God Bless the Prince of Wales
as he joins the mob to cheer.

Now Taffy is a fighter
when he hears the bugle call.
Name any war since Agincourt:
Taffy's seen them all.

He's fought in France and Germany
and many another land;
he's fought by sea and fought by air
and fought on desert sand.

He's fought for many a foreign flag
in many a foreign part,
for Taffy is a Welshman,
proud of his fighting heart.

He's fought the wide world over,
he's given blood and bone.
He's fought for every bloody cause
except his bloody own.
Alun's collection of poems "Yesterday's Tomorrow" (Dinas) is highly recommended.