Monday, December 31, 2012

We're still standing

It's been  tough year to be a Lib Dem - but then that is nothing new.  We appear to be getting battered from all sides, but stubborn beasts that we are we keep bouncing back.

It must be absolutely infuriating for the Labour party here in Rhondda Cynon Taff.  We gave them a hell of a fright in 2010 when we slashed the parliamentary majority in Pontypridd from more than 13000 to less than 3000.  Then of course it all started to go downhill as the perils of being in Government became apparent.  They did plenty of crowing after the Assembly election when through no fault of our own locally we saw a lot of our hard work go down the drain - although we still retained our second place in Pontypridd.

The Council election this May was a low point.  We saw the Labour majority shoot up so they held 60 out of the 75 seats on the Council.  Meanwhile we slipped from three Councillors to just one - a situation not helped by two of our former Councillors standing down and new candidates taking their place.

The joy of the Labour lot was all too evident - they thought we were down and out and they could carry on doing what they wanted undisturbed. 

It must then be really galling for them to realise that they were wrong.  We haven't given up and gone away, but instead have remained the biggest thorn in Labour's side.  Despite battling on times with a local media that finds itself indebted to the Council for a significant amount of advertising revenue (Over £90k last year to GTFM radio, a similar amount to the local paper) we punch above our weight publicity wise.  Our online presence is growing, and attracting more attention - not least from the Labour party!

And the really bad news for them is that we intend it to continue. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why do so many Welsh people reject their own language?

I cannot understand why there are so many Welsh people who appear to have such animosity towards their own language.  The 2011 census for the first time provided a tick box for people to describe themselves as Welsh if they so wished. Results showed that the sense of national identity is strong, with two thirds of people describing themselves as Welsh on average across Wales and 73% in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

The demand for Welsh medium education continues to rise – in RCT the Local Authority have struggled to keep up, so the demand is obviously there.

 Yet the census figures also showed that there is a decrease in the number of Welshspeakers which has led to calls on the Welsh Government from opposition parties to get their act together and look again at strategies which are obviously not working.

The political attacks are predictable, but what I find more surprising is the level of attack from some members of the public who claim that money spent on the Welsh language is wasted.  Take for instance this thread on the Pontypridd Town Forum. Just look at some of the comments on there:

·         This pointless Welsh language is quite simply the most underhand, calculating,and divisive stunt imaginable. A classic example being the appalling spreading of rumours that unless your child can speak Welsh, they will find it much more difficult to find employment.

·         There is no need for Welsh as an everyday language, Wales won't die because everyone doesn't speak Welsh. If the money and time spent on Welsh language promotion, was put into attracting business and industry to Wales we would be a damn site better off

·         Welsh is dead - admit it.

Admittedly much of what is said on this particular forum is designed to needle and cause argument, but the basic messages show a disturbing amount of animosity. I know a significant number of people who think that bilingualism is a waste of money, many see it as inextricably linked to a nationalist agenda.  They don’t speak the language and so do not see why any else needs to. Yet these same people would class themselves as ‘Welsh’ and fly the flag with pride.

I am not a fluent Welsh speaker, although I have a reasonable degree of understanding of the language.  I don’t read information other than in English, I can’t fill in forms in Welsh.  I wish I could, and yes it is my fault for not making the effort learn more and upgrade my level of understanding and ability to speak the language.  But this is and should be a bilingual country. 

The argument that by having Welsh taught as a compulsory subject in schools we are affecting the quality of education in other subjects is nonsense.  The question is whether what we are teaching is adequate.   Are we merely paying lip service by insisting on throwing the odd Welsh phrase into conversation in our schools?  Does it actually instil any love of the language?  Forcing students to take exams in it is not going to endear them to the subject. Forcing teachers some of whom may themselves have no love of the language to teach it isn’t going to build enthusiasm.

Encouraging growth in the language needs more than Government policies and strategies and forcing businesses to put up bilingual signs. It needs a change in people’s attitudes – and no, I don’t know how we achieve that!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taxpayers money funds Plaid research by MEP's husband

Well this article on Wales Online explains one thing – where hissing Syd as he is not so affectionately known by many - has been lately.

Syd Morgan is the husband of Jill Evans, Plaid MEP. The article states that he “was until September last year a member of the controlling “bureau” of the Centre Maurits Coppieters (CMC), a Brussels-based organisation that researches European issues from a nationalist perspective” and continues

“During his time as a CMC bureau member, the organisation funded a project undertaken by the Welsh Nationalism Foundation, a body founded by Mr Morgan and his friend Alan Sandry, the author of a book on Plaid Cymru. Mr Sandry is currently a bureau member.
The Welsh Nationalism Foundation is an unincorporated body and does not publish accounts. Potential donors are invited on the body’s website to send cheques to Mr Morgan at the home he shares with Ms Evans in Tonypandy.”
A look at the Welsh Nationalism Foundation website reveals the following statement:

“Objectives- The Welsh Nationalism Foundation is an autonomous association engaged in the research and dissemination of all aspects of civic nationalism in Wales and the rest of Europe. It is affiliated to the Centre Maurits Coppieters (CMC), a European political foundation associated with the European Free Alliance, of which Plaid Cymru is a founder member. The Foundation supports the objective of Wales becoming a member state of European Union at the earliest opportunity.”

There are links to Plaid, and to Jill Evans’ website.

It is not the first time that this subject has been raised. Martin Shipton wrote back in June 2010 about the two day conference the Foundation was holding at which a Plaid line up addressed an audience of Plaid members. The suggestion then, as now, was that public money should not be funding such openly party political ‘research’

Of course it is a bit rich of Labour of Labour to be criticising pubic money being spent for political purposes, they are certainly not whiter than white there, but in this instance they appear to have a point.

Wales Online says that Mr Morgan when asked how much European money the Fundation had received from Centre Maurits Coppieters he said he did not have the information readily at hand, and they should ask the CMC. Yet he is the Treasurer, surely he knows a ball park figure?

Something just does not gel here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tories true colours showing on subject of same sex marriage

The subject of same sex marriage is one which is causing a bit of upset within the Tory party.  David Cameron has said he wants churches in England and Wales to be allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, but this is not finding favour with some of his party’s more hard line traditionalists.

 The BBC reports today that Monmouth MP David Davies says the plans are ‘barking mad.’

Tory MPs are to be allowed a free vote on the issue, but up to 130 of them are thought to be unhappy with the plans which obviously don’t fit in with their ideas of just how society should conduct itself old chap.

Former Assembly member Mr Davies is apparently afraid that the party will lose support over the issue – which suggests that a lot of his supporters have the same somewhat bigoted attitude that he displays.  It also raises the question of whether doing what is right comes before appeasing the party’s supporters in the minds of some.

Mr Davies' homophobic tendencies show through as he tells the BBC that

"I think most people are very tolerant and have no problem at all if people are gay but, and I hate to say this in a way because I expect it's going to cause controversy, but I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else.”

 Maybe the Chair of Conservative Future who recently wrote about how proud he is of his party’s position on LGBT issues ought to ask himself whether he is really in the right party.



Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Excuse me Mrs Clwyd – have you heard of devolution?

Now I have every sympathy with anyone who suffers or sees their friends or family suffer due to a lack of appropriate care in the health service in any form.  That sympathy extends to Anne Clwyd, MP for the Cynon Valley who is in the news this week complaining about the poor standards of care experienced by her husband who passed away in October.  If the quality of care he received at the University Hospital of Wales was as poor as she described then indeed there is much to be improved.

What I can’t understand, however, is quite why, as reported by Wales Online, she was challenging David Cameron over this in the House of Commons.

The Health Service is of course devolved.  The Minister responsible for it in Wales is Mrs Clwyd’s own Labour colleague Lesley Griffiths.  Maybe she should take her very real and understandably very strongly felt concerns up there.  There are far too many people not getting the care and treatment they deserve in Wales for all manner of reasons, but nobody can lay this at the door of the Westminster Government.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Labour’s hypocritical streak showing again Owen?

The Western Mail today carries a report on the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, Winston Roddick, who apparently intends to carry on practicising as a Barrister whilst carrying out this role.

Pontypridd MP and Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith is quoted as saying he finds it “extraordinary” that he is not treating the post as full time.  Now whilst I don’t necessarily disagree with Mr Smith on the principle, the hypocrisy and political opportunism exhibited is getting tiresome.

Would Mr Smith have been so keen to condemn this if the individual had been a Labour party member?  I don’t seem to remember him knocking former leader of RCT Council Russell three / four / five jobsRoberts for not sticking to being a full time leader of the Council.

Not a single word of criticism was heard from any Labour member as Russell raked inevery penny he could from the public purse. Now admittedly we may be talking slightly higher figures here, but the principle remains the same.  Although, as we are very much aware here in RCT principle and the Labour party are miles apart.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

They cannot be serious – Labour badgering S4C

You would think that Welsh Government Ministers have enough to be getting on with – sorting out our education system, addressing the staff shortages in our hospitals, actually doing something to address the issue of ambulance response times.  Instead what has been at the forefront of their agenda today?  Comments by a fictional character in a soap tucked away on S4C about badgers.

Yes, as reported by the BBC, Ministers have got their knickers in an ever increasing twist over a scene on Pobl Y Cwm in which a (fictional) farmer criticises the Government during an interview for a (fictional) radio station for not taking action to cull badgers. 

The Labour lot are apparently perturbed that they had no right of reply, and demanded that the episode not be repeated.  Of course they didn’t - this village doesn’t exist, neither does the farm, or the radio station. Where they supposed to find a fictional Minister to give the view of the Welsh Government? 

And it is not as if the opposing viewpoint isn’t put forward during the same episode.  A (fictional) barmaid later makes a comment that “farmers care about profits not animal welfare. They are responsible for spreading TB because they overstock. Badgers have a right to live".   Careful, you’ll have the NFU demanding that the programme be taken off the air – or maybe not, because they probably understand it is not real.

What is it with Labour and this control freak mentality of theirs?  And they can’t even put a name to their complaint.  The BBC quote a “spokesman.”

Really, they cannot be serious.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Latest Labour leaflet - paid for by the taxpayer

The latest edition of the RCT 'Newspaper' Outlook came through my door today. Full of the same shamelessly political nonsense as usual. Labour propaganda paid for by the taxpayer.

"Tough decisions ahead" the front page headline reads "frontline services to be protected." Well maybe they could protect a few more frontline services if they cut down on the amount of money they spend blowing their own trumpet. Not only on this blatant piece of Labour party marketing but on the whole PR set up.

The front page story goes on to give the usual sob story about how poor RCT have been hard done by because of the nasty Westminster Government. Meanwhile the Labour heroes in Cardiff Bay are riding around on their white horses, armour glistening (probably catching the light that shines from their backsides) protecting the people of Wales from those on the dark side.

Yet again they have forgotten that it was the Welsh Government who set the Council budget and decided RCT should have a rise of only 0.36%, the second lowest in Wales. This is flagrant politics, and the Labour party are more than happy to let the residents of RCT pay for it to be shoved down their throats.

Still, I am sure the people of Pontypridd town will be pleased to hear of the make over at Llantrisant Leisure Centre and the excellent new facilities being built at Aberdare. There is no mention of the Labour administration telling the people of that area to shove their paddling pool vote!

They will be thrilled to know the regeneration works are coming along so well and will have people flocking back to Pontypridd and Aberdare. They are, says the rag, perfect to visit at this time of year “thanks to their history and heritage.” Such as the paddling pool?

The Labour administration really ought to be ashamed of themselves for allowing this nonsense to be peddled in their name. They kicked up enough fuss during Plaid’s short tenure in charge when they did much the same with their ‘Rapidly Changing Times’ as it was called then. But then Labour around here know no shame.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Arrogance, pig-headedness, sheer stupidity - Labour at its best

Well I’ve had more than 24 hours now to calm down after the Council meeting and try and suspend my incredulity at the actions of the Labour group in relation to the paddling pool.

I have been at this business for quite a while now and little surprises me with regard to their arrogance and pig headedness in RCT but even I was staggered by the sheer overwhelming stupidity and ignorance theydisplayed.

The 2077 people who voted to save the paddling pool are to be completely ignored.  They are not going to think about it, or reconsider their options, or hold a meeting to explain why they feel keeping it is not an option.  They are not even going to pretend to do so.  No, this bunch of self-satisfied, egotistic idiots are not even going to pretend to listen, or that they care. 

Just how stupid are they?  Or is this just another example of the over confidence that comes from being in an area where traditionally the public vote for a donkey with a red rosette on?  As they keep saying over and over at every meeting, they were returned in May with an overwhelming majority with 60 out of 75 Councillors in RCT.  They can do what they like, and they will.

 Of course the votes for these 60 members are spread out across the whole of RCT, so having done the calculations they probably feel that 2077 across 9 wards is not a huge number of people for them to worry about.  Also of course the next elections are still four and a half years away, they hope people will have forgotten by then.

On the other hand, Owen Smith MP should, you would think, be looking at that number and wondering what on earth his Council colleagues are playing at.  Those 2077 people are almost all in his constituency (not quite all of course as Cilfynydd and Glyncoch are in the Cynon constituency) and they don’t have quite as long to forget before the Westminster elections.

The paddling pool fight is not over by any means, if anything the people who have been in touch with me by phone, email and facebook are now even more determined.    The Labour party keep saying this is all down to us, the ‘Lib Dems’ stirring.  As I have said before we are more than happy to take our fair share of the credit / blame whichever way you want to look at it.  But those 2077 people weren’t all politically motivated not by a long way.  In fact many of them I spoke to were Labour supporters – or used to be.

Democracy may appear to be well and truly dead in Rhondda Cynon Taff at the moment, but have no fear, we will be doing our utmost to restore it.  They don’t get rid of us that easily as they should have learned by now, and they won’t get rid of the members of the public who think they are wrong to remove the paddling pool.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Actions speak louder than words

“LEADING figures in the Tonyrefail community have joined forces to have their say on the future of their beloved town.

More than 100 people from local schools, community groups, churches and businesses took time out to read a new report by Owen Smith MP and Mick Antoniw AM on how the town can increase footfall, be promoted and boost its sense of community.”
This was the beginning of an article which appeared in the local press on 22nd March 2012 – oddly enough just as the Council election campaign started to get under way properly.

As far as I am aware very little appears to have happened since.  Although there was an apparently chance encounter between Mr Antoniw and Tonyrefail traders in September as reported in the Rhondda Leader.  After that slight run in the Pontypridd AM had to quickly get in touch with the Council and come back with a statement no doubt prepared by our favourite story teller Hans Christian Hanagan.
His colleague and co-author of the report Owen Smith made similar noises at a public meeting in Pontypridd some two years ago when he talked of a new forum for traders and residents in the town there.  Nothing has come of that either.  Yet more cynical politicking by Labour’s not so dynamic duo?





Friday, November 09, 2012

New town will only bring new problems

I have written previously of the proposed development forTalbot Green – the creation of a new town there which has caused some consternation amongst local residents and others.

Wales Online this week reported that Sainsbury’s is confirmed as the anchor store there.  The plans were submitted earlier this year and some consultation already carried out.

Amongst the responses, which can be found on the planning section of RCT website, is one from the Director of Development Services at The Vale of Glamorgan Council, objecting to the proposal on a number of grounds.

He says that no consideration has been made of the impact on retail centres in Barry and Cowbridge, which are as close to the development as “centres which have been examined such as Tonypandy and Ferndale.”
The Vale Council also objects on the grounds that there has been no traffic impact assessment in relation to the A4222 to Cowbridge and that there has been no discussions between the two Councils with regard to traffic distribution.  They therefore have concerns about highways traffic and safety.

The question has to be asked, if an adjacent Council is raising such concerns then why aren’t RCT Officers and Members asking the same questions?  Why was this ever put into the Local Development Plan?  As I have said before there are serious questions over whether the infrastructure can cope with this level of development tin this area.  Personally I don’t think it can.  Also what effect will this have on existing town centres?  The Vale of Glamorgan Council are obviously worried about that, why isn’t RCT?

What is their justification for this proposal?  We have enough shops lying empty and enough problems in existing retail areas within the County Borough.  Planning Policy Wales guidance is clear that development should first take place around existing town centres and that developments such as this should only take place in exceptional circumstances of the need is established beyond doubt.  Is that the case here?  I don’t think so.



Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The endless hypocrisy of RCT Labour

Anthony Christopher spent many years as deputy leader in the shadow of his former colleague and leader Russell Roberts, but it seems he learned a few tricks from him along the way. The art of hypocrisy for example, and a certain penchant for conveniently forgetting anything that doesn’t fit into the fairy tale they keep peddling to the public.

His column in today’s Pontypridd Observer is again the sort of imaginative tale of which the Brothers Grimm would be proud. A fanciful tale of big bad wolves and knights in white armour riding to the protection of the underdog.

I quote

In October, we received the provisional local government settlement from the Welsh Government. Thanks to the cuts being imposed on the public sector by the Tories and Liberals in London, it makes for very grim reading.  The Welsh Government has once again done all it can to protect local government and the important public services we provide from these swingeing cuts being imposed on Wales.”

Heart rending stuff isn’t it?  Or vomit inducing, depending on your point of view.

The Labour party everywhere have a habit of either trying to rewrite history or forgetting that it existed in the first place., nowhere moreso than in RCT.  Luckily I keep records aplenty and am always more than willing to jog their memories and those of others.  And one of the great things about the internet and having a web site is that it is easy to refer back to letters to the press such as this one.
Their message was getting tired even then (Sept 2011) - Labour good, Westminster Government bad. They complained about cut backs in Council budgets, blaming it entirely on Westminster, overlooking the fact that their budget came from the Labour Welsh Government as it has for years.

The letter refers to some interesting quotes.  On 3rd January 2008 Russell Roberts was quoted as saying

"We have approached Rhodri Morgan (Labour First Minister) and Ieuan Wyn Jones (Plaid Deputy First Minister) to try to get an increase but we haven't heard from them since. We do now face some serious challenges in terms of providing local services"

In a letter to the Local Government Minister Brian Gibbons (Labour) at the time Russell wrote

"Given that the total Assembly pot is increasing by 4.8%, we are disappointed again with the lack of priority given to local government in the draft Assembly budget"

A year later again complaining about the budget settlement.

"The totally inadequate level of Assembly support has now forced us into reviewing service provision and fees and charging arrangements. The council's strong financial stability will not be comprised, which will ensure we maintain our core services that are being given short shrift by the politicians in Cardiff Bay."

So when Labour were in power in Westminster then the budget cuts were the fault of the Welsh Government.  But the minute the coalition Government took over in Westminster then cuts were all their fault, and the Welsh Government, who up until then had been the evil ones in all of this suddenly shined up their halos and put a protective shield around the good people of RCT.


As reported here the situation this year is far from new and there have been several very critical comments appearing in Council reports over recent years.  Yes times are hard, yes cut backs have to be made, but this degree of hypocrisy shows the Labour party for exactly what they are.


Friday, November 02, 2012

Just who is playing politics?

Yet again a predictable reaction to the paddling pool referendum vote on 1st November from the Labour Council in RCT.  As usual they lack the guts to actually face the public. - hence a statement from an anonymous‘spokesperson’ and a refusal to put anyone up for interview with ITV.  

The ‘spokesperson’ (at a guess Head of Strategy & Public Relations, son of Cabinet Member and former Labour Council candidate Christian Hanagan) said

 “It is disappointing that individuals have chosen to play politics with this hugely important project for the future of Pontypridd.”

Who can he (or she?) mean?  Surely not Mike Powell and me?  The ‘Lib Dems’ they try and dismiss with such contempt as being of no significance at all in RCT?  Do they seriously think we could engineer such an uprising of anger and indeed contempt for those who made this decision?

Yes we brought this to people's attention, yes we have publicized it, yes we were at the centre of the campaign, yes we wrote, printed and, alongside a swathe of volunteers who have nothing at all to do with the Party, delivered leaflets across the Ponty Town Council area.  It is an insult to them, and every one of the 2077 people who voted to save the pool yesterday to suggest that they were ‘playing politics.’

As I have said quite openly in the past there is of course a political element to this – the decision was made by politicians.  We opposed the removal of the paddling pool prior to the Council elections this year, indeed we have been opposing it since 2008 when the suggestion was first made.  It is one of the reasons Russell Roberts lied so blatantly about saving the pool – because he was afraid of losing votes.  As it happened it didn’t save him, but it was a cynical, calculated political ploy.

The statement from the faceless wonder goes on to say

 “When cuts to public sector funding by the UK government are forcing difficult decisions across the country, any amendments to the current proposals, which will effect the viability of the new Lido, place the entire scheme in jeopardy and potentially put at risk grant funding already made available.”

Leaving aside the bad grammar (it should be affect not effect) is this supposed to be a non-political statement?  I am just surprised the word ‘Con Dem’ did not appear this time as it did last time.  Mr X once again also seems to ignore a little thing called devolution – which means Local Government is under the control of the Welsh (Labour) Government.  They dish out the cash to Councils.

The people who came out to vote yesterday in the cold and the rain and the dark, voted despite the threats of the council that it could stop the lido development.  Is Mr X suggesting that they were all misguided?   Apparently so.

The Lido plans have several hurdles still to clear.  The listed building consent for the removal of the paddling pool has yet to be granted, and so far they only have a portion of the funding in place – WEFO have still to decide on whether to make an offer.

My bet is that the Labour Cabinet will stick to their arrogant, pig headed stance.  They will insist that the people of Pontypridd cannot have both the Lido and the paddling pool.  The project will fall apart, either because listed consent will not be granted or the rest of the funding will not be found - or because the Council will just put the brakes on. They will then blame it on us – the Lib Dems.  Hence their comments now about political mischief making, they want to make us the scapegoats.

Well if and when they do then we will quite happily plead guilty as charged. They have accused us of jumping on a bandwagon, but we built and drove this bandwagon.  We brought the plans to the attention of the public and stated our position quite clearly.  The public may not have agreed with us – we may have ended up with a deal of egg on our faces, but we still made a stance and stated clearly what we believed and what we wanted to see happen.

Mr X says that the Council will consider this in the wider context of the needs of RCT and the regeneration of Pontypridd, unlike the referendum.  How arrogant can they get?  Do they seriously think we are so shallow that we don’t consider the wider picture?  And what an insult to the people of Pontypridd.

You see the real problem the Labour Party in RCT have with us is that we don’t give up.  We stick to our principles, whether that makes us popular or not. We actually believe in what we do, and we care about the communities in which we live.  For us it is what the politics is all about – making things better and representing the best interests of the people.  Oh we are not perfect, and certainly not right all the time - who is?  But we don’t give up and we don’t give in and we certainly don’t bow down to bullies. And that they just don’t understand.

2077 people can't be wrong Owen

Owen Smith came down off the fence in the Ponty Observer this week and backed his Labour Council colleagues (what a surprise) over the Lido plans which would see the removal of the paddling pool from Ynysangharad Park.

People need to move on, he said, forget the emotion associated with the pool and press forward.

Well Owen it seems people have moved on - they have moved on from thinking they should sit back and take all the crap your colleagues are handing out.  They have decided to make a stand.  2077 voted in favour of retaining the paddling pool, in spite of the threats and bullying tactics employed by your Council mates.

Cllr Christopher doesn't need to worry about Pontypridd votes - he is a Cynon Valley Councillor, it is easy for him to dismiss the feelings of the residents of Pontypridd.  You on the other hand need to be a little more careful.  You are next in line election wise, and be very sure people will not forget where your loyalties lay, and we will be there to remind them.  When push came to shove you came down on the side of your Labour Council mates rather than the people you are supposed to represent. 2077 of your constituents voted to keep the paddling pool. Are they all misguided?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ghosties and ghoulies - the horror show in RCT

Well Labour Councillors in Pontypridd seem to have gone into hiding – Halloween must have been a god-send this week, lots of masks to hide behind so they can step out of their doors safely.

If the stream of phone calls I have been getting over the paddling pool referendum is anything to go by they are in for a bit of a rough ride from those residents they are supposed to be representing.
“What idiots decided this” is amongst the milder comments.  Several people have questioned the parentage of some of the Labour Cabinet, and there are obvious questions over the ability of some to have children given they apparently lack the essential equipment “down below” - the scrotal sack having allegedly withered and died.

Rumours that certain Cabinet Members have been seen trying to avoid contact with the general public by whizzing around on their broomsticks are, I am sure, an exaggeration.  As are the tales of Council leader Tony Christopher walking the streets of Pontypridd, with his scythe at the ready, doing a first class impersonation of the grim reaper.

No doubt wearing his underpants over his trousers MP Owen Smith waded in to the argument yet again in today’s Ponty Observer.  He starts with a heart-warming little tale of how he bunked off school when he was a young lad to go to the paddling pool, and all the wonderful memories associated with it.

He then goes on to say that this emotional nonsense has no place in today’s decision making process and people should move on. Let the Council bulldoze the paddling pool, because they know best after all.  Yes the Council’s consultation process was terrible but never mind, they are all good Labour folk and so what does it matter?  Must all stick together after all.

Still at least he has come off the fence, and is now saying clearly he agrees with the Cabinet regardless of public opinion.  Mick Antoniw AM has still to voice any opinion on this or anything else in his constituency really, but then it must be difficult for him to get up there from his home in Newport all the time.

People are furious about the plans – how stupid are the Labour politicians that they can’t see it?  Or is it just that they don’t want to see it?  There are none so blind as those who will not see.

They operate with an arrogance that comes from knowing they have a massive majority in the Council Chamber. That they can do just what they want, but really is that a good enough reason for doing something – just because you can?  Only if you lack principle, and there at least they win hands down.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Mick Antoniw not so Slick

GTFM radio have today been running a news item on the paddling pool referendum.  A somewhat bland piece detailing the technicalities of the process more than anything else, they decide to invite along Mick Antoniw Labour AM for Pontypridd to comment on the referendum process, as a 'former lawyer.'  Antoniw of course previously was a Director of Thompsons solicitors – they were fined by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority for cheating miners out of some oftheir rightful compensation.

His view given on earlier bulletins was that this is a 'poorly thought out piece of legislation.' I am sure his Labour colleagues at the Assembly will be pleased to know that - they instigated it. The Local Government (Wales)Measure 2011 changed the rules Slick - perhaps you should have looked it up.

He intimated that the reason Ponty Town Council could be called upon to hold this referendum was that they had an interest as they would have been asked to comment on the plans, and so therefore they could just about to be said to have a legitimate interest. WRONG Mr A. They are the ones specified in the legislation by virtue of being the town / community Council covering the area. Maybe I should direct him towards the relevant section of the Measure?

To really cap it all in the later bulletins he said that there would be no postal or proxy votes (correct at last, hurray) and that 'there may limited opening hours at polling stations.'

Doesn't he know? Hasn't he bothered to find out? He represents the people calling for this poll, has he so little regard for them?  

He has said absolutely nothing about the paddling pool, but then he says nothing about anything affecting his constituency.  Why was his mate Owen Smith MP the one doing the talking when the Taff Vale precinct developers went bust?  Economic Development is an Assembly matter, European funding doled out by the Welsh Government.

But then of course he does live in Newport, so how can anyone expect him to know anything about his constituency.  If anyone is in any doubt then take a look at his website under the Pontypridd tab.  What you will find there is a direct lift from Wikipedia of a piece which refers only to Pontypridd town area – not a mention of anywhere else in his constituency – what about the Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre council areas, Taff’s Well, Tonyrefail?

People do indeed get what they vote for.




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

If you say it often enough it must be true

That seems to be the attitude of the Labour administration in RCT.  Or the attitude of the press department – mind the two are interchangeable, as you would expect when you employ as Head of Department the son of a Cabinet ember, who has been a Labour candidate and who spent the night of the election count firmly ensconced in their camp.

Take two stories which appeared in the Pontypridd Observer today.  The front page carries an article on the closure of a Pontypridd business.

 AN ENTREPRENEUR who was forced into shutting his Pontypridd business has slated the “dire” state of the town.

Adrian Dumphey, who set up Cafe Zone on Bridge Street two years ago, said the regeneration work in Pontypridd – coupled with the introduction of the new Sainsbury’s supermarket – led to his business’ untimely demise

He said: “The renovation of the high street has been the real death knell of Pontypridd.”

Coun Paul Cannon has argued in the recent past that the town still has much to champion.

He said: “During this period of austerity which is affecting all town centres, it is easy to focus on the negatives.

“Pontypridd’s incredible transformation is now reaching its final phase, creating a vibrant, attractive and welcoming town centre fit for the 21st century. The council’s £10.5m investment has widespread positive implications.  New shops and businesses have opened their doors on Taff Street, High Street, Bridge Street and Gelliwastad Road and many jobs have been created."

Then there is a piece on the dis-satisfaction being felt by traders in the town over the lack of communication with RCT Council
MEMBERS of a town centre business forum have criticized the local authority for failing to liaise with them, despite months of repeated requests.

Salon owner Peter Lovegrove formed Pontypridd Business Forum with a number of fellow business owners in January, but says numerous attempts to “encourage true dialogue” with representatives of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council have failed to materialize.

The forum was established to allow the town’s business-owners to meet to discuss concerns and ideas, and its members were hopeful the council would play an important part in its functioning

This is a common complaint, but every time we raise it we are accused by the Labour lot of ‘making political capital’ or ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ or the old favourite that we are running down Pontypridd.
The Council of course refutes the claims by Mr Lovegrove and say that “Representatives of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council actually attend the Business Forum Meetings chaired by Mr Lovegrove, as part of the wider commitment to Pontypridd town centre and we strive to do our utmost to support the business community of Pontypridd.”

There is no mention of who these representatives are.  After all as we saw at the paddling pool referendum meeting, the Labour Cllrs don’t like to engage with the general public too closely.  Maybe the traders would actually like to see some of the elected representatives who supposedly make the decisions.

What there is yet again is the trotting out of the same well-worn lines

“The council has been proactively engaging with the business community of Pontypridd as it delivers the far-reaching £10.5m regeneration project in the town centre. Our scheme focuses very much on boosting the Pontypridd economy for local businesses, and we do all in our power to accommodate the needs and concerns of the town’s traders.

“We have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds to help new businesses open their doors and existing businesses to expand and employ more staff through the Townscape Enhancement Programme."

Still we needn’t worry.  All the problems are about to be solved – with an App.

This week RCT Council announced they are embracing technology and introducing an App for Pontypridd town.

That ever popular utopia dweller Cllr Paul Cannon was yet again delivering the great news.  ““The introduction of this specialist and innovative service for visitors to Pontypridd is incredible and will undoubtedly appeal to anyone who wants to discover more about the town and all it has to offer.”

Then of course the inevitable must include lines followed  “With the investment of £10.5million in Pontypridd town centre (yawn, yawn, yawn) which is not only transforming the street scene but also enhancing the local buildings, residents and visitors are being drawn back to the town centre.”

If you say it often enough it must be true – isn’t it?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Welsh Labour NHS a total shambles.

How much worse does our shambolic health service have to get before Labour get their**e in gear and do something.  It is a disgrace and I hope all those people who voted Labour to ‘send a message to Cameron and Clegg’ are happy with what they’ve got.

My twenty year old son developed a pain in one side of his head yesterday, worse behind his ear, but spreading.  Being a Sunday there was no GP available, and he said it wasn’t bad enough to go to the hospital, so he took advice from his pharmacist brother who diagnosed a probable ear infection.

This morning at a couple of minutes after 8.30 I took him to the surgery, where he was told that the lady in front of him had taken the last appointment for today and he would have to come back on Wednesday  (oh yes).  Again he said it wasn’t bad enough to bother the hospital A&E, and of course our Minor Injuries Unit is not functioning. I went off to work, and had a phone call from him a bit later saying he had rung the MIU and NHS Direct and they had got an appointment for him with his GP. 
Now you may ask why it needs such lengths to get an appointment - I certainly did.  A severe pin in the head and you are told to wait two days before you can see anyone. 

Anyway, he saw the locum GP – can’t expect to have anyone permanent around here after all, and was given some antibiotics, and migraine tablets, with little explanation as to what she thought the problem was, but made mutterings about an ear infection.

He took the prescribed pills but by 9 o’clock tonight it was worse – so much so that he asked me to take him to the hospital. 

We arrived to find a sign telling people they may be redirected to somewhere more appropriate (such as where?  A vet?) and the approximate waiting time was 5 hours.

Whilst waiting a poor old dear was brought in, in a wheelchair, by paramedics.  She was plonked in the corridor, although the para did get her a blanket.  She was on her own and very frail looking.  She asked for something to rest her foot on as it was hurting too much dangling as it was, only to be told they didn’t have stools, but somebody would see her soon.

My son was called to see the triage nurse, a somewhat stroppy individual who more or less accused him of wasting her time, as it was only earache and a matter for the GP.  And anyway she was just about to change the waiting time to 7 hours.  Just how a patient is supposed to tell that a severe pain which suddenly increased in severity is ‘just earache’ without a medical opinion?

I wonder if the poor old dear with the injured foot is still waiting.  And will anyone bother to check that she is ok, doesn’t need a drink or to go to the loo, or will she just sit there on her own for 5 – or 7 – hours.

So glad Labour are protecting our services.   They will be so much better I am sure when they close one of the A&E departments – then patients can have the pleasure of travelling further as well.  Great stuff.  Well done the Labour party.

Friday, October 19, 2012

RCT Labour lacking communication skills

The Labour party in RCT really haven’t got the hang of this communicating with the public lark.  I mean take their websites.

There is a Tonyrefail Labour one which really needs updating – I know it must have been hard for them to lose their leader but it was a few months ago now and they should acknowledge the fact.

There are only two pieces of news, the last poster in April.  Some things appear to have disappeared – the piece about how Russell had saved the Police Station for instance, maybe they decided such a blatant piece of misinformation was just a step too far,

 Rhondda Labour is well worth a look, of you want the refuse collection dates for last Christmas.

 Whoever was running the RCT Labour site seems to have given up, the last piece of ‘news’ being from June.  The lie about the paddling pool is still there though, haven’t bothered to remove that..

So glad they are doing their utmost to connect with residents

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ponty traffic eased - must be true the Council say so.

The traffic flow in Pontypridd has been greatly improved allegedly.  According to the Council website people are raving about how great the new system is an how much more easily traffic is moving around.

Presumably they were told this by some of the same people they claim told them they loved their regeneration plans including the one about taking the paddling pool away.  Probably during some major consultation exercise under cover of darkness on Christmas Eve.

One thing that puzzles me is when they took the photo that accompanies the press release, because the road is empty. I mean, come on, they could have waited for a bus to come past even for the sake of the story which brags about the new bus lanes.  How much are we shelling out for the PR department again?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Labour Councillors too afraid to face the music

I daresay it is too much to hope for that the Labour Councillors in RCT will now actually start to wake up a bit and smell the coffee.  For the past few weeks they have been going around accusing RCT Lib Dems of spreading misinformation about the paddling pool.  They have been telling people of the huge cost associated with a referendum (£10,500) and how it will affect the services the Town council can provide.
They have said often enough that they probably believed it that it was just “the Lib Dems stirring”  And of course at all times they have maintained the consultation has been “far reaching and robust.”

Must have come as a bit of a shock to them to see a packed Muni last night and have 209 residents vote in favour of calling a community poll / referendum.  There were a few of them there, huddled together for comfort, most of them Town Councillors.  None of the Cabinet Members who made the real decisions of course.  They are spineless, gutless buffoons who are too scared to face the public who instead just choose to pick up their handsome salaries and hide away. Salaries which, by the way, amount annually to more than three times the cost of the referendum.

Facing the music in the red corner, on behalf of the Council was an Officer – the Director of Regeneration and Planning.  Sent to face the music – and boy did she get an earful.

She was booed and heckled and at one stage even called a liar, a bit harsh by anyone’s standards, but then this was the strength of feeling evident.

This was no set up Lib Dem crowd – would that we had that number of members to call upon!  These were genuine residents who are furious at the Council’s plans to take away their paddling pool and not even offer them a roof on the new Lido.

They were furious that this had been going on and because of the appalling level of so called consultation by this Council there will now be a referendum where they can state their case clearly.

It shouldn’t have come to this.  No Council should be so arrogant and out of touch with what is happening that they get to this stage.  But that is the case with Labour in RCT.  Arrogant and self- serving, and as a mate of mine once said, hypocritical parasites!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Pontypridd AM stifling democracy - it's the Labour way

I make no apologies for reproducing the following post from the blog of Peter Black AM, hitting the nail on the head as he so often does.  This time it concerns Mick Antoniw, Assembly Member for Pontypridd, who it seems has one thing in common with his Council colleagues - a dislike of the democratic process.

I particuarly like the response of the Presiding Officer - herself a Labour AM - which seems to express the exasperation many of his colleagues appear to feel with Mr Antoniw.

Labour Assembly Member seeks to stifle debate   (by Peter Black AM)

On Wednesday the Assembly Plenary was scheduled to debate a Conservative motion on neo-natal services. This had been prompted by the health service reconfiguration that is underway across Wales. However, one Labour member at least thought that we should not be discussing the issue at all, whilst the Government side took umbrage and refused to vote on it. There was a clear attempt to stifle debate as is evident from this point of order:

Mick Antoniw: I wish to raise a point of order on a matter of principle regarding an item of business on today‘s agenda, namely item 6, which is the Conservative motion, which deals with matters relating to NHS configuration. It is a matter on which it is important that there is a ruling and some clarity from you, Presiding Officer.

The point is that the Welsh Government has initiated a consultation and engagement process that is, effectively, a quasi-judicial process. Recommendations will come back to Government, which will again be acting in a quasi-judicial role. It seems to me that there is a serious issue that, when we have that process under way, we have motions that are, in effect, prejudging that process. Paragraph 3.12 of the Assembly‘s principles and practice for the tabling and laying of Assembly business states that the Presiding Officer has an overriding discretion to refuse to accept a motion if it brings into question the proper conduct of Assembly business. It seems to me that this motion raises the question of whether interfering with a quasi-judicial process brings into question the proper conduct of Assembly business. Under those circumstances, will you consider using your overriding discretion, or, alternatively, give a ruling on the matter?

The Presiding Officer: Thank you for the point of order, and for giving me prior notice of your intention to raise it. We had a conversation earlier, but you obviously needed further clarification.

The Welsh Government is accountable to the National Assembly, and Members can table motions relating to any aspect of the Government‘s work. To prevent them from doing so would be contrary to the basic principle of parliamentary accountability. The motion, if passed, will not be binding on Ministers when it comes to them taking the decision in question, and I see no grounds on which to constrain the right of Members to express their views on the matter in question.

My ruling therefore is that the motion does not bring into question the proper conduct of business, and there are no grounds whatsoever to rule it out of order. In doing so, I am acting entirely in accordance with our Standing Orders and with established parliamentary practice here and elsewhere.

As Mick Antoniw sat down an e-mail arrived from his office inviting all Assembly Members to a meeting to discuss civil liberties, freedom of expression and the right to protest.

Clearly, the concept of irony is not fully understood on the Labour benches.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Innovative idea or conceptualised bovine excrement?

What is it about MPs in Pontypridd and art?  Now don’t get me wrong I like a good painting or a bit of sculpture as much as most people, although I can’t say it quite stirs me to the extent of a red jersey diving over the line.  But all things in perspective please.

First we had Kim Howells waxing lyrical about the joys of art (despite his occasional frustration with conceptualised bullshit) and the need for a gallery.  Although his suggestion that one of the Assembly buildings be converted because he was at a loss as to the purpose of the Assembly did little to endear him to those who believe in devolution.
Now it is the turn of Owen Smith. Fresh from his failure to get any movement out of the WRU on reintroducing regional rugby, and with some egg on his chops following the collapse of the precinct plans not long after he had assured everyone that everything was fine, he has a cunning plan.

Now that the developers who were to provide a stunning new precinct for high class shops such as Poundland and bring shoppers flooding into the town have gone bust what should happen to the site?   Owen thinks maybe a “contemporary Welsh art museum,”

He then delves even further into the realms of conceptualised bovine excrement with the suggestion that

“Although a private site, I'm sure any developer would be interested to hear what local people would like to see on the site and all ideas should be considered,"

Is he serious?  When we can’t even get the Council to consult with the public over what it is they want then why on earth should a private developer?  And given the reaction on the street and down the pub so far the majority of local people seem to think he has lost the plot just slightly.  Questions as to the colour of the sky on his planet have apparently been asked in many quarters.

Maybe the opinions of local people have been coloured by the offerings they have so far been given in the name of art – such as the Unity sculpture.  Or maybe they think that giving all the existing problems an art gallery comes pretty far down the list of what the area needs.