Saturday, January 28, 2012

The (unofficial) RCT Council minutes 27th January 2012 - part 2

So having endured the sickening sights and sounds of the Labour sheep bleating in unison about how terrible we are I could hardly wait to see how they reacted to the long line of questions that had been submitted by the man they all love to hate - Mike Powell.
Now I am not going into details here as they have already been fairly well covered by Mike here and here and indeed here.  Not to mention a letter from Cllr John Bell here.
Even I was surprised by how blatant their contempt was – it is a shame that there are not more members of the public there to see their playground antics.  No wonder they are not prepared to follow the leave of Welsh Lib Dems in Cardiff and broadcast their Council meetings on the web.  Here in RCT they ban any form of photography or recording of meetings.  Open and transparent Labour.  Got to love ‘em.
The session really showed the Labour Cabinet up for the idiots they are.  They come with their officer prepared statements to answer the original question, but then flounder completely when asked a supplementary because they are incapable of individual thought.  What on earth do we pay these idiots for?
Time and again we heard the words “I’ll respond in writing.”   Paul Cannon’s answer when asked what he was going to do about the low take up of the Pontypridd Townscape Enhancement Programme was classic
“I propose to do nothing whatsoever.”
Sums it up nicely – and this man wants to be the Police Commissioner for South Wales.  Heaven help us.  It’s enough to make me want to campaign for Alan Michael.
The Mayor was nothing short of a disgrace as she hassled Mike, obviously as impatient as her colleagues at actually having to waste their time on answering questions on such non important issues as education and economic development.
The bunch of hypocritical parasites cackled on and heckled from the sidelines, never once brought back into line by the woman with the bling in the Chair.
At least one person answered a straight question with a straight answer.  Russell Roberts confirmed that he doesn’t agree with Ed Balls that public sector pay needs to be frozen. 
Quite what he meant by his follow up remark that “Councillor Powell you could be having difficult questions fired in your direction soon” is anyone’s guess.  But then it is not the first time he has made threats in the Chamber.  It’s the kind of nice guy he is

The debate on the Boundary Commission review tugged at the old heart strings.  Pauline Jarman even brought a photograph along of people from Plaid and Labour getting together before the formation of the unitary authority to save the Cynon Valley.
Russell is ‘appalled’ that the Cynon constituency will be ripped apart under the proposals and the “Cynon Valley will disappear from the map.”  Quite how that is going to be the case I don’t know.
A cross party group is apparently needed to discuss the issue.  Alas whilst Pauline and Russell gave rallying speeches on how politics had to be put aside for the greater good the camaraderie was somewhat ruined by the Deputy Council leader Anthony Christopher stated that ‘the two main parties’ should work together, as he didn’t suppose that anyone of the others would take part ‘given their attitude.’
Any wonder that attitude exists Tony?
Just after this point Mike, who had kept his temper through all the nonsense far better than I think I would have, decide enough was enough, and without any fuss or comment gathered his things and left the Chamber.

Cllr Andrew Morgan (Labour of course) asked that it be recorded in the minutes that he had left.  Now considering that at least four Labour people has left already without comment from anyone this may seem a little strange.  Mike's colleague John Bell pointed this pout, and was actually backed by Plaid's Pauline Jarman, but the Labour lot don't allow little things like consistency to get in their way.

They really are a bunch of ......................

Thursday, January 26, 2012

(Alternative) RCT Council minutes 25th Jan 2012 (part1)

RCT despite the Labour administration’s insistence that it is open and transparent is in fact about as transparent as a brick wall.  Whilst Cardiff put their meetings on the web, RCT ban anyone making recordings or taking photos or the like.
The minutes such as they are tell nothing of what goes on in the Chamber.  So, as a public service, I thought I’d provide the alternative minutes.  What they said, and what they meant!
Item 2 -  ANNOUNCEMENTS – the Mayor is having another charity bash.

Item 3 – minutes of the last meeting.  All happy.  (Most cannot remember that far back.)

Item 4 - OPEN GOVERNMENT STATEMENTS in accordance with Open Government
Procedure Rule 2
To receive any statements from the Leader of the Council and/or statements from Cabinet Portfolio Holders

Um, no , seems they have nothing to say.  Don’t want to prolong matters – the cocoa is waiting.

Item 5 - PUBLIC PRESENTATION in accordance with Open Government Procedure Rule 4  (I love that – open Government?  In RCT? The other one has bells on.)

To receive a presentation from Mr.D.Rowland of Clydach Vale in respect of `Roads surrounding the Cwm Clydach Primary School and the safety of the parents, children and road users’.

Answer from Cllr Andrew Morgan Cabinet Member Highways.  “No, you can’t have any safety measures we haven’t got any money.”

Mr Rowland – but they have then in Tonyrefail and Beddau and Pentre.

Cllr Morgan – we have a long waiting list (and at least two of those wards are held by Cabinet members)


A power point presentation from Mr.N.Elliott, Service Director, Commissioning, Business and Housing Systems and Mr.N.Jones, Service Director,Operational Finance.

The officers outline the potential effects of the Welfare Reform Bill in RCT.  There are lots of ifs and maybes and talks of possible impact.  Then comes the debate.

Russell Roberts kicks off as usual – the measures are ‘draconian….getting people back into jobs, what jobs?

(that’s right Russell – what jobs?  Thanks to the failures of the Labour party at all levels of Government there is nothing in RCT  - your recently announced economic development strategy is a disgrace, you do nothing to help local businesses.  What jobs indeed?)

Pauline Jarman – "would like to see David Cameron manage on the income levels imposed on many in the South Wales Valleys".  (indeed, but many of those are working families who do not get anywhere near £26,000 take home a year.)
Paul Baccara – ‘obviously agree with the leader’  (got to love the Independent group in RCT not an independent thought in sight)  
Mark Adams (who lives in Trallwn) it will affect my ward of Tylorstown where there is a high degree of unemployment.  Our town centre could end up desolate because of businesses closing’
(Maybe Labour should have done something about it before now.  Still when they build their planned new town in Talbot Green it will wipe out lots of existing town centres very effectively so Cllr Adams needn’t worry about the effect of benefit changes.)
Em Jenkins, getting to the nitty gritty of what bothers them  they refer to Local Authorities acting as agencies, it is RCT Council who will carry the can.  They will blame us for what ‘those people in Clydach Vale have done’.”
Then the voice of the person they have directed all their remarks to – Welsh Lib Dem Cllr Mike Powell.
no one here has come up with any alternatives.  Russell is right we need to look at this more closely in scrutiny.  I’d like to know some more precise figures though, not a string of guesses and estimates.
“As others have already said there are many in RCT who left school and have spent years unable to find work.  And the Labour party have done nothing at all about it.”
And some classic lines from Aurfron Roberts summing up the Labour attitude maybe?
“that is a bit rich coming from someone in a ward which is nowhere near as deprived as many.  You should be ashamed of yourself Mike Powell.”
But of course, as Kevin Brennan MP said recently ‘poor people vote Labour’ so they would want to keep them dependent.   So do residents in Mike’s ward, or in Tonteg or Miskin have fewer rights than those in Gilfach or Tylorstown or Penrhwceiber?   Unbelievable.
By the time the inevitable comments about condemning the condem government started, along with talk of children running naked through the streets I needed a sick bucket.

Value added hard to measure

I had the pleasure of attending a fund raising event laid on by a group of volunteers at Tonypandy Community College on the 16th of January.  The event was to raise money to provide improved facilities at our link school in Mbale, Uganda.  A group of staff and students intend travelling out there in February to help with building work.
An excellent meal courtesy of Browning’s caterers was followed by entertainment from Sophie Evans, an ex-pupil of the College who rose to fame on the BBC Programme “Over the Rainbow” and is currently starring as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” in the West End.
Not for the first time I felt an enormous sense of pride in being associated with the College. The sense of team work that exists, the genuine community engagement, and the evidence in the form of Sophie of how much our pupils can achieve.
Much has been said about the new school banding system recently, and I have made it very clear that I think the scheme serves no useful purpose and merely serves to demoralize staff.
Tonypandy Community College band 4 ranking comes about because of the number of free school meals pupils attending and the attendance record – factors which we can only have so much influence on.
They take insufficient account of educational performance, and certainly no account of the tremendous amount of value added benefit that the College – and indeed others – provide. Sophie still obviously has a tremendous amount of affection for the College and for the teachers who supported her along the way and who, along with her family and friends, encouraged her to aim high and helped develop a can do attitude.
That cannot be measured by any banding system.
Karen Roberts
Vice Chair of Governors, Tonypandy Community College

Monday, January 23, 2012

Singing from the same song sheet?

More nonsense from Owen Smith MP for Pontypridd in his Ponty Observer column this week. 

This time he is recycling the 'it's not our fault honest Gov' routine favoured by Labour politicians in these parts.

"During these tough times for families and businesses, it’s inexcusable that there are billions of pounds outstanding in tax revenue as a result of multi-millionaires stashing their money in offshore tax havens."

Of course it is Owen dear boy, but then where have you been until now?  Oh, sorry, you were in Surrey weren't you?  What I mean is where have your party been?  They were in Government for 13 years weren't they?

Am I missing something?

"Just as with phone hacking, the response to last summer’s riots, forests, the economy and the NHS, Ed Miliband and the Labour team are several steps ahead of Cameron & Co on this issue."

Obviously written before Ed Milliband and the Labour team saw the light on the road to Damascus and decided we were right.

Didn't anyone give Owen a copy of the new song sheet?

Just whose vested interest is it?

Owen Smith must presumably be relieved that despite concerns expressed by some of his colleagues the Pontypridd constituency will not - if draft proposals go ahead - be merged with the Rhondda and so he will not have to slug it out with Chris Bryant for the nomination for lead donkey.

He is, however, as he stated in the Ponty Observer this week, not pleased that there will be a cut in the number of MPs

"I’m firmly opposed to a decrease in Wales’ representation at Westminster and will be campaigning to show this government for what it really is – yet another vested interest!

Oh really, Owen, do calm down there's a good man.  I haven't heard any outcry from voters who will now have to foot the bill for fewer MPs  I suspect the vested interest lies within his own party - after all in the RCT area alone Labour would see their number of MPs reduce by a third.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Arrogance that knows no bounds

It is certainly no secret that I have no time whatsoever for Leighton Andrews - the man's arrogance knows no bounds.  He is always right in his eyes, and no matter how high the level of outcry against him he, like good old Maggie T, is not for turning.

His newly introduced banding system has met with criticism from all sides, even the teaching unions, who normally shy away from criticising Labour Ministers, have come out against him. My thoughts on the Secondary school bands when they initially appeared were published in the local press and certainly favourably received by our Headteacher and at least some of my fellow Governors (Labour Councillors were not as forthcoming with praise).  The letter is repeated below.

Yesterday the BBC published the response to an FOI request which gave the 'scores on the doors' for all schools in Wales.  It only served to reinforce my previous opinion, that the banding bears little relation to how schools actually perform at their real function - educating our children.

Pontypridd High School recently underwent an Estyn inspection and performed very well - it is given a Band 5 rating.   Cynon Valley schools by and large do not perform as well as they should - that was much of the reasoning behind the Labour Party's plans to close all sixth forms in RCT.

Now he is to press ahead with his crazy system in Primary schools too.  Again there has been widespread critcism, but boys and girls Leighton knows best. Even though, as the BBC reports,  "many schools - around a third across Wales - will be exempt from banding on the grounds of their small size and other factors."

This surely makes a complete mockery of the whole system. 

The school banding system is a complete disgrace and will achieve nothing except the further demoralisation of our teaching staff in RCT and indeed across Wales.

It appears that there is only one person who thinks this is a good idea and that is Leighton Andrews. Even the unions who are usually reluctant to criticise any Labour plans have come out strongly against it.

These tables by and large tell you nothing about how well a school is performing with regard to its core function which is to educate children and ensure that each pupil performs to the best of his / her ability. They are weighted according to things such as the number of free school meals pupils and very heavily weighted according to attendance.

The explanatory guidance which accompanied the banding report is about as clear as mud, and I have been involved in education for some considerable time, and as a political employee at the Assembly am used to deciphering Government gobbledegook.

The bands bear no relation in many instances to what is already published information such as Estyn reports and GCSE / A level results. They take no account of the community aspects of many schools.

They do take account of attendance, and as Vice Chair of Governors at a Secondary School I find this very galling. We, like many other schools, have done all we can to increase attendance, including employing our own welfare officer. Short of picking every pupil up and dragging them to school each day there is little else that we can do. Yet we will be 'punished' for this by being placed in band 4.

Yes there are problems in schools, yes some are not achieving the best they could for their pupils, yes we can all always improve - but the time of the Education Minister would be better spent on looking at ways to support schools rather than this.

Karen Roberts

Friday, January 06, 2012

Taking the Mick?

So Mick Antoniw the AM for Ponty has at last managed to get his website updated, well sort of.  He's added the title 'AM' to it, but can you spot the deliberate error?

The page headed 'about Pontypridd' shows his extensive knowledge of the constituency and the hard work he has put in over recent months.

Or maybe not.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Wardens back in Aber, but here we still wait

As Wales Online reports
“After seven months of a parking free-for-all Aberystwyth is to have traffic wardens
The university town and seaside resort made national headlines last summer when Dyfed- Powys Police first axed wardens in the town, leading to a parking free-for-all on its streets
It is hoped the devices will act as a deterrent to irate Aberystwyth motorists who, by June, will have enjoyed more than a year unchecked by wardens in the town.”

Seven months without wardens.  Been a bit longer than that here in RCT and parking here will remain a free for all for some months yet.  

At the November Council meeting Mike Powell asked a question of the Cabinet Member for Highways
“As Cardiff has had Civil Parking Enforcement powers since July 2011 and has received over £1 million in charges, why has RCT not applied for Civil Parking Enforcement Powers?”

The response was quite lengthy but failed to quite explain the delay in RCT actually getting their act together and applying for the necessary legislative permissions.
In January 2010, a Civil Parking Enforcement Feasibility Report was carried out by Consultants. A letter of 10th April from the Police came forward indicating they are looking forward to withdraw traffic wardens from 31st December, 2010.

The Cabinet then agreed to go forward for Civil Parking Powers and we have moved forward, as follows:

July 2011 – Statutory Consultation was commenced
August 2011 – Survey undertaken of all traffic regulation orders
September 2011 – Submission to Welsh Government
November 2011 – SLA signed with Merthyr
In Jan/Feb – July 2012, remedial work will be undertaken where every sign will be replaced, renewed or maintained.
In Feb 2012, we will submit final comments to the Welsh Government.
April – July 2012 there will be staff training.
Mid 2012 – publicity launched and press releases.
July-Aug 2012 – we expect to have full implementation of Civil Parking Enforcementment
So they knew this was happening in April 2010 and more than two years later, they will have a new system in place. Wouldn’t want to rush them after all.
This explanation – as minuted – is pure gobbledegook.
“July-August 2012 – we expect to have full implementation of Civil Parking Enforcement so to do it any quicker runs the risk that other authorities get to a point where they bring this in and have to hand back potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds because they cannot go ahead.”

Whose fault is it anyway?

According to the Rhondda Labour website, which like all their others it seems is a work in progress, local Labour members oppose the closure of the Minor Injuries Unit at Llwynypia.

Good for them, in fact I even signed their petition, sure they were very pleased by that.   They state that

·         The Rhondda Labour Party is opposed to the temporary closure of the Minor Injuries Unit at Llwynypia and demands that the Local Health Board reopens it.

·         This is one of Wales's newest hospitals. Taking services away from our community is unacceptable.

Well spotted.  They then go on to ask the following:

·         We understand that this is not a financial matter. But why has the Local Health Board failed to plan for the necessary numbers of doctors and Emergency Nurse Practitioners to staff both facilities?

·         There are many questions to be answered including:

·         What does 'temporary' mean?

·         When does the Local Health Board plan to re-open it?

·         Can you give us a cast iron guarantee that the unit will re-open when you have more staff?

Um, excuse me, but the Leader of RCT Council, the LABOUR leader of RCT Council is one of several Councillors on the local health board.  In fact he is a previous Chair of the local health board, covering a period of time when they should have been planning for this.

Anyone thought of asking Russell?

Or maybe local AM Leighton Andrews who is after all a member of the Welsh Government Cabinet  - surely there is an element of collective responsibility there , this is a problem not only in Cwm Taf but across Wales.

All of the glory and none of the blame – typical Labour hypocrisy.

A whole £10 invested in Ponty? Will we notice the difference?

A few weeks ago I wrote of Labour’s lack of a web presence locally.  Well it seems I missed one site – RCT Labour do have a website, and a fine example it is of Labour in action in RCT.
In fact their ‘Delivery In Action’ page is brilliant and really sums it all up as far as Labour in RCT are concerned. Take a look here.  Good isn’t it?
 It is extremely informative
‘Rhondda Cynon Taff Labour Group are made up of the 48 Councillors who represent communities across the Borough
Labour regained control of the Council from Plaid Cymru in 2004 with a commitment to work in a more accountable and more transparent manner and to improve and invest in the frontline services that matter to local people.’
Well would you believe it?  Accountable and transparent?  Think they lost their way somewhere.
But credit where it is due, they do make much of the investment in schools and education in RCT (no mention of the pupil deprivation grant of course) and it seems that investment is very much needed.  In fact whoever puts this site together really could do with a lesson in grammar.
News headlines include
Labour Deliver's Support for First Time Buyers
Labour Deliver's 160M Investment in RCT Schools
The first headline has been changed for the Leader’s column section where it reads :

But my absolute favourite headline from this site has to be this one:
£10 Regeneration of Pontypridd Underway Thanks to Labour
Silence is sometimes the best option.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Handbags at dawn? Or will there be a gentlemanly drawing of straws?

WalesOnline reports on how some Labour MPs are getting a bit hot under the collar over the proposed constituency Boundary changes.   It uses the example of RCT where Chris Bryant and Owen Smith could – the article alleges – see themselves jostling for position along with Huw Irranca Davies.

Kevin Brennan, Cardiff West MP, is the one who seems to be getting in a bit of a spin however, according to this piece. 

What is happening is really quite disgraceful, “ he says,  and designed to give the Conservatives an advantage at the next general election.”

Now whether or not you accept that is true it seems a bit hypocritical coming from someone whose own party keeps flip-flopping over electoral reform and whose Shadow Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, has decided now that they should push for first past the post votes for the Assembly.  This a complete u-turn from him and nothing to do with any perceived advantage this may give Labour of course.

Mr Brennan is concerned too about the possibility of removing penalties for people not registering to vote (and here he may have a point).  However, his reasoning is not the furtherance of democracy, but because

Most of the people who won’t register to vote will be poor people, who would be more likely to vote Labour.”
Self serving sanctimonious clap trap from a party who claim to be a socialist party, the party of the working classes. Yea, right.

Maybe it accounts for some of Labour’s failures – keep the people poor, keep them unemployed, keep them on benefits, reliant in the state – keep them blindly voting for the party who keep taking advantage and keep letting them down time and time again

Cavalier attitude to public money

Yet another example of RCT Labour Council’s cavalier attitude to the spending of public money.
WalesOnline reports that South Wales Councils have spent almost £12,000 on mascots for various campaigns.  The highest spend, surprise, surprise was in RCT where the Council spent £5000 on a costume for its recycling mascot Rhys Cycle.
One thing that is even more annoying though is that we tried to highlight this some time ago, but the local press, as id so often the case, didn’t want to know then.
It’s an uphill battle against the media on times.