Saturday, December 31, 2011

That was the year that was

Well just before I go get myself poshed up a bit to go join friends to celebrate the New Year I thought I would take a few minutes just to say all the best for 2012 to anyone who may take a passing interest in my ramblings.

2011 has not been the best of years all in all.  Personally there have been a few up and downs along the way, as is always the case.  I finish the year ever more frustrated that I cannot seem to get rid of my house and move on. But things could be worse.

Politically it has been one hell of a year.  We started out with such high hopes of building on the great work we had done in Pontypridd up to and including the General Election, when despite all the odds against us we outperformed many other constituencies in Wales with a lot less in the way of resources and no outside help.

We fought against the Labour party’s dirty tricks, the allegations that a filthy piece of Labour slime by the name of Allen Bevan made against Mike that did not get anywhere near the same publicity when they were dropped after the election.  Agent and candidate became embroiled in some vicious battles – against each other as well as the opposition – as the pressure rose.  But we kept it together.

The crash that came on the night of the count was absolutely heartbreaking.  Yes, we maintained our second place when most of the Party’s target seats didn’t, and despite the crowing of the evil minded Labour lot on the night we kept our dignity and held our heads high.

The news across Wales started pouring in and as a Party nationally we sighed with relief when the final results were rounded up and we had a group of five AMs. Some of us had jobs reliant on this too.

For some of us there was no time to recover – as a member of both Party and Assembly staff the work started again straight away, and on the Saturday I was back in work.

We then fell into a horrendous political limbo as the Aled Roberts / John Dixon debacle took over.  Every one of us on the team wondered what we could  / should have done to prevent it. But there is a key word there – team.  We are a team and work together very well, and it is that teamwork that carries us through.

But we survived, and we keep battling at RCT and Wales wide level, because that is what we do, because it is what we believe in.

Yet fate still had another cruel blow to hand out to us – IT WASN’T A RED CARD OFFENCE REF!!!

Happy New Year all

Fix bayonets and charge

Well I thought this was supposed to be the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and so on.  Seems the love has failed to reach the upper echelons of Welsh politics in the past few days.
First we had Conservative Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan launching what the press described as a ‘blistering attack’ on Carwyn Jones, accusing him of undermining the union and seeking to run a separate foreign policy.  A ‘Welsh Labour spokesman’ i.e. the duty press officer came back with all guns blazing
 “Cheryl Gillan’s Conservative Home article is a textbook example of Tory political double-think, with deceitful inference built upon factual inaccuracy, until the whole thing collapses in on itself under the weight of contrived soundbite. While the anti-European, cuts obsessed readers of Conservative Home might approve, a wider audience will see it for what it is – a desperate yelp for attention from an impotent Secretary of State who knows the horrors her UK Government are unleashing on the people of Wales.”

Nice one to be fair, obviously a take no prisoners attitude there..

Then we had Plaid’s Dafydd Elis Thomas wading in with an attack on Cheryl Gillan over her attack on Carwyn Jones.

Lord Elis Thomas said: “Secretary of State Cheryl Gillan is inhabiting a fantasy world if she thinks First Minister Carwyn Jones in strengthening relations with other European nations and regions is pursing ‘his own foreign policy’It’s all good fun isn’t it? Although I am not sure how thrilled Carwyn will be at receiving support from the former PO.
Of course here in RCT we are used to politics being of a more cut and thrust nature.  RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats have long since adopted a ’fix bayonets and charge’ approach in the way we operate.  Well when you are dealing with a Labour party who think they have the divine right to rule and exhibit an arrogance that is breathtaking it is the only way to proceed. 
A Labour party who like to get their own way at any cost, whose dirty tricks include a long string of complaints to the Ombudsman, none of which have been upheld, and of course the ‘harassment’ charge which one of their members levelled at Mike prior to the Assembly election.

It does not always help the overall democratic process of course, to have politicians battling it out in public to such an extent, but the alternative is to sit back and take it – and that is something some of us just can’t do.
Besides which politics needs to be more passionate, it needs to bring out an emotional response in people, it needs to make them care enough to get off their backsides and vote.  There is a long history of table thumping bar room politics in the Valleys and I for one hope it continues.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hypocritical Parasites??

My mate Michael, or Cllr Powell if you prefer, has got the local Labour party all hot under the collar again.  What has he done this time?  Well he expressed the opinion that they are all a bunch of “hypocritical parasites” -  I believe that was the term he used.  
Now I am amongst the first to tell him when I think he is in the wrong but in this instance it is hard to see how he could have been mistaken.  The evidence presented constantly on all fronts seems to suggest very strongly that he has indeed hit the nail right on the head.

The online Oxford dictionary defines a parasite as follows:
"an organism which lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense."  OR  " a person who habitually relies on or exploits others and gives nothing in return:"

In the interests of balance the Cambridge dictionary states:
" an animal or plant that lives on or in another animal or plant of a different type and feeds from it"  OR  "a person who is lazy and lives by other people working, giving them money, etc"
Make the comparisons yourself – this may help
Again I turn to the Oxford online for the definition of hypocritical
“behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”
"saying that you have particular moral beliefs but behaving in a way that shows these are not sincere."

You can see where I am going with this right?  It is a word which often crops up in relation to the Labour party  in RCT – such as here and here
And here is a perfect example of the hypocritical parasites that Russell exemplifies so well.  Two chauffeur driven cars out for hours on a Sunday to take the leader and his wife and the Mayor to a Community Council jolly.
But in terms of real hypocrisy three jobs Russell Roberts column in this week’s Ponty Observer is a prime contender for the title of hypocritical claptrap of the year.
He constantly changes his position in order to try and ensure no mud ever sticks to his neatly pressed suit.  Indeed next time Dr Who is filming in the area he could top up his meagre wages with a role as one of those shape shifters who appear as different things to different people.
He starts by hailing the great Edwina Hart along with Oily Smith and Slick Antoniw for bringing new jobs to Treforest (very welcome new jobs I must admit) but then goes on to blame the coalition Westminster Government for rising unemployment.
He lays the blame at our door for the ‘difficult decisions; he has had to take to protect jobs and front line services, but not so long ago he was trying to persuade workers that it wasn’t his Cabinet who cut the terms and conditions, but the Chief Exec as they had delegated the decision.
He blames the opposition for doing nothing but criticising and not coming up with any positive ides.  Yet every single motion that Mike and his group have brought to Council has been dismissed out of hand by Labour, not matter what it is.  They failed to vote in favour of a DPPO to ban alcohol consumption on the streets of Pontypridd when Mike suggested it, only to come back some time later announcing their decision to introduce a DPPO across RCT.
Disabled Parking bays were introduced some time after both Labour and Plaid voted against one of our motions to bring them in.
Three years ago the WLD group put forward a motion to bring empty homes back into use – yes you’ve guessed it, Labour voted against it and then later drought it back as their own idea. 
You get the general drift I'm sure.
Yep, I really do think that on this occasion Mike has got it spot on.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Youth engagement all for show?

At the Council AGM this year the Labour lot made a big fuss over their decision to create posts for a Youth mayor and Deputy Mayor “as part of the Council’s work to engage with young people and involve them in the democratic process.”
Great idea, we’re all for engaging with people of all ages – it’s called equality don’t you know.
But this from a bunch of hypocrites who really haven’t got the faintest idea of how that works in practice.  Who, for instance, dismissed the protest by Rhydfelen students against the school name change because, in the words of one of their Cabinet Members at the time “you’re not old enough to have an opinion.”
As my colleague Mike Powell pointed out at the time, the appointments should not be a matter of paying lip service or ticking a box, but should lead to proper engagement.
So just what has happened since?
The only mention of them on the RCT Council site is of their appointment.  Likewise on the WICID site.  A Google search brings up only the same report – that they were appointed last May.
A search of Wales Online reports that the Youth Mayor presented certificates to schoolchildren in July.  There is no mention of his Deputy.
Yet another bit of show from RCT Labour?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Not what Russell wanted for Xmas

I somehow missed this story on the BBC website – which is a report on the decision of the Remuneration Panel in relation to Councillors’ allowances.
I have mentioned previously – here and here – the disgraceful greed exhibited by Labour leader Russell Roberts and his motley crew in RCT.  It now seems that there will be an enforced pay cut for these parasites.
The Remuneration Panel report which can be found here disappointingly bows to pressure and allows an increase in the number of senior salaries which can be paid, thus allowing Labour to keep the golden handcuffs system as they currently have it.
The report again stresses that
The remuneration of Council Leaders and Executive Member (Band 1 and 2 Senior Salaries) is based on the Panel’s assumption that these roles are full-time.

A member in receipt of a Band 1 or Band 2 Senior Salary cannot receive a
salary from any National Park authority or fire and rescue authority for
which s/he has been nominated.
The report specifically says that

An authority must not pay more than one Senior Salary to a member. Also that no-one in receipt of a senior salary (Leader, Cabinet Member, and Committee Chair) should receive payment form a National Park Authority or Fire Authority.

There is no specific mention of salaries from other bodies – such as the Police Authority which Russell chairs, or the Health Board for which he also receives a salary.

So Russell may have a get out clause that enables him to get away with just a cut of a few meagre thousand a year rather than the £40K + that he should lose if the recommendation of being a FULL TIME LEADER be taken on board.

Of course this will be a moot point should Russell not be leader after May  ;-)

Education Minister Leighton Andrews admits to failures

 “Education Minister Leighton Andrews has admitted the Welsh Government took its “eye off the ball” in relation to school standards following the devolution of powers to Wales.
In an interview with WalesOnline, Mr Andrews conceded the Welsh Labour-led administration had not done enough when it came to accountability.”

And there was me thinking his head was so far up his you know what that he couldn’t see what has been blatantly obvious to everyone else for ages.
Now if only he could show the same foresight in coming up with some useful solutions for a change.
In the meantime, just don’t mention coco pops.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Will someone get Leighton a calculator for Xmas please.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews has admitted to WalesOnline what we have known all along, that

“The Welsh Government’s radical tuition fee policy requires an element of guesswork and nobody really knows how much it will cost.”

Wow!  Really should have held the front page for that one. 

‘The Rhondda AM said calculations were “really difficult” to make and he is certain Welsh Labour’s tuition fee forecasts will be wrong.’

Perhaps it’s about time that the Labour party stopped using the back of a brown envelope and a well chewed pencil to make their budget calculations.  Because, Leighton, dealing with the budget for a whole country is ‘really difficult’  - you may have to take your shoes and socks off to aid your counting.

On a more serious note, this has always been the problem with the policy in Wales.  Despite what the press would like people to believe, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are still in favour of abolishing tuition fees, but it has to be a policy based on practicalities.  It needs to be properly costed and the funding stream identified.  How can you do that if you have no idea what the costs will be?

Last month Leighton claimed it would cost the Welsh Government £173m a year to subsidise Welsh students studying at UK Universities.  The affordability of the current policy is heavily reliant on English students coming to study in Wales and bringing in money.   In the interview the Minister is, as usual, dismissive of anything that doesn’t fit in with what he is determined to implement, such as data from UCAS which shows a sharp drop in the number of students from England applying to study here.

Apparently tomorrow WalesOnline will carry a further excerpt from the interview on the subject of school standards.  I can hardly contain my excitement.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Whose side are the unions on?

As news comes that negotiations over public sector pensions edge closer to agreement  BBC political editor Nick Robinson asks a very pertinent question – what did the strikes actually achieve?
The Treasury has given no more money since the strikes. However the offer made before - on 22nd November - was, I'm told, rather more generous than many realised - not least those who went out on strike.”
What?  Could it be that union leaders bent the truth a little?  Could they have exaggerated the situation just a touch?  Maybe to flex their muscles a bit, stop them becoming atrophied.  Or just to remind the public at large (most of whom do not belong to unions let alone public service unions) that they exist?
Or could it have been – perish the thought – a political move by union leaders who rely on Labour as much as Labour rely on them?
Surely in this season of goodwill it would be churlish to entertain such thoughts.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Just what is going on with Tonyrefail policing then Russell?

I have to admit to being a bit confused – you know that Russell Roberts fella, the Council leader in RCT who is also the Chair of the South Wales Police Authority?  Well some of the things he says just don’t add up.
I mean there was all the confusion over who authorised the changes in terms and conditions for employees earning less than £42,000 – he tried to say it was all down to the Chief executive.  Yet at the same time it seems the Cabinet are the ones in charge whenever there is good news to impart.
Then there was the lovely bit of spin about there being no compulsory redundancies in RCT when what they were doing instead was giving people a not so gentle push with enhanced deals if they shut up and signed on the dotted line.  It’s only tax payers’ money they are giving away after all.
But no, it is none of that which is currently puzzling me.  My confusion this time is over the status of Tonyrefail Police station.

South Wales Police community police site Our states
Northern Division has four main stations - one in each area.  Main Stations are open to the public between 8am and 8pm Sunday-Thursday. Friday and Saturday is 10am-10pm
Merthyr Tydfil Police Station - Swan Street, Merthyr CF47 8ES
Ton Pentre Police Station, Maindy Road, Ton Pentre  CF41 7HA
Aberdare Police Station, Cross Street, Aberdare CF44 7EG
Pontypridd Police Station, Berw Road, Pontypridd CF37 2TR

Supplementary Stations with Limited Reception Cover Between 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday    -    Porth Police Station; Talbot Green Police Station

There are a further number of stations geographically placed throughout the area where officers patrol from. They have no counter facilities and officers may not be present if they are on patrol.
Treharris Police Station 1:30pm-4:30pm (Merthyr area) Monday-Friday

Mountain Ash Police Station; Hirwaun Police Station;  Tonyrefail Police Station;
Ferndale Police Station; Rhydyfelin; Church Village

Tonyrefail east: The Coedely, Collena and Tylcha wards of the Community of Tonyrefail. The village of Tonyrefail is sited just to the south of the Rhondda valleys on the A4119.
Your nearest Police Station is: Porth Police Station, Porth Street, Porth CF39 9SB which is open Monday-Friday 9am -1pm, 1.45pm-5pm.

So how exactly does this fit with this piece of fiction from the Tonyrefail Labour website?

Tonyrefail West Councillor, Eudine Hanagan said:
“Following our representations I am pleased that Tonyrefail has received assurances that our Police Station is not affected,.”
Umm?   Is that because it had already closed then?
The ‘news’ article (or short story whichever you prefer top view it as) states that
“Having Cllr Roberts as a member of the Police Authority has allowed us to have direct access into the decision making process and protect our local Police Station.”
Perhaps Russell had better pay more attention at Police Authority meetings. Or perhaps his influence isn’t as great as he thinks it is?
As I have said previously he was surely on dicey ground trying to use his position for ward advantage anyway?

Pontypridd is left behind again - £1.9m for Merthyr Park regeneration

Congratulations are due to Merthyr for obtaining £1.9m for the upgrading of Cyfartha Park via the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Now Local Government Minister Carl Sergeant is very keen on Councils working together - perhaps Merthyr would care to share a few ideas with RCT.  They have been talking about the restoration of the lido in Ynysangharad War Memorial Park for years, but that is about all they have done is talk about it.
Not that RCT Council underestimate the importance of the Park of course. Indeed the Council has an Ynysangharad Park Cabinet sub group.  It rarely meets.  It last met in July of this year when it discussed the new war memorial.
Before that it met in March 2010 – when the only item on the agenda was again the new war memorial.
The restoration of the Lido, the cornerstne of plans for the Park, was last discussed in December 2009, Two years ago.  And still we wait.
“The restoration of Ynysangharad Park would generate substantial benefits for Rhondda Cynon Taf; including creating a prestigious facility that would be considered a regional attraction, and a key contributor and potential catalyst for regeneration in Pontypridd Town Centre.”
Not my words – this is taken from a report to RCT Cabinet in June 2007.  The report asked for approval of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid.
The report was written by, amongst others, the then Director of Strategic Policy & Continuous Improvement, a man by the name of Chris Bradshaw.  The very same Chris Bradshaw who was this year appointed Director of education.

Let’s hope when we look back in four years time Mr Bradshaw’s delivery record on education is a lot better than it was in this instance.  A bit of continuous improvement would be very welcome there.

Leighton's not making many friends

How many Christmas cards do you think Leighton Andrews will be getting this year?

The Labour Education Minister seems to be upsetting just about everyone these days.  Personally I have always found him to be a smug arrogant little man, and he seems determined to prove me right.
Fresh from the triumphant introduction of the school banding system he introduced which nobody seems to approve of except him, he has been busy this week upsetting the Higher Education sector yet again.
In what Media Wales described as a ‘wide ranging speech’ to the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Conference in Cardiff he “also attacked “parochial small-mindedness” in the higher education sector – giving the strongest hint yet that the merged South East Wales University will happen.”
Why?  Because Leighton says so of course.
Now I don’t pretend to have any expertise in this matter.  There may indeed be convincing reasons why moves to merge certain Universities would make long term sense, but as usual the Minister does not seem to be interested in discussion or real consultation on the matter. His attitude to most things seems to be ‘it’s right because I said so.’
His attitude is reflected in the way in which he chooses to announce changes.  The Assembly is now in recess, so what better time for him to bring forward a whole raft of announcements when there is no chance of him being scrutinized in the Chamber.
He took the opportunity during this speech to announce the creation of a National body to govern and fund education in Wales. And you know what, out of the goodness of his little heart, he is prepared to actually Chair it himself.  How lucky are we to have such a man in charge of our education system?
We also read in the press yesterday that he is to set up a new regulatory body.  Now there are concerns in many quarters about the effectiveness of the General teaching Council for Wales and it is no doubt overdue an overhaul, but yet again this has come out of nowhere during recess.
What’s the problem Leighton?  Afraid of a few questions?  Can’t take the criticism?  Or does it just boost your feeling of self importance making these pronouncements just because you can?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Edwina needs to get her act together

Here we go again. 
Politicians say they fear minor injury units at two Pembrokeshire hospitals set to temporarily close after Christmas will never reopen again.
Health services managers say nurses at Tenby and South Pembrokeshire hospitals are needed to keep the accident and emergency unit at Withybush running.” (full story here)
This comes just a few weeks after the closure of the MIU at Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda for the exact same reason - to keep A&E at the Royal Glamorgan going.
There are worries over the Unit at Barry, and Chepstow hospital lost its Minor Injuries Unit last year, although the reason given in that case was lack of patents!
It really is an absolute disgrace that people in Wales are getting a second rate health service because of the inadequacies of the Labour Welsh Government. 
And that is what lies behind this.  Despite what the Tories want people to think this is not about money or the lack of it – it is about poor political judgement and bad management of a vital service.
Edwina needs to get her act together

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A fine bit of Labour spin

Good news for schools in RCT with a potential £160m investment programme via the 21st century Schools scheme.  Good news which RCT Council of course want to announce to the world.
It is an excellent example of how to put some good political spin on a tale – but then you would expect little else surely when the Head of Public Relations and Strategy is the son of the Cabinet member for Education.  After all if your own son can’t paint you in a good light then who can?  (Especially when he is being paid so handsomely to promote the Labour party the Council.
There is no mention of the delays to the scheme, or that it will not kick in just yet.  The programme, whilst well intentioned, was like many Labour Government schemes not fully financed.  They of course blamed the Westminster cuts - what else?
The amount of money available has been scaled back considerably, and the program will not now kick in until 2014 instead of 2012.
Conveniently this is overlooked by RCT’s excellent propaganda PR department.
Oddly enough they also overlooked the £3million pupil premium / pupil deprivation grant money.  Not a whisper of it on the website.  Maybe they weren’t able to work out a way of mentioning it without also giving the Welsh Liberal Democrats some credit for it, and that would really stick in the craw of the Labour Councillors.
Anyway, back to the good news – the £160m investment.  This is of course dependant on the Council putting together a sound business case for each proposal within the overall bundle. 
Now hopefully they will do just that, as there are some very good projects there which will provide enhanced facilities for a number of schools.  However the recently appointed Director has spent much of his time over the past two years putting together a crackpot plan to close all secondary schools and open three tertiary colleges which has met with the approval of nobody outside of the Labour Cabinet.  Maybe some of that time, energy and effort if put into other schemes would have been much more productive,

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The moo-ving tale of cows on the line

Trains stopped mooving on the line between Newport and Cardiff today when it was re-veal-ed that around 5 dozen cattle had wandherd onto the track.
Passengers were advised that unless they had thick Jerseys on they should stay on the train as the temperature had dropped dramatically and it was Fresian outside.
Talk of taking passengers stranded 5 miles from Cardiff back to Newport were dismissed as bull.  Most passengers annoyed at the delay said they had no beef with Arriva trains and said the driver deserved a pat on the back.  One or two said the situation was udderly ridiculous – one businessman was particularly annoyed at missing a high steaks meeting in the Bay

Monday, November 28, 2011

Labour dummies?

Following on from the comments I made yesterday about Labour’s lack of online presence I was reminded of the Tonyrefail Labour site here.
It features a lovely photo of Tonyrefail Councillors. Underneath, dated 29th August  headed ‘latest news’  are the words
Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the standard dummy text”
The same words are repeated lower down under ‘more about us.’
Oh dear!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Local Labour's invisible online

In a world where more and more we depend on the internet, emails, twitter and social networking generally it is maybe an example of how out of touch Labour are that it is so difficult to find out any confirmation about them locally online.
Like any good campaigner I like to keep a close eye on my opponents so I tried a Google search for Pontypridd Labour party.  The number one listing was a page on the UK Labour site about Owen Smith MP.  Following that we had biographical pages on Jane Davidson and Kim Howells, both of whom have now moved on to hill walking and painting or some such.
The fourth site which Google directed me to was our own which was quite surprising.  It appears we keep the public more in touch with what the Labour party do than they do themselves.
Mike Antoniw AM requires more thorough searching, and when you do find a website for him then it is the rather sparse one he had set up prior to the May election.   He obviously wants to keep a low profile, and to be fair he is succeeding.
The Rhondda Labour party fare a little better.  At least there is a website although apart from a piece on the closure of the Minor Injuries Unit at Llwynypia it is remarkably short of recent news, and their big event being advertised is a dinner in London last May.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Well done team WLD

Today was one of those days when I .know exactly why I love my job.  The morning started with the news that we had done a deal on the budget and from there in it was non stop making sure we had all the bases covered, that everyone who needed to be in the loop was, and that figures were available for our activists.

Teamwork is always at its best during such times - and when we are good we are very, very good. 

Congratulations of course go to those who were involved in the heart of the negotiations which ended with us getting an excellent deal for schools throughout Wales as well as extra money for a range of other programmes to help employment and give the economy a much needed boost.  The BBC reported that, surprise, surprise, the Tories and Plaid weren't happy.

Touch of sour grapes maybe? 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Peter Black has a point

As is so often the case Peter Black AM is spot on when he points out that RCT Council could put the money they spent on buying in external legal advice to oversee the review of employees’ terms and conditions to better use.  As reported on mediawales they paid Eversheds around £100,000 for advice on staff pay.
Obviously you wouldn’t expect the Council's own Chief legal officer or the Head of HR (both on just under £100K a year) to be able to give such advice.   Would you?
As I have said previously senior officers should be earning what many would see as their over inflated salaries.  In RCT they are clearly not.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupying Labour territory

So Occupy Cardiff have found a new home at 1 Cathedral Road, home of the Unite Union says the press.  Of course it is also the home of Welsh Labour.  So much for this movement not being party political.

Glad to see from their Facebook site that they are getting their priorities right - like getting a bigger kettle!

Apparently their numbers rose as high as twenty today - no wonder they need more tea making facilities. They are asking for more tents, blankets and sleeping bags as well as food and presumably tea bags. I do hope that those items are not coming from any of those evil capitalistic retail stores.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Did she bring along some designer sleeping bags?

The BBC reports that Vivienne Westwood had been along to the protest camp at St Paul’s to tell them all how wonderful they are.
The world famous fashion designer who has made an absolute fortune with her exclusive designs and who owns several retail outlets apparently has no time for capitalism.  Presumably she has seen the light now and will be in future selling her clothes at Matalan prices and keeping her considerable stock piles of money under the bed.
"We were all trained up to be consumers” she told the crowd – presumably so that those who can afford it can then buy from her collection.
She urged people to visit the National Gallery and the British Museum, saying "An art lover is a freedom fighter."   What is this woman on?  Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion, but in my opinion this endless clap trap helps nobody.
I have asked previously what the Occupy movement is about.  I am no clearer about the answer.  They have now ‘occupied’ the former UBS building.
Occupier Spyro Van Leemnen, 27, from London, said: "It is about reclaiming space. It is symbolic for us because we know so many homes have been repossessed.”
Right, yes, and this is going to help those people no end.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Mayor’s Christmas Tree.

Rhondda Cynon Taff Mayor Sylvia Jones has officially launched the start of the festive season by decorating her ‘Civic Christmas Tree’ according to the RCT Council website. Isn’t it nice to know that the £1million a year being spent on staff at the Strategy and publicity department is money well spent?

The ‘Events team’ (not sure how much they cost) have arranged for Santa to visit towns across RCT apparently.  Presumably he’ll be charged to park his sleigh unless he leaves it until the 19th December to pop along.

Looking at the tree they could maybe do with a decorating team – or a member or two of procurement assigned to bauble buying.

I can think of a few people in RCT I’d like to see on top of it though.

Do we need an artificial town centre?

I wrote some months back about a proposal to create a new town centre in Talbot Green.  Well it seems plans are progressing and developers Valad, formerly operating as Scarborough and prior to that Teesland, have now roped in one of their old partners - Sainsbury’s.
“The project will see a host of new shops brought to the area including a department store, around 40 shops for high street brands and the major Sainsbury’s supermarket.
A new Leekes store will also be built, replacing their existing building on Cowbridge Road and plans also include a leisure and entertainment quarter with a cinema complex, cafes, restaurants, bars and a hotel.
In addition to the huge new shopping and entertainment centres offices, apartments and townhouses will be built.”

This development is in addition to the already substantial retail centre that exists in Talbot Green.  As I asked previously, what effect will this have on our existing town centres?  The Labour lot in RCT keep bragging about the £10m investment being made in Pontypridd.  Rubbish.  That is nothing but a cosmetic exercise – tarting up a few buildings, shuffling a few businesses around.  Where is the new business coming to the town?  And why on earth will people shop there when they can shop in the ever growing number of out of town shopping areas where amongst other things they can park for free?
Mind you there is no guarantee this will ever come to pass.  Scarborough or whatever they are calling themselves this year don’t have a great record of delivery in RCT as Mike Powell points out in this letter to the press.
They do have a record of producing plans that are not popular with local residents.  The Angharad Walk plans for Pontypridd passed in 2003 were flawed in the eyes of many residents as they encroached upon part of Ynysangharad Park. The plans were opposed by Welsh Lib Dem Councillors (including myself) at the time.
They have planning permission to build at Mwyndy Cross - an application which was met with huge opposition and was turned down by RCT Council only to be granted by the Assembly on appeal. 
So it will be interesting to see how this progresses.  The company seems confident of gaining planning consent – and with good reason, it has been written into the Local development Plan.  Mind you that document also talks of preserving existing town centres!  Everything to everybody – that’s Labour in RCT for you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just what is the Occupy Movement about?

Can somebody please explain in words with as few syllables as possible just what on earth the Occupy protestors are actually protesting about and what they are trying to achieve?
This random collection of individuals are full of worthy sounding pronouncements and sound bites but seem to be anti everything without being able to really explain what they see taking its place.
I have spent some time with that essential research tool Google to try and make some sense of it all but am failing miserably.  There are a couple of Facebook sites - Bristol Occupy for example where amongst the ramblings we find:
Never before have there been so many kinds of voices in one political group of people, we are from all walks of life and our umbrella of causes is wide. As the disease we are facing has many symptoms, our reasons for being here arise from each of our journeys.

What?  What journeys?  They been stuck waiting for a train because of the wrong kind of leaves? Made the live shows on X Factor?
There is a link to an article on a site called Aljazeera which supposedly explains what Occupy is about.  It says:

There's one question that pundits and politicians keep posing to the Occupy gatherings around the country: What are your demands?

I have a suggestion for a response: We demand that you stop demanding a list of demands.

The demand for demands is an attempt to shoehorn the Occupy gatherings into conventional politics, to force the energy of these gatherings into a form that people in power recognise, so that they can roll out strategies to divert, co-opt, buy off, or - if those tactics fail - squash any challenge to business as usual.

Rather than listing demands, we critics of concentrated wealth and power in the US can dig in and deepen our analysis of the systems that produce that unjust distribution of wealth and power. This is a time for action, but there also is a need for analysis.

Right.  Analysis.  Always a good solution, a bit of in depth analysis.  Helps the journey progress much more smoothly.  Maybe they could set up a forum, or a focus group, or get a couple more Facebook pages up and running.  That’ll sort the problems facing us all.
But what do they plan on doing?  What is their solution?
Occupy Cardiff’s Facebook page (liked by 756 people) gives the following information:

The words ‘corporate greed’ ring through the speeches and banners of protests across the globe. After huge bail-outs and in the face of unemployment, privatisation and austerity we still see profits for the rich on the increase. But we are the 99%, and on October 15th hundreds of protests around the world in over 70+ countries began taking place our voice unites across gender and race, across borders.
In London they have occupied the forecourt of St Paul’s Cathedral, next to the London Stock Exchange. Reclaiming space in the face of the financial system and using it to voice ideas for how we can work towards a better future. A future free from austerity, growing inequality,unemployment, tax injustice and a political elite who ignores its citizens, and work towards concrete demands to be met. This has been very successful providing various things to help out the long term campers :-

Kitchens providing hot/cold food and water
A libary with books to read
An information point to find out what exactly is going on

Fancy that, a library (I assume that is a typo) with books to read, whatever next. Perhaps they could use it to enable them to communicate a little better, rather than simply stringing together words which they obviously think sound worthy but which personally I find beyond irritating. 
Reclaiming space in the face of the financial system and using it to voice ideas for how we can work towards a better future.”
‘We are the 99%’ is the claim.  Seems to me that there are slightly less than 99% of people getting riled up about this.  It is reported that 100 people turned up in Cardiff, most of whom left when it started raining. Only interested in saving the world from the evils of capitalism when the sun is shining obviously.
The problem is people by and large don’t care.  If they did then the turnout at elections wouldn’t be so abysmal.  After all there all they are required to do to change things is put a cross on a piece of paper.  They don’t even have to go to the polling station to do it anymore but can wait until the rain stops and put it in the post.
As for all the protestors – if they are so unhappy with the way politicians are handling things then why don’t they put their heads above the parapet and get involved in a more meaningful way.  Actually do something instead of just raging against the machine.  Or is that too much to ask?

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Fridge Too Far

I am always pleased to bring a bit of cheer to my colleagues at the Bay and the saga of my fridge seems to have done just that.

I wrote a few days ago about the Council's refusal to pick up my recently deceased fridge - freezer because I hadn't put it out on the pavement.  The unfortunate appliance came a cropper when I ignored the advice not to chip ice off with a knife or hit it with anything sharp and punctured it letting out all the refrigerant.

Well I was slightly annoyed about this and did what any self respecting Lib Dem campaigner would do - I took photos and wrote to the local press.  I hoped for at best a letter in the Rhondda Leader.  However it seems to have tickled the fancy of the media Wales reporter to the extent that it has also appeared in the Echo and Western Mail and of course their online edition.

Typical.  All the time I spend writing press releases and trying to get them published and this is the one they like!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

You couldn’t make it up - Council red tape at its best

The Council was due to collect a fridge freezer from outside my house on 1st November.  I had booked the special collection via their very good online service and received an email confirming that it would indeed be picked up on said date.
The evening before I had it carried down the steps from the back door where it had been hitherto stored and placed at the front of the house where I leave my recycling and black bags every week.
When I returned from work the fridge was still there, and on contacting the Council department responsible I was told that it wasn’t collected because it was on my property and not on the public highway.   I explained that my house is a detached house with a driveway that slopes down onto the road and that there was not pavement on to which I could place it.  I also queried the fact that they actually wanted me to place it on the public highway where it would be a danger to pedestrians.  The lady on the line confirmed that this was indeed the case.
I emailed customer services to ask them if they could confirm why it had not been collected and received the following response:        
"I have today checked the case notes and can advise that the crew called at 13:22 and reported back to the depot to inform them that the item was not out for collection. Items need to be placed at the normal bin collection point by 7am on the day of collection."
Now as the photograph below shows the item was placed on the edge of my property within inches of the pavement.  The ‘pavement’ such as it is slopes away at this point  as it provides access to my drive, and it would be impossible to place a fridge there.
This is surely bureaucracy gone mad.  The Council seriously want me to place it on the pavement in the path of anyone walking past?  I could have understood if the item had been hidden or if they had to walk up a path to get to it, but here?  How could they interpret this as being ‘not out for collection’?  The collection has been rearranged for next Tuesday – the good people of Wern Street need to watch out for a fridge freezer lying in the road.