Friday, 29 April 2011

Leader letter

The Leader has published my letter about Wrexham Supporters' Trust. For some reason - presumably an irrational fear of Hamilton - it cut out two words in the second paragraph (highlighted in bold). Makes it sound as if I've supported Wrexham since the Dark Ages...

Eric Owen is quite right to ask whether the area's Assembly candidates support the WST bid to buy Wrexham FC (Letters 27 April).
As he says the WST deserves our support at this time more than ever. I've been a WST member since the dark days of Hamilton and have always believed that a community-owned club and ground is the only way to safeguard the club for future generations.
The WST had a plan back then to develop the land behind the kop with apartments and shops to finance the stadium and club's future.
That plan would have - in the right hands - seen the club flourish with a sound financial basis. Instead that key asset has been transferred out of the club's ownership and, despite promises from the current owners, it will not now be used to help the club move forward.
Throughout the past few years, the WST has played a dignified and astute role. It has limited funds raised by a lot of hard voluntary graft, but has stuck to its guns despite the bullying of others. The less said about the alternative options - ranging from convicted criminals to banned company directors - the better.
Unlike those wealthy individuals seeking to come into Wrexham to benefit from the club, the WST has only ever wanted control to ensure stability. We've got a club that has been veering from disaster to disaster in recent years and is even now looking at the play-offs with one eye on paying a tax bill. That stability is essential for potential partners such as the Welsh Assembly Government, FA of Wales, Glyndwr University and Wrexham Council. I'm sure the players and backroom staff would all appreciate a little stability too.
Wrexham fans know they can trust the Trust and I'll do all I can to make sure we have a community-owned club moving up the leagues and playing in the Millenium Stadium of the North. Plaid's election manifesto pledges that, if we're elected to form the next Welsh Government, we will provide funding for an international stadium here in Wrexham. I believe that can only happen with the WST at the helm of a community bid.


Marc Jones

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Crazy!

Who said this?
There are without doubt Islamic sects that teach extreme views of Islam but, going down to their level of hatred by burning their books is a dangerous and ignorant way to confront their teachings. The flames made by such unholy fires never die out! The .......... opposes this most un-American thinking and activity.

It was none other than the Klu Klux Klan, who are concerned that they are being lumped in with other right wing groups like the Tea Party, Westboro Baptist Church and probably after yesterday the birthers.

I wonder what the Klan have to say about the English Defence League who after all look to the US White supremacist movements for their inspiration. Do they approve of them or not?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Candidates snub local doctors - do they care?

Public meetings for Assembly election candidates are a great way to find out what's bugging some people. Of course, you can get that on the doorstep but when people come to a public meeting (or husting), they have a right to expect their local candidate to show up.
Tonight all candidates were invited to meet local doctors at a public meeting organised by the British Medical Association. John Marek failed to turn up - can't think why with the Tories privatising health in England. Local GPs were dead against such a move.
Lesley Griffiths also failed to attend, so a bad case of hustingitis from the big parties.
Bill Brereton (Lib Dem) did attend but probably wished he hadn't come either after the hammering he took over his party being part of the Con-Dem coalition introducing the NHS privatisation and tuition fees (which hit doctors particularly hard because they have to do five years' training).
The doctors had some really interesting points to make and it was a sparky evening's debate. There are specific problem in the North that need addressing and we need someone who will listen to specialist concerns to make sure we have the best possible health service locally.

But what is disturbing is that some candidates obviously don't feel they need to attend local public meetings to explain themselves. Labour's regional list candidate David Phillips has now attended meetings with the PCS civil service union and the doctors - both times having to dash off because he has to catch a train to his home in Holyhead the poor lad. If they can't be bothered to turn up, do we assume that the absentee candidates don't care about explaining their views to the voting public?

Diolch yn fawr - obrigado


Thanks to Maria for translating our leaflet into Portuguese and to Luis and Fernando at the Taste of Portugal cafe for their warm welcome and support. The Portuguese community in Wrecsam is now well established and the cafe's food is winning many new friends in the Hightown area.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Alternative Vote

Despite what people say about the Alternative Vote, it seems to me to be pretty straight forward compared to elections to Seanad Éireann, the upper house of the Oireachtas or Irish Parliament which is currently taking place. This bluffers guide to the Seanad elections is as simple as it gets!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Republic

There was a feature on Republic in yesterday's Independent on Sunday which makes interesting reading for those of us who scan newspapers looking for something to read which is NOT associated with the royal wedding.

The Nasty Party!

This report just gives even more credence to the assertion that the Liberal Democrats really are the nasty party. We shall look forward to the outcome of the Police and probably the Ombudsman's investigation, but we'll all probably have forgotten what it's all about by the time the Ombudsman reports some 2 years from now!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Wrecsam i Gricieth

Heddiw fuas i yn Harlech gynta, a wedyn i Gricieth i cael cinio ac yn well na chwarae, 'I spy'ar y siwrna penderfynwyd ar gyfri posteri gardd y pleidiau gwleidyddol.

Cychwyn digon addawol gyda dau boster Eifion Lloyd Jones yn Llandegla, mwy wedyn tuag at Bryneglwys i lawr am Gorwen. Unwaith cyrhaeddwyd ardaloedd Bethel a'r Sarnau posteri Dafydd Elis Thomas ym mhobman ar hyd y ffordd wedyn i Drawsfynydd ac ym Mhenryndeudraeth drwodd i Gricieth.

Dod adre mwy neu lai yr un ffordd ar wahan i Goedpoeth lle roedd tri poster Plaid Cymru sydd yn dangos gweithgarwch a dycnwch Mabon ap Gwynfor yn Ne Clwyd, ac wedyn y nifer o bosteri y Blaid yng nghyffiniau tref Wrecsam.

I gyd fe gyfrais i 31 o bosteri y Blaid ar fy nhaith ar draws Cymru, a dim un i ddim o'r pleidiau eraill.

Rhaid bod yn deg a deud bod na bosteri y pleidiau eraill yn nhref Wrecsam yn arbennig ar dir Mr Alan Morris, Fferm Lower Berse, Wrecsam, lle mae posteri y Ceidwadwr dros dro John Marek yn frith. Wrth ymyl y posteri Ceidwadol, mae arwydd dwyiaethog arall, "Safle Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Wrecsam 2011," sefyllfa chydig yn eironing yn fy marn i!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dr Marek's Hypocrisy.

This is a letter sent to the Leader by a Plaid Cymru member in Wrecsam relating to the Tory candidate, Dr John Marek's hypocrisy:

Dear Editor,

On Wednesday night last I attended the PCS Accountability meeting at Maesgwyn Hall, Wrecsam. Present were Marc Jones the Plaid Cymru candidate, John Marek the Tory candidate and a Labour representative from Holyhead. During the debate Dr Marek made it quite clear that he supported Yes to AV.

Imagine my surprise on reading the Leader on Thursday morning to see a photograph of Dr Marek, Cheryl Gillan and other prominent Wrecsam Tories campaigning for No to AV.

All of us who have followed Dr Marek’s mixed political career are aware that he doesn’t know his left from his right but neither does it seem he knows his Yes’s from his No’s.

Do we really want a man with no principles to represent the people of Wrecsam in Cardiff.

Yours sincerely,

The guy just has no shame whatsoever!

What do Welsh Labour stand for?

I pose this question because I'm somewhat confused as to what exactly the Welsh Labour party proposes for Wales if elected for the next 5 years. On the one hand Ed Miliband says last week that Wales has sufficient powers and doesn't need anymore.

Today, Rhodri Morgan in his Western Mail column, argues quite rightly that Wales should have powers to borrow money for infrastructure which is amazingly like the policy that Plaid Cymru are advocating in their manifesto, a half billion Build for Wales fund.

Does this support for greater devolution by Rhodri Morgan indicate further splits and fault lines between the unionist anti devolution wing of the British Labour Party and the progressive pro devolution wing of the Welsh Labour Party?

Perhaps the voters should have some clarity over what Welsh Labour have to offer and to explain some of the contradictions.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Proact a React.

Ddaru fi wrando ryw ychydig ar CF99 wsnos diwethaf rhwng Rhodri Morgan, Dafydd Trystan a rhyw Dori bach dibwys; yn arbennig y darn ynglŷn â'r polisïau economaidd Proact a React, lle mae Llafur eisoes wedi ceisio cael y clod am y llwyddiant yma er mae gydag Ieuan Wyn Jones maen nhw yn fwyaf cysylltiedig.

Be oedd yn drist am y ddadl oedd ymdrech Rhodri dro ar ôl tro i dorri ar draws Dafydd, roedd hynny yn esiampl waetha o anghwrteisi dwi wedi gweld ers tipyn; chwarae teg i Dafydd, daliodd ei dir ac enillodd y ddadl.

Er bod yna fis neu ddau wedi mynd ers i Lafur geisio dwyn y clod, heno oedd y tro cyntaf i fi glywed (gan Rhodri Morgan) mae Lesley Griffiths oedd yn gyfrifol am bolisi React a Proact. Os fasa hyn yn wir mae'n debyg y basa Lesley wedi cymryd y clod ac wedi sôn am hyn yn ei thaflen etholiadol, ond na ddim sôn o gwbl.

Amlwg mae ymdrech gas arall gan y Blaid Lafur oedd hyn i ddifrïo gwaith Ieuan Wyn Jones fel gweinidog dros yr economi a dwyn y clod drostynt ei hunain.

Wrecsam's New Chief Executive.


Wrecsam CBC have appointed Dr Helen Paterson as their new Chief Executive. Dr Paterson is currently a Strategic Director with Sunderland City Council. A brief outline of her experience is as follows:
After initially teaching in Yorkshire she successfully lead three Primary schools in Hampshire. She was Director- School Improvement, Performance and Partnership in Solihull and Executive Director of Children's Services in Sunderland 2005-10. Currently Strategic Director for Transformation, Sunderland, she leads the Council's efficiency and improvement programme.

Helen has been a JP since 1993 and is a member of a wide range of ministerial, national and regional groups including The Office for the Third Sector Advisory Board.

She returned to university in 1999 attaining her MA(Ed) and then PhD.

I very much hope that Dr Paterson will soon be able to add fluent in Welsh to her biography, she clearly has the intellectual ability to quickly adapt.

I look forward to working with Helen, especially as her background is within Integrated Children's Services.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

No more sugar daddies

For too long, our football club has relied on sugar daddies - rich men who appear to be willing to spend their money on the club purely for the joy of seeing on-field success.
The experience of the past decade should have opened our eyes to the reality that millionaires seldom part with their money voluntarily. The club and its assets have been there to be milked. The current owners have taken this to the extreme - refusing to pay their own company tax bills and thereby endangering the club at a key moment in the season.
The media are carrying a story about John Marek helping to pay the bill and the BBC (ever mindful of producer guidelines and political balance) has asked for a quote from the other Assembly candidates. This is what I had to say:

"In the short term, Dr Marek's loan to prevent the winding-up order is a generous gesture, assuming it's not being charged at 6% interest like his last loan to the club.
But this farcical situation where a millionaire owner refuses to pay his tax bill and destabilises the club during a key part of the season demonstrates the need for stability at the club. For the avoidance of doubt, that can only be achieved by community ownership and the full involvement of the Wrexham Supporters' Trust. This would release additional funds from a variety of sources and also ensure that fans never again have to put up with the constant parade of dubious wannabe owners looking to make a quick buck from our club."


I hope someone is writing a book about the last decade's twists and turns at WFC. It would be rejected as a soap opera plot but would be fascinating reading.

Monday, 18 April 2011

'When is an emergency not an emergency?'



Concern over Ambulance Trust's 999 policy
Concerns over the 999 ambulance service have prompted a Wrecsam councillor to speak out after his son was injured during a football match.

Councillor Marc Jones, of Whitegate ward, Wrecsam, spoke out after his 14-year-old son was injured playing football for Ysgol Morgan Llwyd. A tackle by an opposing defender left him in agony and teachers and parents suspected a broken ankle.

Cllr Jones, who was watching the game, said:
"After seeing the extent of the injury, a teacher dialled 999 for an ambulance and he was asked if the injury was life threatening. When he explained the situation, the nurse said she'd ring back in 15 minutes. During this time, my son was in a lot of pain and feeling faint.

"She did ring back after 15 minutes and told the teacher that no ambulance would be attending for at least another hour. Both teachers and parents couldn't believe the response. We had the choice of leaving him lying on the field in the rain for an hour or me driving him to casualty at Wrexham. So we got the car onto the field and I drove him there myself.

"What concerns me most is that we were not qualified to say whether the injury was life threatening or not. Had he lost consciousness or had a blood clot, it might have become life threatening very quickly. The teachers were great and I have no criticism at all of them and I'm sure the ambulance staff were just following orders. But that suggests that the Ambulance Trust's policies are not up to scratch and I don't want other parents to go through what I went through."


He wrote to the Welsh Ambulance Trust to complain about the failure to attend and was promised an answer by 7 April. Cllr Jones said:
"I was told on March 29 that the investigation had been completed but the letter just needed checking and then signing off by the Trust's chief executive.

"Two weeks later (14 April) I received a letter stating that 'our investigations are still ongoing', which seems to contradict the earlier message. This all makes you wonder whether the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. It should be quite straightforward to explain why the trust has a policy in place of not responding to emergency calls that they deem to be non-life-threatening. What do they expect parents or teachers to do if this kind of thing happens again - when is an emergency not an emergency?"


Cllr Jones said he was also bemused that the Trust classifies Wrexham as a "rural" area for the purposes of its ambulance response times but even that category should still mean a response time of under 18 minutes. He said:
"With the best will in the world, Wrexham town is not a rural area. We were two miles from the Maelor hospital when the accident happened on the playing fields opposite Morgan Llwyd and it took me 15 minutes to get through the traffic.

"The lack of a response and the confusion in investigating the complaint make you wonder whether the Welsh Ambulance Trust is working properly as an organisation. I appreciate that people dial 999 for the wrong reasons sometimes, but when it's a child and it's drummed into you not to move the injured person, you dial 999 expecting a better response that that."


• Picture shows the leg a week after the injury.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

True Finns

The right wing ideological party, True Finns seem set win 20% of the vote in the Finnish General Election, just behind the governing party NCP and ahead of the Social Democrats and the Centre Party. True Finns will have increased their share of the vote from 4% in 2007 to 20% in 2011.

The BBC said of them:
The True Finns' manifesto indicates they have much in common with right-wing populist parties elsewhere in Europe.

They believe that a low birth rate is not solved by immigration, as that results in problems and foreigners do not fit into Finnish culture. Instead, young women should study less and spend more time giving birth to pure Finnish children. That is like a faint echo of Nazi ideology.

If the True Finns do as well as expected the rival parties may opt for the traditional strategy of integration, but this time it is likely to backfire, because the economic climate has changed.

Strong Words!

I rarely publicly disagree with Welsh Ramblings but I must on this occasion when he describes the decision of the six North Wales returning officers to start the Welsh Assembly election count at 9am on Friday the 6th May 2011, as 'deranged.' First of all I would challenge his use of the word 'deranged' to describe the decision and those who took the decision. Knowing by reputation most if not all those Chief Executives who took the decision, the last word I would use to describe them is deranged; rational being a more accurate description.

What seemed to have rankled the Ramblings is the fact that North Wales Returning Officers have taken a decision without reference to the rest of Wales; it may come as a bit of a shock but there is 'life outside the Cardiff bubble' and the sooner he/she realises this the better. It is no good preaching localism and then demanding uniformity and centralism.

The refusal by Mohamed Mehmet to do an U-turn in the face of political pressure is commendable, it makes absolute sense to start the count at 9am the morning after because of the AV count that MUST start at 4pm on the 6th May. It is a nonsense to start the count at 10pm on the Thursday night complete the Assembly count and then start again at 4pm on the Friday.

What should have happened was that the sixteen other Returning Officers should have agreed to the count starting at 9am on the 6th May.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

BNP talking to themselves (again)


The BNP launched its Welsh manifesto at Wrecsam's Llwyn Isaf bandstand this morning. Apart from its own BNP cameraman and the BBC, it is apparent they were speaking to no-one. Yet one of their candidates managed to keep a straight face when he said "Thanks very much to you all for coming."
The green was surrounded by BNP security goons, which begs the question of how would the town centre manager - who is charged with dealing with such political activities - react in this situation?
This was not an issue of free speech - nazis aren't known for their respect for democracy. They were probably disappointed that nobody tried to move them on and their pathetic bigotry is being ignored by the people.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Wigley visit to Wrexham highlights housing needs


Plaid priority over affordable homes

Affordable homes remain a priority for Wrexham despite the fall in house prices, according to Plaid Cymru's president Dafydd Wigley.
He joined Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham Marc Jones to view some of the town's newest affordable housing and to highlight the concerns that many young people still can't get on the housing ladder.

Dafydd Wigley said:
"Falling house prices from their historic high in this part of Wales should have seen more people being able to afford their own homes. But what we're seeing is banks reluctant to lend and so deposits of £15-20,000 are not uncommon for basic starter homes. For a young person or couple just starting out and on a modest wage, this is totally unrealistic."


Marc Jones showed him the new bungalows in Coed Aben, Caia Park, built in cooperation with the local council. He said the development was a small step in the right direction but many more were needed to meet the demand - particularly to ensure that younger people were able to stay in their communities.

Mr Jones, who is also a councillor for the Whitegate ward in town, said:
"The council together with the Welsh Assembly Government is working on an ambitious affordable housing venture that will use land owned by both to develop more homes for local people. The most obvious site is the Hightown Flats site, which is now being demolished to be replaced with houses.

"But there are other sites dotted around the borough, where we can put up smaller developments that will meet local need. It's a step in the right direction because we haven't catered for that need sufficiently in the past."


He added that it was important to carefully consider what type of affordable housing was being built. Mr Jones said:
"Affordable housing can mean homes for rent, to buy or to part-buy. But if you need a huge deposit to buy a so-called affordable home, then it's not affordable to many people on low incomes.

"I've been approached by one housing association, who say they are having difficulty selling some affordable housing in the borough because of the high deposits needed. It makes no sense to be building affordable housing if they're then lying empty for want of a deposit.

"From talking to young families in my ward and elsewhere about the situation, it's also obvious that there are real obstacles that make it difficult for young people to buy their first home. As well as getting a large enough deposit there are conveyancing fees and stamp duty to pay. We will ensure that stamp duty is not payable for first-time buyers on starter homes.

"However it is also easy for the London-led parties to forget that home ownership is not the only way to ensure that the housing needs of our young people are taken care of; the Westminster Governments for decades have been discouraging the building of new council housing. Plaid Cymru will change the way that social housing is financed so that Treasury rules on borrowing no longer stand in the way of councils that want to build and maintain new council housing. Through these two straightforward rule changes Plaid Cymru will make it easier for young people to get on the housing ladder.

"Here in Wrexham, we've seen millions of pounds each year going from our housing budget to subsidise councils in England and we need to end that scandal immediately. Plaid has been highlighting the problem for some time now and will continue to campaign for that money to be returned to our housing budget.

"With a fresh new approach from a Plaid-led Welsh Government and this additional money in the housing budget, it will enable Wrexham Council to improve its existing stock and consider new ways to meet local housing demand."

When Andy met Kirsty... Labour woo Lib Dems?

It may have been an innocent event, but the sight of Andrew Davies (retiring Labour minister) having lunch with Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams at the St David's Hotel has sparked some frantic speculation in the Cardiff Bay bubble.
What's in it for both parties?

For Labour, it's unlikely that they will have a working majority in the next Assembly, despite the opinion polls. The battle in individual constituencies - in the north east at least - suggests their majority will be much less than anticipated. So they need another coalition to govern with any certainty. For a hardcore in the dinosaur tendency, coalition with Plaid Cymru would be anathema, although that isn't the view of the Carwyn Jones wing. The splits in the Labour Party over the relatively uncontentious "yes" referendum suggest that battle is far from won.
That leaves them with only one option - coalition with the Lib Dems.

The Lib Dems are on course to have their Assembly group reduced from its present six to three or four due to public anger at their u-turns in London government and ineffectiveness in Wales. So the chance to get even one ministerial car and a couple of policies into a coalition government would be welcomed.

Watch this space as they say.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

"The women making the tea are voting for you"

Clwyd South TCC accountability meeting - impressions from the audience

It's just what you want to hear after a gruelling two hours of answering searching questions. One of the organisers sidles up and whispers "the women making the tea are voting for you".
And it's no surprise they're backing Plaid Cymru's candidate Mabon ap Gwynfor, who gave a polished and passionate performance against lacklustre opposition.
The crowd was more partisan than last night's Wrecsam meeting with Labour candidate Ken Skates bringing an entire back row of uncritical supporters. They clapped his every smile and vacuous soundbite.
Still, that was better than the frequent tumbleweed moments that followed most of Bruce Roberts's answers. The Lib Dems, perhaps conscious that they are about to get a beasting in three weeks, are adopting a damage limitation approach to their politics - covering their essential organs as they prepare for the voters' kick in the ballots.
The idea that someone who has stood in three successive elections is somehow "not political" didn't quite ring true and his nightmare performance at last year's meeting was obviously at the forefront of many of his comments, which he frequently preceded with "I know you're not going to like this".
The other candidate was Tory Paul Rogers, who made great play of his youth. Given that none of the candidates is older than 45, that wasn't really much of a vote winner. Despite speaking without notes for his initial introduction, Rogers reminded you of a sixth-form debating society novice struggling to remember that telling soundbite and eventually managing to half spit it out. Memo to his agent: buy the boy a Biro and paper for the next meeting so he can remember what he prepared.
Mabon started with the disadvantage of being a relative outsider but he managed to win people over with answers that linked the various concerns and questions together. Throughout the night a recurring theme was accountability and making politicians more answerable to the communities that elect them.
Perhaps because of the partisan crowd there was a more nit-picky edge to the answers than is usual at TCC events. Political point scoring often substituted for actually answering the question.

There were several hostages to fortune. Paul Rogers pledged that good small schools would not close, that he was personally opposed to the proposed new supermarket in Llangollen and that he would end child poverty by 2020. How this would be achieved by a Tory manifesto pledged to slash spending on social services, education, economic development and transport wasn't explained.

Perhaps the cheekiest answer was in response to the question about the £604 difference in spending per pupils between Wales and England. Remarkably Rogers trotted out an answer focussing on educational attainment rather than spending and how Vale of Glamorgan Council spends less but gets better results while Blaenau Gwent spends most but gets the worst results. Strange that a Tory would make the case that poverty and wealth are key determining factors in educational attainment, I thought. It was only after the meeting we discovered that Mabon had given that precise answer in an hustings at Ysgol Dinas Bran earlier that day and Rogers had merely regurgitated it like a parrot. I think the word is digywilydd.

The best word to describe Ken Skates performance was slick, in the same way that Tony Blair was slick. He smiled a lot too. It's hardly the best model to emulate is it, but Skates does seem to have opted for the Tony Blair approach to politics - keep telling the public that it's the big bad Tories to blame for everything and keep smiling. In discussing tuition fees, he also managed a Kinnockian "Why am I the only member of my family in generations to get GCSEs, A Levels and a degree?" which was slightly undermined by Mabon pointing out that it was Labour who introduced tuition fees in the first place.
Skates showed some real contrition over the mess Labour made over maternity services in Wrexham, but then he had to because he was answering Ruth Drake, who has spearheaded the campaign locally (she was called a "nuisance" by Edwina Hart). Other candidates rightly pointed out that the issue had been kicked into the long grass til after the election after the eruption of people power and it'll be interesting to see whether Edwina Hart (if she's still minister for health) listens more fully to local views after May 5.

Best answer of the night? In response to Rogers's support for a Living Wage for Assembly staff, Mabon quipped: "It's difficult to give them a Living Wage when you're planning to sack half of them".

Rogers also seemed to back a Living Wage for large private companies, despite the fact that his Tory chums in London are busy trying to undermine the Minimum Wage commitment. Still, at least he was in favour of it - Bruce Roberts was against it, demonstrating that the Lib Dems continue to be all over the place in terms of their politics. This was right-wing, free-market stuff that railed against the "statist" solutions being advocated by Plaid.

Least plausible comparison: "Llangollen can be the Bowness* of Wales, the Dee valley the Bavaria of Britain" (Ken Skates)

Master of the bleeding obvious: "Windfarms are reliant on wind" (Paul Rogers)

* Bowness on Windermere

The Conservative Manifesto according to John Marek!

At last night's Together Creating Communities (TCC) accountability meeting at Regent Street Methodist Church Dr John Marek succeeded in converting a Conservative ideology into one a radical Liberal Democrat would be proud of. Dr Marek surely is the only Tory who describes himself as a 'progressive' wanting to tax people according to ability to pay! He also wants greater regulation over commercial organisations to ensure they recycle. He then goes on to support a call for a Living wage (over and above the minimum wage!) In answer to a question on climate change, Dr Marek admitted he knew little of the subject but he did want more checks and balances and also clearer guidance on Planning Regulations (I think this meant more regulation as well). Finally, Dr Marek was opposed to imprisonment and building new prisons but supported rehabilitation in the community. To be fair his support for left leaning liberalism was interspersed with the odd standard Conservative buzz word like Big Society and smaller government but going by the absence of applause for any of John Marek's answers I don't think the audience were actually taken in by his new found politics. Personally I thought his presence and mutterings were surreal as no doubt Conservative supporters in Wrecsam did as well going by their absence from the meeting.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Women behaving badly

Candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections are taking part in meetings all over Wales at the moment, they are meeting with different groups and organisations to put forward their views and to try to engage with local people about the issues that matter to them. As a candidate in the Delyn constituency I have had a very pleasant experience at these local events and have appreciated listening to the views of local people on a variety of different topics. Although I regularly disagree with many of the views put forward by representatives from the London based parties, generally speaking, apart from the odd dig we are all usually pretty civil to each other.

In my experience, the most interesting hustings usually take place with students at schools and colleges who always ask very challenging and interesting questions. These events tend to have a less formal approach and as politicians we are aware of the important role we have to play in terms of engaging with young people and trying to create an interest in both government and the democratic process. I was therefore very disappointed that I was unable to attend today's meeting with students at Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold due to the time of the event being changed. Luckily, our Regional candidate Heledd Fychan volunteered to attend on behalf of Plaid Cymru instead and to speak to the students. Unfortunately, Heledd didn't quite have the positive experience she was expecting.

Although all the teachers and students were models of good behaviour, the other candidates, namely Lib Dem candidate Michelle Jones, Conservative candidate Antoinette Sandbatch and Labour candidate Sandy Mewies, decided to use the event to decend into a shouting and slanging match in front of the students that lasted for more than half the meeting. The first two ladies being much more vicious in tearing chunks off each other than Labours Mrs Mewies, who unfortunately also ended up joining in by the end. The event was described by Plaid's Heledd Fychan as 'The worst hustings I've ever been to' (and she's been to quite a few). Heledd describes today's events in her own words in a video blog that can be seen here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVfVsyHxoxc&feature=player_embedded

What a shame that both students and teachers were subjected to such a vicious display of the worst kind of politics. Even more disappointing in my view that this disgraceful behaviour came from experienced female politicians, who should instead have been creating a good impression and acting as role models for our next generation. It was left to Heledd as the youngest member of the panel to set an example by refusing to engage with the school yard behaviour of the other candidates, much to the delight of the students present who openly expressed their disapproval of the farce unfolding before them.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Jobsworth's

I wasted two hours this afternoon attending a Members Decision Making workshop in the Guildhall hosted by the Wales Audit Office (WAO). The workshop followed the WAO Annual Report to Wrecsam Council, a Peer review with members and officers and an Estyn Inspection of the Local Education Authority...all in the space of five months.

They all concluded that there was something not quite right with the political management at Wrecsam Council and between the Executive Board and Scrutiny Committees and that there were too many meetings and slow decision making. I don't think there was anything that the people present were not aware of already.

There were many claims made that were inaccurate or totally contradictory, for example they said that Lead Members's main role is to give political direction to officers but when we did that by rejecting officer's recommendation with sixth forms they highlighted it as an issue that needed addressing. When challenged on this point the WAO guy made no effort to answer or justify their assertions. They seemed to think that just because they said it; it was right.

What really bugs me is the fact that Wrecsam Council has too many meetings is that Council Services are over inspected by the WAO, Estyn and the CSSIW. Every inspection produces its own action plan and progress on action plans need to be reported back to members either via Scrutiny Committees or the Executive Board which is a bureaucratic and time consuming nightmare.

I have already mentioned three 'inspection' regimes that has been undertaken recently which produced this 'magical' workshop, but within my remit there has been an inspection of Safeguarding and Support, Local Safeguarding Children's Board, Adoption, Fostering and inspection of two children's homes each producing its own action plan; I'm sure we have staff solely employed to implement action plans and with many inspection regimes being annual events existing action plans are being added to.

The Inspection regimes in Wales need rationalising they are an industry in their own rights, they are intrusive and demanding and are constantly taking staff away from their day jobs.

If only half the budgets of the inspection regimes in Wales were given to front line education and children's social care we would find enourmous improvements in educational standards and levels of child poverty.

A root and branch review needs to be undertaken by the incoming Welsh Government to rationalise the inspection regimes and ensure that resources goes to front line and not to give jobsworths a cushy life.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Bell bottled it!


John Bell the Tory candidate for Alyn and Deeside bottled it by declining to take part in a TCC hustings(Together Creating Communities, a prestigious accountability meeting that ALL candidates invariably attend if they can. Bell actually declined the invitation, the first time in 10 years that an invited candidate has done this. Taking part in the hustings was Carl Sergeant the Labour candidate, Shane Brennan for Plaid Cymru and the usual flaky Liberal Democrat, Peter Williams who preceded all his answers with his dislike of politics!

TCC were that disappointed with Mr Bell that they actually made the point of showing the audience the empty chair with his name on!

Obviously the Tories have given up on mounting any sort of challenge in Alyn and Deeside.

A new generation for a new challenge


A new generation of young activists (as well as Marc Jones!) is taking up the Plaid Cymru mantle in Wrecsam and Flintshire. Mabon ap Gwynfor (Clwyd South), Shane Brennan (Alyn and Deeside), Carrie Harper (Delyn) and Marc Jones (Wrecsam) are campaigning on a radical manifesto that will revitalise the north-east and challenge the London parties' cosy consensus.
We want to create the infrastructure to rebuild the economy, creating 7,000 jobs and 4,000 apprenticeships in our area.
We want to tackle head-on the national scandal of one in four adults in Wales having a reading age of 11 or under - no child should leave primary school unable to read and count to the level expected.
We want Wales to have control over its own criminal justice system.

Why Wrexham must not ban protest

Let's be in no doubt about it, had Plaid Cymru Councillors in Wrecsam not kicked off about banning political protest in Queens Square the proposition would probably have been passed. As it happened the BBC and other news outlets in Wales picked up on this illiberal and undemocratic proposition at which point the Liberal Democratic, Tories and Labour decided they would form a bandwagon to fall behind.

It is however nice to see the Guardian reporting the story and unsurprisingly supporting our stance on civil liberties.

Plaid Cymru delivering again for the people of Wrecsam.

Camden council attempts to ban Republic's royal wedding street party

Reproduced below is an email from Graham Smith, Campaign Manager for Republic relating to Camden Council's decision to ban a proposed "Not the Royal Wedding Street Party" Please support Republic's campaign for freedom of speech and the right to an opinion by emailing Camden Council's officers via the link below:
I am writing today to let you know about a disgraceful attack on your freedom of speech.

Having given us the go ahead last month to use Earlham Street in Covent Garden for our 'Not the royal wedding' street party, Camden Council are now attempting to ban the event - on highly spurious grounds.

The police, local businesses and many of the Council's own staff are fully behind the event. But a very vocal group of monarchists and landowners has objected.

Now the Council have caved in to pressure and has refused to close the street, effectively banning the event altogether.

The Council told me that any street party should seek to 'draw the community together in an act of celebration/oneness' and 'it is very likely that this event is not, or would not be, supported by the majority of the community'.

In other words, Camden Council believes that republicans - as a political minority - have no right to be heard.

Make no mistake - this is a politically motived ban. It is an attack on our civil liberties and a clear case of discrimination against republicans.

The street party WILL go ahead

Republic's street party will go ahead, one way or another.

The location and precise nature of the event may change, but I will keep you updated via email and on Facebook and Twitter (see below for social media links).

What we need you to do

We have every intention of persuading Camden Council to back down and are taking legal advice to see if we can overturn this ban in the courts. But we also need your help.

Please email Rachel Stopard (Head of Camden Council's Culture and Environment), Sam Monck (Assistant Director, Environment & Transport) and Cllr Sue Vincent (executive member for Environment).

Tell them that you:

• support the 'Not the royal wedding' street party as a peaceful, family event
• feel discriminated against on the grounds of your political beliefs
• consider this to be an attack on freedom of speech and the expression of legitimate dissent
• expect Camden Council to urgently review and overturn the decision not to close Earlham Street.

Send your email now to Rachel.Stopard@camden.gov.uk, Sam.Monck@camden.gov.uk and Sue.Vincent@camden.gov.uk.)

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Welsh BNP election candidate arrested over Qur'an burning

Sion Owen, a Welsh BNP activist and close confidant of Nick Griffin has been arrested for burning the Quoran. The burning was filmed and streamed onto You Tube. Owen's arrest follows an Observer investigation.

Sion Own is also a regional candidate for the BNP on the South West Wales Regional list for the Welsh Assembly.

Behaviour true to form for the BNP then!

"Who gives a rat's backside?"

The gloves are well and truly off in the Assembly election campaign - and it could be a lot more fun as a result.

Labour launched its campaign by trying to make this a way to kick the Con-Dem coalition in Westminster. That's no surprise for two reasons:

• Labour's always been focussed more on winning power in London than serving the people of Wales and

• They haven't got any new ambitious policies for Wales.

Labour's vision for Wales seems to consist of continuing free prescriptions, free bus passes and free school breakfasts. There's a vague promise to provide more funding for schools but without any idea why and they want 500 more Police Community Support Officers. In Wrecsam that would mean an additional 12 PCSOs for the entire borough. Strangely, Labour in Wrecsam were opposed to PCSOs when they were first introduced. Ain't life strange?

But where is the vision, the ambition needed to drag Wales up in terms of wellbeing, confidence and prosperity in the broadest sense?

As for the idea that Cameron and Clegg will be bothered that Wales rejects the Tories - um, Wales has been rejecting the Tories since people had a democratic vote. The real conservatives in Wales are a hidebound group of dinosaurs in the Labour Party, who have had to be pushed by Plaid to move things forward at every step.

Plaid minister Jocelyn Davies put it as politely as she could:

“They’ve just come out of a 13-year spell as the party of government in Westminster and during that time they refused to introduce fair funding for Wales, they refused to act to stop the Treasury creaming off millions of pounds of council house rents, they left Wales’ electrification scheme unfunded before they were kicked out of power in London, and, of course, left the UK economy in ruins which has opened the door to the severe cuts which we’re now seeing.

“So now that they’re out of government in Westminster and completely unable to justify their actions they are now embroiled in the great exercise of rewriting history and they try to claim that they stood up for Wales in government.”

Referring to Mr Hain’s call to use the vote to send a message to Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, Ms Davies said: “If that is your plank – well, let’s send a message to the UK Government – the UK Government won’t give a rat’s backside if Labour have got a majority in Wales. It won’t make one jot of difference. They’re not going to lose one bit of sleep over it.”


In response, some Labour nonentity described Plaid as a "promiscuous and pernicious fringe group". Lovely.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Vale of Glamorgan rejects stock transfer

Taken from the Vale of Glamorgan Council website:

Tenants put their confidence in the Council



Tenants in the Vale of Glamorgan have put their confidence in the Council and rejected a proposal that would have seen their homes transferred to a new local housing organisation, Heritage Coast Homes.

In a secret ballot of tenants in which 68.4% voted (3,245), 49.2% supported the transfer and 50.8% were opposed.

The Council had worked closely with tenants and staff to develop proposals that would have secured the investment needed to bring homes up to the full Welsh Housing Quality Standard as required by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Councillor Kemp, Leader of the Council, said: “We always wanted tenants to have the final say on the future ownership and management of their homes.

“We explained to tenants that, without transfer, we would not be able to reach the full Welsh Housing Quality Standard or have the resources needed to make much needed improvements to our estates. We have been honest with tenants throughout the consultation and we will now start work to improve our homes, working towards achieving the WHQS.

“We will continue to involve our tenants in exploring ways of taking the housing service forward in these challenging circumstances.”

Seedy Saturday comes to Wrexham

Gardeners and allotment holders are planning a "Seedy Saturday" to swap seeds, plants and great gardening tips on Saturday, April 16.

The event, which will also feature facepainting and activities for all the family, is being organised by Caia Community Gardens Association, which runs the allotments next to Pentre Gwyn Community Centre on the Abenbury Road, where the event is being held.

Heidi Di-Pietro, secretary of the association, said:
"This is a great way for new and experienced gardeners and people on the allotments around Wrexham to come together and share their surplus seeds, plants and we'll also have some experts on hand to give free advice and tips.

"We hope to attract people from the other allotments in Wrexham as well as gardeners who might want to swap plants and seeds."


The allotments at Pentre Gwyn were started just two years ago by a group of local residents and currently all 54 plots are taken. Local Plaid Cymru councillor for Whitegate Marc Jones, who chairs the association, said:
"The allotments here are currently full, as are all the others in the borough. We've got a short waiting list but anyone wanting to join is welcome to get in touch by coming along on the day or by contacting me on 01978 366 735 or marcvjones@gmail.com."


The event is free and takes place between 1-5pm at Pentre Gwyn community centre, Abenbury Road, Wrexham. Refreshments will be available and there is limited parking outside the community centre.

Town centre political ban plan meets united opposition

The daft bid by Wrecsam Council officials to ban all political organisations and individuals from organising events in Queen Sq and Llwyn Onn has been deferred after councillors revealed that half the area was in fact a public highway. The idea of banning democratic protest and campaigning on a public square on the whim of the town hall manager had united opposition across the political spectrum and officers were sent away with a clear message to sort out the mess they had created.

When the report comes back to the scrutiny committee, there will be a chance to discuss the proposals more fully but councillors seemed determined to allow free speech in our main meeting place.

There are other elements of the report that need to be reformed and amended but that will now have to wait for the revised report.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Queens Square: council proposes ban on political activity

Wrecsam council is proposing to ban all political activity in Queens Sq and Llwyn Isaf, two key areas of the town centre.

This blanket ban is being discussed at tomorrow's Corporate Governance scrutiny meeting and the council tries to use the moronic antics of the English Defence League as cover for this illiberal action.

In fact, such violent and racist groups - who last time only made it as far as Wetherspoons in their crusade for their country - are covered in one clause that states
"events which are considered by the town centre manager to be discriminatory or offensive ... will not be permitted".


So why also include a ban on any event promoting a democratic political party, group, organisation or individual? The history of democratic political protest in Wrecsam town centre is not something that should be snuffed out using the red herring of the EDL's pathetic outing to Wales.

Under this proposal, Plaid's recent street referendum on city status would have been banned. Our ability as councillors and campaigners to meet and talk to constituents on an issue such as saving the Special Care Baby Unit at the Maelor would be banned. Our opposition to the 2009 Israeli bombing of Gaza - when 100 people assembled one cold Saturday morning at 24 hours' notice - would be stifled.

This is a public space - a square designed to be a centrepiece for the town. To ban people from expressing legitimate political views in such a place is a nonsense.

After the circus: Consultation the key to new charges

Today's executive board meeting saw an element of the Stephanie Booth circus roll into town, complete with TV camera crew (how quaint, by the way, to see a sound engineer being used these days). Despite not being affected by proposed parking changes as the Wynnstay has a large private car park for residents, she had compared the council to Gadaffi's dictatorship for seeking to impose a new 50p charge on town centre parking bays.
There were issues that traders have raised with me in the past month and I have taken them up with the relevant engineer Darren Williams. Then and today he and Cllr Dave Bithell gave assurances that there would be meaningful consultation with traders and the townspeople about this. It was a necessary compromise and there is now time for a detailed assessment of what should happen where.
This is a very real concern and is all the more pertinent given the perceived failure to listen to the people's views over city status. That is an issue that won't go away and highlights the disconnect between the London-based political parties and voters.
It was rich to hear Labour councillors who had voted for the city status bid piously talking about listening to the people over parking charges.
Labour was posturing of course - it didn't listen to the will of the people over city status in the same way as they ignored the people over the illegal war in Iraq.

Monday, 4 April 2011

921 and counting

Official Wrecsam Supporters' Trust membership is now at 921 and our equity fund has reached £380,160. How about making it 1000?

You can join for just £12 a year and be a part of the bid to own our football club and the oldest international football stadium in the world.

To join go to WST homepage. You can either join via Paypal or set a standing order out of your bank account (£1 a month). It's all pretty straight forward and you also get a quid off every time you visit the Odeon.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Challenge the lies

On the 1st April 2011, the Wrexham Leader (a free broadsheet) published the following letter:



Mr Evans is a well known letter writer, a leading No campaigner and an anti devolutionist.

This is my response to Mr Evans's letter:
Dear Editor,

Having lost the referendum argument Robert Evans now reverts to Welsh Government AND Local Authority bashing, “Schools sinking under local bureaucracy” (Wrexham Leader, April 1st). As with the referendum Mr Evans’s arguments are equally flawed (must be something to do with the date).

Whilst Mr Evans is right, pupil funding in Wales is less than in England but the difference is not £600, Wrecsam spent £5,408 per pupil in 2009/10, whilst Cheshire spent £5,643 and Shropshire spent £5,580 per pupil. The reason for the difference is that Welsh Local Education Authorities retain about 15% of the schools budget to provide additional support to schools like School Improvement Officers, Educational Social Workers and Educational Psychologists. Schools in England have to buy these services in from their devolved budgets.

Mr Evans is wrong to think that more money will improve education and this is exemplified by the fact that Vale of Glamorgan has the lowest spend per pupil but the best results whilst Blaenau Gwent with the highest spend per pupil has some of the worst results which indicates that achievement in school has more to do with deprivation and child poverty than actual spend. A package of measures is needed to improve educational attainment in Wales with the priority being on a holistic approach towards the child and not a narrow focus on just pupil funding.

The way things are going in England education is well on its way to being privatised which will lead to massive inequality of opportunity. We seek to ensure that taxpayers money is used to educate and not to profit private enterprises in the running of our schools.

Regards,

We should all endeavour to challenge inaccuracies in the press on each and every opportunity.

The truth!

Who said of the Labour Party:
"sometimes still looks inward rather than outward, is stuck in its structures, and is not engaged with local communities or national civil society".

No, it wasn't anyone from Plaid Cymru, it was non other than the man without a proper job, Peter Hain.

Is this the same man that claims that Labour is standing up for Wales?

People Power Works!

Congratulations to Deffro'r Ddraig for their succesful campaign to withdraw from the West Cheshire North East Wales sub-regional strategy. Both the Welsh Government and the three local authorities in North East Wales (through the Mersey Dee Alliance)decided recently not to continue with the strategy as from the 1st April 2011.

The strategy aimed to,
"create a new sub region with ‘its own distinct identity’ between north east Wales and the north west of England. The main thrust of the plan was to make north east Wales suburban to Cheshire and Merseyside."

The campaign culminated in the presentation of a 24,000 signature petition to the Welsh Parliament's Petitions Committee.

For more information go to the Plaid Cymru Delyn Votes website.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Cameron Con!

David Cameron has the audacity to come to Swansea and claim that the Tories are delivering for Wales! Is that what he means by failing to adopt the recommendations of the Holtham Commission and to introduce a fair funding formula for Wales, a funding formula based on NEED that would give Wales £300 million a year more. Or does he mean the fact that HIS Treasury has stolen nearly £400 million that the Welsh Government had in reserves.

In the last 11 months the Tory Lib Dem has stolen £700 million which should rightfully be spent in Wales...this is 5% of the Welsh Government's budget. I wonder if Cameron has calculated that in when he claims the cuts are less in Wales?

We should however be grateful for small mercies in that Chanchellor Osborne did give us £65 million over 5 years in the recent budget...a few crumbs to keep the natives happy, but doesn't 'quite' make up for what we've lost!

I just don't see why people vote Tory when they are unabashedly stealing money from Wales.

Ffigyrau Gwylio S4C

HT i 'BrokenTV' am y blog gwych yma ynglyn a ffigyrau gwylio S4C sydd yn cymharu yn ffafriol iawn a sianeli Saesneg. Dadansoddiad da iawn a chan obeithio fod Jeremy Hunt a'r Arglwydd Roger Roberts wedi ei ddarllen o!

Hustings (part 2)

Tonight's rather strange hustings concentrated on whether we should have Police Commissioners. Once we'd established that nobody except John Marek wanted them, the whole thing went downhill.

The brutal fact that the organiser Richard Hibbs had to accept was that a meeting about policing and what the police do in the community would have attracted ten times more people. An academic discourse about the need for Police Commissioners - something the Assembly has rightly rejected - did not float many boats.

Bill Brereton, the Lib Dem candidate, went against the ConDem coalition's policy on the matter to his credit. He described the idea as corrupt and incestuous.

The vast majority of the audience were also hostile, which made life all the more difficult for Dr Marek.

In case you're wondering about the Labour panellist - Ken Skates failed to turn up.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Where were Labour? Sitting down for Wales!


Where was Labour is a new Plaid Cymru website which poses a number of questions over what exactly Labour have done for Wales in the last 13 years. All the reasons you need NOT TO VOTE LABOUR are there!

Labour never have, and never will stand up for Wales.

Protect local firms from bus takeover

Plaid candidate's concern over council review

A council has been warned not to opt for a single school transport provider as it looks to simplify its transport provision.

The warning comes from Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrexham Marc Jones, who is concerned that a large bus company could take the lion's share of the council's annual multi-million pound bus and taxi contracts.

He said:
"Just this week we've seen Veolia, a French-owned multinational bus firm, withdraw unexpectedly from contracts in Swansea and creating uncertainty in Rhondda Cynon Taff. There are similar concerns in Powys. If Wrexham Council opts for a large provider, then we're in danger of putting all our eggs in one basket and excluding smaller contractors."


He spoke out as the council discusses ways to reform the current transport arrangements, which mean more than 400 individual contracts with different taxi, minibus or bus providers.

Marc Jones, who is also a county councillor, said:
"There is obviously a need to simplify the system and ensure that it works more efficiently, so that we don't have two companies picking up from the same street to take children to the same school. That's a common sense way to save money without losing a service and should be happening already.

"My concern is that, in trying to simplify the system, we could go to the other extreme and opt for a large transport firm that promises the earth to get the contract and then, as seems to be the case with Veolia, suddenly pulls the plug.

"We also have to consider the impact such a move would have on the very many small-scale bus and taxi operators in the borough, who ensure that council money stays in the local economy. I'm glad council officers are looking to make improvements and efficiencies to the service and support those reforms, with the aim always to ensure the safety of the children being transported."

Brynle Williams

Sad news of the untimely death of Brynle Williams, the Tory regional AM for North Wales.

Although we were miles apart politically, we grew up within a few miles of each other and his fuel protests in 2000 caused Tony Blair an early scare. It's hard to believe now that they were protesting because petrol had reached 80p a litre.

I was filming a BBC documentary on the protests at the time and met him and other campaigners at the Sainsbury carpark in Wrecsam. While we were discussing the target of the next picket - a large supermarket distribution depot in Cheshire - he suddenly kicked me in the shin. Unbeknown to me a police inspector was lurking behind and Brynle didn't want to give the game away.

A larger-than-life character who has gone much too soon.