Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Public Spending per head.

The recent release of the the Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis has caused a furore amongst Tory MP's (and Daily Mail readers) that public spending per head between Scotland and England has widened:
England £8588
Wales £9829
Scotland £10,212
The North of Ireland £10,706

Public expenditure has widened over the last 12 months between England and Scotland from £1409 to £1624 a 15% increase in the gap.

Two English Tory MP's are up in arms about this gap in expenditure per head; David Mowat MP said,
‘It is right that the Scottish government can set its own priorities and if it wants to prioritise free prescriptions, for example, that is fine. But it is not right that they end up with an extra £1,600 per person to pay for it.

‘This is quite wrong and will rightly cause indignation in England. Many MPs are having to defend deeply unpopular cuts. We do so on the basis that there is no alternative and that the deficit must be brought down.

'This argument looks a bit limp when the Coalition is able to fritter away billions of pounds to appease vested interests north of the border. We should have a funding formula that is based on need.’
Gordon Henderson MP said,
‘It is simply wrong that English taxpayers are being asked to help subsidise for people living in Scotland a range of services not available in England, including free prescriptions, free hospital parking, free accommodation in care homes and free university tuition fees.

‘Something has to be done before the justifiable resentment felt by many people about the unfair subsidy English taxpayers are expected to contribute towards superior services north of the border, manifests itself in an anti-Scots backlash.’

Don't you just love it. Plaid Cymru have been arguing this same point for decades, other parties in Wales now agree that a needs based formula is required particularly after Holtham but the Con Dem government in the form of Danny Alexander refuses to address the anomalies except to give us a Calman like commission to report some time in the hazy future.

Perhaps now that English Tory MP's are offended this will move the agenda on towards a fairer needs based funding formula.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

They've finally got it

Congratulations to the British press they have finally succeeded in writing an article about Wales which is relatively accurate and balanced. I refer of course to the Guardian Online rather than the Daily Mail or Daily Express...that would be far too much to expect.

The article concerns the campaign throughout Wales to bin the Local Development Plans as they do not cater for local needs and the sheer number of new houses being built in Welsh speaking areas will be harmful to the Welsh language and local identity.

Oes na ddigon o arian i gael?

Mae 'na nifer o fentrau cymunedol newydd ar droed yn Wrecsam a phwrpas y cwestiwn ydy gofyn a oes gan y gymuned leol ddigon o arian parod i gefnogi'r mentrau yma i gyd.

Cawn gychwyn gyda menter Simon Wingett sef twr anferthol a draig ar ei phen wedi ei lleoli yn y Waun reit ar y ffin fel y dewch i mewn i Gymru o'r de; ryw Angel of the North Cymreig. Cost y fenter yma ydy £9 miliwn a disgwylid i unigolion gyfrannu o bunt i fyny.

Wedyn mae gennym ni helyntion Clwb Peldroed Wrecsam ag os fydd Ymddiriedolaeth Cefnogwyr Wrecsam yn llwyddiannus fe fydd angen codi £300,000 mewn cyfranddaliadau cymunedol neu trwy roddion erbyn diwedd y tymor i ddileu colledion ac amcangyfrif i fod tua £750,000. Fe fydd y cwmni newydd yn gwerthu cyfranddaliadau o £250 i fyny at £20,000.

Yn drydydd mae sefyllfa'r Celtic Crusaders sydd wedi syrthio allan o'r Super League ond sydd yn awyddus iawn i gario mlaen a rygbi'r gynghrair yn Wrecsam ac maent am wneud cais i ymuno ar bencampwriaeth. Amcangyfrif bydd cost hyn yn £300,000 y tymor a heb lawer o sôn lle mae'r arian yma yn mynd i ddod o.

Yn olaf mae'r fenter i sefydlu cwmni cydweithredol i redeg Canolfan Gymraeg yn hen dafarn y Seven Stars fel 'legacy' ar ôl yr Eisteddfod lle fydd angen codi miloedd i adnewyddu ac i redeg y lle.

Fel un a fu yn amlwg yn ceisio codi'r £300,000 tuag at Steddfod Wrecsam dros y ddwy flynedd diwethaf a methu cyrraedd y targed; doedd hi ddim yn job hawdd; roedd busnesau yn gyndyn iawn i gyfrannu symiau eithaf bach o arian oherwydd y dirwasgiad.

Er bod natur y Steddfod a chlybiau chwaraeon yn wahanol iawn ac mae'n debyg y bydd hi'n hawddach codi arian i CPD Wrecsam ar Crusaders nag oedd hi i'r Steddfod ond mae codi dros hanner miliwn o bunnau mewn tymor yn dipyn o sialens.

Dim ond amser a ddel i weld a fydd y mentrau yma i gyd yn llwyddo.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Picking a Fight!

What exactly is going on between the Welsh Government and Local Authorities in Wales, this petty infighting does no one any credit and most certainly does nothing to improve services for the people of Wales.

It all started off a few weeks ago with what can best be described as an 'aggresive' and uncompromising speech by Carl Sergeant at the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA)conference in Swansea on the subject of collaboration in the delivery of services; this is something that Local Authorities are ploughing ahead on without threats from the Local Government Minister.

The next fight to pick was with Pembrokeshire County Council who had received a scathing joint report by Estyn and the CSSIW as regards child protection issues in schools. The council's reaction to this report wasn't sufficiently positive in acknowledgement of faults resulting in an unprecedented letter to the Council Leader John Davies from Leighton Andrews and Gwenda Thomas; accusing the council of being more concerned with protecting their good name than addressing child protection issues. Unfortunately this letter was released to the press prior to John Davies receiving it. Coincidentally John Davies is Chair of the WLGA and is probably the most senior councillor in Wales and leads for the WLGA in negotiating with the Welsh Government.

The question now is why did two Welsh Government ministers pick a public fight with the Leader of the WLGA, was it to clip the wings of Welsh local authorities prior to the centralisation of more services or was it as John Davies suggests 'blatant electioneering' by Labour ministers trying to undermine independent led local authorities.

The goings on in Blaenau Gwent today seems to give some credence to John Davies's assertions. Blaenau Gwent is another independent led authority whose Local Education Authority is in 'special measures' following yet another Estyn inspection. On the day the Welsh Government appointed a team to run Blaenau Gwent education the opposition Labour group decided to call for a vote of no confidence in the leader Des Hillman and his deputy which was won by a close two votes. It seems that the goings on at Blaenau Gwent was of great interest to the Welsh Government, otherwise why would the local AM,Alun Davies give us a running commentary on twitter this afternoon?

It does make one think whether the mediocre Estyn report that Wrecsam had earlier this year and subsequent negativity by the Wales Audit Office has more to do with political makeup of the council rather than the quality of our services!

I wonder if the two Labour controlled councils in Wales, RCT and NPT have had Estyn/CSSIW inspections or will they be inspected before the May council elections?

Deaths Related to Drugs Poisoning.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have recently published statistics on deaths related to drugs poisoning in England and Wales. The report paints a picture of an improving situation with a decrease in drug poisoning deaths which masks the true situation in Wales.

Two of the key findings of the report are:
  • The drug poisoning death rate fell significantly between 2009 and 2010 for males, but remained stable in females
  • The total number of drug misuse deaths was 1,784 in 2010, down slightly from 1,876 in 2009

The situation in Wales is that drug poisoning deaths in Wales INCREASED by 15% from 132 to 152 deaths between 2009/2010. The numbers of deaths increased for both males and females, from 112 to 120 for males and 20 to 32 deaths for females or 60%.

If we extend the timescales to 2006, the figures are even more pronounced with the numbers of drug poisoning deaths in England having increased by just under 10% for males whilst the figure for males in Wales is a 65% increase whilst for females the increase in England is 20% whilst the figures in Wales is a 128% increase.

The publication of these statistics on an England and Wales basis portrays a completely misleading picture of the situation in Wales and it is no easy task to separate figures for Wales within the database.

Perhaps now is the time to ask the Welsh Health minister to make a statement on this data and initiatives that the Welsh Government have introduced to reduce deaths related to drugs poisoning.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon!

Diolch i Arthur Thomas yn ei golofn wythnosol yn y Cymro, 'O gysgod y foel' am godi y pwnc o ddysgu Cymraeg neu pynciau drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yn ein hysgolion dwyieithog (neu gyfrwng Saesneg) ni.

Dwi o'r farn fod Arthur wedi taro'r hoelan ar ei phen a dyma lythyr dwi wedi ei yrru i'r Cymro yn cefnogi Arthur:
Annwyl Olygydd,

Mae diolch i Arthur yn ei golofn ‘O Gysgod y foel’ ein hatgoffa'r sefyllfa fregus dysgu Cymraeg yn ein hysgolion dwyieithog, (neu gyfrwng Saesneg fel y galwent nhw yn Wrecsam). Er bod y niferoedd sydd yn eistedd TGAU Cymraeg ail iaith yn codi mae 'na ddal niferoedd mawr yn dal i ddilyn y cwrs byr a hefyd nifer sydd ddim yn eistedd arholiad Cymraeg o gwbl.

Fel mae Arthur wedi sôn mae plant sydd yn mynd i ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg mewn ardaloedd Saesneg, hefo nesa peth i ddim Cymraeg yng nghyfnod sylfaen 4. Dydy hyn ddim yn fai ar yr athrawon ond ar gwricwlwm yr ysgol lle mae plentyn ond yn cael awr yr wythnos o Gymraeg.

Nid yn unig mae hon yn broblem mewn ardaloedd di- Gymraeg ond mae hi hefyd yn brysur ymestyn i ardaloedd lle mae’r Gymraeg i fod yn gryfach, ond hwyrach y dylem ofyn faint yn union o wersi sydd yn cael ei darparu yn Gymraeg mewn rhai ysgolion dwyieithog sydd wedi mynd mwy neu lai yn ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg fel Caergybi a Thywyn, Meirionnydd; a bod plant sydd am addysg Gymraeg yn mynd i ysgolion y Moelwyn, y Gadair ar Berwyn yn hytrach na Ardudwy neu Dywyn. I fod yn Ysgol ddwyieithog mae angen i’r ysgol ddarparu 70% o wersi drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg,… faint o ysgolion sydd yn gneud hynny?.

Mae’n hen bryd i’r gyfundrefn addysg sydd ohoni yng Nghymru greu mwy o ysgolion penodedig Gymraeg hyd yn oed mewn ardaloedd Cymreig yn hytrach nag addysg ddwyieithog sydd yn brysur droi yn addysg Saesneg.

Yn gywir,

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Council bought off by Spurs managers company

A development company owned by Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has dodged an English council’s affordable housing policy, claiming it won’t make enough profit if forced to provide 30% affordable housing for local people in Portsmouth.

Redknapp’s firm, Pierfront Developments gained planning permission to demolish the Savoy Court building in Portsmouth in 2007, along with planning permission to build 91 new apartments at the site, they are yet to start any work. The company also promised that 28 of the new builds would be affordable for local people, in line with the council’s affordable housing policy.

A strange twist of fate saw the Savoy building completely destroyed by fire only last week. Today, Pierfront Developments were granted planning permission to continue with the new luxury build, without the original commitment to provide affordable homes. The company claimed the development, with a previously predicted sale value of between £13 and £18 million, would not be viable if the 28 affordable homes had to be provided. Instead the company offered the council £400,000 to dodge its previous commitment, later upped to £600,000 just hours before the planning committee met.

Portsmouth councils affordable housing policy offers a loophole for developers, if they can demonstrate that they will not be able to make a 23% profit.

Readers of this blog may recall similar ‘viability’ arguments being put forward by Wrecsams chief planning officer to avoid implementing a 50% affordable housing policy here. Again the argument put forward by officers was that 50% would not be viable as developers would not be able to secure their ‘usual profit margins’. In the end Wrecsam council opted for a 30% threshold, with the loop hole of 'viability' included to allow developers to dodge the policy if profit levels don't suit.

Why councils or planning committees in England, Wales or anywhere else should form planning policy based on developer’s usual profit margins is beyond me. Surely the main function of the planning system should be to allow appropriate development which caters for a local need. Instead it seems the system across the board is open to offers.

It can only happen in America!

Where else but in Texas would you find this newspaper advert as part of a political campaign

To read the full story go here

Scottish Studies.

More good news from Scotland! Dr Alasdair Allan, the SNP Minister for Learning and Skills has announced a new Scottish studies course to be taught to ALL school pupils.The course will encompass, Scottish history, literature, language and culture.
A survey showed that 90% of respondents supported this initiative.
In support of the initiative, Dr Allan said,
You would anticipate that there would be a wide variety of material about Scotland made available in Scottish schools, but it has to be said that, although things have been getting much better, many people’s experience is of learning not much about Scotland...

Although Scotland prides itself on its education system, there is an acknowledgment that where it has failed is in giving people basic information about their own country...

It is not normal or reasonable to have a situation where it depends on the enthusiasm of teachers whether pupils learn anything at all about Scottish literature or history – there is something abnormal about the situation that we have to normalise...

If it is valuable for a new generation of Scots to know something about their country, then it is something that has to feed through the entire journey through school.

Dr Allan denied that the initiative was to promote nationalism, stating
That view is becoming so silly. There is no evidence that parents view learning about Scottish history as indoctrination.

The content of Scottish history is not particularly political, and it will be taught in an impartial way. The idea that presenting facts about Scotland is indoctrination is not taken particularly seriously today.

What is significant here is the widespread support for this common sense approach to the curriculum, even the comments to the story on the Herald website are all positive unlike our Western Mail apologists should we in Wales initiate such a positive change. Let's hope that one of our AM's will ask Leighton Andrews the question, "...and why not Wales"?

The Clueless Wales Audit Office.

At the back end of last year Wrecsam Local Education Authority had an inspection by Estyn and the Wales Audit Office. The subsequent report was in fact mixed and a number of comments made in the report were challenged by officers and elected members but the Wales Audit Office in their presentation of their Annual Report earlier this year repeated the same shortcomings. One of the shortcomings in the report which frankly no one could understand was, 'a failure to match strategic planning with resources' and we asked the WAO for best practise in this area.

Believe it or not the WAO's best practise authority in this area was in fact Pembrokeshire whose education authority was put into 'special measures' just a few weeks ago!

Do the WAO seriously expect Local Authorities which are achieving to learn lessons from authorities which are in special measures?

If it wasn't so serious it would be laughable that an organisation who operates in this fashion is still considered 'fit for purpose.'

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Welsh Unemployment on the up again.

Figures released by the ONS show that in the quarter April to June 2011, unemployment has increased in Wales, by 10,000 to 122,000 or 8.4% compared to January to March 2011 quarter.

Is this what Carwyn meant by standing up for Wales and conning the electorate back in May that a Labour administration in Cardiff would protect Wales?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Menai Deli and the WRVS

One must feel for the owner and employees of Menai Deli who have been supplying the hospital shop and cafe at Ysbyty Gwynedd for many years, and who have now lost the WRVS contract to supply sandwiches to national supplier Ginster's who are based in Cornwall. The WRVS decision has resulted in the loss of 6 jobs in the local area.
This decision raises a number of questions as to how the WRVS tender for services; do they not have a condition in the contract relating to the carbon footprint of their suppliers? It would seem not!

This brings us on to the question of how the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board came to award the contract to the WRVS in the first place and whether now is the time to review their tendering process and perhaps award the contract to a local third sector organisation who will comply with local supplier/environmental conditions.

Local politicians should bring pressure to bear on the undemocratic BCU Health Board and the WRVS to address their procurement processes in favour of local suppliers. It is after all not a large contract subject of European tendering rules.

The next Commissioner of the Met.

There has been much speculation in the press as to who will be the next Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Firm favourites initially was the Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin and the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde. Both these men seemed to have spoilt their chances by publicly crossing David Cameron and Teresa May over the policing of the riots and the appointment of Bill Bratton ex Commissioner of the New York PD as a special advisor. The current favourite is Stephen House the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police and an ex senior officer in the Metropolitan Police who apparently has been encouraged by the Home Office to apply.

I find it somewhat hard to comprehend why a Glasgow boy like Stephen House would want to take over the 'poisoned chalice' which is the job of Commissioner of the Met, knowing full well that the Scottish Government intend to amalgamate the 8 Scottish forces into one national force and that he as Chief of Scotland's largest Police force would be sitting pretty to take over the top job. It may however be that House might take on the Met job for a few years and then return to Scotland for the top job.

Another great unknown in this process is who Boris Johnson favours? Will Teresa May really want to pick a fight with the Mayor of London or will she go for a compromise candidate.

For what it's worth I favour Sir Hugh Orde. His policing experience as Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland is second to none and would make him an ideal candidate for Commissioner.

Trydar yn Gymraeg.

Os rydych yn trydar yn Gymraeg cymerwch ran yn yr arolwg yma i Rhys Jones (@rhysjj)o Brifysgol Abertawe ar y defnydd o drydar yn Gymraeg.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Gorymdaith dros addysg Gymraeg - marching for Welsh-medium education

Gwisgwch goch, gwyn a gwyrdd a dewch i ddangos eich cefnogaeth i addysg Gymraeg yn Sir y Fflint ac Ysgol Gwenffrwd. Ymunwch mewn gorymdaith i Theatr Clwyd dydd Mercher, 17 Awst, cyfarfod am 13:15yp ger y Llys y Goron, Wyddgrug. Dewch a cymaint a bobl gyda chi a sydd bosib. Os na allwch ddod ceisiwch gael eich teulu neu ffrindiau i ddod. Mae cyfarfod pwysig o'r cyngor yn dechrau am 2:30yp i drafod ad-drefniad addysg yn Nhreffynnon.

Wear red, white and green and come to show your support for Welsh medium education in Fintshire and Ysgol Gwenffrwd. Join the march to Theatr Clwyd on Wednesday 17 August, meet at 13:15 by the Crown Court, Mold. Bring as many people with you as possible. If you can't make it ask your family or friends to come along. There is an important meeting of the council starting at 2:30pm to discuss reorganisation of education in Holywell.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Osborne should act now!

Whilst four EU countries ban short selling of banking stock to bring some sort of stability to the markets but sadly the UK is not one of them. We should welcome this decisive policy change by France, Italy, Spain and Belgium.

Unfortunately George Osborne doesn't seem to have learnt the lessons of 2008, when short selling was partly responsible for the demise of RBS, Barclays and Lloyds TSB and which subsequently led to the massive taxpayer funded bailout.

George Osborne should act now to ban short selling and to protect companies and jobs from further exploitation by unscrupulous hedge fund managers who are acting against the public interest.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Money to Trade Unions.

I must admit that it did come as somewhat of a shock that the Welsh Government have contributed £2.4 million of taxpayers money to Trade Unions in Wales, even though the reasons for doing so are quite admirable:
They have come under two main initiatives, the Wales Development Fund for Unions, which is aimed at developing policy-making processes, and the Wales Union Learning Fund, which develops learning.

The article goes on to link the fact that the Trade Unions who have benefitted from the governmen'r benevolence are in fact those same Trade Unions who have made generous contributions to various Welsh Labour Party campaigns.

I wonder how much Trade Unions like the PCS the FBU and the RMT who don't contribute to the Welsh Labour Party got from these funds? Did they get anything?... I think not!

If the Trade Unions who don't contribute to the Welsh Labour Party didn't get a share of the £2.4 million then that surely is a misuse of public funds and should be investigated by the Wales Audit Office.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Powys Fadog FOI saga

I have posted previously here and here regarding the ongoing battle with the Welsh Government to obtain information in relation to the handling of the Powys Fadog project.

The last FOI request I submitted was again very late, this time taking nearly 80 working days to receive a response, this followed yet another warning from the Information Commissioner.

As you can see from previous posts, substantial delays and problems in relation to FOI requests on this topic are nothing new, what is surprising about this latest one are the exemptions used by the Welsh Government to justify not handing over the information, this time 40(2)(personal data) and 36(2)(c)(effective conduct of public affairs). Also interesting is the fact that the wording of my original request has been slightly altered by the Welsh government along the process, something I’m currently taking up with the relevant department to ensure there has been no attempt to alter the meaning of the request.

The FOI request I submitted back in April reads as follows:

‘Any e mails, letters or paper work relating The People’s council of North Wales or the West Cheshire/north east Wales sub-regional strategy to the Powys Fadog /River Lodge project. I would like to request documents either to, from or on behalf of Karen Sinclair and Rhodri Morgan. I would like to request any information held from January 2009 to present’

The Welsh Government have confirmed that they do indeed hold information in relation to this request. In itself this is very concerning considering that the Powys Fadog project has nothing to do with the West Cheshire Plan or indeed the People’s Council who campaigned to stop it.

Why would former Assembly Member for Clwyd South Karen Sinclair be communicating with the First Minister of the country at the time Rhodri Morgan, linking these issues together?

Even more interesting, why would the Welsh Government use the following ‘exemption’ to justify not releasing this information?

"Section 36(2) ( c) – Effective conduct of public affairs

The exemption under Section 36(2)(c) is designed to prevent prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs. The relationship between the First Minister and an elected representative forms the basis of democratic representation in Wales. That relationship is one based on the trust which an Assembly Member (AM) needs to maintain if he, or she, is to carry out their role effectively. There is a duty upon AMs, most clearly expressed in their Code of Conduct, to represent the interests of their constituents/constituencies and in doing so, there is an implied understanding that there has to be a right to privacy whilst representing their interest in the public arena.

Although the person corresponding with the First Minister, in this case, is no longer an AM, other elected representatives are likely to become aware of any disclosure. The knowledge that comments made to the First Minister could be disclosed in response to a FoI request has a real potential to impact upon the way in which AMs might engage with the Welsh Government whilst undertaking their core functions of working in the best interests of the people they represent. If this information was released into the public domain, we consider there to be a significant and real risk of elected representatives being less forthcoming in the manner in which they bring matters to the Welsh Government’s attention. In the light of this, it has been decided that disclosure of this information would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs."

I’ve submitted quite a few FOI’s in my time but have not come across this exemption before. Surely if an AM communicates with the First Minister through official lines, this information should be open to FOI. Indeed, e mails between Karen Sinclair and Rhodri Morgan(whilst First Minster) in relation to Powys Fadog have previously been released, so what is so special about this topic I wonder to warrant the above?

I believe the Welsh Government will eventually have to release this information, even to the untrained eye the exemption applied above is clearly nonsense and designed solely to protect individual politicians. The fact that this information even exists points even more strongly to the discriminatory way the Powys Fadog project has been treated by senior Labour politicians and the Welsh Government.

Monday, 8 August 2011

+ + + BREAKING NEWS: St David's Day parade ban lifted + + +

The ban on Adam Phillips, organiser and originator of the St David's Day parade in Wrecsam, has been lifted.

This letter from Philip Walton of Wrecsam Council - copied to several councillors* and AMs - confirms the withdrawal of the ban, which would have severely undermined next year's parade:

Dear Mr Phillips

Re: Wrexham St David’s Day Parade

Thank you for meeting with Lee Robinson on Monday, 1 August, 2011.

In your discussions with Lee you clearly showed that you are well aware of our Policy relating to the use of Council premises and understand that they are not to be used for political purposes. Lee has also advised me that from the discussion he believes that you did not feel your words or actions were political but understood that they had been misconstrued.

In light of this helpful discussion and our confidence that our guidelines are completely understood I am happy to lift the ban which had previously been imposed.

I welcome your commitment to the St. David's Day Parade and the benefits it has for the town of Wrexham.

Yours sincerely

Philip Walton
Strategic and Performance Director

* The original complaint was made to Cllr Phil Wynn.

Shotton Communities First - transparency needed

Today's Daily Post carries the story about Higher Shotton Communities First and allegations of financial impropriety.

In the wake of Plas Madoc's problems, it's very worrying that any allegation of public money being misused is being swept under the carpet.

The complacent reaction of the local CF board chairman, Cllr Ron Davies, is particularly worrying:
“I became chair after whatever happened. A senior person had left and the issues have been dealt with.”

Tell us what happened Ron.

And while you're at it, perhaps you can ask the local AM, fellow Labourite Carl Sargeant, and minister with responsibility for Communities First, to investigate this more thoroughly.

ADDENDUM - Shane Brennan the Plaid Cymru Assembly Candidate for Alyn and Deeside made a Freedom of Information request of Higher Shotton Communities First requesting information on the 'goings on' back in April/May this year. That FOI request was ignored as was the subsequent review request. Sounds as if Cllr Ron Davies is equally as complacent in ensuring that a public body which he leads fails to comply with the law. Perhaps he won't be quite as complacent when his failure to comply is investigated by the Information Commissioner.

Plaid Gwersyllt.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

It was a police bullet - Metropolitan Police can't stop spinning

The Tottenham riots were sparked by the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, a local man, by the Metropolitan Police. Immediately after the shooting, the police let it be known that Duggan had shot at them and that a police officer had only avoided serious injury because a bullet had lodged in his radio.
The Sun enthusiastically picked up on the story. The sister paper of the News of the World had also mysteriously obtained the last text message from the victim.
Suspected gangster Mark Duggan, 29, fired a handgun at an armed cop, whose life was saved when the bullet hit his radio.

The officer returned fire with his Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine gun - blasting dad-of-five Duggan twice in the face before slumping to the ground.

Duggan, known by the street name Starrish Mark, was a so-called gangsta member of North London's Tottenham Man Dem gang, which has links to Jamaica's ruthless Yardies.

A clear case of self-defence then?
Er, no. The Guardian then broke the story that the police lodged in the radio was, in fact, fired by a police gun:
Initial ballistics tests on the bullet that lodged in a police officer's radio when Mark Duggan died on Thursday night show it was a police issue bullet, the Guardian understands.

The Guardian's crime correspondent, Sandra Laville, reports:

The revelation will fuel the fury in Tottenham about the killing of Mark Duggan by armed officers.

It also undermines suggestions that there was an exchange of fire between Duggan and the police before he died.

The bullet which was found lodged in the radio of one of the officers at the scene is still undergoing forensic tests. But reliable sources have said the first ballistics examinations suggested it was a police issue bullet.

These are very distinct as the Metropolitan Police uses dum dum type hollowed out bullets designed not to pass through an object.

The early suggestion from the IPCC was that the Met officers had returned fire after someone in the minicab opened fire. But the result of the ballistics early test suggests both shots fired came from the police.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently investigating, just as it did in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes. This was the Brazilian shot and killed by the Metropolitan Police in 2007 and subsequently painted as a "bomber" by the media. The police press machine span a host of lies about his "suspicious" actions, which were all exposed as lies in the subsequent inquest.
Once again, it appears the police spin machine can't help itself in defending the indefensible.

Y Wasg Gymreig.

Yn anffortunus yr unig ddewis o bapur Sul o Gymru (dydw i ddim yn ei ddisgrifio fo fel papur Cymreig am resymau ddaw yn amlwg) ydy'r Wales on Sunday. Dwi wedi prynu copi o'r rhacsyn yma heddiw i weld yn union faint o sylw roedd y Steddfod yn ei gael. Dwi di sganio'r tudalennau ddwywaith ond welaf i ddim. Gŵyl fwyaf Cymru a dim gair am y Steddfod, mae hi'n anodd ffendio rywbeth i ddeud yn tydi!

Mae'n amlwg nad oes gan y WoS ddim yn erbyn gwyliau yn gyffredinol fel mae pennawd tudalen 26 yn grybwyll; "A Big Weekend of Festival Fun" yn cyfeirio at weithgareddau yng Nghaerdydd, Aberystwyth, Aberteifi, Mwmbwls ag Aberteifi, felly beth am Wrecsam ar Steddfod?

Mae be ddwedodd Jim Parc Nest o'r Maen Llog dydd Llun yn berffaith gywir; mae angen ymchwiliad i safon a chynnyrch y wasg ysgrifenedig Gymreig. I'r rhai ohonoch sydd yn prynu'r WoS gai argymell eich bod yn buddsoddi eich £1 yr wythnos yn Hapnod, sef loteri'r Steddfod, buddsoddiad llawer gwell.

Eisteddfod 2011

Mae Grangetown Jack wedi gwneud sylwadau digon calonogol am Eisteddfod Wrecsam. Gan ei bod hi bellach ar ben, dyma gyfrannu ambell i sylw am y Steddfod a sut mae ehangu ei apel, yn enwedig ymhlith y di-Gymraeg a phobl sy ddim yn selogion.
Mae hi wedi bod yn lwyddiant mawr o safbwynt technegol - trafnidiaeth, y Maes, y cystadlu - a mwynhad Eisteddfotwyr. Mae na lawer o glod am waith caled gwirfoddolwyr lleol a hynny'n haeddiannol iawn.
Sut mae gwella pethau?
Un peth amlwg ydi gostwng pris mynediad, yn arbennig i deuluoedd. Does na'm sens mewn codi £40 ar deulu o bedwar am ddwrnod, yn enwedig mewn ardal di-Gymraeg lle mae pobl leol isio mentro ond ddim cweit yn siwr be' sydd yno ar eu cyfer. Wnaeth tocyn dau-am-un ddim gweithio yn yr un modd a'r tocyn am ddim yng Nglyn Ebwy... hen bryd ail-feddwl sut i ddenu bobl leol i'r Maes.
Mae na lwyth o weithgareddau ar y Maes ond mae'r teledu yn canolbwyntio ar perfformiadau'r llwyfan, felly mae llawer yn mynd i feddwl mai jest gwylio pobl yn cystadlu ydi'r Steddfod. Mae'r cyfryngau - yn arbennig yn y Saesneg - angen adlewyrchu bwrlwm y Steddfod a'i ffrinj yn hytrach na'r swyddogol.
Mae na ambell i dwpsyn wedi beirniadu'r diffyg budd i'r dre - mae'n wir fod na lot o Steddfotwyr bellach yn aros ar y Maes tan yn hwyr yn yfed yn y bariau yn hytrach na mynd i'r dre. Sut mae sicrhau fod na fudd i dafarndai trefi'r Steddfod yn y dyfodol? Cau'r bar ar y Maes am 7pm?
Mi gynigiodd rhywun y syniad o gael rhyw "flas" ar y Steddfod yn ganol y dre unai yr wythnos cyn y Steddfod go iawn neu ar y penwythnos gynta... yn sicr mae angen creu mwy o "buzz" a dealltwriaeth o be' di Steddfod i bobol sy ddim fel arfer yn mynd ar gyfyl y Maes.
A phan dach chi ar y Maes, faint o syniad sy' na o beth sy mlaen? Gerddes i heibio y Pagoda ac ambell i babell arall heb wybod be oedd ymlaen y dwrnod hwnna. Oes, mae na restr o ddigwyddiadau'r wythnos mewn print man ar y babell, ond ychydig sy na i ddenu yr ymwelydd "casual". Iawn - rant drosodd!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Cofio Twm Sbaen - remembering Tom Jones, Rhosllannerchrugog

A new plaque to commemorate the extraordinary life of Rhosllannerchrugog miner and anti-fascist Tom Jones was unveiled today on the Eisteddfod Maes by his daughter Jill Neild.
The bilingual plaque, designed by Huw Jones, gives a brief history of the young man who left Wales to fight Franco's fascists in the Spanish Civil War. The ceremony opened with a short musical interlude from Band Cambria - thanks Adam and Harri - before Sel Williams welcomed everybody to the Cymru-Cuba stall.
Plaid Councillor Marc Jones spoke briefly about Tom Jones's life and how he was injured fighting in Spain and left for dead. He was captured by the fascists and imprisoned in the notorious Burgos prison. He was sentenced to death twice and only released when a £2m ransom was paid by the UK Government - a huge sum at the time.
His daughter, who lives in Hawarden, also spoke movingly about her father - who died in 1990 - and how the family were sent a telegram reporting his death. His parents died not knowing Tom was still alive as he was not released until 1940.
Tom, a passionate Welsh speaker, later became a leading trade unionist in Wales and was a driving force to establish the Wales TUC. He was known forever as "Twm Sbaen" or Tom Spain for his exploits.
Marc also spoke of the importance of Twm Sbaen in today's Wales, saying his militant anti-fascism was an example to us all in a Wales where the EDL marches along the streets of Shotton and mosques are targetted by this new breed of fascists. There are plans to put on a small exhibition to commemorate Twm Sbaen as a fitting reminder of how fascism must be confronted wherever it rears its ugly head.

Aled signs housing petition

Aled Roberts regional AM for north Wales signing the petition to recall all Local Development Plans across Wales and bring housing figures back in line with genuine local needs.

To sign the petition on the Welsh Governments Petition Committee website, please click HERE:

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Aled speaks with forked tongue

Aled Roberts, the new Liberal Democrat for the North, has been a consistent advocate of closer cross-border links between this part of Wales and Cheshire. He chaired the Mersey-Dee Alliance for a time and spoke in favour of the West Cheshire plan last year.
Imagine our surprise when this hardline British unionist approach was ditched at today's Eisteddfod in favour of an approach not a million miles from ours. Rhyfedd o fyd.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Plaid councillors donate to Wrexham fans' appeal

Plaid Cymru's group of councillors in Wrecsam have handed over a £400 donation to the Wrexham Supporters' Trust to boost funds to save the football club.

The group of four councillors handed over the cheque during a vist to the Wrexham Supporters' Trust stall on the National Eisteddfod field at Lower Berse Farm today.

Group leader Marc Jones said:
"The Trust needs all the support it can get at the moment to complete this historic deal. This is our group's small contribution to the cause and we hope it will bear dividends in the coming days and weeks.

"We need stability at the club and the Trust, along with other partners, can deliver that stability. Fans have rallied to raise thousands in the past few days to meet players' wages and other bills - a fantastic gesture. But we need to see a long-term solution to the problem that will allow Dean Saunders, his staff and his players to focus on the coming season on the pitch rather than worrying about who is paying the bills."

Spencer Harris, who received the cheque on behalf of the Supporters' Trust, said:
"This is a great gesture from the Plaid Cymru group, who have always been supportive of our efforts and have worked behind the scenes. Councillors have a crucial role to play in safeguarding the future of the club and The Racecourse, so this is another positive step in the right direction."

UPDATE: WST chair and Sky Sports commentator Bryn Law has posted the following:
Well done to all who have been raising incredible sums of money to the Trust in the fight to keep Wrexham going, including the Plaid Cymru councillors who made a generous donation today, diolch fawr iawn. Plaid have been extremely proactive in this process. Onwards and upwards!