Thursday, 30 May 2013

More Welsh Health Targets Missed.

The publication today of Accident and Emergency waiting times for the Welsh Health Boards show a further deterioration in performance with more people having to wait longer to be seen at Emergency Care Facilities in Wales:
"The 95 per cent target for patients spending less than 4 hours and the 99 per cent target for spending less than 8 hours were not met in any of the last 13 months." 
There were a total of 81,761 attendances at "All Hospital Emergency Care Facilities" in Wales in April 2013, an increase of 11% or 8051 patients on the numbers in January 2013.

The percentage of those who had to wait longer than 4 hours from arrival to 'admission, transfer or discharge' was 14.1% or 11,528 patients, a total of 4,500 patients or 5.5% had to wait longer than 8 hours.

In North Wales the pattern is similar with a higher proportions of patients having to wait longer than 4 and 8 hours in April 2013 than in January 2013. There were 18,249 attendances at all Betsi Cadwaladr UHB Emergency Care Facilities in April which is up 13.8% on the January 2013 number. 14.3% or 2627 patients had to wait longer than 4 hours in April 2013 whilst 4.8% or 876 patients had to wait longer than 8 hours.
The respective proportions in January 2013 were 11.4 and 3.6%.

We need research into these figures to determine causes of increases in attendance, is it because of seasonal and environmental causes or are there infrastructural causes like the reduction in acute beds in DGH's, closure of small hospitals causing bed blocking or the unavailability of appointments with GP's?

It would also be useful to ascertain the final destination of the 4,500 who had to wait longer than 8 hours; was it admission, transfer or discharge?

Plenty of questions here for Mark Drakeford, lets hope he has the answers!


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Scottish Government supports Scottish farmers

Congratulation to the SNP Government for showing support for the Scottish farming community with a £6 million hardship fund. 

NFUS president Nigel Miller said the financial package would help struggling farmers at a time when all budgets are extremely constrained. 
“We know from our survey that more than 80 per cent of Scottish farmers are already expecting their output in 2013 to be down because of the weather,” said Mr Miller 
Farmers who have lost ‘critical’ numbers of stock or will rear ‘significantly fewer’ animals this season will be eligible.


It's a shame that Alun Davies AM the Minister responsible for agriculture in Wales does not recognize the importance of the sector to the Welsh economy and the need to support it when environmental factors have had such a devastating effect on the future of farming.

Plaid Cymru in government would have guaranteed that a package of support would have been in place.

UPDATE.

Just come across this Welsh Government press release  Industry and government plan for a healthy future for farming in Wales.

Carwyn Jones said:
“Agriculture is worth £150 million to the Welsh economy, with almost 15,000 people employed directly in farming and many more owing their living indirectly to providing goods and services to farms.
“There is no doubt that farming and food production represents a key strategic industry for Wales. Today’s event is all about seizing the opportunity to grow the industry in Wales and ensuring that the Welsh Government is in pole position to work with  the industry and provide the right environment for farm businesses to flourish.”
Alun Davies said:
“This conference is very much about business. If our farming industry is to flourish we must keep business at the heart of everything we do and focus our support on those farmers who strive to deliver professionally run, profitable and sustainable businesses. 
I've highlighted the words 'our support' to show how meaningless the statement is.


Monday, 27 May 2013

Wrecsam Plaid Cymru Councillor questions increasing costs of agency staff in schools.

Press Release. Datganiad i’r Wasg.


Plaid Cymru Councillor for Gwersyllt West, Arfon Jones has called for an explanation into the costs of agency staff to cover shortfalls in schools. Figures obtained by Councillor Jones shows that agency costs for all schools in Wrecsam County Borough in 2009/10 was £331,260 which by 2011/12 had increased to £414,487. The biggest increase however was in the last 12 months where the costs had jumped by 24% to over half a million pounds a year (£513,003)

Councillor Jones said, 
“Whilst I understand the need for agency staff to cover for absences we need to be satisfied that this extra cost is justified and well spent. In a period when pay for public sector staff has been frozen for a number of years and with low inflation we need an explanation as to why agency costs have increased by 54% over 4 years which have been years of austerity and recession.”
Councillor Jones went on to say, 
“I will be asking for a report from officers to be brought to the Education, Safeguarding and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee so members can scrutinise the increases and also compare costs with other local authorities in Wales. I would also call on the teaching Unions to contribute to this debate on the escalating cost of agency staff.”  



Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Mas que un club - Mwy na clwb - More than a club

FC Barcelona has always been more than just another football club. Owned by the fans, it has also been - since the days of Franco - a focus of resistance to Spanish rule.

It is, in the words of its slogan, 'mas que un club'... more than just a club. It is the unofficial national team of Catalunya. It, along with the Catalan people, language and identity, overcame a fascist dictatorship to emerge stronger than the old enemy.

Now it's taking that a step further by incorporating the Catalan national flag, the red and yellow stripes of the senyera, into the away kit.

In a nice environmental touch, the kit is made of recycled polyester - each shirt and shorts are made from 13 recycled plastic bottles.


Treating Journalists like crooks!

The College of Policing has today issued guidance to the Police Service, "Guidance on Relationships with the Media" for the following purpose:
This guidance should be considered by forces alongside their own media and communications policies. It has been produced to ensure greater consistency between forces and in response to the Leveson Inquiry findings 
 It remains the responsibility of individual forces to ensure that their interactions and relationships with all media representatives are professional, transparent and capable of withstanding scrutiny.
The part of the guidance that caught my attention was Paragraph 3.6 Notifiable Associations which states,
"If you have a relationship with a specific journalist on a personal basis outside of your role as a police officer or member of police staff (such as a relative or close friend), details should be logged within your force in accordance with local policy and procedure. 
Now this is quite draconian and it means that a Police Officer MUST register the names of journalists with whom he or she associates and it basically criminalises journalists and restricts the freedom of association of Police Officers. I very much hope that both the NUJ and the Police Federation challenge the legality of Paragraph 3.6 in the Courts.

This is a backward step in holding the Police to account and it should not go unchallenged. 

British Businesses partly to blame for rise of Euroscepticism!

Going from this report in yesterday's Independent it seems that British businesses are hell bent on blaming everyone bar themselves on the euroscepticism that is currently dominating  political debate in this country. 
In a letter to The Independent, the group issues a trenchant riposte to politicians who have argued that Britain’s economic interest would be better served outside the EU. They also call for David Cameron to “strengthen and deepen” the European single market to boost Britain’s economy by £110bn. The letter, which is signed by senior figures including the current and next presidents of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) as well as the chairmen of BT, Deloitte, Lloyds and Centrica, is the first co-ordinated response from the business community to increasing anti-European political rhetoric. 
Businesses welcomed open borders and European migration with open arms not realising, or choosing to ignore the growing resentment amongst the indigenous workforce as they perceived preferential treatment for migrant workers by Employment Agencies. This resentment is now reflected in growing support for right wing anti European and anti immigration parties. 

The reasons for the  growth of Euroscepticism and right wing political parties are many and varied but global capitalism must take its share of the blame in their greed for increasing profit through lowering labour costs.

British businesses must reap what the sow! 

Plaid MEP approaches Information Commissioner over data protection concerns

Press Release. Datganiad i’r Wasg.


Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans is to address concerns regarding the sale of personal data following an approach from several constituents, as well as Wrexham’s Plaid County Councillor Arfon Jones, who represents Gwersyllt West.  She has written to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the sale of customer data between mobile operator EE, a polling organisation, and the Metropolitan Police.

Jill Evans MEP, whose office is in Regent Street in Wrexham, said:

“If the details prove to be as reported, this would be a very worrying development, and demonstrates that data protection rules in the UK should be much stronger than they are. “Under the guise of ‘anonymisation’ – which appears to be far from foolproof – polling organisation Ipsos Mori would sell confidential information from mobile operator Everything Everywhere to the Metropolitan Police. “The data sold would apparently include gender, age, current location, postcode alongside details of interests, domestic and work activity, and friendship networks. An incredibly detailed picture profile of users can be built up, meaning individuals could be very easily identified. “Particularly unsettling are the details of the alleged conversations between Ipsos Mori and the Met regarding the ability to track individual protestors after demonstrations. The use of personal data in this way is clearly in breach of data protection laws and I will be supporting a forthcoming report on this issue in the European Parliament to tighten up the existing legislation.
 “The report will make it harder for such abuses to occur but there are calls from the Liberal Democrats for exemptions in its implementation in the UK. I am opposed to exemptions and believe that we should look at the German model where customers have to give their express consent before data about them can be used. “I have written to the Information Commissioner’s Office and await a response. In the meantime I ask any constituents concerned about the issue to contact me at jill.evans@europarl.europa.eu


Friday, 17 May 2013

Social media ban at Wrexham Council meetings to be lifted

Leader article on proposals by Wrecsam Council to allow the use of social media in council meetings:

WREXHAM Council looks set to lift its ban on social media at meetings.

Under standing order 45 of the authority’s constitution, photographing, videoing, sound recording or transmitting proceedings from meetings is not allowed without permission of the chair.

In December Gwersyllt West councillor Arfon Jones was rebuked for using Twitter at an executive board meeting by the authority’s chief executive Dr Helen Paterson.

It led to calls from some councillors for the rules to be changed to aid transparency.

In January the Wrexham Independent Group put forward a motion to revoke the standing order, but it was defeated in favour of a more comprehensive review of social media policy.

Now a report will go before a full council meeting on Tuesday recommending that text-based social media can be used at meetings by members of the press, public and non-committee members.

Cllr Arfon Jones, who has been campaigning for the use of social media, has welcomed the review but said he didn’t think it went far enough.

“It goes 90 per cent of the way towards where I wanted to go, but it’s disappointing that members of a committee can’t use social media,” he said.

“There are plenty of committee members who ignore the chair and hold private conversations so they need better discipline in meetings, full stop.

“It also begs the question, how has it been decided that members of the press can concentrate on the meeting and tweet yet committee members of the same intelligence can’t?”

Cllr Jones also expressed his disappointment that no provision had been made to allow live video broadcasting of meetings.

He said: “The Welsh Government has given local authorities money to spend on enhancing democracy by creating live web transmissions.

Carmarthenshire have done it so why can’t we?”

He added: “I’ll be voting in favour of it but it could’ve gone a lot further, although it’s a lot closer to where we wanted to be.”

The report states: “Many of the newer social media technologies which exist today were either not an issue when the standing order was originally introduced in 2006 or were in their infancy and it is probably timely that a review of the current standing order be undertaken now, given the increased usage of social media.

“The review of political management arrangements working group has considered the issue at its meetings, initially on February 18 and again on April 16.

“It is agreed that current rules relating to social media be relaxed in order to allow the press, public and members who have not been appointed to the body whose meeting they are attending should be allowed to use facilities such as Twitter, Facebook etc and SMS text messaging during that meeting. However, the current restrictions on photographing, videoing or sound recording should remain.”

The new standing order also states: “If any activity permitted under this standing order shall create a nuisance to others attending the meeting, standing orders 15 and 16 may be invoked and to resolve the issue.”


I very much hope that my colleagues will support this change at our Annual General Meeting next Wednesday so that the authority can move on from what has been 6 months of reputational damage arising from their intransigence and a 'luddite' reluctance to embrace modern technology.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Boris Wants Tax Raising Powers

Boris Johnson the Mayor of London has called on Westminster to devolve tax raising powers to the capital. The demands are made in a report by the London Finance Commission which was leaked to the Guardian; part of the report states:
"The full suite (council tax, business rates, stamp duty, land tax, annual tax on enveloped dwellings and capital gains property disposal tax) should be devolved to London government."
Some of these powers are already devolved to Wales but some are not and as we all know the Secretary of State for Wales is lukewarm towards devolving tax raising powers and its difficult to know where our First Minister stands on this because the Welsh Labour Party (AM's v MP's) are hopelessly divided on greater devolution and tax raising powers.

Whatever one might say about Boris he fights London's corner and is an example of how regional politicians fight for their constituents interest and its a shame our Welsh Government doesn't do the same for Wales.

There are questions to be asked here, let's hope that our opposition politicians don't miss out on the opportunity to ask them and to put the Secretary of State and the First Minister on the spot.