Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Still waiting......

The Western Mail today reports a  massive rise in patients waiting nine months and more for surgery

Almost 4,500 patients are waiting more than nine months for orthopaedic surgery in Wales the article states – and that of course is just a tally of those who have actually made it as far as the waiting list. 
People like my father waited for months to be seen prior to that, and was pushed from one department to another before some bright spark eventually decided that yes his hip is indeed a mess and needs replacing.  That was early last December when he was told he was an urgent case. 

How many more people are out there in agony waiting to be put on a Labour waiting list?
Yes we have an aging population, but they didn’t appear overnight.  There wasn’t a sudden alien invasion which deposited several thousand unexpected elderly ladies and gentlemen on the NHS doorstep. (Not as far as I am aware anyway)
But it’s ok – Labour have plans to tackle it, honest, yes really, this time, definitely…….

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Let our teachers teach

Foundation phase tests not fit for purpose, say heads

Yet another example of a Labour Minister thinking they know better than the experts in the field.
When are they going to learn to have some trust in the professionals?  Let our teachers teach. Leighton Andrews like Jane Davidson before him is full of his own self-importance and has no regard whatsoever for what he is being told by educationalists.  He knows best.  Wonder what school he learnt that attitude from?

Double standards need exposing

Health will always be a priority for the Assembly 

So the new Health Minister is busy whingeing that health figure shave been misquoted and that “inaccurate accusations about our spending plans abound”
Perhaps this is a mark of the way in which Labour conduct business – so clouded in mystery that nobody can quite figure out what any of their spending figures mean.  The previous Minister was so nonchalant that she refused to investigate allegations form within the health Service that a billion pounds a year was being wasted.
David James in Thursday Echo had a very sensible viewpoint on the health and other cuts being inflicted upon Wales by Carwyn and his team.  As he put it Carwyn’s playing the blame game
“If we want Welsh politics to work, surely we need more people to call distortions like Carwyn’s cuts double standards. His cuts may be driven by the UK coalition-led policy of cutting the deficit, but his health cuts are most definitely Welsh Labour’s choice. In England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland more money is being pumped into health to counter the effect of inflation.
It’s a gamble. It’s a gamble that across the border council services will crumble, schools will suffer and Carwyn will be able to stand up and say: “The Welsh way was better.”
You can bet that if the dam bursts first in Wales’ NHS; surgeons, doctors and nurses revolt because of frozen pay while waiting lists grow and patient service suffers, he won’t say: “We got it wrong.” He’ll blame London and the Tories.
And you know what? If that does happen, most voters will buy it – unless people start pulling him up on it.”
Spot on, now if only some his colleagues would start doing just that…….

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A&E times still off target

The BBC today reported that A&E waiting times miss targets with about 12% of patients having waited four hours or more to be seen after arriving in A&E last month.

Cwm Taf are reportedly better than Cardiff and The Vale - probably because a large number of patients are lost trying to find out where they are supposed to go for treatment.

It you visit Cwm Taf website there is a page entitled Choose well "It explains what each NHS service does, and when it should be used. Choosing Well means that you and your family will get the best treatment. It also allows busy NHS services to help the people who need them most."

It recommends the Minor Injury Units at Llwynypia and Aberdare for cuts, bites and sprains and states that "Most are open from early in the morning until late at night."   Click on the link and you will find the opening times for these two units is 9am to 4.30!   Late at night?

We heard anecdotal evidence during the Assembly campaign that the A&E department in the Royal Glamorgan is over stretched.  The minor injuries units, as reported in the local press last year, have had their hours cut back because of staff shortages at A&E.  Furthermore the A&E at the Royal Glamorgan is being put under pressure because staff are being sent to cover shortages at Prince Charles in Merthyr.
Still people in the area are obviously not concerned about the lack of services - most of them did vote for more of the same after all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RIP democracy in RCT

Just what is it that Labour Councillors in RCT are afraid of?  They clearly have no concept of the word democracy and it would be hard to imagine an organisation that supposedly works for the public which is less open to public scrutiny. The Council meeting tonight was a classic example. 
They passed some changes in the constitution including a resolution that says nobody – whether Councillor or observer – can photograph, video, record or otherwise transmit any details of proceedings outside of a Council meeting or they will be asked to leave.  Better beware of putting up comments on Facebook whilst sitting in the public gallery bored witless then or Russell may be calling the Police out again as he is so fond of doing at any hint of dissent.
As for the ban on video or audio recordings then they are obviously afraid such a thing may show up the appalling behaviour of some members of the ruling group.
They also decided to push through a change which means that in future if there is a tied vote at a planning meeting then the application will be decided upon by a Planning Officer rather than elected representatives.
They decided that if a Councillor wants to put a question to the Leader at a meeting then they must give at least eight clear days’ notice in future rather than the three days required now.  Obviously it takes the Leader a long time to come up with answers!  Maybe we need a few more people in the strategy department to come up with answers a bit more quickly.
To cap it all off they appointed one of their own to Chair the Council’s main scrutiny committee . Roger Turner was an Independent Councillor (well in name anyway certainly not in actions) and has been Chair of the committee for some years.  He recently joined the Labour party but it now seems that they have forgotten their earlier wish to be democratic and offer committee chairs to other parties.  Now Cllr Turner is the only man for the job!  They blamed the Local Government Measure claiming it says that they can’t give away chairs!  Now I may just be being daft but nowhere can I see where it says that.
Nobody does politics like RCT does politics. Honestly – you couldn’t make it up!

The deepest cuts

Wales faces deepest NHS cuts

The BBC carries a report today by a health think tank which says that Wales faces deeper cuts in its NHS budget than any other part of the UK.
Now I am no statistician and figure quite frankly leave me cold, so I am not going to go into long winded comparisons of figures and percentages.  But it is the case that Wales spends more per head than England on the health service anyway but with outcomes for patients that are not as good.
It is why, unlike the Tories, we did not make rash promise to ring fence the health budget in our Assembly manifesto. The question is not of how much money is thrown at the service but of how wisely it is spent.
Under Labour and Plaid it certainly has not yielded the results that we would have hoped for.  Patients are waiting far too long for treatment and operations.  My own father is currently in absolute agony waiting for a hip replacement and has been years getting even as far as having a proper diagnosis and being put on a waiting list.
The health service in Wales is a disgrace.  No disrespect to the hard working and dedicated front line staff, but the management and political direction has not served us well.
Still the majority of the people of Wales are obviously happy with it - they put Labour back in charge after all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wanted - the next generation of Councillors

As the dust starts to settle on the Assembly elections – or at least stops swirling around in quite such an alarming manner – we turn our attention more fully to the Council elections less than a year away.
RCT Welsh Lib Dems have a well-established approval and selection procedure in place for candidates and that is well under way with a few new young faces showing an interest.
Nobody is going to pretend that it will be an easy ride.  The Assembly results were appalling across the country (although not as bad as over the border) and recovery will not be easy.  Yet the Council elections are a different kettle of fish.  We as a party have always excelled at local politics and I am sure our localised approach will stand us in good stead.
We just need to keep our heads and hold steady.  Keep the faith.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

RCT letting down Welsh medium education

Welsh medium education poor relation in RCT

RCT Council has never been particularly interested in Welsh medium education, no matter who is in charge here.  Strange given that the first Welsh medium secondary school in South Wales was in Pontypridd - Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen

The demand is outstripping the availability and parents across the county are being told they will have to make alternative arrangements for their children.  Why?  Thus is nothing new, this has been coming to a head for years and successive Labour and Plaid administrations have done nothing about it.

RCT came into being in 1996 and Labour Councillors generally speaking were very suspicious of those who wanted to see more Welsh medium schools – after all they were sure to be Plaid voters weren’t they?  Wouldn’t want them muddying the gene pool spreading their propaganda.
When Plaid Cymru took control in 1999 there was an expectation amongst parents of children attending and planning to attend Welsh medium schools that things would improve.  They could hardly get worse. YG Rhydfelen was falling down and the only chance for a replacement seemed to be PFI.  YG Cymmer was equally neglected, and there simply were not enough places available to meet the expected demand.
Plaid however did very little.  They did carry on with the PFI bid and build a new schools at Garth Olwg.  This campus encompassed not only the secondary school but provided a new primary school.  But it is too small, just a couple of years after it opened it is already full to bursting.
A new school was promised at Miskin to help meet the demand. Yet instead the Council decided to close YGG Llantrisant and make the new school a replacement for that.  The result?  It too is full already.
Welsh medium education always seems to come a poor second.  Far less money is spent per pupil there than in English medium schools.  Nobody seems to have the foresight or the willingness to look ahead and plan properly.   But then the same can be said with regard to a lot of things in RCT.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why we need benefit reform

Skydiving mum was on benefits

This story was faetured in the Rhondda Leader last week, but I have only just caught up with.  It is the perfect example of why we need benefit reform.  There are many, many genuine claimants throughout the UK who need support financially and in other ways.  There are also those who abuse the system mercilessly and they need to be stopped.

When is a u-turn not a u-turn?

Why is it that whenever the government actually listen to the outcome of a consultation opposition members start screaming ‘u-turn’ - such is the case in relation to the announcement that the plans to close coastguard stations will be reviewed?  Plaid are jumping up and down as they like to do shouting that they have ‘bowed to pressure.’Maybe it is because they cannot understand the concept.  Plaid and consultation have never been comfortable bed fellows in my view.  Several years ago for instance when they ran RCT Council they held a so called ‘consultation’ on what type of council structure there should be – Cabinet / cross party Executive, etc.
They had already made up their minds that they wanted a single party Cabinet structure, but the public thought otherwise.  So Plaid (with the aid of the then Chief Executive) decided that the public, simply ‘did not understand the question.’
Labour of course have a completely different approach, they know they are right in all things and so either don’t bother to ask at all, or don’t listen when they do.  Such was the case with regard to the name change of Rhydfelen School.  Hundreds of pupils, staff, governors, past pupils all said they wanted to keep the name, but the ten members of the Labour Cabinet thought otherwise.
It must be very difficult for them then to come to terms with the concept of real consultation where people’s opinions are taken into consideration.
Perhaps Leighton could give them a bit of a lecture on the value of learning.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More rain please

Well the rain has been good for one thing – it has given a boost to my micro=hydro generator.  I say mine, it isn’t of course strictly speaking just mine, but it does belong to the Development Trust I Chair and so I think a degree of ownership rights must come my way.
It has been a bit of a struggle to get it up and running, it has been years in the planning, and on several occasions we could have given up but we’re hardy souls in Clydach Vale.  Thanks to £400,000 form that nice Mr Huhne and DECC we are now the proud owners of a turbine, a turbine house, and a fair amount of piping!
The money generated will help to ensure the sustainability of the Trust which runs the local community centre and the Sunshine Corner Day Nursery.  We employ around 20 people and a substantial amount of money has been brought in via grants.
The Trust grew out of the Cwmclydach Communities First which is without doubt one of the most successful schemes in Wales.  Communities First is due to come to an end on 2012 – it will be interesting to see what if anything is put in its place.  Where it has failed to engage with the local community and get to grips with what it was set up to do then the whole scheme has been a huge waste of public money.  It cannot continue as it has.  However, where it has worked then care should be taken not to undermine the good work that has gone on.

Making waves

One of the main things that attracted me to the Welsh Liberal Democrats was the open manner in which the party conducted itself.  It was a refreshing change, coming from Plaid, to be part of an organisation where members could freely say what they thought without fear of retribution.
We are an open book in most respects, which doesn’t always make life easy for us as the media like to make the most of any ‘differences’ and try their best to turn every one into a major split.
In the main, though, most of us at least try and keep our disagreements within the confines of the party whether that be at local or national level.  We have plenty of opportunity to express our views as members, and to influence policy both at Welsh party and Federal level. 
So it does annoy me when people seem to deliberately set out to make waves by launching in to inflammatory letters to the press such as the one which appeared in the Cynon Leader today form two former candidates for election in the Cynon Valley .  We are after all supposed to be a team surely? 
Neither of them have any connection with the Cynon Valley any more, they don’t live there.  One of them doesn’t even live in RCT.  Yet they have chosen to launch an open attack on Nick Clegg and on a number of policies which they say will be to the detriment of Cynon Valley residents.
They certainly do not reflect the views of the majority of RCT members who appreciate the tough position that our federal colleagues were put in and the difficult decisions that have had to be taken. Maybe it would be a good idea to come and discuss the issues with other members first and at least try and influence party opinion if they feel so strongly about things

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's a two horse race

It was a good Assembly election for the Tories – up until the point they lost their leader of course.  It was partly our fault, of course, we should have won Montgomeryshire – sorry we did try!  We also gave it a fair shot in Ceredigion but despite our best efforts we couldn’t help the Tories hang on to Nick Bourne.

So they have a bit of a tussle for the leadership going in now, which must be a bit inconvenient for them as they are now the biggest opposition group and would surely have preferred to be settling down to some business.

And they have two very different characters putting themselves forward.  Who will the membership choose?  The smooth talking Mr Ramsey or the more straight talking Andrew RT?  It will be interesting.

Just who is harassing who?

Now apologies to those people who have seen my previous rants on this issue and think maybe I am protesting too much, but if one thing really gets to me it is a lack of fairness.

A couple of weeks prior to the Assembly elections the Wales on Sunday, The Echo, the Western Mail , GTFM and BBC Wales  all carried a headline news  piece regarding allegations of harassment that had been made against my colleague Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell, who was at the time the Assembly candidate for Pontypridd.

In the time honoured tradition of the press the news last Thursday that the CPS is not bringing charges did not warrant the same column inches.  

As Mike’s agent we maintained at the time that the allegations were malicious and part of an on-going campaign to try and discredit him.   The allegations came after Mike took pictures and videos of Allen Bevan, a town Councillor in Pontypridd and an employee of Owen Smith MP, parking in the Town Council car park when apparently he was not on official business but doing his shopping in town.  Mike reported what he considered to be an abuse of privilege to the relevant authorities but they were not interested. He posted the videos on you tube at which point Bevan made his first allegation of harassment.

Now there are people who have said that Mike should not have bothered with such a trifling issue in the first place, but his sense of fairness fails to see such things as anything other than the way Labour show a total and utter disregard for people around here.  They put up car parking charges for everyone else but they have way of getting around paying! A minor matter in the great scheme of things maybe but still symptomatic of a greater disease,

The Police dismissed the claims, but Bevan returned with a further allegation which the Police have found no grounds for.  Whilst accepting that the Police have to investigate claims brought to them, it seems that they have been used in this case for political ends.

It is a sorry state indeed when the Labour party has to stoop to such a level, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and discredits Mr Bevan and his supporters. It begs the question just who is harassing who? It seems to me that a substantial amount of Police time has been wasted on this, all this on the word of someone who has long been a political opponent – Bevan has lost to Mike on three occasions in the Trallwn ward County Council elections since 1999.

Prior to this six complaints had been made to the Ombudsman in a little over twelve months by  Labour members and activists.  All of them were dismissed, but again this has taken up a substantial amount of public time and resources.

Just who is harassing who?

Phoenix from the flames

Well the trials and tribulations of the Assembly election are over and it is time to dust ourselves down and get on with it.  Of course we were bitterly disappointed to see our vote share drop so dramatically in Pontypridd - we had worked hard to get within striking distance of Labour.  But we will not give in - it is not in our nature.

I do have a bit more time on my hands at the moment though, just until we launch fully into the Council election campaign, so  thought I would occupy some of it by yet again starting a blog.  Somewhere to post my ramblings, mymusings and my rants where people can choose to read or ignore as they wish, most probably political but not necessarily so.

Let's see how it goes shall we?