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.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sticking plaster solutions to Cwm Taf health problems

An unusually full public gallery at the Council Chamber in Clydach on 28th October saw Alison Williams, Chief Executive of Cwm Taf Health Board, tell RCT Councillors she wanted to give “full reassurance regarding the future of A&E and Minor Injury Units.”

She said that the closure of the Minor Injuries Unit at Cwm Rhondda hospital is not about the ‘rot setting in’ or about taking services away from the area, and went on to give categorical reassurance that A&E services at the Royal Glamorgan will not disappear.

Yet as well as causing problems for residents in the Rhondda who now have to travel further for treatment  for non urgent or non life threatening injuries this is bound to have knock on effects for patients at A&E.  The Royal Glamorgan is busy enough at the best of time – it will now have to cope with the extra influx of patients with minor injuries who have nowhere else to obtain treatment. 

The closure of the MIU is temporary so they say – but they said that about the downgrading if the SCUBU unit at the Royal Glamorgan.  That has now become permanent.   That also was about a shortage of suitably qualified staff.

Ms Williams stated clearly that “This is not about money.  No matter how much money I have I cannot employ doctors and nurses that are not there.”  She said they cannot keep using a ‘sticking plaster’ to address the problems but need sustainable solutions.

This is a story that is echoed throughout Wales.  So where have the health boards been – and what has the Health Minister been up to all this time?  This problem hasn’t suddenly appeared out of nowhere.   It takes years to train doctors and specialist nurses – this should have been addressed earlier.

Labour are fond of blaming everything on the Westminster Government.  Well let’s be clear.  Health is a devolved matter.  In Wales it is the responsibility of the Welsh Government – the Labour Government.  It is not about money – Ms Williams made that very clear.  It is about lack of adequate planning and management.