Sunday, 29 May 2011

Shocking UK Government report to propose reforesting farmland from Wrecsam to Rhyl to benefit people in Liverpool and Manchester

A report due to be published by the UK’s Environment Secretary Caroline Spellman on Thursday is expected to include recommendations to switch a fifth of Welsh farmland to woodland for the recreational benefit of English cities according to an article in the Sunday Times today.

The proposals and research for the UK governments ‘National Ecosystem Assessment’ (NEA) have been put forward by Ian Bateman, a professor of environmental economics at the University of East Anglia. Hundreds of economists and scientists have been involved in compiling the report intended to ‘quantify the benefits created by the natural word’. The report suggests that Welsh agriculture is so unprofitable, European subsidies should be switched to reward farmers for producing ‘higher value outputs’ such as recreation near cities.

Batemans report outlines which parts of Wales should be reforested and recommends that swathes of farmland around Cardiff and Swansea should switch. He also states that farmland from Wrecsam to Rhyl should be reforested to benefit people in Liverpool and Manchester.

Mr Bateman states: “Woodlands are worth most in areas that are close to cities because they give recreation and other benefits to so many people. Woodlands in north east Wales would have a huge recreational value for nearby English cities.”

'Week In Week Out' under threat from BBC axe

Plans by the BBC to cut key programmes such as Week In Week Out and other current affairs output threatens the BBC's ability to continue as a national broadcaster.
That's the admission from leaked internal documents, as managers try to decide which elements to cut to make a further £2 million in savings. This comes after eight years of savings, which has seen 20% of the staff cut.
Programmes such as Week In Week Out, which have regularly shone an investigative light on the murky dealings of councils, fraudsters and government, would be axed under the proposals to save a further 20%.
This is being forced on the BBC due to a six-year licence freeze imposed by the ConDem government in London. In addition, the hasty decision to force the BBC to absorb the cost of the World Service (previously paid for by the Foreign Office) and S4C is forcing the cuts agenda.
WIWO recently broadcast a programme about Wrexham FC that raised questions about the planning permission granted for the student flats and revealed the dodgy backgrounds of some of the recent bidders. If it was scrapped, how would that message get out to a wider audience than Red Passion?
As we lack investigative newspaper journalism, in-depth TV and radio are vital for Wales. Commercial TV and radio stations don't provide that, so for the BBC to abandon its public service remit in Wales is criminal.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Harvard Graduate Address by Adam Price

Free speech triumphs in Queens Square

Attempts to ban political campaigning and free speech in Wrexham's main square have been abandoned after concerted opposition by councillors.

Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru councillor for Whitegate, said:
"Wrexham Council had tried to limit free speech and political activity in Queens Square and Llwyn Isaf, both of which are owned by the council, under the guise of trying to prevent the likes of the English Defence League from mobilising there.

"But the ban would have also stopped legitimate political parties and campaign groups from being able to speak out on issues affecting Wrexham citizens. It was a blanket ban on free speech that met with total opposition from councillors."

A debate at the council's Corporate Affairs scrutiny committee was deferred last month due to questions about whether the council had the powers to impose such a ban on a part of the square that was a public highway.

The next meeting of the committee on June 1 will decide on whether to accept a revised protocol that accepts that there is no legal way to ban political campaigners from the square.

Cllr Jones said:
"I'm glad officers have accepted a common sense approach on this. The square has traditionally been used as a rallying point for demonstrations and for petitions. In the past few months Plaid has organised a petition against the downgrading of the Special Care Baby Unit as well as a mini-referendum on city status.

"Banning such basic democratic rights was completely out of order and I'm glad the new protocol accepts that."

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Nieuw‐Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA)

The N-VA are a Flemish Nationalist party from whom I believe Plaid Cymru can learn a lot on how to sell their message. First of all I think they have an excellent website, colourful and informative. Secondly they have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section which CLEARLY sets out the N-VA's ideology. I have copied two questions and answers to illustrate the point:
Is the N-VA a Nationalist party?

The N-VA is a Flemish nationalist party, but our nationalism is a healthy mixture of both civil and cultural elements. Our focus is on creating a community, and we want to bring this about in an inclusive manner. Every individual can become a member of our community, on the condition that they respect a number of basic rules of our democracy as well as community values and standards.

In Belgium, it might appear to be a problem between two ethnic groups, Flemings versus French-speakers. But this is not the case. The “Belgian problem” is not a problem between people, but a problem of structures. In the 20th century, Belgium gradually split into two different democracies, but the institutions did not change along with this evolution to a sufficient degree. Or as European Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in 2009: “België is in feite een permanente diplomatieke conferentie.” [Belgium is in fact a permanent diplomatic conference.] Flanders and Wallonia must, as a result, receive as much autonomy as possible so that they can each carry out a policy that is suited to their own community.

Does the N-VA want Belgium to end?

The N-VA doesn’t want a revolution and it is not looking to secede from Belgium. We are, however, striving for more democratic and more efficient structures. We want to take this step by step. We believe in a gradual development where increasingly more competences are transferred to Flanders and Europe and where the federal level gradually disappears. Our final target is indeed an independent Flanders as a European Member State, but the progression to reach it is gradual and must occur in a democratic manner.

In rebuilding the party Plaid Cymru need to have clear and unambigious messages for the people of Wales as the N-VA have for the people of Flanders.

Trust the Trust

News that the Wrecsam Supporters' Trust is buying the football club, Racecourse and Colliers' Park is the end of a very long journey - and the start of another one.
If all goes well it's a fantastic achievement after months of uncertainty as the vultures circled our club and our historic ground.
Community ownership will mean stability after years of off-field instability. The WST has a proven track record of innovative fundraising and professional running of the club shop and away travel.
There's a mountain still to climb in terms of getting the club back into League 2 and the Racecourse renovated and back to a four-sided stadium. This is the first step up that mountain but what a wonderful first step.
Congratulations to all those involved in the campaign, especially those who never gave up. The 1,000 members of the WST who believed in a community-owned club will now be joined by those who had their doubts. Doubt no more - welcome aboard!

Another disaster for the extreme right!

David Campbell Bannerman UKIP MEP has defected to the Conservatives. Further evidence after their appalling showing in English Council elections, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament elections that the far right are falling apart. Welcome news for all moderates and progressives.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Wrexham FC...the latest!

It has been quite an interesting weekend all told for Wrexham fans. On Saturday a number of fans decided to pay Mr Colin Poole (the power behind the Jon Harris bid) a visit at his sumptious Shropshire mansion Netley Hall where there was a 'public' equestrian event ongoing. The fans challenged Mr Poole as to his ability to run a football club having been disqualified from being a director and struck off from being a solicitor. This is how the Wrexham Supporters Association describes their encounter with Mr Poole's wife who wasn't quite as restrained as Mr Poole:
However, there's been absolutely no suggestion that the Dismal Jimmies did anything illegal or intimidating; they attended what appears to be a public event and there's no report that they were threatening in their behaviour. Yet they report that Wrexham fans were characterised as "peasants" by Poole's wife, who exhorted her husband to bankrupt the club in a manner which suggested this was something which had already been discussed.

It would have been a massive PR disaster for Poole in other circumsances: quite apart from the alleged bankruptcy threat, it would be easy to present this as a case of the landed classes looking down their noses at the grubby oiks who support football teams and disrupt their cosy lives.

The Red Passion website has an useful and entertaining 'review of the Poole visit' which is well worth a read.

Following on from the visit, the Red Passion website received an email late last night 'purporting' to be from Jon Harris, Poole's frontman which reads:
I have just recieved this from Mr Harris..

Can you put this on red passion. Jon Harris Sent using
BlackBerry® from Orange

-----Original Message-----From: colin poole <*****@*******.com>
Date: Sat, 21 May 2011 15:05:51
To: <***************>

Subject: press release immediate

I regret that due to the actions of a few misguided individuals who purport to be supporters of the club Mr Poole has indicated that he is not prepared to help me any further with trying to turn the fortunes of this club around.Mr Poole is a genuine football supporter and his help had been invaluable a few thugs may think this is a victory but this mindless minority have once again driven someone away from this club who had the experience and resolve to make a real difference.Without the help of people like Mr Poole this club will not survive but perhaps that is what these people really want.

Kind regards,
Colin Poole

This is purported to come from Jon Harris and Colin Poole to the publishers of the Red Passion website. It has not been confirmed or verified that the email is genuine.
Watch this space!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Police doing Edl's bidding now

An independent photographer at the EDL march in Shotton yesterday thought as we did when the march was in Wrecsam, that the Police were not policing the march impartially. This is what Stillshooter from Northerm Indymedia had to say about the march:
In a separate incident, the Edl objected to a colleague photographer not having a visible Press-card, despite the fact said colleague had covered numerous, similar Edl protests in recent years, the police intervened, and she was told that, if she continued to take photographs, the protesters could become agitated and that would cause a "breach of the peace" for which SHE could be arrested ??? Police doing Edl's bidding now ?

Surely it was the presence of the EDL in Shotoon that was likely to cause a breach of the peace and not freelance photographers.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Muppet Show

Denbighshire Council didn't cover itself in glory today in approving a fundamentally flawed Local Development Plan that will permit an extra 1715 homes to be built in Bodelwyddan.
This will treble the number of homes in the village alongside the A55 and create a huge commuter estate rather than a community.
Villagers and other campaigners watched proceedings from the gallery of the council and also on a video link to an overspill room. The video link was quickly dubbed "The Muppet Show" by one wag and, as events unfolded, it was clear that there were far too many muppets on show.
Opponents of the LDP were limited to a brief five minutes while the LDP's chief proponent Graham Bowes was granted unlimited time to justify the scheme. His sidekick Angela Loftus was also allowed time to make some fairly ludicrous statements regarding the state of the economy (apparently all will be well in two years "according to the OECD")
Both failed to explain why good quality agricultural land was being used for housing, in contravention of Planning Policy Wales and also why the housing figures exceed the council's own housing market assessment. The lingustic assessment was also ridiculed.
Favourite word of the day was "sustainable" - the development patently is not sustainable but that didn't stop officers and some councillors trying to assert that it was a sustainable "master plan". Rarely has a master plan appeared less masterful.
Bowes also tried to throw critics off the scent by making claims regarding the need for an LDP to be approved immediately - Denbighshire is the first council in Wales to reach this stage and seems to be in something of a hurry to get it approved despite the 650 objections to the Bodelwyddan strategic site, the 94% no vote in the referendum last year and the sustained opposition of the community.
He also made oblique threats to councillors - if you don't approve for Bodelwyddan, then we'll have to build these houses in your wards. None of the councillors present challenged this bullying and some seemed happy to follow his NIMBY lead.
Bowes claimed Bodelwyddan would benefit from a 26 hectare employment site that would create 3000 jobs. Yes, there is a formula that converts the square footage of empty factory units into jobs but that is a far cry from real jobs. There is no strategy for job creation apart from building homes. Experience tells us that the majority of those new homes will be occupied by people who will commute to work down the A55 to Chester and beyond as the work opportunities locally are limited.
Cllr Selwyn Thomas Bobby summed up the mood of many when he said the consultation had rejected this plan. He added that council officers come and go (one sensed a lack of empathy for the needs of the community among all those on the top table today), unlike the people who have to live with their decisions.
Great scepticism was expressed about the so-called pLanning gains that would come from allowing developers free rein in Bodelwyddan. Grand talk of new schools, open spaces, community facilities and the like had all been heard before - they amount to planning bribes to gullible communities and are all too often never delivered.
Persistent questioning by Plaid councillors Rhys Hughes and Cefyn Williams forced Bowes to conflate the Mersey-Dee Alliance with the West Cheshire Plan, which made provision for 20,000 additional homes as part of its strategic "vision" for north-east Wales. This LDP is the creature of that nightmarish vision.
Cllr Gwyneth Kensler also made some telling points, pointing out that land is finite and building on good quality green fields is not sustainable. She pointed out that developers don't like brownfield sites as they are often more expensive to develop than the open countryside.
Despite this opposition, the votes cast were 20-20 with the chairman's casting vote enabling the LDP to go through by the thinnest of margins. The Muppets had their day.
No doubt the inspector who will give this plan the final go ahead will consider that in their assessment of whether the plan has community support.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Value Added Scores.

I am intrigued at this report on the BBC Wales website dealing with school's performance based on Value Added Scores:
Schools are scored based on whether each pupil's GCSE results are better or worse than what was predicted of them at the age of eleven. The measure singles out schools which enable pupils to exceed expectations, whether, for example, it is an E grade student who achieves a C, or a B grade student who achieves an A*.

This Value Added league table seems to confuse and contradict rather than clarify issues of performance.

Take for example schools in Blaenau Gwent and the Vale of Glamorgan. Blaenau Gwent have the highest spend per pupil whilst the Vale of Glamorgan has the lowest. GCSE results in the Vale of Glamorgan are the highest with 73.4% achieving A* to C with Blaenau Gwent on 48.7%. The Value Added scores shows that Blaenau Gwent with six secondary schools have two schools with positive scores, none with negative scores and four with a neutral scores. In the Vale of Glamorgan only one of eight schools had a positive score and again no schools having a negative score but seven having neutral scores. Interestingly enough Blaenau Gwent are in 3rd place in the Value Added Score table with the Vale of Glamorgan in 10th place.

The situation in Wrecsam is similarly clouded with the following rankings:

25. Ysgol Bryn Alyn +

35. Ysgol Morgan Llwyd +

42. Ysgol Grango 0

45. Ysgol Rhiwabon +

59. Ysgol Rhosnesni 0

84. St Joseph's 0

119. Darland 0

175. Clywedog -

211. Maelor, Penley -

Compare this to last year's GCSE results where 61% of Wrecsam pupils achieved 5 A* to C but came in at 9th place one ahead of Vale of Glamorgan and six behind Blaenau Gwent! Three schools in Wrecsam saw massive improvements in their thresholds for A* to C:

Darland 77% +12%

Rhiwabon 65% +22%

Bryn Alyn 56% +9%

There seems to be a correlation between value added scores and GCSE results for Ysgol Morgan Llwyd at the top and Ysgol Clywedog at the bottom. There seems to be no correlation between Value Added scores in respect of Darland School in particular.

I would very much appreciate views on these various anomalies and contradictions and what exactly do value added scores tell us about our schools.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Kirsty knew of Aled's problem six months ago

Rarely has the Assembly's constitutional affairs committee thrown up such an interesting little nugget.

Back in November, AMs discussed how membership of certain bodies such as the National Parks or Forestry Commission disqualified candidates from becoming AMs.

After a fairly brief debate where the matter was made clear, came this intervention from the Lib Dem leader:

[63] Kirsty Williams: I agree with the proposed course of action, but we are getting dangerously close to an election period, and I can think of at least one candidate from my party who would fall foul of these rules as they are currently drafted. Therefore, we need clarity as quickly as possible, because candidates have been selected who need to make decisions about the bodies on which they currently sit or the employment they currently have. There is nothing worse than someone falling foul of the rules, having legitimately secured a place in the Assembly, only to have that taken away because we have not been clear about the rules around candidature. We should impress upon the First Minister that he needs to deal with this quickly as a matter of urgency, given how close we are to an election period. It is not as if he has three years to sort this out.

The question arises - did Kirsty inform Aled Roberts or John Dixon of this danger?

Bodelwyddan - symptom of a bigger problem

A petition by Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire, residents has today been submitted to the European Parliament. They are opposing plans contained in Denbighshire Council to treble the size of their village under the draft Local Development Plan.

Among the details in the petition are the following general points, that are probably valid for many councils throughout Wales:

• The residents believe the plan is fundamentally flawed and unsustainable because it bases its housing need on a population projection that are over inflated by Welsh Government in Cardiff Forecasting. The future population increases on the basis of unsustainable increases in the past is unsound.
• The continuing over- development of our countryside when there is no local demand. This concerns the residents as it will exists to encourage in migration to fill the houses.
• Not taking seriously account of local people’s views regarding taking over the country side to build extremely large housing developments which will dilute the culture and further threaten the Welsh Language and the heritage of the countryside .
• The Council is guilty of adopting a disparaging attitude towards the voice of the village and riding roughshod over local opinion by failing to carry out proper and meaningful consultation with the residents of a small village on whom the impact of a very large developing would have a devastating effect and loss of its unique identity.

Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrecsam have argued for some years now that the Welsh Government's population projections are seriously flawed because they are based on the previous decade's rapid and unsustainable population growth in many parts of Wales. Here in Wrecsam, for example, there was a combination of factors that caused very high and unsustainable growth in terms of population and housing demand.

Plaid's new North Wales AM Llyr Huws Gruffydd and councillors from Wrecsam will be joining Bodelwyddan's residents at the council meeting in Rhuthun tomorrow when the LDP will be discussed. A wider campaign is needed to challenge these flawed population projections.

Gwleidyddiaeth y gwter

Neithiwr etholwyd Ron Davies a Dave Bithell yn arweinydd a dirprwy arweinydd newydd Cyngor Wrecsam. Llongyfarchiadau mawr i'r tim newydd.
Cafodd Ron wrthwynebiad gan Bob Dutton (aelod arall o'r glymblaid sy'n rhedeg Wrecsam ar y funud) a'i drechu o 25-20. Yr un oedd y bleidlais rhwng Dave a'i wrthwynebydd Mark Pritchard.
Y peth mwya' annisgwyl oedd fod Dutton a Pritchard yn fodlon ceisio ennill cefnogaeth munud ola'r Blaid Lafur - sy'n wrthblaid yn Wrecsam - er mwyn cipio grym o fewn y glymblaid. A hynny ar ol i un ohonynt ddadlau'n gyhoeddus nos Lun nad oedd yn un am "grubby deals".
Aeth uchelgais personol yn drech na'r ddau ohonyn nhw - byddai buddugoliaeth i'r ddau wedi gweld y glymblaid bresennol yn chwalu'n rhacs ar ol llwyddo i gyd-dynnu am dair blynedd.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Emergency motion to Wrecsam Council tonight

In the light of changing ownership at the football club and the assurances made to the council by the club owners in the past, I am trying to persuade the mayor (who chairs the full council) to accept this emergency motion:

This Council recognises the importance of Wrexham Football Club and the Racecourse ground to the town, both historically and as an integral part of our future as a successful capital of North Wales. We wish to see the club thrive and the ground - the oldest international football ground in the world still in use - continue to be a field of dreams for a new generation.

With that in mind, Wrexham Council supports a community-owned club as the only long-term solution for Wrexham FC.

Furthermore, the Council will review the decision to grant outline planning permission on Phase 2 of the Racecourse development (more student flats on the old Dickens garage site) because that permission was granted on the basis that it would benefit the football club. Ownership of the club and ground is now separate and such a permission will not now benefit the football club.

UPDATE: Despite requesting that this motion be heard, the mayor Ian Roberts refused permission at tonight's meeting of the full council. As a result, we will push the first part of the motion at the next Exec Board and the second part at the next planning committee meeting.

Petty Labour

I hear a rumour that the motion to suspend Standing Orders to allow Aled Roberts and John Dixon to take their seats in the Assembly which was due to be voted on today will not now take place until next week because Labour won't support the motion. Why is a Labour administration without a majority deliberately alienating a potential coalition partner?

To read the background to this story go here

Passion, pride, professionalism

It would have been very easy for last night's public meeting organised by Wrexham Supporters' Trust at the William Aston Hall to have felt deflated after the announcement of a new owner of the football club. The timing could not have been worse.
But the 350 people present listened to a presentation full of passion, pride and professionalism that would have put all the club's previous owners to shame.
There's no doubt that a community-owned club is the only long-term solution for the club, regardless of the latest owner's intentions or capabilities. The WST, together with additional investment from the community and with the support of the local media, has the ability to run the club to serve the community.
It was great to hear of the FC United of Manchester model, who stood up to the corporate might of the Glazers and are making great strides. Likewise with Chester FC, whose rep got a great reception (considering!) because that phoenix club is on the right road under democratic ownership.
Barrie Horne also hit the right note - this is a political movement that challenges the vested interests of fly-by-night millionaires who see clubs as playthings or cash cows or worse. Our vision puts the community back in the club and the club back in the community.
And that's where the council must take a stand.
In the light of developments, the council has to review the planning committee's decision to allow planning permission for Phase 2 of the student village behind the Kop. This was granted on the basis that it would fund the club and enable a new stand to be built. Now that ownership of the club and ownership of the stadium are in separate companies - the former owned by Jon Harris and his anonymous backers, the latter owned by Wrexham Village - that undertaking does not now apply.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Y Dyfodol

Mae na dros wythnos wedi mynd heibio ers y canlyniad siomedig i Blaid Cymru yn etholiad y Cynulliad a mae'r ymchwiliad i be ddigwyddodd wedi cychwyn gyda Pwyllgor Gwaith y Blaid yn Aberystwyth ddoe. Dydw i ddim am son am be aeth yn ei flaen y y PG ond digon i'w dweud, nad oedd yna 'dollti gwaed' na ffraeo ond cafodd pawb y cyfle i ddatgan ei farn ac mi ryda ni hefo cynlluniau mewn llaw i beth aeth o'i le a be da ni'n mynd i neud amdano.

Pwrpas y blog yma ydy rhoi ryw fath o berspectif o sut rydw i fel Cynhgorydd Sir wedi gweld petha'n datblygu'n lleol ac yn genedlaethol dros y tair blynedd diwethaf ma.

Cefais i fy ethol yn 2008, ar yr un amser y bu daeargryn gwleidyddol yng Ngwynedd gyda ethol tri ar ddeg o Gynghorwyr Llais Gwynedd mewn ymatebiad i bolisi Plaid Cymru yng Ngwynedd o gau ysgolion bach (Cymreig) cefn gwlad y sir. Mae gen i gryn gydymdeimlad a phobol ardaloedd Dysynni, Penllyn, Edeyrnion a Llangwm sydd am amddiffyn ei cymunedau Cymraeg a mae Plaid Cymru (sydd a'i gwreiddiau yn yr ardaloedd yny), i weld yn benderfynol o danseilio y cymunedau drwy gau ei hysgolion.

Pa blaid sydd yn mynd allan o'i ffordd i danseilio ei pleidlais grai ei hunan?. Dyna y broblem gynta!

Er bod yna bwysa o dy y llywodraeth yng Nghaerdydd i leihau y nifer o lefydd gwag mewn ysgolion, mae hi'n bosib anwybyddu hynny a cadw'r ysgolion yn agored drwy ffederaleiddio fel y gwnaethon ni gyda ysgolion Dyffryn Ceiriog, lle mae tair ysgol yn dal i fodoli er mae ysgol gymunedol oedd y cynllun gwreiddiol...rhywbeth i'w wneud a gwrando ar y gymuned leol! Mae gwir angen i ni ail feddwl ein strategaeth ar adrefnu addysg.

Mae hefyd angen i Blaid Cymru ofyn pwy yn union ydym a lle da ni am fynd? Unwaith ryda ni wedi penderfyny hynny, gallwn ail strwythuro ag adennill ein cefnogaeth grai yng Ngwynedd, yn arbenig yn Nwyfor Meirionnydd yn dilyn llwyddiant Louise Hughes...mae angen cael y bobol yma yn ol yng nghorlan Plaid Cymru.

Yn ail, mae rhaid edrych ar lwyddiant Plaid Cymru mewn llywodraeth glymbleidiol. Mae na lawer iawn o fewn y Blaid (neu y bubble) yn llawn o ryw hunan glodfori a llongyfarch ei gilydd ar lwyddiant maniffesto 2007 a chytundeb Cymru'n Un, a does dim dwy waith fod y Blaid wedi bod yn llwyddianus cyn belled a fod y refferendwm, comisiwn Holtham, Strategaeth Addysg Gymraeg ayb yn y cwestiwn. Ond ar y llaw arall doeddem ni yn y Gogledd Dwyrain ddim yn cael llawer iawn o gwestiynau ar y pynciau yny...sori sticio pin yn y bubble!

Be roeddem yn ei gael oedd cwestiynau ar stepan ddrws lle roeddem yn ceisio amddiffyn record y glymblaid ym myd, addysg, iechyd, tren cyflym a record economaidd, yng ngwyneb gwasg elyniaethus a beirniadaeth lem o dy y Ceidwadwyr a Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol...o a pheidio anghofio yr awyren bondigrybwyll.

I fod yn onest doedd Plaid Cymru yn genedlaethol na'r gweinidogion fawr o help i ni i ateb y cyhuddiadau,a mae rhaid derbyn mae 'chydig iawn sydd ym myd addysg a iechyd i'w glodfori ar hyn o bryd a mae hynny wedi effeithio ar bleidlais Plaid Cymru yn y gogledd. Costiodd methiant y Blaid i ymateb yn effeithiol i feirniadaeth ynglyn ag addysg ag iechyd yn ddrud i ymgeisyddion y Gogledd.

Mae gwir angen mwy o gysylltiad a chyfathrebu rhwng aelodau y Cynulliad a Chynghorwyr Plaid Cymru ar lawr gwlad.

Mae na nifer o resymau eraill pam fod Plaid Cymru wedi gneud mor wael ond mae rhai o'r dadleuon yny wedi ei crybwyll gan flogwyr eraill yn barod.

Community transport price rises slated

Pensioners are being charged "excessive amounts" by a community transport scheme designed to help people travel between villages in West Wrexham, according to critics.

Now a local councillor is calling for the West Wheels scheme - which covers the Gwersyllt, Coedpoeth, Brymbo, Brynteg, Llay and Broughton areas - to be revamped because it's becoming more costly than an ordinary taxi.

Councillor Arfon Jones, the Plaid Cymru councillor for Gwersyllt West, said the project had been very useful in enabling people to get out and about in the villages. But he was critical of recent price hikes that have seen the cost per person of travelling go up to £2 per journey and £3 if the journey is between two villages. Cllr Jones said the price rises had been made without consulting the people who relied on the service and threatened to price them out of using the service.

His criticisms were echoed by Megan Davies, who lives on the Old Mold Road estate, Gwersyllt, said:
“I use West Wheels to visit my brother in Llay, that will cost now cost me £6, so I’ll have to get two buses there and back, what used to be a short journey will now take me all day.”

Elsie James, of Shaftesbury Avenue, Gwersyllt, said:
“I’m 85 yrs old and I rely on West Wheels to take me to the Resource Centre which is only half a mile away. I can’t afford £4 every time I want to go there and I can’t get the bus because I’m unsteady on my feet. I’ll be stuck in the house.”

The additional charges also threaten to hit local voluntary groups and services. Gwenfair Jones, who runs the Luncheon Club in Gwersyllt, where 30 pensioners get together to enjoy a meal every fortnight, said:
“We use West Wheels to bring members to the Lunch Club free of charge. This decision to charge will make the club unaffordable for those without their own transport and will impact on the long-term future of the club. A meal that cost £4 would now cost £8 once the West Wheels fare was included.”

Cllr Jones added:
“I am disappointed that the Community Development Team in Coedpoeth in conjunction with the West Wrexham Partnership have decided to charge those entitled to concessionary travel without consultation with users. At present these organisations pay Wrexham Prestige Taxis a hefty sum to provide a community transport system which is of dubious quality and reliability, rather than using that money to establish a social enterprise with their own vehicles to provide the service.”

Cllr Jones also called on the Welsh Government to extend concessionary travel to Community Transport projects:
“It’s a ridiculous state of affairs that bus pass concessionary travel does not apply to Community Transport. It’s an anomaly that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

The new Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for North Wales, Llyr Huws Gruffydd, also expressed his concern at the charges and has pledged to raise the matter in the Assembly. Mr Gruffydd said:
"Villages such as Gwersyllt, Coedpoeth and Brymbo are allocated this money under European Urban 2 funding because there was a need. That need is still there and I will be raising the matter with the relevant minister in the Assembly as soon as possible."

From left:

Critics of the new charges - Cllr Arfon Jones, Elsie James, Megan Davies, Mary Jenkins, Gwenfair Jones (organiser of the Gwersyllt luncheon club), Cybil Hallam and Jean Hughes.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Markets get an artistic boost

The Butchers' Market and People's Market got a boost from Glyndwr students today with many empty stalls getting an artistic "makeover". Although it was only a one-day event, it helped to focus attention on our unique markets and hopefully boosted trade and the "feelgood" factor for traders.
Mark Corcoran, of Glyndwr University, was the brains behind the idea and many creative students were involved in the venture. More please!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Dissolve 'poisonous' local party, said Labour AM, MP

This was the headline of a story that appeared on Page 6 of the Western Mail on Wednesday 4th May 2011, and written by Martin Shipton. The story relates to a request by Karen Sinclair then AM for Clwyd South and Susan Elan Jones MP to the Welsh Labour Party to 'dissolve' the Clwyd South Constituency Labour Party amidst allegations of bullying. The two elected members described THEIR constituency Labour party as dysfunctional and poisonous. The story never appeared on the electronic Wales Online and neither did it appear in any North Wales newspapers i.e. the Daily Post or the Leader in Wrecsam. For those of you who have not read this story here is a scanned copy.

Time and time again the issue is raised about the inadequecies of the media in Wales and this is certainly a story that has public interest especially the day before a Welsh General election. Perhaps the editors of the two papers mentioned will explain why they never published the story either before or after the election despite the Western Mail doing so?

Was the reason pressure from Trinity Mirror who have since the election directed their editors towards a more pro Labour stance or was there pressure from 'on high' within the Welsh Labour Party? One thing is sure there will be even less media scrutiny of Government performance by Trinity Mirror newspapers over the next 5 years, which unfortunately includes the Western Mail and the Daily Post.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Carwyn's Announcement.

Carwyn Jones has just announced that Labour will go it alone in government despite not having a majority.

Significantly Carwyn did not discount discussing with other parties their future roles in the Assembly which probably means a 'supply and confidence' agreement with one of the opposition parties.

Before Carwyn can be elected First Minister the Assembly need to appoint a Llywydd or Presiding Officer and a Deputy.

The rumour mill is suggesting that the Conservatives take BOTH positions thus giving Labour an inbuilt majority of two. I have my doubts about this, I just can't see what the Tories get out of a deal like this and its far more likely that the Conservatives appoint the PO (Angela Burns?) and Labour the DPO (Rosemary Butler?) leaving the balance at 29 - 29.

The Future for Plaid Cymru

I'm glad that Elfyn Llwyd has come out publicly with his thoughts on the future for Plaid Cymru and I agree with his sentiments. There is a lot that needs to be done to give the party a clearer strategy after the referendum result. This is how Elfyn's comments were reported on the BBC website:
A senior Plaid Cymru figure says a spell in opposition in the Welsh assembly might help the party regroup.

Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid's Westminster leader, said there were benefits in not joining a coalition government and called for a root and branch look at the party's structure.

Mr Llwyd said: "Without the distraction of having to govern we're in a position to... regroup in opposition."

Plaid won 11 seats at last week's election, four fewer than in 2007.

Plaid was overtaken as the second biggest group in the assembly by the Conservatives, and its campaign has been criticised from within the party.

Labour leader Carwyn Jones is currently mulling over the party's options for governing, after it failed to win an outright majority.

And there has been speculation that Labour and Plaid might agree either to renew their One Wales coalition or to agree a less informal deal to allow Labour to govern.

Mr Llwyd, the Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP, told BBC Radio Wales: "If, as I understand it, that Labour later today will be saying that they will go it alone then it's possible that Plaid in opposition would be in a far stronger position to regroup than otherwise

"Everybody knows that when parties need to regroup, you're normally in a better position in opposition”

"There are [benefits to not going into government]. Without the distraction of having to govern we're in a position to look at everything and regroup in opposition."

On Monday party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said he wanted to "get on with the job," arguing that it was not necessary for him to resign after the party's disappointing election perfromance.

But Mr Llwyd said no one party member was to blame.

"It's all very easy to blame one individual," he said. "All the executive of the party and senior members, myself included, must share the blame.

"We need to look at the whole structure of the party all the way through from top to bottom, to look at the staffing structure, where we're getting the message wrong, why we didn't actually have a clear strategy, why we didn't get the right message across, why we didn't actually persuade people that they should be voting for Plaid Cymru.

"I would like to see a body drawn from throughout the party but crucially with members from outside of the party as well, from academia and business, to sit down and spend a couple of months now going through all of it to see where we're going.

"What we need to do now is to regroup. Before we regroup we need a root and branch appraisal of where we got it wrong."

"Everybody knows that when parties need to regroup, you're normally in a better position in opposition than otherwise."

Monday, 9 May 2011

Delusions of victory

Winner of the "We almost won it" award for delusional candidate goes to Aberconwy's Eifion Wyn Williams.

He claims on Facebook that:

"It was neck and neck between us and the Tories in Aberconwy right until the last minute. Unfortunately a couple of thousand postal votes that the Tories had been working on for 3 years denied us of a win this time"

While all candidates are guilty of getting white-line fever at some stage of election contests, Eifion's still got the fever - believing he was robbed because of postal votes (how dare the Tories target them). And failing to mention that he came third behind Plaid Cymru.

£200,000 and rising

Wrexham Supporters' Trust now have pledges worth £200,000 from fans and local supporters to buy the club. This is in addition to the £380,000 the WST has in the bank.
Come along to the WST's presentation at the William Aston hall on Tuesday, 17th May for find out more.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


One of the consequences of the Assembly elections is that Aled Roberts will soon be standing down as leader of Wrecsam Council. Aled was elected as a regional AM for North Wales with 5.9% of the vote, narrowly pipping Heledd Fychan of Plaid Cymru among others.
It will be interesting to find out whether he intends to resign as a councillor for Ponciau as well.

Another Tory bites the dust!

You may recall this little story about Cllr Richard Lowe a Chester West and Chester Tory Councillor who was selected as the Conservative candidate for Alyn and Deeside in January this year only to resign for 'personal reasons' once it was revealed he had been suspended by the Conservatives in 2009, for making a sick joke and inappropriate comments about Madeline McCann on Facebook.

It would appear that Cllr Lowe never did reconcile his differences with the Chester Tory Party and was next heard of defending his Garden Quarter seat as an UKIP candidate in the recent English Council elections.

By this time the good people of the Garden Quarter would seem to have had enough of the now Mr Lowe and probably of his new party and gave him a good send off with a paltry 7% of the vote...bottom of the poll, just behind the Greens.

The full result was:

Labour 497
Tories 270
LD 105
Greens 74

Happy days!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Pleidlais Ranbarthol Wrecsam a De Clwyd

Dyma bleidlais ranbarthol Wrecsam:

Llafur 6954.
Ceidwadwyr 4448
Plaid Cymru 2463
Dem Rh 2127
UKIP 834.
BNP 598.

De Clwyd:

Llafur 7525.
Ceidwadwyr 4858
Plaid Cymru 3435.
Dem Rh 1600
UKIP 567
BNP 535.

Election 2011

Diolch yn fawr i bawb wnaeth helpu'r ymgyrch a phleidleisio i'r Blaid yma yn Wrecsam.
A huge thanks to all who helped the campaign and those who voted for Plaid here in Wrecsam.

The results locally were:

Lesley Griffiths
Labour 8,368 44.8 +16
John Marek Conservative 5,031 26.9 +9.7
Bill Brereton Lib Dem 2,692 14.4 -2.3
Marc Jones Plaid Cymru 2,596 13.9 +4.3

Ken Skates
Labour 8,500 42.4 +7.4
Paul Rogers Conservative 5,841 29.2 -0.2
Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru 3,719 18.6 -1.4
Bruce Roberts Liberal Democrat 1,977 9.9 +0.4

Despite modest advances in Wrecsam, the results are disappointing for Plaid. There needs to be time to reflect on the reasons why but, in contrast to Scotland, it's apparent that Labour convinced more people that it would protect Wales from the worst of the ConDem cuts.

Congratulations to Lesley Griffiths and Ken Skates and commiserations to those Plaid candidates who fought the good fight.

PS The sourest moment of the campaign was reserved for John Marek's speech at the count. It really should become a Youtube clip. The bile and bitterness towards "his secretary, Lesley Griffiths" poured out and I'm sure he will now leave the Conservative Party. So glad Plaid rejected his advances.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Hidden history: Geoff Charles and the Wrexham Star

Geoff Charles was one of Wales's foremost news photographers of the 20th Century and came from Brymbo. His career blossomed in the 1930s when he moved back to Wrexham to work with a group of local socialists on a new newspaper called the Wrexham Star.
One of them, Enoch Moss, asked Geoff to become involved as a journalist and it was printed by a company called Fletcher and Westall in an old chapel in Wrecsam.
The paper was set up in direct competition with the Wrexham Leader, which was the well-established voice of the local establishment. In response, Rowland Thomas (who owned the Leader group of newspapers) organised a blacklist of the new rival paper by local shops.
The Star's response was novel - it employed an army of unemployed workers to sell the 1p paper on the street corners (The Big Issue has nothing on Wrecsam's innovative people!). The 1930s were, of course, a time of mass unemployment - Brymbo saw jobless rates top 65% at one time when the steelworks was mothballed for a time - and Geoff recalls being unable to sleep in his home village because the works was so quiet!
While working for the Star, Geoff had his big journalistic story - the Gresford pit disaster of 1934, when 265 miners and rescuers were killed on 22 September 1934.
His father in law worked as a checkweighman at the pit and he phoned his son to say that something awful had happened at the pit. He got access to the lamproom and asked how many lamps were out - 260 was the answer. He knew how many miners were underground - a far greater number than the official line that 100 men were missing.
He rushed out a special edition of the Star that afternoon, which broke the news of the severity of the disaster and told the tale of the rescue attempts in harrowing detail.
Geoff says of the aftermath:
"Wrecsam as a whole was paralysed, everyone was in shock. In Rhosddu, where every other house had lost someone, they were the streets of the dead."

Ironically, the improving economy was the deathknell for the Star. As the jobless found work, there were fewer people to sell the paper on the street corners and the Leader-led shop blacklist was still in force. The Star folded in 1936 and Geoff went to work for Rowland Thomas's Leader and later Y Cymro.

• The fascinating history of Geoff Charles and his photography is told in a book by Ioan Gruffudd published by Y Lolfa called "Cymru Geoff Charles". It's a great story with a small selection of the 120,000 photographs Geoff took throughout his career, spanning epic moments such as the drowning of Cwm Celyn and shots of ordinary life in both rural and urban Wales.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Labour's dirty tricks - another Woolas moment?

When Labour senses it's losing a battle, it tends to play dirty.
We've seen it in this election in Caerffili and now it appears the Labour candidate in Aberconwy is potentially facing a Woolas moment* after his leaflet.
In Eifion Wyn Williams's leaflet, according to Grangetown Jack, he makes a direct attack on Plaid's candidate Iwan Huws record as director of the National Trust. The official Labour leaflet states about the Plaid candidate that: -

FIB no. 1
"When the Plaid Cymru candidate became Director of the NT in Wales, he moved the HQ from Llandudno to Cardiff."


FIB no. 2
"As soon as he left, the Trust moved their HQ back to Llandudno."

The facts (as confirmed by the National Trust) are:

MARCH 1 2003 Iwan Huws was appointed as the new Director of the NT in Wales . He was initially recruited to work in Cardiff but the Welsh HQ has always been in Llandudno and remains so. In 2006 Iwan Huws moved back to North Wales and was based in the Llandudno office. The CARDIFF OFFICE was ALWAYS A SATELLITE OFFICE FOR THE DIRECTOR.The Cardiff office no longer exists and the future of the LLANDUDNO office is secure. So in fact the trend was from Cardiff to Llandudno and not vice versa as claimed by Labour!

It suggests that Labour is not picking up from its dismal 2007 performance in those key seats it needs to win to form a working majority. The opinion polls have all pointed to a comfortable Labour win at this election - I suspect the reality on May 6 will be very different as the ground war has proved them to be far less effective.

* Former Labour minister Phil Woolas was found guilty of making false statements in his election leaflets in 2010 and subsequently stripped of his seat.

Hustings (parts 3) @ the Creative Media Centre, Glyndwr

This election campaign has seen six meetings for the candidates in Wrecsam, at which members of the public have had a chance to challenge the candidates and ask questions. Some were general - such as the TCC hustings - while others have been more specialist. Last week's BMA hustings with local doctors was one example and we've also had a live phone-in with Jason Mohammed on BBC Radio Wales from Glyndwr University.
Today we were back at the university's excellent creative media centre (the one with the grass roof) for our final hustings in front of students and lecturers. It was different in that it was being filmed for Glyndwr TV and will soon be appearing on the internet - one day all hustings will be like this. It will then be harder for candidates to re-write their party manifestos and to pass the buck when it comes to defending unpopular decisions.
It's difficult to judge how these things have gone when you're on the platform so I'll wait for the TV evidence and post up the link. What I can say is that the set up in terms of broadcasting and journalism is very impressive and the film studio with its green screen and other facilities will be a real asset to developing a hub for the cultural industries here in Wrecsam. It's something we've lacked in the north-east and already local companies are using it rather than travelling to Manchester. The longer term effect will be to have skilled broadcasters who can develop media enterprises locally.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Obama's Bounce!

Latest polling figures in the US show that approval ratings for President Barack Obama have gone up about 10% from 46% before Osama Bin Laden's killing to 56% after. It's a shame however that the bounce won't last until the next Presidential election in 18 months time.

The right wing Republicans are not however for crediting Obama with any brownie points for taking Bin Laden out. This is one of the crazier conspiracy theories:
Did you know that Osama's been dead for years, kept on ice, until Obama needed a poll boost? Also he's not really dead, and also he's been dead since 2002. Also Obama didn't even want to kill Osama but the military made him. And Obama only did this to silence Donald Trump.

Don't you just love em!

Labour MP admits taking Plaid signs

You know the opposition is rattled when they start sending their MPs to take down your garden posts. That's what's happening in Caerffili, where Ron Davies looks like securing a historic victory for Plaid against the invisible Labour AM Jeff Cuthbert.

It's emerged in today's Western Mail that Wayne David, the Labour MP for Caerffili, has been knocking on the doors of households with Plaid signs demanding they're taken down, claiming they're illegal.

David, who is best remembered for losing the Rhondda to Plaid in 1999, actually admitted the theft to the paper:

Mr David told the Western Mail: “There has been a disproportionately large number of Plaid stakes put up in the Rhymney Valley and we have had reports that Plaid have been putting them up in gardens without permission from residents."

Disproportionate? Is Plaid only allowed a certain number of signs up in any one street Wayne? David admits taking away the signs after having challenged residents - I wonder how he'll explain that those residents then happily took new Plaid garden posts.

Let's hope he returns the posts and signs - they cost good money! If Labour is so desperate that the local MPs is scurrying round the area like this, then I suspect Plaid will be celebrating a stunning win on Thursday. And Wayne David will be remembered as the man who lost the Rhondda, then lost it in Caerffili.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Getting the crosses into the right box

Community ownership 'the key to Assembly funding' for Racecourse ground

Community ownership of Wrexham FC and the Racecourse ground is essential to win Assembly funding to develop an international stadium in Wrexham.

That's the view of Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham Marc Jones, who today gave his backing for the Wrexham Supporters' Trust community buyout plan.

Marc Jones recently organised a meeting between members of the Trust's board and the Welsh Government's sports minister Alun Ffred Jones, at which the Trust's vision for the future was explained.

He said:
"The 5th of May is an important day for the club for more reasons than just the Luton game. A vote for Plaid in the Welsh general election on Thursday is a vote for Assembly funding for a proper international stadium. Plaid's manifesto has a commitment to financing developments at the stadium but, given the instability we current have at the club, it's impossible to see public money going into the current structure.

"That funding commitment can only be made when we have stability in terms of the club's ownership and the only people with the vision and commitment to achieve that are a community consortium led by the WST. It's great that they have already raised so much money for the buyout bid in a few days. The meeting with Alun Ffred Jones was very productive and he was genuinely impressed by the WST's professional presentation. He made it clear that the final decision on funding the club could only be made after the election, but Plaid will work to keep the Racecourse and club's future development on the agenda in Cardiff Bay. If elected, I will continue to back the WST bid as the only credible long-term solution for our club.
"The next few days will be vital for the club, which has been such an important symbol for the town over generations. I hope the players do their bit and get their crosses in the box so we can start climbing up the divisions, it goes without saying I hope to get a few crosses in the right boxes myself on May 5th."

Another Tory in trouble!

This time it is none other than Clwyd South Tory activist John Broughton a leading light in Paul Rogers's rapidly fading campaign. Yes John has been making inappropriate comments on twitter, this disn't really come as a surprise as I used to follow him on twitter (@grahnat)until I became increasingly concerned by the inappropriate nature of his tweets and eventually blocked him.

Not only was Broughton making insulting comments against Plaid Cymru candidates like Heledd Fychan and Helen Mary Jones but also his own AM's including Darran Millar and Nick Bourne for supporting a Yes for Wales vote in the recent referendum.

I don't suppose its too much to expect the Tory candidate for Clwyd South Paul Rogers to condemn his member's actions in this case!

Tweet of the Day!

HT to Alun Evans @aliguana for this tweet of the day:

"That'll teach you Bin Laden.. don't buy an iPhone next time.."

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Royal Revenge.

Excellent article in today's Independent on Sunday where John Rentoul discusses whether Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's absence from the guest list of the Royal Wedding was a right old royal snub and a touch of revenge following publication of Tony Blair's memoirs.

I would definitely agree with Rentoul that this was a snub rather than the weak palace response that they had to draw a line somewhere and that this was a private wedding rather a state wedding where ex Prime Ministers would have been invited. I don't think the most ardent monarchist would say that Kate and William's wedding was a private affair.

The Palace spokesperson then goes on to say that only Knights of the Garter and Knights of the Thistle were invited and of the Knights and Ladies of the Garter are non other than Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major but no Blair or Brown despite there being two vacancies in the Order of the Garter. The Order of the Thistle on the other hand is specifically for the Scottish great and the good. Incidentally and please note, there is no Order of the Daffodil or the Leek but there is ONE Welsh Politician who is a Knight of the Garter, Lord Morris of Aberafon which just goes to show that the Palace still look upon Wales as an appendage of England.

Knights, Companions and Ladies of the Garter are not selected as political patronage but rather by the Sovereign personally, with or without reference to the Government. This would indicate that the absence of Brown and Blair at the wedding and in the Order of the Garter was probably a snub by the Sovereign herself which brings into question the political impartiality of the British Monarchy and as John Rentoul himself said,
"Who, then, should take responsibility...that the Royal Family corporately, led by the Queen, "held no torch" for him, seems the most likely reason. They are not exactly Labour – a lack of sympathy that may well be shared by the Middleton family."

Suspension of Habeus Corpus??

The goings on in this country since Thursday begs the question whether this Con Dem illiberal government in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police have suspended habeus corpus.

We have seen dozens of protestors pre-emptively arrested on the flimsiest of grounds such as conspiracy to commit a breach of the peace. Squats have been raided in London and Brighton, plain clothes Police have been snatching people from Soho Square not to mention continuing harrassment of UKUncut activists around the country including Glasgow.

In addition to this Facebook have deleted accounts of individuals and groups planning protests; and I don't suppose Facebook did this without some encouragement from the establishment and security services.

The comments of Christine Jones, Commander in the Metropolitan Police was enough to convince anyone of the attitude of the Police towards demonstrators, "Any criminals attempting to disrupt it..." (The Royal Wedding), which shows that policing of the event was not impartial when protestors were routinely described as 'criminals'. Shouldn't it be the courts that decide what is criminal and not the Police?

It really makes one question which is the most illiberal government the Con Dems or Labour, personally I don't feel I can trust either with my liberties.