Monday, 30 April 2012

New Plaid leader rejects £20,000 pay rise




Golwg360.com has news about Plaid leader Leanne Wood.

QUICK TRANSLATION: Plaid Cymru's new leader has rejected a £20,000 pay rise.

Commenting on her decision, Lindsay Whittle AM said: "I'm not surprised that Leanne has made this decision based on principle. She believes it would not be fair, at this time of hardship, to receive an increase when families and individuals are struggling to make ends meet."

Leanne has consistently spoken out against excessive pay, bonuses and large salaries in the public sector. As chair of the PCS union party group, she has supported workers who campaign against job losses and low pay.








Plaid candidate goes the extra mile... 12,000 miles in this case

Plaid Cymru candidate Mike Davies (pictured left with firefighter colleagues) is going the extra mile to get in touch with his Rhosnesni constituents - 12,000 miles in the case of one.
 The postal voter in question is currently in New Zealand but FBU activist Mike wasn't going to let that stop him. So he wrote a letter asking for his vote.
 As we know from the Rhiwabon by-election, every vote counts...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Court orders Welsh Government to release withheld information on Powys Fadog project

A court has ordered the Welsh Government to release information it has withheld for over 2 years in relation to the Powys Fadog project in Llangollen. The information is contained in letters from former Labour Assembly Member Karen Sinclair to the then First Minister Rhodri Morgan. It is believed the information may explain why this renouned project was suddenly stopped at the last moment by the Labour led Welsh Government.

The Government have consistently refused to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act and were subsequently backed by the Information Commissioner. Today Judge Shanks of the Information Tribunal has ruled that the information should not have been withheld and has given the Government until 25th May to hand the information over. The Information Rights Tribunal which hears appeal cases from across the UK, is composed of the Tribunal Judge and two other non-legal members all appointed by the Lord Chancellor. In a decision noticed issued today, HH Judge Shanks states that the decision to force the Government to release the information was unanimous.

Powys Fadog chairman Pol Wong was delighted with the decision, he said: “This has been an on going battle for the last 2 years to get information we are legally entitled to, which I am certain will explain why our project was stopped. We will now finally get an answer as to why both our funding and project were stopped just days before we were due to start.”

“I maintain that our project was stopped due to prejudice and in fact, the Welsh Government have been unable to provide an explanation as to why they have stopped it. Basically they have refused to discuss the matter. The fact that we received these letters through FOI 2 years ago with several paragraphs missing, and the way that the Government have strenuously sought to prevent these paragraphs from being disclosed does make me think that they're hiding something.”

Parts of the correspondance released previously can be seen here. In her letters, Karen Sinclair levies several unfounded accusations at the group and also questions the 'need' for the level of Welsh language provision the group hope to provide in Llangollen. The group believe the redacted information due to be released next month will be the final part of the puzzle and will answer once and for all why the project was stopped.

The Welsh Government have consistently failed to explain the decision to pull the project, having refused 3 seperate calls for a public enquiry by north Wales Assembly Members and many enquiries by the media and the public. The Welsh Audit Office are also investiagting the Governments decisions in relation to the project and will be publishing their report in May.

In summing up the case, Judge Shanks said: “It is clear from the final words of the redacted paragraph and from Mr Morgan’s response that the allegation about the people involved with Powys Fadog was intended, and understood to be intended, to support the contention that the Government ought not to have negotiated with Powys Fadog in relation to River Lodge and not for any other purpose.”

“We therefore reject the contention of the Commissioner and the Government that the redacted paragraphs were outside the terms of Mr Wong’s request for information. It follows that we allow the appeal and issue a substituted decision notice requiring the Government to disclose them to Mr Wong. Our decision is unanimous.”

Monday, 23 April 2012

Burglaries, robberies and thefts on the rise in North Wales

The following is a letter published in the Daily Post today in response to this front page article from last Friday's Post:

Dear Editor,

I was staggered to read Peter Rogers and Ian Shannon’s excuse for the increase in crime in North Wales to December 2011; “House burglaries and robberies soaring” Post, April 20th. Whilst the headline rate of increase was  2%, the underlying rate of increase of serious crime such as burglaries in the home and robbery was 20%. The ex Conservative AM, Peter Rogers blames his own Government of starving the Police Service of adequate funding; but this does not explain why other Welsh forces who have had similar cuts and budget reductions but still succeeded in reducing crime. In Gwent’s case the reduction was a highly commendable 11% with burglaries in the home being reduced by 28%.

Mr Shannon goes on to trumpet the small reduction in the violent crime and criminal damage rate, forgetting the 20% increase in robbery which by definition is itself a crime of violence. Your report also fails to mention the 21% decrease in recorded drug offences, this in itself indicates that the Police have reduced enforcement activity in relation to drugs despite the obvious link with increasing crime.

A further indication that all is not well with our Police Service in North Wales is that arrests for notifiable crime is down by 14% or 3,000 arrests  in 2010/11 compared to the previous year.

Perhaps Mr Shannon should be open with the public and explain what his force intends to do to reduce crime rather than hide behind confidence surveys and cease trying to spin bad news. Mr Rogers should hold senior officers to account for performance and not make excuses on their behalf.

Cynghorydd/Councillor Arfon Jones,

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A first for Caia Park

Congratulations to Plaid Cymru community councillors Teri Birch and Maurice Jones - the first ever Plaid councillors on Caia Park Community Council. Another five Plaid Candidates hope to join them on May 4th.

No Minister

Hot on the  heels of First Minister Carwyn Jones's flying visit to Arfon Jones's Gwersyllt West ward this week, health minister Lesley Griffiths was braving the April showers in Marc Jones's Whitegate ward this morning.
 It's nice to know that the Labour ministers are concentrating on beating the real challenge to their party's 90-year dominance in Welsh politics rather than their friends in the other unionist parties.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Recorded Crime on the increase in North Wales.

Today's release of recorded crime figures to the end of December 2011, shows some worrying trends in North Wales. Whilst total recorded crime has only increased by 2% to 42,869 recorded crime, the more serious criminal offences have shown staggering increases with Sexual Offences up by 6%, Robbery up 20% and Burglary in a Dwelling up by 22%. With the exception of a drop in violent crime by 2% all other decreases have been in minor non-violent offences with motor vehicle crime down 1%, criminal damage down 4% and other offences down 19%.

It should also be noted that drug offences are also down 21% but this is probably down to a lack of enforcement as drug offences are normally recorded as crimes on detection, what this means in reality is that North Wales Police are no longer prioritising drug abuse which goes against local authority Community Safety plans which has Substance Misuse as a priority.

Together with the reduction in arrests outlined in the previous blog I believe that it is time for North Wales Police come up with some answers as to what their strategic direction is and what their priorities are?

Perhaps I can ask again for the views of the candidates for Police Commissioner on the issues I have highlighted.


Arrests drop in North Wales

The Home Office have today published statistical data on arrests for notifiable offences across England and Wales for 2010/11. In the face of rising crime, one would have expected an increase in arrests but in fact the opposite is true, where the number of arrests in North Wales Police area has plummeted by a whopping 14% or in real numbers by 3,125 arrests,  from 22,014 in 2009/10 to 18,889 in 2010/11.

This is not reflected across Wales, with a much smaller decrease in South Wales and Gwent and even a small increase of 2% in arrests in Dyfed Powys Police areas.

I don't suppose we need to remind Conservatives and Liberal Democrat politicians in Wales that you can't make drastic cuts to budgets without affecting the force's capability to fight crime.

On the other hand perhaps there is a need to investigate why arrests in North Wales have plummeted compared to other Welsh Police forces. Was it because North Wales Police reorganisation 12 months ago was an unmitigated disaster or are there other reasons?

 Perhaps our Police Commissioner candidates could make their views known.

Rooster Whitby hedges his bets!

Now most politicians are happy to be nominated for one or possibly two elected positions, but for Coedpoeth Community Councillor and BNP organiser, Mike Whitby, two definitely is not enough. Not only has Whitby put his name forward as a BNP candidate for Coedpoeth Community Council and the County Borough Council but also as the BNP Mayoral candidate for the City of Liverpool and as a candidate for the Wavertree ward in Liverpool.

To stand for Mayor in Liverpool, a candidate needs to either run a business in the city or own property, but an exclusive front page report by Marc Waddington in today's Liverpool Echo shows that Whitby's only business interest in Liverpool is that he rents something akin to a 'pigeon loft' located in the car park of the Cricketers pub in Wavertree:

 THE British National Party candidate for Liverpool mayor Mike Whitby is only eligible to stand in the election because he rents a redundant pigeon shed in the city.

 Mike Whitby, who claims to put “local people first”, is also standing for a seat on Wrexham council on May 3.

As Mr Whitby lives in North Wales he must own property or have business interests in Liverpool to stand for mayor. On his nomination papers he cites that he rents a “storage facility” at the Cricketers Club in Wavertree – the same venue city bosses unsuccessfully attempted to shut down for holding the BNP’s annual conference there in 2011.

But the ECHO has learned the facility is actually a unit where the local racing pigeon club used to meet. Deputy council leader Cllr Paul Brant said the ECHO’s investigations had brought the “murky practices” of the BNP home to roost.

The ECHO has also learned Mr Whitby is due to go before the Welsh equivalent of the Standards Board for England over a complaint he brought the local parish council he sits on into disrepute after being jailed for two weeks last year for contempt of court.

Mr Whitby had been at the hearing in Birkenhead of a Wirral man who refused to pay his council tax, when a group of far-right activists attempted to “arrest” the judge for “treason”. He was jailed for refusing to give his name and address to the court.

Under electoral rules – which anti-fascist campaigners today branded “a farce” – renting the “storage facility” makes him eligible to stand to lead the city.

A Cricketers Club source said: “It’s an old shed in the grounds that used to be used by the pigeon lads. They used to race pigeons from there. “He’s been renting it for around 12 months, maybe longer. We don’t know what they’ve got in there. They say it’s for equipment, but I don’t know what equipment they’ve got.”

Anti-fascist campaigner Alec McFadden said the government should look again at the rules on what qualifies people to stand.

According to the council, “candidates are eligible to stand if they are registered as an elector in Liverpool or have lived in the city for 12 months before their nomination or their main or only place of work for the last year has been in Liverpool or they have occupied, either as an owner or a tenant, any land or premises in the city for 12 months before nomination.”

Mr McFadden said: “It’s a farce, absolutely ridiculous, and it brings into disrepute the whole electoral system.”

Mr Whitby, who describes himself as an “independent marketing consultant”, is thought to be a key lieutenant of far right-wing leader Nick Griffin. Some far-right blogs blame him for the near-collapse of the party in Liverpool, which saw former BNP stalwart Peter “Quiggins” Tierney defect to stand for mayor on a National Front ticket.
To read more go here
This of course not the first occasion for Whitby to appear on this blog, the first occasion was back in December 2010, when Whitby was arrested in Liverpool when a BNP street stall descended into a free for all, which is one of the matters due to be heard by the Adjudication Panel for Wales the other being the two week sentence Whitby got for contempt of court.

One just wonders what the good people of Coedpoeth will make of all this.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The New Unionist Party

I always prefer to describe the British Labour Party as the British Unionist Party, it seems that I wasn't far off the mark!


Nothing here for Wales and Scotland it seems.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Purdah

Wikipedia defines Purdah as:
"... is the common term used to describe the pre-election period, used in politics to describe the time between an announced election and the final election result. The time period offers a prior opportunity for government departments to develop guidance and policy due to any impact resulting from the election. It also prevents central and local government departments from making announcements about any new or controversial government initiatives (such as modernisation initiatives, administrative and legislative changes) which could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election, or which may commit any incoming new administration to policies which it wouldn't support."
Although it has no basis in law legislation does provide a code of recommended practice for local authority publicity which is outlined above. Clearly this code does not extend to national government's as both Leighton Andrews and Leslie Griffiths have made announcements during the Purdah period which could be perceived as promoting the candidature of local Labour candidates.

Mr Andrews announced that he would be visiting the Remploy factory in Wrecsam on the 18th April 2012, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear a positive statement in support of Remploy on the day.

Secondly, Lesley Griffiths tweeted today,

"Delighted to see is to receive £18,000 Welsh Gov boost."
Surely Welsh Government ministers should have a code similar to what Westminster Ministers have during the Westminster Purdah


Clegg's closed session

David Cameron's little helper, also known as Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, is in Wrecsam today.

Meeting the people, trying to drum up support for the election campaign?

Not a chance!

The Fib Dems are so scared of him coming a cropper that they've closeted him away in the Catrin Finch Centre, Glyndwr University, in a closed session for their own party activists at 5.40pm today.

Also attending will be Kirsty Williams AM, Aled Roberts AM and Cllr Ron Davies.

The press briefing states: "Nick will take questions from party members and activists. This is a closed session. Interviews can be set up before the Q+A session."

Perhaps the first question activists should ask is why their leader is hiding from the people he conned... mind you, organising a meeting in a university with a man who sold out thousands of students on tuition fees took some genius. I really hope those students don't get to hear about it...


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Anti Social Behaviour

There was a very interesting debate at today’s Social Affairs Health and Housing scrutiny committee. I’d asked for a report to be brought to the committee to look at the possibility of bringing in fixed penalty notices to deal with instances of noise nuisance and other aspects of anti social behaviour.

This is one of the most frequent issues I’m asked to deal with as a local councillor and I’m aware there is a huge level of frustration locally at the length of time it currently takes for these issues to be resolved. Very often a small minority of residents in both council and private accommodation persist in anti social behaviour which makes life a misery for everyone else. The process for dealing with these issues very often takes a year or several years to resolve, which has a huge impact on the lives of those who have to put up with it.

Several councillors today expressed their frustration with the lengthy legal process relating to eviction in the most serious cases and the limited options currently available outside of the eviction process.

It was interesting to note that although councils in Wales have the powers to issue fixed penalty notices in relation to anti social behaviour, not one actually does so. The reason for this tends to surround the limits of current legislation and also the limitation of existing resources.

What came out of today’s meeting was quite a range of different concerns from councillors regarding a lack of police response, a lack of resources to deal with issues such as dog fouling and noise nuisance, frustration with the legal process in terms of persistent offenders and a general feeling that both the police and the council need to do more. It would seem a real can of worms has been opened.

In the first instance, the committee have decided to arrange a workshop, inviting other relevant groups, agencies and councillors to discuss all of these issues in more detail and importantly, to discuss what options are available to the council and other agencies to deal with these problems more effectively.

Council officers also stressed that the solution lies in joint working with other bodies such as the police and that the council simply did not have the resources to act as a ‘housing police force’ across the county borough. A valid point, but my concern is that depending on the issue, the police often tell residents the issue is a council one, and the council often inform residents it’s a police issue, leaving the victim of anti social behaviour with little more than a brick wall. Certainly in relation to council properties, the council does have a responsibility as ‘the landlord’ to ensure tenants abide by their tenancy agreement.

In terms of noise nuisance in particular, there are several potential solutions such as the establishment of an out of hours response team which could work with the police to deal with issues and gather evidence as situations occur. Currently at weekends and out of hours the council provides an advice service only. Several councillors also commented that residents were struggling to either get through to the police or to get them to come out, an issue that clearly needs tackling. Fixed penalty notices may also be part of the solution, with more research needed into how effective these are in other areas of the UK. Of course there are also cost implications to consider in terms of additional resources, but there is no doubt that this discussion needs to take place.

I’m hopeful today’s meeting will be the start of finding real practical solutions that will make a difference across Wrecsam, there was certainly a consensus (from councillors at least) that this needs to happen.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

What a load of Balls!

Readers will recall the furore surrounding the absence of nearly all of the Parliamentary Labour party from a critical Commons vote on a SNP/Plaid Cymru motion to oppose the cut in the higher rate of tax from 50 to 45% on the 26th March 2012.

Imagine my surprise on reading Ed Ball's column in The Sun that Labour will hold a vote in the House of Commons to try and overturn the reduction in the higher rate of tax on the 19th April 2012, and he has the audacity to call on other parties to support the Labour motion. This is what Mr Balls said:
"...It’s not right and it’s not fair. That is why Labour will hold a vote in the House of Commons on Thursday, April 19 to try to defeat the granny tax. And we’ll ask MPs from every party to join us.
That’s not all. We’ll also vote to stop the £3 billion tax cut for the richest".
What is not right and not fair is Labour's incompetence as the official opposition in holding the Government to account and putting 'tribal partisan' politics before the interests of the country and working with other parties to defeat the worse excesses of the Government.

This is too little too late!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Which end of the telescope?

Glyn Davies, the maverick MP for Montgomery, seems to have lost all sense of perspective after two years in the Westminster bubble. No longer the maverick, just looking down the telescope the wrong way.
His latest blog reckons the ConDem government has had a great couple of weeks. That's perfectly reasonable if you think that:
• cutting taxes for the rich and increasing them for pensioners is fair;
• the "cash for access" scandal was a rogue individual not systematic corruption;
• Cameron's calculated "petrol panic buying" was an acceptable way to distract from the story above;
• Pastygate. Glyn's take is ingenious - attack Greggs!:
"Now I don't know much about Greggs (in fact I'd never heard of them) and I don't like pasties anyway (unless Mrs D cooks them), but I did note that they made over £50 million profit last year. The fish and chip shops in Montgomeryshire make a lot less than that. And I might add that no-one has ever accused this son of the soil of being 'posh'."

Oh dear. Playing the populist while backing the millionaires is never going to work. More worryingly for the Tories, Glyn used to be the acceptable face of the Conservative Party in Wales, mainly because he didn't always toe the party line. But swimming in the cesspool of Westminster politics has revealed another side.


Plaid doubles number of candidates in Wrecsam


Plaid Cymru has doubled the number of candidates it's standing for the county council in Wrecsam.
A total of 13 candidates were unveiled today, with more standing for community councils across the borough.
Marc Jones, who is defending his seat in Whitegate, said:
"In 2008 we stood six candidates and won four seats. This time we are doubling our candidates and hope to increase the number of councillors.
"Our focus in this election is to build on the work we've done in our communities and focus on what we need to achieve to make Wrecsam a better place for all to live. We will focus on:
• Jobs and building the economy (e.g. through increasing procurement from local firms)
• Affordable housing rather than commuter estates
• Real democracy - respecting local views and having open and transparent government."

He added:
"As with many other parts of Wales, Plaid Cymru in Wrecsam has been energised by the victory of Leanne Wood as our new party leader. Our campaign is more organised and focussed than ever before and the recent influx of new members means we can reach people directly more quickly than ever before.
"Half our candidates have never contested an election before but want to do their bit for their community. They include community campaigners, trade unionists, full-time mums and people with a range of skills and talents that will do their community proud."

The Plaid candidates are:

Teri Birch - Erddig
Julie Bomber - Grosvenor
Mike Davies - Rhosnesni
Eric Evans - Dyffryn Ceiriog
Carrie Harper - Queensway
Michael Harper - Coedpoeth
Arfon Jones - Gwersyllt W
Gwenfair Jones - Gwersyllt N
Marc Jones - Whitegate
Maurice Jones - Hermitage
Steve Jones - Wynnstay
Nia Lloyd - Coedpoeth
Pol Wong - Rhiwabon

The full list of council candidates is here - a more readable version is on Wrexham.com

Joined up services!

It was great to read about this innovative approach to delivering services to children and adults in the Highland Council area of Scotland. Working together Highland Council and NHS Council agreed to amalgamate their services to adults and children with Highland NHS leading on Adult Services and Highland Council leading on Childrens Services. The new service resulted in 1700 Social Workers and Care staff switching employers from Highland Council to Highland NHS and 250 Health Visitors and School Nurses transferring the other way.

The rationale for the changes were:
Garry Coutts, chairman of NHS Highland, said the board and council had been trying for years to work more closely, but essential changes had been deferred because one partner could always wield a veto. "We believe it is the inherent problems of delivering services through a partnership model that has held us back," he said.
"With separate budgets, two lines of management and very different governance arrangements, we have never been able to be as effective or as efficient as we believed we could be.
"At a stroke we have removed these barriers and now have an unparalleled opportunity to fully integrate services."
This sums up the situation we are in in Wales with Carl Sergeant forcing through partnerships', collaborations and compacts without any thought whatsover whether it will produce better outcomes for our clients or just a cost saving exercise. We in Wales should pilot a similar innovative service.

My only reservation with this service is to question whether the transition from Children's Services to Adult Services will be seamless or will the bureaucracy come back into play at that point?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mwy na geiriau

"Mwy na geiriau", yw dogfen ymgynghorol fframwaith strategol Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer gwasanaethau Cymraeg mewn iechyd, gwasanaethau cymdeithasol a gofal cymdeithasol.
Pwrpas yr ymgynghoriad i'w i dderbyn sylwadau ar y fframwaith ddrafft gyda'r prif nod o:
"...ddarparu gwasanaeth fydd yn bodloni anghenion siaradwyr Cymraeg a’u teuluoedd neu eu gofalwyr. Bydd hyn yn sicrhau eu bod yn gallu derbyn gwasanaethau yn eu hiaith eu hunain drwy gydol y broses ofal."
Diolch i Alun Lenny am dynnu ein sylw at yr ymgynghoriad yma yn ei erthygl yn Barn.

Fel mae rhywyn sydd wedi bod mewn ysbyty ac yn disgwyl gwasanaeth yn gwybod, mae gwasanaethau Cymraeg mewn ysbytai ar draws Cymru yn gwbwl annigonol ac annerbyniol ac mae'r sefyllfa mewn cartrefi gofal ac ymysg gofalwyr sydd yn ymweld a phobol yn eu cartrefi, os rywbeth yn waeth.

Mae Cyngor Sir Wrecsam wedi allanoli bron i 80% o ofalwyr i'r sector breifet a mae bron i bob un Cartref Gofal yn y sir mewn dwylo preifat. Tybed faint o gytundebau hefo'r sector breifat sydd yn cynnwys cymal ynglyn gallu staff i siarad Cymraeg?.  Mae hwn yn gwestiwn y dylsem ei ofyn i bob awdurdod lleol yng Nghymru, fe fydd y canlyniadau yn rai diddorol.

Mae'n bwysig fod fod yna ymateb cryf dros yr iaith i'r ymgynghoriad yma neu gwaethygu neith y sefyllfa.