Sunday, August 28, 2011

Labour greed defended by Cabinet Member

Cabinet Member and Labour Whip Cllr Maureen Webber valiantly leapt to the defence of her leader on the letters page of the Ponty Observer this week following some well-deserved criticism of the exorbitant salary he takes from the public purse. (which I may have been partly responsible for!)

According to Cllr Webber, Russell Roberts is “uniquely placed to ensure that the needs and concerns of Rhondda Cynon Taf are voiced very clearly”

Well I should think he is. Not many people enjoy a salary of almost £58K from the public purse and are then able to top it up with £24K for Chairing the Police Authority and £13 from the Health Board. Certainly makes him unique in Wales.

Maureen accuses ‘Plaid and Lib Dem Councillors” of a “complete lack of understanding” about how Local Government works and how they are having to suffer because of Government cuts.  I cannot speak for Plaid Councillors but I am fairly confident that our Councillors have a very good understanding of how it works.  And whilst I am not a Councillor I certainly understand the system, and the way in which the Labour party desperately try and shift the blame for the way in which they constantly short change the public in RCT.

The Independent Remuneration Panel in their report which is out for consultation now state that the position of Leader of a Council should be a full time one and should not allow the time for any extra roles to be taken on.  The response which has been submitted from RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats fully supports this view.  I take it that the Labour Party will be against this aspect of the report as it would remove Russell from his ‘unique’ position.  Will they also oppose the 5% cut in Councillors’ salaries?

I suspect that they will, although it will be interesting to see what excuse they come up with – or rather what excuses they will have the Legal Officer present.

Labour Councillors in RCT are fond of quoting events in Cardiff or other Welsh Lib Dem led Councils when it suits them.  Funny then that they haven’t quoted the salary scales for Councillors in those places.  Salary scales that are below the maximum in each case.

Rodney Berman and Chris Holley lead Councils in the same salary bracket as RCT as determined by the Independent Remuneration Panel.  Neither of them have elected to take the level of salary Russell does.  Neither of them serves on let alone Chair the Police Authority, and do not serve on their local health boards.

Explain that one to the public at large Mo.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Labour’s former Home Sec has got to be joking.

Jacqui Smith defends inmates painting home
The Independent, along with a whole raft of other papers reveal today that Jacqui Smith, Labour’s former Home Secretary is at the centre of controversy yet again.
She resigned her Cabinet post of course after being caught claiming for her husband’s porn films on the Parliamentary expense account.  She expressed little regret over that incident and has adopted a similar attitude this time when it has come to light that she used two prisoners on day release from HMP Hewell to paint her luxury flat.
It is reported that
A Prison Service spokesman said the offenders were supposed to be doing work to "help the whole community" as part of a scheme run by a local charity, the Batchley Support Group.
He said: "The decision to provide prisoners for this work was taken without consultation with HMP Hewell or the Ministry of Justice and was a mistake.
"Offenders should work on projects which help the whole community.
"The scheme has been suspended while a full internal investigation is undertaken."
Ms Smith appeared on radio to not only defend her actions but to have a go at The Sun newspaper for "having a go at me".
She said: "You may or may not have seen the front of The Sun but they are having a bit of a go at me today because two prisoners who were coming towards the end of their sentence and doing work experience carried out about three hours' work at my house doing a bit of decorating.
"It hadn't been cleared with the prison authorities in advance and they've now launched an inquiry and The Sun is having a go at me.
I know that when it's anything to do with me, the papers like to put probably the very worst spin they possibly can on it and in my view, that's what The Sun has done today."
This woman surely cannot be living in the real world if she thinks anyone could find her behavior acceptable?   The Labour party – don’t you just love ‘em?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Four months jail for a riot that never happened?

Now let me be clear I am in no way underestimating the seriousness of the riots that took place across England recently.  There is absolutely NO excuse for the behaviour exhibited by those responsible despite the best efforts of ‘social commentators’ to come up with excuses which invariable involve blaming the Government.
However, it does seem to me to be a bit of an over-reaction on the part of a Caernarfon court to jail a man for four months for some very stupid remarks he made on Facebook.
‘David Glyn Jones, of Glasinfryn, Bangor, Gwynedd, had told friends on the social networking site: "Let’s start Bangor riots," a court heard.
He also typed: "I don’t see why everyone’s complaining about the rioters. Given the chance I’d love to smash up a police car, wouldn’t you.’

Stupid, yes, undeniably so, but his defense stated that the matter was only on Facebook for 20 minutes.” No riot or indeed any there disturbance took place as a result of his childish actions.

Also reported by Wales Online is the story of a welsh language campaigner jailed for breaking the conditions of a sentence he received after breaking in to the office of an MP.
‘Cymdeithas yr Iaith volunteer Jamie Bevan, 35, of Merthyr Tydfil, was sentenced to seven days in prison for the offence after he refused to comply with a curfew he was given at an earlier hearing
On March 6 Bevan and another activist smashed windows to get into the Conservative MP’s office, before damaging a door, pushing computers off desks and spraying Welsh slogans on walls and cabinets. They then called police and waited at the scene so they could be arrested
Bevan was also sentenced to five days in prison to run concurrently for an earlier offence of criminal damage for painting Welsh slogans at the Welsh Government buildings in Cathays Park.’
So this person caused actual criminal damage having set out to deliberately do just that, resulting in a considerable bill for the taxpayer.  He refused to comply with the conditions of his original sentence and yet was given only a seven day jail term.
Am I missing something?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ode to Ponty Town

Just when you think it can't get any more bizarre RCT's Labour administration have now commissioned a poet and two artists to collect bits of local poetry and songs which will then be inlaid into granite and laid as part of the paving in Pontypridd town centre.

The poet is of course essential as there is nobody within the Council capable of using a Google search to come up with some local writings.  And the two artists will then have a major job on their hands in working out an appropriate design.

This will no doubt be of great comfort to the tradespeople of Pontypridd.  The Council who cannot afford to cut car parking charges to help entice people in to the town can afford to employ three people to design a bit of paving.

How about this bit of amateur poetry - think it is worth submitting?

Let’s regenerate Ponty town
By laying brand new paving down
Employ an artist and a writer
To make the street scene that much brighter
Let’s engrave fine words in granite
Are they of this f*ing planet?
The town is dying on its feet
It’s shops we need here in Taff Street
The Labour party spend on art
Whilst we’re going to hell in a hand cart

Not quite the truth is it Mick?

A headline on Wales Online today states

Hundreds of new community support officers to be recruited throughout Wales.”

This is of course welcome.  However, the following press release which comes from Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw – or Slick Antoniw as we like to affectionately refer to him!  - starts off with a statement that  “HUNDREDS of new ‘street bobbies’ may be on duty in Wales by Christmas.”
Yet this is not backed up by the rest of the story, all of which I am guessing was penned by a member of his staff.   In it he refers to a letter from Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government in response to a question as to when the officers will be in place.
In a letter, Mr Sargeant told him: “We are currently in discussions with Welsh police forces about the implementation of the PCSO commitment.
“But I expect the roll out of the additional PCSOs to begin in April 2012.
“I am also hopeful that a small number may be in place in some force areas by Christmas 2011, but this will depend on the recruitment procedures of the four Welsh police forces

Now how on earth does this equate to ‘hundreds’ on the streets by Christmas?  Although to be fair he doesn’t say which Christmas.
Still, facts have never been a strong point with the Labour party around here.  It is a shame though that the press reports them as such. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The real education debate?

Matt Withers Wales on Sunday column today also touches on the subject of students failing to find a place at University, and refers to Blair’s target of 50% of young people going on to higher education.  He says
there was always that nagging question of what would happen when there wasn’t any money left to pay for it. Now we know.”
But it is not just a question of money.  It should be about equipping people for the workplace, and about matching skills and knowledge to jobs, to what is actually needed.  It should be about valuing vocational qualifications equally rather than aiming for an arbitrary number of people with degrees and no hope of getting a job.
Yes education is important, but education comes in many forms.  Should we be encouraging quite so many to go to University to study degrees in subjects which have very little application in the real world?
Recent figures from UCAS show that of 88,000 potential university students enquiring about courses for 2012, only 900 asked about physics and considerably less about engineering.  The CBI has warned about the shortage of science and maths based skills.
We turn out more Primary school teachers than we know what to do with, whilst Secondary schools struggle to find quality science teachers across the spectrum.
We have a shortage of medical staff which results in services being cut – such as at the Special Care Baby Unit at the Royal Glamorgan.
Despite soothing words from then Health minister Edwina Hart the service has not been reinstated.
There is surely some serious debate to be had regarding education in general and Higher education in particular that goes beyond the tuition fees issue.  If only the Minister can get his head out of his backside long enough to realise there are problems.

What are Plaid about?

I don’t always agree with everything Matt Withers writes but his column in today’s Wales on Sunday struck a couple of chords.
First his dismissal of Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards complaints regarding a Daily Mail article attacking the Welsh language.

“I abhor the appalling and moribund monkey language myself,” wrote Mr Lewis. And so it began.

Yes, it’s obviously untrue – only a lunatic is appalled by another language, moribund means it’s dying when it’s on the rise and there’s nothing remotely simian about it – but should Mr Edwards have contacted the authorities.“

Matt concludes that no, Mr Edwards should not have made such a fuss because it only served to add to the publicity.
The Plaid MP also referred the piece to the Police and the Press Complaints Commission.
Now whilst I agree that the comments made by the author were nonsensical and inaccurate and gave a very negative view of the language it hardly seems worth the time to kick up such a fuss.  But then that is all Plaid can do these days,
It once again begs the question of what is Plaid about?
They have had their day.  We are well down the road to devolution, and they have not been the only ones fighting for the Welsh language for a long time. They can’t make up their mind whether or not they support Independence or not, and chances are the majority of Welsh people wouldn’t anyway.
So where do they go from here? 

Friday, August 19, 2011

And you still want to close 6th forms?

“A-Level Results in Rhondda Cynon Taf have seen a major improvement with even more students completing courses and attaining higher grades
Overall, there was a substantial increase in the percentage of students in Rhondda Cynon Taf who gained A*-E grades, from 95.8% in 2010 to 96.8% this year.
Those attaining A*-C grades is 68.7% which also sees a substantial improvement of 1.6% on 2010.
While the attainment of the top grades of A*/A has fallen generally across Wales, the figure has increased to 17.3% in Rhondda Cynon Taf, compared to 16.7% in 2010.
Also in Rhondda Cynon Taf the entry rates of those sitting A-Level examinations has increased by 16.0% this year from 1,992 entries last year to 2,310 entries this year, the highest entry rate in recent times.”
This is an excellent achievement and congratulations are due to everyone involved.  As Vice Chair of Governors at Tonypandy Community College I know how much work goes into ensuring that students achieve the very best they can and I am very proud to be a part of it.
Yet if the Labour administration and their newly appointed Director of Education have their way then sixth forms will disappear from schools in RCT and be replaced by tertiary colleges.
RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats have been vociferously opposed to such plans from the start.  Last November it looked as if the scheme was dead in the water when (surprise, surprise) the Assembly said it would not give then the £86 million or so needed.  However, it has since been made clear by the Cabinet Member that this is still their preferred option.
It goes to show the total lack of awareness of Labour Councillors that they are not only so out of touch with what parents, staff, governors and parents want, but that they have such little regard for the educational needs of our young people.

“You’re such a cynic Leighton”

There are plenty of people across the political spectrum whose views I disagree with but who I respect for the way they conduct themselves.  There are others whose views I totally agree with but don’t like personally one bit.  In the case of Leighton Andrews I can find no common ground whatsoever.
On a personal level we have never got along – he ignores me completely unless we are in company where to do so would be rude in the extreme, and that suits me fine.  He has a huge ego that is only balanced by his total lack of personality.  But what really irritates me is his insistence that he is always right and his refusal to let little things such as facts get in his way.
His interview with the BBC’s Ciaran Jenkins today is a classic.  When faced with the bare statistics that show there has been a fall in the number of students achieving the top grades at A level in Wales he refused to acknowledge the fact and instead kept repeating the phrase “Ciaran you’re such a cynic.”
He repeatedly drawled on about the fact that the Welsh Baccalaureate figures were not included.  Correct Leighton – they were not.  But then they never have been so it does not affect the statistics as presented.  Also the Welsh Bacc is only equivalent to an ‘A’ grade – so if included it would have actually made the A* figures look worse.
Now I would never take anything away from all the hard working students who have done their best and achieved excellent results overall.  However, it still remains a fact that they are not performing as well as their counterparts in England.  Through no fault of their own.  And for the Education Minister to refuse to see there is a problem is astounding.  If you don’t admit a problem exists then how on earth can you hope to address it?   Still it should not come as a surprise - it's a methodology common amongst Labour.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

That Man Again

Labour's RCT Council leader Russell Roberts hit the headlines again this week over the amount of money he has been receiving from the public purse in recent years.   He is – rightly in my opinion – castigated over the three salaries he receives as Council leader, Chair of South Wales Police Authority, and member of Cwm Taf Health Board.
His salary as a councillor rose from £57,221 a year in 2009-10 to £58,962 in 2010-11, while the council was imposing cuts on some of its lowest-paid staff. Many Council workers in RCT authority have seen their terms and conditions cut by up to 40%
What I don’t understand is why this is suddenly headline news.  We have been banging on about this for ages.  In fact Martin Shipton, who is credited with this piece in the Rhondda Leader and Pontypridd Observer, wrote about it two years ago when we first brought it to his attention.
As reported on Freedom Central, it is ‘a longstanding campaign theme of Rhondda Cynon Taf Liberal Democrats’ to expose the hypocrisy of this man.   Interested parties may have read about it here, here, here.....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Make the effort Mick

You'd think the new Ponty Assembly Member would put a little bit of effort into his website wouldn't you?

I mean he has staff and all sorts now who could surely help him put together something half decent.  Instead a google search will take you to the same rather poor effort that he had in place prior to the election last May.

It describes him as the candidate for Pontypridd, features photos of him and his family which makes them look like the Beverley Hill Billies, and still has such classic lines as:

"We must develop skills that I will defend achievements such as free bus passes, free prescriptions and work to achieve progress in education and health for all. We have many challenges but we have to succeed and I believe, working together we can."

Make the effort Mick

Dear Carwyn – you just don’t get it do you?

First Minister Carwyn Jones is reported on Wales Online having yet another dig at the Westminster Government, saying
"What hurts Welsh families the most is the scourge of unemployment. As a government, we are determined to do all that we can to get people into work, and trying to keep people in their jobs. However, the UK Governments decision to cut public sector jobs in Wales severely undermines our efforts.”
Now Carwyn you see there is this little thing called devolution – it gives Wales a degree of autonomy, makes us grown-ups in the political sense.  With it comes responsibility.  As First Minister then you are supposed to accept some responsibility, not just the glory that comes with the title.
You cannot rely on public sector jobs to keep the Welsh economy bubbling along.  It has always been a risky strategy.  Your Government has a duty to attract private investment and permanent long term jobs.
You have failed, you and your Plaid helpers. You have let down the people of this country, and I for one cannot fathom why on earth they elected you in again to do even more damage.  But they did, so why don’t you stop moaning and blaming everyone else and get on with it.

Police row rumbles on

The Western Mail today reports on a study by Cardiff’s Universities Police Science Institute that says local police services will take the biggest hit from Government cuts to the policing budget.
The report’s author Dr Timothy Brain, who was formerly the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, challenges claims by the Westminster Government  that the cuts can be absorbed in the main by back office efficiency savings with little impact on frontline services.
If this is the case then somebody had better start asking questions of South Wales Police Officers who are telling people a different story. 
Councillors in RCT have been reassured that front line services will not be affected by budget savings.  So who is right?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's a Funny Old World

Conspiracy theorists are a never ending source of surprise and delight.  The latest , as reported in today’s Wales on Sunday, is that Michael Jackson is not dead at all. 
Apparently it is all a jolly jape and he is going to appear at the concert being arranged in his honour at the Millennium Stadium in October where he will no doubt be joined on stage by Elvis.
You have to admire the imagination of the people behind such tales – the ‘connections’ they make are worthy of a Columbo episode.
Meanwhile, Professor Brian Ford, a fellow at Cardiff University has a new book out which reveals some rather bizzare plots which were apparently designed to overthrow Hitler.
These included dropping glue on Nazi troops in an attempt to stick them to the ground!  Seems Harry Coover missed out there. What an advert that would have made.
There was , according to Professor Ford, also a plot to smuggle female sex hormones into Hitler’s food in order to try and turn him into a woman and therefore curb his aggressive impulses.  What a great idea, because us females are such a nice, gentle bunch.
 “A lot of British ideas were very advanced,” Professor Ford said.  Yes, some more than others it would seem.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Plaid need to get some perspective

The Western Mail reported yesterday some of the ridiculous salaries being paid to senior civil servants and quango members, and yet again you have to wonder why people do not get as incensed about this as the do about the comparatively modest salaries paid to elected members.  Lord Rowe-Beddoe for example receives £35,000 a year for four days’ work a month as one of two deputy chairmen of the UK Statistics Authority.  This equates to a full-time equivalent salary of around £175,000 – significantly more than the Prime Minister, who earns £142,500.

There is a whole list of examples of people who are incredibly well paid including
10 members of the Olympic Delivery Authority on the list who are paid up to £2.1m between them
It is quite frankly disgusting – people on the front line of public service at all levels of Government are facing cuts, yet those at the top of the tree continue to be paid handsomely.
Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards is not happy about the situation.  However, his complaint is that there are so few Welsh people on the list

“The UK Government of whatever colour will always put the needs of London and the South-East of England first as this is where the key swing seats in a Westminster election are situated. The only possible salvation for the people of Wales is the empowerment of the Welsh Government with job creation levers so that we can get on with the job of developing our own conditions to stimulate a vibrant economic environment.”
So it is perfectly acceptable to continue paying out these inflated wages, and setting up these quangos, as long as more of them are in Wales!
Well done Jonathan.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Playing the blame game

As if the sight of looters and rioters wreaking havoc on the streets of cities across England isn’t enough, the situation is being made all the more sickening by the rush by politicians to alternatively wipe their hands of any blame / attribute blame to someone else.
This situation is not the result simply of anything that has happened over the past fifteen months of coalition Government.  Mistakes have been made by successive Governments and politicians for years.  They have failed to connect with a substantial number of people in this country.  Just look at the number of people who are completely disengaged with the democratic process, the process by which they should be able to bring about change.
No political party is managing to successfully engage with the poverty stricken and disadvantaged communities they all claim to care so much about.  And the worst offenders are the party who was supposed to be there for the working class, who were originally all about communities and socialist principles – the Labour party.  They don’t want to lift people out of poverty, they don’t want to get people off benefits, because then they will have nothing to blackmail them with.
And so what are they doing now? Are they making any serious effort to suggest solutions?  Of course not – they are far too busy trying to lay all the blame at the door of the coalition Government.
Peter Hain has a pop in the Western Mail today at the ‘savage cuts’ (what a ludicrous and overworked phrase) affecting the Police.  The Government must change its mind immediately or how will the Police cope with situations such as the current riots in the future?
As a Wales Office spokesman said:
 “Peter Hain appears to be conveniently unaware that his own shadow cabinet colleague Yvette Cooper has said the police would not be immune from cuts under Labour. He also seems to have forgotten that in Government the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he could not guarantee that police numbers would not fall, or that under Labour in January 2010 all police forces were expecting significant spending cuts in the 2011-2012 financial year.”
 “Despite Labour spending record sums on policing and record police numbers, only 11% of police officers are available on the streets at any one time.
“We must focus police resources onto the frontline. We have said we won’t do anything that will reduce the amount of visible policing on our streets.
“The effectiveness of a police force does not depend on the number of staff but on the way police officers are deployed. Police forces must focus on driving out wasteful spending and increasing efficiency in the back office so that they can save jobs.”

I have written previously about the new policing plans for South Wales Police and the assurances given by Superintendent O’Neill that this will be precisely the case in RCT – stations may close, methods may change, but there will be no loss of front line policing.
Peter Hain told the Western Mail that people in wales should not ‘crow’ over the fact that the riots have been confined to England, and that we are not immune to the ‘family breakdown which brought disruption to the lives of young people across Britain.’
He said: “We have a stronger family and community tradition to underpin our society but it’s being eroded year by year.”
Yes – that is maybe the case, but who then is to blame for that?  Devolution means Labour have been in power here over the last fifteen months of the coalition Westminster Government.  What have they done to help the situation?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Circle of Labour Life

As regular readers of my ramblings and rantings (if indeed there are any) know one of the things that really riles me is the Labour party’s tie in with the Unions. 
So I was not the least bit surprised to read in today’s Western Mail that
“The Government has given £2m of public money to Labour- donating trade unions since 2008, it was revealed in a written answer to the Tories from Finance Minister Jane Hutt.
They have come under two main initiatives, the Wales Development Fund for Unions, which is aimed at developing policy-making processes, and the Wales Union Learning Fund, which develops learning……..
In total, the Welsh Government has given £2.4m to 15 trade unions over the past three years, including £225,000 to the union Community, which earlier this year bolstered Labour’s Assembly election campaign by making donations to marginal constituencies.”
Now as I have said I am not against Unions – workers rights should be protected and they have a right to representation against their employers.  What does bother me is the blatant political involvement.
This has been particularly obvious in the case of current Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw.
He was / is (?) a Director of Thompsons solicitors.  Their part in the miners’ compensation scandal was well documented prior to the Assembly election.  Although despite the evidence being very clear he did his best to deny any involvement.  He even went as far as to threaten to sue when I included the story in our leaflets – an empty threat, you cannot sue someone for stating what is true and what can be proven,
The facts were that Thompsons solicitors were reported in several notable legal publications as having been severely reprimanded for their handling of miners’ compensation claims by their regulatory body. Money was reportedly taken from the amount of compensation miners received to pay the Unions an ‘administration fee.’ Thompson’s solicitors donated money to the Labour Party, and directly or indirectly to Antoniw’s campaign

But there is more.  When Rhondda Cynon Taff started their Equal Pay negotiations they ran into a bit of trouble when some employees refused to take the settlement offered.   An email from the Chief Executive to  Welsh Liberal Democrat Cllr Mike Powell in July 2010 revealed that 
“The current position in respect of the settlement of Equal Pay claims is as follows:-
 3,859 claims have been settled, at a total cost of £13,104,216.
 222 claims remain outstanding.  These claims have been lodged at Employment Tribunal.”
Who was acting for the employees?  None other than Thompson’s solicitors. So the Labour run Council failed to settle claims for its workforce and employed a Labour leaning firm of solicitors to represent its own employees against the CouncilThat firm then donated money to the Labour election campaign, benefitting Antoniw.
You couldn’t make it up

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Donkey vote still there but fading

I am currently in the process of doing one of the most boring of  jobs - no, not the ironing, hoovering, or even washing dishes.  Collating the data from a knock and drop survey carried out recently.

Overall I have to say it is very encouraging from our point of view.  However, it never ceases to amaze me the number of donkey Labour voters who remain in South Wales.

How would you rate the state of the roads and pavements - terrible
Do you think the standard of education is high enough - no
Is the Council's 'Outlook' magazine a waste of money - yes
Are there enough facilities for young people - no
Do you know who your current Councillor is - no
Are they doing a good job - don't know
How did you vote last time - Labour
How will you vote next time - Labour

What is it with some people?  Just who do they think is responsible for the state of their highways and schools and the provision of youth facilities?  Blinkered just does not begin to describe it.

Still, as I said, overall the signs are encouraging with more people showing a willingness to actually think before they vote and they are voting Welsh Liberal Democrat.

Bring on the Council elections.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Abusing your position Russell?

Last week I wrote about the presentation on the future of policing in RCT.  Included in that presentation there was a list of Police stations which were graded green - definitely staying open;  red  - definitely closing and amber. The amber stations included Treforest, Rhydyfelin and Tonyrefail.  In these locations Superintendent O’Neill assured Members that they would be maintaining the Police presence but looking at alternative ways of providing the service.  Some of those stations may close, some may not.
Now this was just seven days ago, and the report was, everyone was assured, hot off the press. So it is reasonable to expect that discussions and decisions would take longer than a week to come to fruition.
It came as a surprise then when on Monday I had an email from Welsh Lib Dem Councillor Mike Powell (currently holidaying in France) asking if I had heard any more about Tonyrefail station being kept open.  A journalist had contacted him for comment on a press release issued by Russell Roberts stating that it was to stay open.
Russell is of course the leader of RCT Council and also Chair of the South Wales Police Authority.
The resulting article – brief though it is – appeared in the Pontypridd Observer today.
 “The pledge to protect patrols of police and PCSOs and to find a better police base in the community was given to RCT councilors in the village from Chief Superintendent Kevin O’Neil.  It came despite the force forecasting that there will be 625 fewer workers and 395 fewer police officers by 2015 to comply with Government cuts.
Mr O’Neil gave the undertaking to RCT council leader Russell Roberts – who also chairs the South Wales Police Authority – and ward councillors Eudine Hanagan and Bob McDonald after they swore to oppose any reduction.”
hhmmm…  You would think the Chair of the Police Authority may have some inside knowledge would you not?  But surely not that he would have any influence over such operational decisions in his own ward.
Yet the full press release sent out by the three Tonyrefail Labour Councillors seems to suggest he may have.
The press release, as published on a local forum, quotes Cllr Bob McDonald as saying

"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."

It also states that
Tonyrefail Councillors have secured a categorical assurance from the Chief Superintendent of Police in Rhondda Cynon Taf that there will be no closure of Police Station or reductions in the level of Policing in Tonyrefail.
Eudine Hanagan, Cabinet Member for Education, piped up with
"Following our representations I am pleased that Tonyrefail has received assurances that our Police Station is not affected, despite the savage cuts being imposed on Wales by the CONDEM Government.”
Ah, Eudine, a joy as always.
Russell Roberts should maybe have shut up and – in the words of his recently reprimanded colleague the former Mayor – give his a**e a chance!
Instead he seemed determined to dig himself deeper.
"We requested the meeting with Chief Superintendent Kevin O'Neil to seek assurances that Tonyrefail Police Station was safe from the cuts South Wales Police are currently being forced to make.”
We are pleased to receive this categorical assurance as we appreciate the difficult position the Police find themselves in as a result of substantial cuts to their funding.”
So there we have it then, the ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude typical of Labour politicians.  No wonder he wants to keep a finger in so many pies.
Of course, the press release is such a jumble it is difficult to pick out what is true and what is wishful thinking on the part of the three amigos.  Eluned Parrott AM has written to Superintendent O’Neill asking for clarification on the future of all RCT stations on the ‘amber’ list.  The response should be interesting.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Poetic Justice for Council Leader?

As reported in the Western Mail today the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales is consulting on the contents of a report which would result in the current maximum basic salary for Councillors being cut by 5% and senior salaries by 10%.
The panel previously set a maximum allowance, with councils free to set their own levels.  Many Councils set levels below the recommended maximum allowance.  RCT Council did not – resulting in Russell Roberts becoming the highest paid Councillor in Wales.
He will now face a pay cut of around £5000 a year. Many of the employees who have had their terms and conditions reviewed by this Labour led Council may feel this is poetic justice.
And there may be another blow for Russell who tops up his salary currently to the tune of some £20K+ is also the Chair of the South Wales Police Authority.  Now the Police Authority is, strangely, not mentioned in the report but the panel states

Whilst the Panel recognises that senior councillors bring a wealth of experience to the other bodies they serve on, we consider that councillors who serve their councils in full-time positions do not have sufficient time to undertake such additional duties with other bodies. We regard the remuneration they receive with National Park and Fire & Rescue Authorities as “double-payments” and have taken the view, which we expound in this Report, that such responsibilities should not be additionally remunerated.”
“In previous reports we have identified those local authority councillor positions which we regard as full-time, specifically leaders and executive members, and have set their remuneration levels accordingly. In our recent consultations with National Park Authorities and Fire & Rescue Authorities we have found that some senior councillors also sit as members on these Authorities, with some also holding positions of responsibility, which until now have not been remunerated.
Now surely the Police Authority should come into the same bracket – in fact we will undoubtedly be making this point when we submit the RCT Welsh Lib Dem response to the consultation.
It is a point we have made time and time again.  The salary for the Council Leader is for a full time post.  If he is not doing that role full time then there should be some claw back.
It will be interesting to see the reaction of the Labour group when this is discussed at the next Council meeting.