Sunday, 31 July 2011

Standing up for Wales!

Is this what the Welsh Labour Government means when it says it's standing up for Wales?

Yes, this was the Labour stand at the Eisteddfod field at 2pm today, a prime time to get your message out to the people of Wales, that is if you have one.

Now I wonder why they closed? an absence of Welsh speakers perhaps but that's never bothered them before. Or was it just the fact that no one was visiting them.

Whatever the reason the perception is that Welsh Labour is closed for business.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The BBC just doesn't understand devolution

Guest post by Plaid Dyffryn Ceiriog

No, not BBC Wales, BBC Cymru, BBC Scotland and the rest. I mean the centralist, metropolitan Beeb up there in London. They really do not have a clue.

Consider a few of their flagship programmes: Today and PM on Radio 4 and Question Time on BBC1.

Well certainly the radio programmes now tell us that the health, education and so forth matters that they are discussing at great length apply only in England, but when do they tell us about what's happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? How much of their time (I'll tell you - it's a lot) is spent on matters which are purely English? The name of the corporation starts with a "B" and not with an "E".

As for Question Time, let me remind you of two recent broadcasts. When they went to Aberdeen, they had a panel of five Scots representing all shades of political opinion plus a businessman. The matters discussed were of world, British or Scottish interest only. But when the programme came to Wrexham, they had one Plaid MP and four imported English politicos / business people.
What did they discuss? Two items of British interest and two on devolved matters which were answered by English spokespeople for an English audience. What a waste of time that was.

Someone really needs to take the programme planners aside and give them a tutorial.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tories got it wrong over free prescriptions

The Stupid Party (aka the Tories) are against free prescriptions in Wales, saying that the number of prescriptions had risen by 20% in five years from 2006-2010. They blamed this rise on the introduction of free prescriptions by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2007, alleging GPs were chucking free drugs at patients.
Now we have news that prescriptions in England went up by 70% in the decade from 2000-2010. In England, prescriptions currently cost £7.20.
The rise, according to the NHS Information Centre, is down to the rising number of elderly people in the population, who on average need more prescriptions.
So despite Wales having a higher proportion of elderly people than England, the rise in prescriptions is slightly lower. Which directly contradicts the Stupid Party's claims.

Stupid Party 0 - 1 Common Sense

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Crusaders players may strike

The shock decision by Crusaders owners Moss and Roberts to pull the plug on the rugby league club could spark a players' revolt.

The increasingly impressive wrexham.com site reports that players feel betrayed by the owners' last-minute decision.

The state within a state

News that Rupert Murdoch and his minions had regular confidential meetings with top UK Government ministers right up the Prime Minister lays bare the state within a state that exists under both Tory and Labour regimes.
These revelations show that the Chancellor, George Osborne, had 16 separate meetings since May 2010 with News International editors and executives, including two with the Murdochs within just a month of taking office. He also invited Elisabeth Murdoch as a guest to his 40th birthday party last month.

The Independent goes on to say:
"The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, dined with Rupert Murdoch within days of the Government coming to power and, after being given quasi-judicial oversight for the Murdochs' £8bn attempted takeover of BSkyB, had two meetings with James Murdoch in which they discussed the takeover. Mr Hunt said last night that these were legitimate as part of the bid process.

"But the minister who sees Rupert Murdoch the most frequently is the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, a former News International employee. Mr Gove has seen the mogul for breakfast, lunch or dinner on six occasions since last May. Overall, Mr Gove has had 12 meetings with Murdoch executives since becoming a minister."

This kind of unprecedented access wasn't to discuss the price of fish. Murdoch's empire was wooing the UK Government at the time to try to take full control of BSkyB.

"The list, released by government departments yesterday evening, reinforces the impression of an unhealthily close relationship between the top echelons of News International and senior members of the Coalition Cabinet, which first became apparent when Mr Cameron released his list of contacts with news organisations a week ago. He revealed then that he had met News International executives on 26 occasions since entering Downing Street.

"Senior executives and editors from News International have held private meetings with Cabinet ministers more than 60 times since last May."


During the same period Ed Miliband has also met with Murdoch's representatives on 16 occasions.

So what is it to be - either the Murdoch empire had a stranglehold on the political elite (to what extent was that due to information gleaned from phone hacking?) or the political elite was totally in thrall to the all-powerful media mogul and the huge impact his news organisations have on UK public opinion. I suspect it's a combination of both.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

+ + + BREAKING NEWS: Crusaders out of the Superleague + + +

Crusaders' application to retain the Superleague franchise was withdrawn by owners Ian Roberts and Geoff Moss at the last minute. This means the rugby league club is out of the Superleague after this season and won't even make it into the Championship, the next tier down.
This is a huge slap in the face for Crusaders' fans, the players and coaching staff who had no inkling that this was going to happen.
It also raises questions about Moss and Roberts's plans for the Racecourse and the viability of the football club. Without the income from Crusaders, this creates another funding black hole for fans to fill.
Plaid Cymru's AM for North Wales Llyr Huws Gruffydd said:
"The news of the withdrawal is a complete bolt from the blue and has stunned fans. The impact of the withdrawal is a huge blow to rugby league's development in Wales and also to plans by the Wrexham Supporters' Trust to buy the football club and Racecourse ground. The owners of Crusaders have a lot of explaining to do for the lack of transparency in dealing with the fans and Superleague.
"I would urge Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts to come clean on their intentions and for urgent intervention by Wrexham Council to ensure the Racecourse is maintained as a sporting stadium for the North."

Enough is enough. These people aren't fit to run a bath.
Had they flagged up their intentions in advance, the Rugby Football League could have put in an interim plan. As things stand, they have left everyone in the lurch and it must call into question plans to host the Four Nations championship later this autumn and the Rugby World Cup next year.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The pub is the hub for Minera

Campaigners from Minera were out in force at tonight's planning committee to fight to save the village's only pub.
Before the committee were plans by the owner of Ty'n y Capel pub to change it to a day centre for the elderly. The owner had already closed the pub without notice and started his new business, thus breaching a key planning guideline that Wrecsam Council has established to defend pubs in the borough.
Policy S9 seeks to protect local facilities such as pubs and will only permit other use where:
• the use is no longer viable and all reasonable attempts to sell or let the business over a 12-month period have proved unsuccessful;
• the building is in a derelict or unsightly condition
• the loss of the facility would not prove detrimental to the social and economic fabric of its locality.
The many sustained objections from villagers carried the day and it's clear that the villagers want to go a step further to emulate the Raven in Llanarmon yn Iâl and become a community-run pub. It was apparent from the passion of the protesters that the threat of losing the pub has spurred them into action - it's a great example to follow for every community.
This positive news comes on the same day that Plaid Cymru's North Wales AM Llyr Huws Gruffydd revealed that Wrecsam and Clwyd South constituencies had lost 32 pubs in the past three years alone. Such heavy losses in one borough are partly due to the economic climate but also because the pubcos are hammering tenants with high rents and other costs. More also needs to be done on a national level to ensure that pubs get the encouragement to sell local brews, for example by reducing the duty on micro-breweries and small brewers.

ATW

Cyfeirio ydw i at gwmni trenau Arriva Trains Wales, sef cwmni trenau Cymru tan y flwyddyn 2018. Dwi wedi gneud sylwadau o'r blaen ynglŷn ar cwmni monopolaidd a'i safonau gwael gan fod diffyg cystadleuaeth. Darllenais ddau sylw yn ddiweddar ynglŷn ag ATW. Y cyntaf oedd colofn wych Arthur Thomas yn y Cymro (O Gysgod y Foel)ynglyn a thrên y Cambrian Coast yn cael ei chanslo eto am fod ddim gyrrwr i fynd ar drên o Fachynlleth i Bwllheli. Yr ail oedd trydar (tweet) gan Victoria Winckler o Ymddiriedolaeth Bevan yn cwyno nad oedd lle ar drenau ATW oedd yn rhedeg i'r cymoedd yn dilyn penwythnos fawr Pontypridd.

Fy nghwyn bersonol i ydy'r diffyg cerbydau trên a bod trenau o Wrecsam i Gaer yn orlawn yn amlach na pheidio ac mae hyn yn wir am drenau ar hyd arfordir y Gogledd hefyd.

Mae 'na hefyd nifer o gwynion fod ddim trenau yn rhedeg rhwng de ar gogledd ar ddiwrnodiau gemau rygbi neu dim ond y trenau arferol hefo'r ddau gerbyd safonol; oes 'na ryw reswm pam fod injans ATW ddim yn gallu tynnu mwy na un cerbyd?

Fel da ni'n gwybod mae ATW yn derbyn cymhorthdal mawr gan Lywodraeth Cymru ac mae gennym ni'r hawl i ddisgwyl gwasanaeth gwell.

Mae'n hen amser i Lywodraeth Cymru ail-edrych ar y ffordd maent yn monitro'r cytundeb gyda ATW i sicrhau gwasanaeth o safon.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Ysgolion cefn gwlad; unwaith eto!

Dydw i ddim yn ryw ddarllenwr brwd o'r Cymro ond pan welais mai penawdau rhifyn y wythnos yma oedd Ffred Ffransis ag Ysgol y Parc, rhaid oedd ei brynu.

Fel cenedlaetholwr traddodiadol Cymraeg dwi'n eithaf cyfforddus fy nghroen wrth fod yn aelod o Blaid Cymru a Chymdeithas yr Iaith ac mae gen i gryn gydymdeimlad a safbwynt Ffred yn amddiffyn cymunedau Cymraeg rhag cael ei thanseilio gan bolisïau addysg Awdurdodau Lleol.

Hwyrach fod penderfyniad Leighton Andrews i leihau arian cyfalafol Ysgolion yr Unfed Ganrif ar Hugain wedi gohirio penderfyniadau terfynol nifer o Awdurdodau ynglŷn ag ysgolion cefn gwlad fel y Parc a Llandrillo. Gobeithio wir fydd y Cynghorau hefo'r cynlluniau mwyaf dadleuol yn ail feddwl eu strategaeth i leihau llefydd gwag.

Mae gwleidyddion ar Gyngor Sir Wrecsam wedi gwrthod arghymellion swyddogion i gau ysgol Pontfadog a Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog ar sail fod fformiwla Llywodraeth Cymru i fesur niferoedd llefydd gwag yn wallus, ac yn ail gan fod y cynlluniau yn tanseilio natur ieithyddol a chymunedol yr ardal. Mae 'na opsiynau eraill i'w ystyried os ydy'r ewyllys yna.

Coron Eisteddfod Wrecsam

Dwi ddim yn siŵr iawn pwy sydd wedi codi gwrthwynebiad fod yr Eisteddfod ddim yn derbyn Coron gan ei bod wedi ei chyflwyno gan gyfrinfa Gogledd Cymru o'r Seiri Rhyddion a hefyd y wobr o £750. Y prif wrthwynebiad ydy fod y Seiri Rhyddion yn gweithredu yn gudd. Tydi pob grŵp hefo aelodau yn gweithredu yn gudd?; beth am bleidiau gwleidyddol? Tydi nhw ddim yn gweithredu yn agored ac yn datgelu ei chynlluniau i'r byd ar betws nad ydynt.

Fel un sydd wedi bod rhan o ymdrech Wrecsam i godi £300,000 tuag at y Steddfod, dydy o heb fod yn fater hawdd, a dwi'n siŵr fod llawer yn cytuno fod cyfraniad Cyfrinfa Gogledd Cymru o'r Seiri Rhyddion yn dderbyniol iawn a chan obeithio y byddent yn cario mlaen i gefnogi'r Steddfod sydd yn fudiad cynwysedig a ddim am gau neb allan oni bai fod yr arian yn dod o ffynhonnell anghyfreithlon.

Cyn i rywyn fy nghyhuddo o ffafrio Seiri Rhyddion hwyrach y dylwn ddatgan fy mod wedi bod yn aelod o'r Seiri Rhyddion ond wedi ymddiswyddo yn 1987, a does gen i ddim barn yr un ffordd neu'r llall ynglŷn â'i gweithgareddau digon diniwed.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Widening the campaign against unwanted housing developments

Today saw the campaign against unwanted housing developments take a significant step towards becoming a national campaign. Thirty grassroots campaigners from across the North met at Bodelwyddan to discuss how these local campaigns against large-scale housing developments out of all proportion to local need could be coordinated.
There was a widespread consensus that the campaign should be extended nationally as there are examples of the same problem in Carmarthen and Cardiff. That would also stamp out any attempts by the Tories to present this as a parochial "North Wales vs the Assembly", which is what some Conservative AMs want to do.
Jill Evans, Plaid's MEP, was the only senior elected representative present and made a telling contribution about her work with the Bodelwyddan Development Action Group. A petition is currently with the European Parliament regarding the lack of proper consultation - a recurring theme among all those present.
Syd Morgan also gave an important insight into the way planners and developers worked together to set the agenda for local planning through private meetings, excluding local opinion and also local councillors. For some, this was quite a revelation.
Marc Jones spoke of the experience in Brymbo, where initial promises to create 1000 jobs, heritage centre, shops and new transport links as well as a limited number of houses had actually only delivered an ever-increasing number of houses. He emphasised that the campaign had to contrast local need with developers' greed, and that the latter was incompatible with open and transparent decision making.

Pol Wong invited the campaigners to get behind Deffro'r Ddraig as a campaign group that had already successfully fought the West Cheshire-N E Wales sub-regional strategy. This, he argued, was the broad-based campaign that could spearhead the fight against flawed Local Development Plans based on unsustainable housing projections.

Campaigners from Dwygyfylchi, Abergele, Bodelwyddan, Rhyl and Glan Conwy all spoke about their own local campaigns and the basis for a dynamic and intelligent national campaign has been laid. The next stage will be to connect with Assembly Members to put pressure on the Welsh Government, as Plaid's last AM did almost two years ago:

Q2 Janet Ryder: Will the Minister make a statement on the Welsh Assembly Government’s housing targets in north-east Wales? OAQ(3)0990(ESH)

Jane Davidson: The Welsh Assembly Government has not set housing targets for any local authority in Wales. Each local authority is responsible for identifying the required level of housing provision in its local development plan.

Janet Ryder: I am sure that you are aware that Conwy, Denbighshire and Wrexham councils are all at the moment preparing their local development plans. Councillors from each council, to be fair, are saying that their officers have told them that your officers in some cases are dictating an increase of 50 per cent more than the average estimated need for housing in their targets. Councils have estimated their local housing need but your officers are saying, in many cases, that they need at least another 50 per cent on top of that to account for a growth in population. Will you confirm that your officers have not driven that target and that they have no input into the housing needs that will be written into the local development plans?

Jane Davidson: Yes, I can confirm that. It is a new process for councillors who are going through the LDP process, so they are learning to get to grips with it. The statistics unit of the Welsh Assembly Government issued house projections on a unitary authority basis this year—they are not targets for local authorities to meet. However, local authorities were party to the methodology for producing the projections, and they have access to methodology if they wish to undertake more localised modelling. The key issue in terms of the local development plans is the fact that their soundness will be tested by an independent inspector. In order for that soundness to be tested, the independent inspector will look to ensure that all the data available have been used appropriately in the context of the local development plan. The Assembly Government is purely a statutory consultee to check with local authorities that they are using all the data that they should use in the creation of their plan.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Caia Park Partnership - a success story

This week Caia Park Partnership's funding from the council was cut from £160,000 a year to £55,000 a year for the next three years.
The Partnership, for those that don't know about it, is an umbrella organisation that has managed to launch seven stand-alone social enterprises in Caia over the past few years. It employs 70 people through the cafe, woodwork workshop, training centre, youth workers, tenancy support and creche and has hundreds of volunteers on its books. It is a vital community resource for young and old alike and has developed a real expertise in developing social enterprises. The latest, Wrex Recycling, will mean branching out with a town centre shop to sell children's clothing. If there's such as thing as "social entrepreneurship", the Partnership has got it.
Just three years ago grants made up 90% of its income. Back then Plaid argued on the council that the Partnership needed security to enable it to wean itself off those grants. It has done so spectacularly with the various enterprises, so that grants now make up only 34% of its income. The rest is earned income.
This was the background to reducing the funding to £55,000 a year. The Partnership had agreed to that after regular consultations and reviews with council officers and local councillors. Of course it would have liked a more gradual reduction but the success of the Partnership in recent years means that it is strong enough to reduce its grant dependency.
That's a fantastic achievement and it's disappointing to see Ian Lucas MP trying to score political points on the matter against Plaid councillors in Caia who have been consistent supporters of the Partnership. We were the only local councillors present at the Executive Board meeting to speak up for the Partnership and have worked closely with the Partnership to make sure it continues to thrive and develop.

Welsh Medium Education...Segregation!

Councillor Ted George a senior Labour Councillor on Wrecsam County Borough Council believes that opening a new Welsh School in Gwersyllt is in fact segregation, this is what he said in response to a request for a quote by the Leader,
Cllr George said he was not in favour of the school going ahead, owing primarily to his belief there would be segregating of Welsh-speaking and English-speaking pupils which he does not believe occurs at present in Gwersyllt

I suppose Cllr George conveniently forgets that there are 154 pupils from Gwersyllt who currently go to Plas Coch not to mention dozens of others who go to other primary schools including faith schools outside the Gwersyllt community. It's what's called parental choice. Ted George is not the only Labour Councillor who is vehemently against Welsh Medium Education, another one described WME as 'linguistic apartheid,' and believe it or not, his children were educated in WME.

The use of highly emotive words as used by these Councillors do nothing to create cohesive communities but rather they deliberately create divisions and bad feeling.

Special Care Baby Unit campaign winning the argument

Yesterday saw a series of meetings in Wrecsam on the review of maternity and children's services in North Wales for staff and the public.

The clear message coming from the meeting for the public was that the original plan - to centralise expertise in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and downgrade Wrecsam to a midwife-led unit - can't be done. I suspect that's because of the strength of opposition from the public and the PR disaster it would be for the new Welsh health minister Lesley Griffiths.

She is currently on the horns of a dilemma - how does she keep the clinicians happy, the NHS accountants happy and her own voters happy? She was issued with a friendly challenge after her election victory on May 6 - maintain the Special Care Baby Unit in Wrecsam with its present speciality or face the political consequences.

The clinical expertise argument cannot outweigh the needs of mums and babies in a geographically diverse area such as North Wales.

The finances of the NHS in Wales would be improved at a stroke by ensuring that more mums from North Wales have their children born here. At present 548 babies a year from the North are born in Chester at an additional cost of £2 million to the Betsi Cadwaladr Trust. Add the increased number of babies from North Powys who will also be attracted to Wrecsam because of a reduction in babies being born across the border in Shrewsbury, and there could be an additional 300 babies (an extra 15% ) born in Wrecsam each year.

Getting rid of SCBU's intensive cots in the town doesn't make sense now and certainly wouldn't in the future with an expanding population.

9% council house rent rise fears - Scrap the housing subsidy scam

Council house rents could rise by a whopping 9% in Wrecsam under Welsh Government plans to equalise rents between housing associations and councils. That's the bad news and one we'll be fighting all the way because it doesn't take account of local factors.
The better news is that the council is now actively fighting the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy scam, which takes £11.1m out of our housing coffers each year to give to the UK Treasury in London. This money could pay for substantial improvements in our housing stock.
The current kitchen improvements scheme - 350 new kitchens being put in this financial year - is costing £1.2m, so it's clear how much of a difference that extra money would make.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin


Tim Godwin is currently the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Home Secretary's choice to take over as Acting Commissioner following Sir Paul Stephenson's resignation.

Ironically, Mr Godwin's biography states that:

"He leads for ACPO on Mobile Phone crime, which has included the development of the blocking of stolen mobile phones in partnership with industry".

He now has an opportunity to extend his ACPO remit to cover 'mobile phone hacking' as well.

Monday, 18 July 2011

What Murdoch faces now!

This is an interesting take of what the New Yorker sees as the Murdoch's future:
In the United States, News Corp., as an American company, will, among other things, have to explain why it has not violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it unlawful to pay bribes to government officials overseas—a proscription that includes the London police; whether the New York Post (or any of the company’s British newspapers) hacked into the mail or phone calls of celebrities in this country or of the families of 9/11 victims; and why their unethical behavior does not disqualify them under F.C.C.(Federal Communications Commission) rules that require that those who license TV stations must be of solid moral character. Les Hinton, the head of Dow Jones and one of Murdoch’s senior executives in this country, has already resigned.

Murdoch’s influence with government officials here and abroad will not help him escape this time. In the current environment, will politicians, even those who courted him in the past, want be seen at his side, or risk their careers to come to his aid? The dam has sprung multiple leaks, and Rupert Murdoch doesn’t have enough fingers to stop the gushing water.

This looks like Murdoch's control over News Corporation is becoming increasingly fragile to such an extent that they could well lose control over the parent company. I can't see News Corp putting the Fox licence at risk for the sake of protecting Rupert and James especially if James Murdoch is charged with corruption in the UK which would seem to be sufficient grounds for the US Department of Justice to move against News Corp under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

How long will News Corps shareholders allow the toxic Murdoch brand to dominate their investment before they take action?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Another Scalp!

There seems to be no end of news and surprises in the wake of the News International scandal with the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metroploitan Police; and that is the biggest scalp so far.

It is impossible to underestimate the significance of this resignation, it just goes to show how far into the Police that News International had their tentacles.

This could well be our Watergate and I'm sure that David Cameron will be increasingly uncomfortable tonight and rightly so. I bet now Cameron wished he'd given the spin doctor job to Guto Harri and not followed Rebekah Brooks's advice (or was that an order) and hired Coulson.

The question is, what happens next? There are lots of very important people due to appear before the Commons Culture, Media & Sport committee this week, that is if the Met haven't arrested them first.

Don't be surprised to hear that John Yates and James Murdoch might be moving onto pastures new this week.

Grateful for small mercies!

I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies and that the Royal family are not that fussed on coming to Wales.

Even minor royals like Zara Phillips would rather get married in Scotland than in Wales but when her 'private event' will cost Lothian and Borders Police a whopping half a million quid of Scottish taxpayers money to police; we should be relieved.

On top of that is the cost to the Metropolitan Police of Royal Protection officers to look after the senior royals.

I hear a sigh of relief from South Wales Police that Zara and Mike Tindall didn't choose the Millenium Centre as a venue

Peter 'Gerrymander' Hain.

Congratulations to Matt Withers for an excellent column in today's Wales on Sunday. He takes Peter Hain to task around his suggestions that the voting system in Wales should be changed to have 60 members ALL elected by first past the post system thus guaranteeing an outright Labour majority for ever and a day. This can only be bad and basically disenfranchises everyone who voted Tory, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat in Wales and is pure 'tribalism' on Hain's part.

Peter Hain's concept of democracy is closer to the demagogic Southern politicians of the 1960's who did everything in their power to disenfranchise African Americans following the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. George Wallace and his ilk 'gerrymandered' political constituencies in Alabama and elsewhere to guarantee a permanent white majority. What is the difference in what Peter Hain is proposing in Wales, other than a permament Labour majority?

The Department of Justice under Bobby Kennedy had to intervene in the US to protect the civil rights of their citizens. Will we have in Wales to resort to the Supreme Court to ensure a right of democratic representation against the partisanship of Labour politicians?

Peter Hain should be ashamed of himself for conveniently forgetting his roots as an anti apartheid campaigner in South Africa and joining the anti-democratic inclinations of the British state.

What we want in Wales is multi-member constituencies electing 80 AM's by single transferable vote as in Ireland. STV is the only way to get proportional representation and if it doesn't deliver a permanent Labour majority that is just 'tough' on Hain; his Welsh Labour party will just have to learn the art of compromise.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Can we screen out the sound of children playing?

A well-attended meeting to discuss the proposed new Welsh-medium school in Gwersyllt threw up some interesting arguments during a sometimes heated debate.
More than a 100 people were present to hear Wrecsam council officers John Davies and Dafydd Ifans outline the proposals for a new 210-pupil school on Delamere Avenue in Gwersyllt by September 2013. The school will meet existing demand, which is currently met by doubling the size of Ysgol Plas Coch in Rhosddu. This is not a sustainable situation given the traffic congestion being caused and the fact that concerts and other events have to take place off campus due to the size of the school.
The new school has won £4.2 million in funding from the Welsh Government and will substantially reduce the amount of pupils having to travel from Gwersyllt, Summerhill, Llay and Bradley to schools in Wrecsam town.
Despite this, there was a rearguard action by a few diehard opponents of the school tonight. Among the contradictory and slightly sad arguments against were:
• Will it lower the price of adjacent housing? (er, no)
• Will the sound of children playing be screened by trees? (yes, if you really dislike children that much)
• The site is waterlogged (the scheme will deal with this)
• The site is used by locals (and will still be - the school's facilities will be open to the local community)
• The traffic is terrible on Delamere Avenue and this will make it worse (not if the speed limit is cut to 20mph and traffic calming installed)
• English-medium schools in the area also struggle to hold assembly in their halls due to large numbers (so let's have keep it that way for everyone)
• Why not add Welsh-medium streams to the existing schools? (what, despite being full?)

None of the objectors said explicitly that they were against Welsh-medium education but the undercurrent was clear in some of the questions. Several plainly didn't understand the need for a new school and failed to grasp that there are already 170+ children from the local area attending Welsh-medium schools in other parts of the county. Many ill-tempered interventions, not least by the over-excitable headteacher of the local CP school and one of his governors, failed to understand that that this scheme is not a threat to existing local schools but rather to fulfil existing demand.

The many parents present who currently have to drive or bus their children across town to Bodhyfryd were clear of the benefits of a local school - the reduction in traffic should be substantial as a result. They and the officers kept to the point admirably.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The best of the Met.

Andy Hayman Ex Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who supervised the original hacking enquiry by Goodman and Mulcaire and who then became a columnist at the News of the World, claimed in his column on the 11th July 2009, that, " We put our best cops on the case."

Mr Hayman goes on to say in his column:
"At the time I was in overall command of Specialist Operations, the part of the Yard that investigated the complaints. My heart sank when I was told the accusations came from the Palace. This was not the time for a half-hearted investigation - we put our best detectives on the case and left no stone unturned as officials breathed down our neck. The Guardian has said it understands that the police file shows between 2,000 and 3,000 individuals had their mobile phones hacked into, far more than was ever officially admitted during the investigation and prosecution of Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman.

Yet, my recollection is different. As I recall the list of those targeted, which was put together from records kept by Mr Mulcaire, ran to several hundred names. Of these, there was a small number - perhaps a handful - where there was evidence they had actually been tampered with.

Had there been evidence of tampering in the other cases, that would have been investigated, as would the slightest hint that others were involved."

HT to Richard Wilson @dontgetfooled, for this.

Developers should be made to pay for unfinished estates

Plaid Cymru councillors in Wrecsam are demanding that developers complete infrastructure works on housing developments across the County Borough rather than letting householders carry the can. The councillors have obtained a list that reveals that there are 37 housing developments in the county borough that the council have not adopted because developers have not completed the infrastructure i.e. roads, pavements and drains. Some of this outstanding works goes back 12 years.

Residents in Chestnut Court, Summerhill, have been fighting for years to get Castlemead Homes Ltd to bring the drains on the estate up to a level acceptable to the Environment Agency who sign the work off for the Council to adopt the road.

Gwersyllt West Councillor Arfon Jones, who has been helping the residents of Chestnut Court, said:
“These house were built about 15 years ago and it is outrageous that Castlemead have not completed the work to a sufficient standard for the council to adopt the road. The company should have paid in a bond which would have been forfeited if they didn’t finish the work, but it doesn’t seem there was a bond in place so the council are struggling to enforce any liability.”


Councillor Jones went on to say:
“Thirty seven uncompleted developments is a lot and I would like to see the council bring enforcement action against those developers who fail to comply with the law. It isn’t fair to expect the taxpayer to foot the bill whilst these companies walk away with big profits - they should be made to pay.”


Fellow Plaid Cymru councillor Marc Jones (Whitegate) added:
"Four of the developments that are still unadopted are in the Whitegate ward and residents in the past have had difficulty in getting street lights fixed on some parts of the Abenbury Park estate. I would urge the developers involved, who are all large housing firms, to pull their fingers out and finish off work on the estates to the agreed standard.

"Some of the more recent developments may well be being sorted but there's no excuse for developments from a decade ago being unfinished. It's also of particular concern to see the same developers crop up time after time and that the Brymbo ward has a grand total of seven unfinished projects. Big developers have profited from the housing boom of the past decade - why should they be allowed to walk away without completing the infrastructure on these estates?"


Full list of outstanding works:

Friday, 8 July 2011

FOI reveals Wrecsam Lib Dem Cllrs targeted St Davids Day parade Founder


An FOI released today has revealed a series of e mails and comments from Lib Dem councillors in Wrecsam which relate to the banning of the founder of Wrecsams St Davids Day parade Mr Adam Philips. Mr Philips was banned from speaking at the event he established back in 2009 on the basis of complaints submitted to the council by county councillors. Mr Philips has stated he does not recognise the ban as the parade is not a council event and has also called for an investigation into how the ban was implemented.

The FOI reveals that the complaints and the subsequent enforcing of the ‘ban’ were also endorsed by the Lib Dem council leader at the time, namely Cllr Aled Roberts. Mr Roberts, now an Assembly Member for the north Wales region is quoted in the FOI documents on the 10th March 2011 requesting the letter banning Mr Philips be translated (how thoughtful). He also relays a message to Mr Philip Walton Strategic Director to ensure the letter banning Mr Philips includes the added instruction "not to speak".

E mails were also listed in the FOI documentation from Lib Dem Councillors Phil Wynn, Joan Lowe and Gerry Craddock, two of which referred to alleged comments made by Mr Philips regarding the referendum on further law making powers for Wales. What a coincidence you may think that both Cllrs Wynn and Lowe were instrumental in instigating a 'No' campaign locally against that referendum during the same period. The FOI also reveals that the ban received written support from fellow 'No' campaigner and Conservative Cllr Paul Rogers in June of this year, in which he urges the council to “stand its ground on this matter”.

As some of you may remember, Plaid Cllrs challenged the ‘ban’ on Mr Philips at an Executive board meeting last month. We asked for details about the complaints and stressed the fact that Mr Philips disputed the content of the complaints made against him, but had not been given the chance to respond to them before the ban was issued.

Members were also told in that meeting that a complaint had been received by a member of the public and that a letter was subsequently issued by Strategic Director Philip Walton banning Mr Philips from his own event. The letter lists the complaints justifying the ban on Mr Philips as follows:

‘Encouraging them (the crowd) not to support any potential bid for city status’

‘several people were offended by your clenched fist salute’

‘You instructed the crowd how to vote at the National referendum’

Reading through the FOI material, it becomes clear that the ‘complaint’ to Chief Exective Isobel Garner from the member of the public was actually submitted to the council by Lib Dem councillor Phil Wynn. A second complaint about the referendum comments was submitted by Lib Dem Cllr Joan Lowe the following day. In reference to the complaint Cllr Wynn says "Please can you assure me that as an authority we will not be offering up our further support to the Yes campaigners between now and Thursday".

The original concerns were raised by a lady who attended the event. In an e mail passed to Cllrs Wynn and Craddock she expresses concern that Mr Philips called for a yes vote in the referendum (something he disputes) and bizarrely describes Mr Philips actions whilst singing the national anthem and shouting ‘Dewi Sant’ as: “what can only be described as a near nazi salute”.

Interestingly Cllr Wynn’s e mail goes on to state : “ This has also jogged my memory as to what stance the council took when responding to the WAG consultation document on further promotion of the Welsh language.” Not quite sure what he means by that but it would certainly be interesting to find out.

There is no reference at all to city status from either the member of the public or the Lib Dem Cllrs, we wonder how that one got in the banning letter? Additionally, rather than 'several' people complaining about Mr Philips clenched fist salute during the National anthem, it would seem there was only one reference to it.

The motivation of the councillors pushing this 'complaint' needs to be examined, as do the actions of council officers in acting on it. Other issues listed in the banning letter such as Mr Philips comments on city status also need further investigaion. It can only be assumed these were received verbally from councillors considering they are not referenced in any of the written material.

Another issue that needs investigation is the comment from Phil Walton to the Executive Board that Mr Philips did not respond to his letter banning him from the event. The FOI material contains a letter from Mr Philips dated 31st March to Mr Walton requesting a meeting to discuss the situation. There are also e mails from council staff that refer to this request and arrangements regarding a meeting between Mr Philips and junior officers to discuss the matter.

It would seem that as an ordinary member of the public, Mr Philips is not entitled to respond to alleged breaches of policy before being judged, he should simply be told 'not to speak' instead. Possibly if he had been an Assembly candidate the situation may have been different. It would also seem to be ok to allow Mr Philips to be victimised by a couple of local councillors without any investigation as regards the motivation, which was clearly political. I could go on to talk about freedom of speech, the fact that Mr Philips actually invited the council to be involved in the parade in the first place and many other issues, but the fact that this situation is disgraceful speaks for itself.

At the end of the day, all this has happened because of one complaint by a member of the public who has clearly got her facts wrong (nazi salute!?). This complaint has then been vociferously driven within the council by local councillors with a bee in their bonnet over the referendum. No doubt still sore over critical press coverage regarding their own behaviour during their bodged 'No' campaign.

Tommy Sheridan

Little has been made south of the border about the implication of the NoTW scandal on the future of ex Scottish Socialist politician Tommy Sheridan jailed for perjury following a libel case involving the NoTW. The Leading story in yesterday's Scotsman concerned Sheridan being granted home leave and his solicitor asking Strathclyde Police to re-investigate Andy Coulson's evidence; additionally Tom Watson the Labour MP claimed in the Commons that Sheridan's conviction was now unsound.

Andy Coulson's imminent arrest as reported in the Guardian will do nothing but further assist Tommy Sheridan's appeal against conviction.

David Cameron get's closer to the action by the minute! He will probably regret the day he fought to protect his mate Coulson.

The Metropolitan Police and the NOTW.

I don't know about you but I feel deeply worried that the Metropolitan Police are being allowed to carry on with the investigation into the hacking of mobile phones given their seemingly tainted relationship with the News of the World.

The first question that strikes me is when was the Met Police aware of the 'notebook' of Glenn Mulcaire and the thousands of names in it? Were they aware of it at the time of Mulcaire's arrest or was it after? If the Met were aware of the notebook early on why did they not notice the names of the victims of crime in the book? There are clearly two possible answers to this, the first, it was to suppress evidence of wrongdoing against the NoTW or secondly, someone realised the resource implications and decided to 'cuff' the job. Whatever the reason the decision MUST have been taken at a pretty senior level, probably Deputy Assistant Commissioner.

It seems to me that the reason was probably to suppress evidence as the Met would know that any investigation would lead to evidence of corruption because we know that Rebekah Brooks when she was editor admitted to authorising payments to the Police. This leads to another question, what was the information that Brooks admitted paying for? Was it the mobile phone numbers of Milly Dowler and Danielle Jones? Another question that needs answering is what was the seniority of those officers who received payment for information? The more senior those officers the more murky this becomes. Perhaps we should also ask whether the Met Police launched a corruption enquiry following Ms Brooks admitted paying Police Officers for information.

Overall I believe there is ample circumstantial evidence to suggest that the Metropolitan Police should not continue to investigate this hacking scandal because they have previously showed that they are too close to the NoTW to be able to conduct any investigation impartially.

This investigation should be conducted by a team of officers from provincial Police Forces under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

So many questions, so few answers!

The terms of reference of David Cameron's Public Enquiry MUST extend to the behaviour of the Metroploitan Police in this sorry saga.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Journalists hit out at Murdoch's media empire

This statement was released by the National Union of Journalists' Left at 3pm today. By 5pm News of the World has closed:

The fresh revelations of phone hacking at the News of the World will have horrified anyone with even the remotest shred of human decency. That private investigators employed by the News International-owned tabloid could hack the phone of a murdered teenager (giving her parents false hope that she might still be alive and potentially obstructing a criminal investigation), and do likewise to victims of the July 7 bombings, to the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, and to the families of soldiers killed in action almost beggars belief.

What once seemed, to many, a rather 'drier' – but still outrageous - story of celebrities complaining about breaches of privacy now seems that much more shocking.

But it is also a shocking example of corporate power unchecked, of where rampant profiteering, vicious union-bashing and the manipulation of the political process leads. Rupert Murdoch derives his power from his assaults on organised labour. He has been unassailable since he drove unions out of his company at Wapping in the 1980s.

To break the print unions, and undermine the NUJ, required considerable political support and police assistance. Murdoch got both willingly during the 1986-87 dispute (many trade unionists have the scars to prove it), and thus was cemented a cosy relationship between News International, police and government that has been toxic ever since.

In this context, the suspicious dilatoriness of the police in acting over the initial phone hacking allegations – and the payments made to individual officers by News International – and the failure of every government since the 80s to stand up to Murdoch on anything makes perfect sense. Unaccountable corporate power assisted by government and in cahoots with the police. This is what democracy and a free press in 2011 looks like.

What does this all mean for us as NUJ members, journalists and socialists? For one, it demonstrates the urgent need for union recognition everywhere. At News International, journalists have no effective source of redress for any concerns they may have about ethics and intimidation (the compliant 'yellow' union the News International Staff Association – NISA – can be safely discounted). By contrast, when the Daily Star tried to run a racist 'Daily Fatwa' front page early in the last decade, the NUJ chapel, led by our now general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, got together to register a protest and block the page.

NUJ members are also bound by our code of conduct, which stipulates that a journalist “obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means”, and “does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest”. What's been going on at the News of the World flagrantly breaches those clauses.

Strong unions can make a difference over standards. It is no coincidence that the phone-hacking story was broken by NUJ members, working for a paper, The Guardian, where the NUJ has a strong chapel.

Which is all in contrast to the Press Complaints Commission, which has over and again proved to be utterly toothless when confronted with outrages such as this. At the NUJ's recent Delegate Meeting in Southport we passed a motion calling for the union to campaign for the PCC's abolition and its replacement with a genuinely independent and democratic regulatory body with teeth. This must now be a priority campaign. A self-selecting body run by the industry's great and the good has failed us totally. Unions and the public need a say on a new industry watchdog.

Because the allegations against the NoTW throw up another threat – of government over-regulation of a free press. We have already seen people seeking to use this scandal to tar all journalists with the same brush, which gives those who would muzzle the press and stamp down on genuine investigative journalism their excuse.

This is a crisis not of journalism in general but of media control and accountability. The NUJ has been arguing for some time that we need alternative forms of media ownership, that are more accountable, less obsessed with narrow profiteering and that give media workers some control. The union's efforts to support co-operative, mutual and other democratic models, that fully respect union rights, should be stepped up. Whether at News International or Newsquest, the old corporate model fails journalists and fails the public.

Simply calling for a public inquiry into these allegations of criminality is inadequate. Inquiries come and go, and usually change little. We need to campaign for:
Newscorp's bid for BskyB to be rejected out of hand. By standing by the former NoTW editor Rebekkah Brooks, on whose watch the worst offences took place, Murdoch is showing himself to be not fit and proper to control a major broadcaster.
Full unionisation of the entire media. Only strong unions can effectively combat overbearing and unethical managements; our code of conduct should become statutory
A proper debate and inquiry into media ownership in general, in the interests of plurality and the interests of media workers and the public

The best response to this crisis is to argue and campaign ever more forcefully for strong unions and journalistic standards. As someone once said, we cannot go on like this.

Wynnstay Hotel closed with immediate effect

Breaking news... the Wynnstay Hotel and Fantastic Funhouse have been closed with immediate effect. Staff have been sent a letter from KPMG in London to say the owners are "currently experiencing financial difficulty and as such cannot continue to facilitate trading the hotel/funhouse viably".

There will be a meeting for hotel staff at 3pm today at the Nag's Head.

Whatever the reasons, it's a big blow with a landmark building in the town centre closing without notice and putting so many people out of work with immediate effect.

It also looks like the Wrexham Supporters' Trust made a very good call in not opting to work with Stephanie Booth.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Addysg Gymraeg yn Sir y Fflint dan fygythiad

Mae dyfodol ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg yn Sir y Fflint o dan fygythiad.

Allan o bump o ysgolion addysg Gymraeg yn y sir mae dau o dan fygythiad uniongyrchol (gydag un, Ysgol Terrig yn Nhreuddyn, o dan fygythiad yn syth); gyda dyfodol tymor hir yr ysgolion eraill heb fod yn sicr.

Mae Cyngor Sir y Fflint yn bwriadu i dorri costau drwy uno neu ffedaraleiddio ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg gyda ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg, gan roi eu gweledigaeth – fel mannau ble y dysgir yr iaith Gymraeg a diwylliant Cymreig mewn perygl.

Mae rhieni Sir y Fflint (yn Saesneg ac yn Gymraeg), a chynrychiolwyr o holl ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg y sir wedi ffurfio grwp ymgyrchu (SYFFLAG – Sir y Fflint dros Addysg Gymraeg) i ymladd dros ddarpariaeth addysg cyfrwng y Gymraeg yn y sir.

Bydd SYFFLAG yn gweithio yn agos gyda mudiadau iaith Gymraeg eraill (RHAG a Menter Iaith); a gyda’n gilydd byddwn yn ymgyrchu i geisio newid polisi y Cyngor tuag at addysg drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.

Mae polisi Sir y Fflint yn uniongyrchol wrth i’w ymchwil ei hun, sydd yn dangos heb amheuaeth fod yna alw am addysg drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yn y sir. Dangosodd yr ymchwil hefyd fod y galw yn debygol i dyfu os y byddai mwy o lefydd yn cael eu darparu.

Y mae hefyd yn mynd yn erbyn strategath Llywodraeth Cymru. Mae dogfen y Cynulliad yn Ebrill 2010 (Strategaeth Addysg Cyfrwng Cymraeg) yn cefnogi datblygiad dysgu cyfrwng Cymraeg ar draws y sir.

Y mae yn dweud y dylai awdurdodau lleol esbonio sut y byddant yn darparu lleoedd digonol a phriodol i blant mae eu rhieni/gofalwyr yn dymuno iddynt gael addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg oherwydd addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg o’r blynyddoedd cynnar, gyda dilyniant ieithyddol cadarn drwy bob cyfnod addysg, sy’n cynnig yr amodau gorau ar gyfer meithrin dinasyddion dwyieithog y dyfodol.

Y mae strategaeth y Cynulliad yn glir; os nad yw’r awdurdod lleol yn cydweithredu, ac os nad ydynt yn ymateb i alw gan rhienni, yna bydd camau pellach, gan gynnwys deddfwriaeth, yn cael eu ystyried.

Mae Cyngor Sir y Fflint wedi dewis i anwybyddu y Cynulliad a’i hymchwil eu hun. Gan ddechrau gyda Ysgol Terrig, y maent yn bwriadu ffedaraleiddio neu amalgameiddio ysgolion cyfrwng y Gymraeg ar draws y sir gyda ysgolion eraill yn cynnwys ysgolion ble Saesneg yw y brif gyfrwng. Y mae yn erbyn dymuniadau athrawon, llywodraethwyr ac yn erbyn dymuniadau rhieni – sydd wedi dewis i’w plant i dderbyn eu addysg drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.

Os bydd yr ysgolion cyfrwng y Gymraeg yn uno neu yn ffedaraleiddio gyda ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg, bydd nodweddion neilltuol addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg yn cael ei golli. Nid dyma weledigaeth y Cynulliad, yr ysgolion nac y rhieni.

Mae gan Cynghorau Cymreig ddyletswydd i hyrwyddo diwylliant Cymreig a Chymraeg.
Fel dywedir strategaeth y Cynulliad -
Gweledigaeth Iaith Pawb yn 2003 oedd creu Cymru dwyieithog, hynny yw, Cymru ble mae ‘pobl ddewis byw eu bywydau naill ai drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg neu’r Saesneg neu’r ddwy iaith a lle mae bodolaeth y ddwy iaith yn fater o falchder a chryfder i ni i gyd’.


Yr hyn a ofynnir gan SYFFLAG yw fod Cyngor Sir y Fflint yn rhannu y weledigaeth hon- ac eu bod yn deall, hyrwyddo a chefnogi ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg.

Supporters bid for club

This statement by the 1200-strong Wrexham Supporters' Trust is a positive step forward for the club and town:

WST makes offer for Wrexham FC

Further to the statement issued by the Directors of Wrexham Football Club - The Wrexham Supporters’ Trust (WST) is pleased to announce that it is in a position to present an offer to Wrexham Village to purchase the Racecourse and Colliers Park, and rescue Wrexham Football Club with the aid of third parties.

Crunch talks between the WST and the Directors of Wrexham FC are planned under the back drop of an imminent oblivion for Wrexham FC and its proud history.

The Trust has received the “majority” of the due diligence material needed, but the exercise has not been totally completed.

The Trust said that it would honour the playing budget agreed by a previous potential purchaser but the Trust was not part of any agreement decision, which firmly rested with the current owners as custodians of the club.

Having previously put forward proposals to the club, we have worked ceaselessly to revise and put forward another proposal on the basis of a much better understanding of the position of the Football Club and what the Directors of Wrexham FC want personally.

The Trust’s proposal gives the current owners the opportunity to act quickly to create a legacy of community ownership for professional football in Wrexham which should allow the club and its assets to prosper for the benefit of the people of Wrexham and North Wales. This will still enable the Directors to continue with their interests in the Wrexham Village project and Crusaders RFL.

As always in these matters, the final decision rests with the vendors.

The ball is now and has always been with them and it is for them to decide if they pass the responsibility for Wrexham Football Club to the Trust or not.

This is a unique and telling moment for the club owners. We have acted as quickly as possible to be in a position to put together a proposal that meets all the conditions the owners have declared to us and which the Trust can have confidence in. Now is the time for the board of the club to act in order to ensure that the football club survives. We feel the deal works and meets the requirements of all parties.

The Trust and the club acknowledge that any deal between them is dependent on the acceptance of the Football Authorities and Trust membership. The Trust also advises that it is bound not to release any further detail at this time.


History tells us that there's bound to be more twists in this than a Bobby Shinton mazy run, but it's getting very interesting now.

News of the World advertisers.

The Guardian have published details of the top 50 advertisers in the NOTW between January and May 2011. The total cost of the 50 top advertising was a whopping £24.5 million with the top 5 advertisers spending £1 million plus each. They were BSkyB (why shouldn't that surprise us), then Everything Everywhere, P&G, O2, Hutchinson 3G and then Tesco.

We as consumers can influence these advertisers to pull out and Sunny Hundal Liberal Conspiracy provides advice and contact details of the main target advertisers.

Please follow the advice and let's inundate companies like Proctor and Gamble with emails and if they don't co-operate let's boycott their products and of course don't buy the News of the World this Sunday or any other Sunday.

UPDATE - For latest go to Political Scrapbook for live blog on advertisers

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

WELSH GOVERNMENT CONFIRM £73M HOUSING REVENUE TO BE SENT TO LONDON THIS YEAR

Plaid Cymru Press Release:

WALES TO CONTINUE TO SEND COUNCIL TENANTS MONEY BACK TO THE TREASURY.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster spokesperson for Communities and Local Government, Jonathan Edwards MP, has criticised the Welsh Government for failing to reach a deal on the Housing Revenue Account subsidy scheme under which Welsh local authorities will pay the UK Treasury £73m this year alone.

The system, originally designed to ensure fairness in housing costs for local authorities, is being scrapped in England under legislation in the Localism Bill.

An announcement today by the Welsh Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, argues that Wales was not disadvantaged by rule changes in England in 2001. Since 2001, 21 of the 22 Welsh local authorities have made a net loss under the scheme.

A Plaid Cymru amendment to the Localism Bill, tabled by Lord Wigley, will ensure a House of Lords debate regarding the amount contributed by Wales.

Jonathan Edwards MP said:

The Labour Minister for Housing has today confirmed that Wales will continue to send £73m of Welsh money back to the Treasury in Westminster that should be spent on local housing and construction in Wales.

“This Housing Revenue Account subsidy scheme has seen more than £1bn of council house rents returned to London since devolution began – and with Labour in charge at both ends of the M4.

“That is hardly ‘standing up for Wales’. In fact, it is the very opposite.

“With the Housing Revenue Account subsidy scheme being scrapped in England and not in operation elsewhere in the UK, it is only Wales that will continue to lose out.

“Only 39% of Welsh local authorities are expected to meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard – in part because they have sent tens of millions of pounds back to London under this scheme rather than improving their housing stock. It is a direct result of Labour’s rules when in power in Westminster that Welsh local authorities are disadvantaged.

“Plaid Cymru have laid an amendment to the Localism Bill that the Treasury should no longer receive receipts as a result of the Housing Revenue Account and that these should remain in Wales, where they belong.”

Comment:

Since 1999, Wrecsam Council have had to send a £110 million to the Treasury, money that could and should have been used to bring Wrecsam's 11,000 council houses up to the Welsh Quality Housing Standard. So much for Labour standing up for Wales.

Update:

Statement by Huw Lewis,

It is vitally important that Welsh Local Authorities are able to meet Welsh Housing Quality Standards (WHQS) by 2012 or a deadline agreed with Welsh Ministers. This is to ensure a basic standard of property for our tenants. The results of the recently published monitoring report indicate that 78% of registered social landlords will achieve WHQS in full by 2012, but only 39% of Local Authorities are expected to do so.

One of the main difficulties that local authorities face in funding WHQS work is the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system (HRAS) that operates in England and Wales to manage council housing finance. There has been concern for many years at the substantial transfers from local government in Wales to HM Treasury, via the Welsh Government, as a result of this system. These currently amount to some £73M per annum.

My colleague Jane Hutt, as Minister for Business and Budgets in the previous government, wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury prior to the Assembly election voicing the unfairness that is perceived in Wales about this situation. The letter provided an analysis that if there was a parity in approach between England and Wales, then these transfers would disappear, and sought a settlement enabling the HRAS to be brought to an end.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has now replied. His letter indicates that the differences in negative subsidy between England and Wales relate to the way Major Repairs Allowance was set up in England in 2001. At that time, the then UK department responsible, the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions, took a reduction in its budget while a corresponding increase in Annually Managed Expenditure for Major Repairs meant that negative subsidies in England were much lower than in Wales.

The critical point in the Chief Secretary’s letter is that at that time no reduction was made in the Welsh Government’s budget that corresponded to the reduction in the DETR’s budget. This letter is the first time that the UK Government has put this on the record. It means that it is now difficult to continue to argue that Wales was disadvantaged in that process.

However, I am committed to work with Jane Hutt and negotiate firmly with the UK Government to find the best possible way forward for Wales. We understand the UK Government’s constraints to achieve a “financially neutral” settlement, but we will also commission research to demonstrate the need for funds to meet the backlog of repairs in the Welsh Housing stock and the WHQS. If there is to be any final payment from Wales to end the HRAS it must be at an affordable level and provide a better way forward than continuance of the status quo.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Pension protest


A lively protest against the UK Con-Dem government's plans to make people work for longer, pay more and get less pensions made a real impact in Wrecsam as well as elsewhere in Wales, England and Scotland.

The hypocrisy of those Tory and Lib Dem politicians, once again, shines through because of their very generous pension arrangements compared to nurses, teachers and tax office or jobcentre workers.

Little wonder then that leading Tory Francis Maude made such a pig's ear of things on the radio...

PICTURE: Steve Ryan of the PCS union addresses the Wrecsam rally.