Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Read all about it - again and again and again

Yet more Labour propaganda hitting our streets spreading the same tired message.
This time it is the glossy ‘newsletter’ telling people all about the regeneration of Ponty.
The Council PR department have issued a press release about it!  Yep, good innit?  A press release about a newsletter which includes a series of stories that have already been press released anyway.
As the press release says
“The newsletter illustrates the completed areas of work at Mill Street and Church Street along with the ongoing phases in neighbouring Taff Street, High Street and Market Street. It also explains the exciting works taking place at Penuel Square and to the iconic Fountain.”
(which you can read about here and here and here)

“It also celebrates the news that yet another commercial property owner in the town centre has received major financial support to improve his building as part of the Council’s Townscape Enhancement Programme.”
Which you can read on RCT CBC website here

“Readers will learn more about the success enjoyed by a team of Pontypridd High School pupils who are compiling a series of short documentaries regarding the scheme and their recent recognition in attaining a film award for their efforts.”
A story which appeared here
And then there is

“The newsletter includes a series of images of the unveiling of Pontypridd’s Roll of Honour War Memorial which welcomed hundreds of visitors, including war veterans and families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Seen in a whole string of press releases here

“Finally, the newsletter includes articles relating to the many other private sector investment projects taking place in Pontypridd, most notably the £50million Sainsbury’s project, Riverside Shopping Centre and the refurbishment programme at Pontypridd Museum.”
You’re getting the picture by now. Or pictures, all of them of Labour Councillors looking suitably smug.
The whole lot is repeated on the ‘Love Ponty’ website maintained by the Council.
If you are not amongst the lucky few thousand to receive a copy then you can read it here
The Council already spends £65K on its ‘Outlook’ newsletter.  What is the point of this if not to provide Labour with extra election material at the taxpayers’ expense?

And they are putting Council Tax up by 2.5%

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What are we paying the PR department for?

It seems we are paying Christian Hanagan Head of PR and Strategy at RCT CBC a tidy sum to churn out not only endless Labour propaganda but endless repeats of Labour propaganda.
A department that costs over a MILLION POUNDS  a year in staff salaries alone and this is the level of press release we get.  (Please note this is attributed to RCT CBC, the link to their site.  Wouldn’t want them to go un-attributed.)
Thanks to representations by its local Councillors, Tonyrefail town centre is the latest area to benefit from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s £10m Highways Investment Scheme.”
Now when they did the roads in Trallwn where was the mention of local Councillors then?  Or the regeneration scheme in Pontypridd?  Why the difference?  Oh, of course they are not Labour wards.
Presumably Mr Hanagan wants to make sure he keeps in with his dear mother – make sure he is in the will, or perhaps she just does a terrific Sunday roast!   Because of course she is none other than Tonyrefail Councillor and Cabinet Member Eudine Hanagan.  She is pictured alongside Russell Roberts and Bob McDonald.
But to really rub salt in and emphasize just how much they are extracting the urine take a look at this
Yes, the RCT CBC website again.  And yes the same photo and even the same opening paragraph.   Three months ago.
“Thanks to representations by its local Councillors, Tonyrefail town centre is the latest area to benefit from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s £10m Highways Investment Scheme.”
I know RCT are trying to up its recycling rate but this is ridiculous.  And just in case you miss it on the Council web site then you can see the same story and picture on the Tonyrefail Labour party site.  Work is obviously cracking on apace.
Taxpayers’ money being spent for their benefit.  What was that again about hypocritical parasites?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If not political then what is RAG?

The dictionary definition of politics is

the activities involved in getting and using power in public life, and being able to influence decisions that affect a country or a society”  or  “matters concerned with getting or using power within a particular group or organization.”

 Why is it then that a leaflet doing the rounds in Tonyrefail from the Ratepayers Acton Group (RAG) states that “RAG is not a political group.”

The RAG Facebook group clearly says that the group will be fielding candidates in the May elections, and is encouraging more to stand.  Now whilst they may not be aligned to any current political party then they are clearly political.  They want to gain power and be able to influence decisions in RCT.  Political decisions concerning the running of Local Government.

Now whilst I have no problem with as many people as possible getting involved in the democratic process, and standing for election, it seems to me that RAG need to be honest with the people of RCT. 

The leaflet goes on to say that too many Councilors only show an interest in their communities for the few weeks before an election, and indeed in some cases they have a point, but could I ask where all these fine upstanding members of RAG have been over the past four years or longer. 
Why have they just emerged now?  Why has this outpouring of ‘outrage’ as the leaflet describes it been dormant this long?  Opposition Councilors in particular the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been battling against Labour waste and greed for years.  The difference is we don’t cloak it in any pretense of being non political. 

Politics is not a dirty word.  There is nothing wrong with being political – but don’t deny it.  Don’t hide behind this cloak that says only Independents care about their communities because that is wrong, and it is deceitful.  RAG should decide just what it is supposed to be.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Labour complacent - surely not?

Wales Online reports that Carwyn Jones is determined “to fight complacency in Welsh Labour.”
I think that complacency is a great enemy for us” he told his Conference.  We have to fight for every single vote. We have to have solid policies that people believe in and we will take nothing for granted.”He could have a point for once.  Complacency is certainly creeping in amongst the Labour party in these parts.  Take a look at this for instance:

Minutes of the meeting of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council held at the County Borough Council Offices, The Pavilions, Clydach Vale on Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 5 p.m.

Questions to Cabinet Member for Community Safety Paul Cannon from Welsh Lib Dem Cllr Mike Powell
“As they ( licensing saturation zones) are effective in Cardiff, would it not be possible for a Community Safety Partnership Scrutiny Committee to look at this matter?”

Response from County Borough Councillor P.Cannon, QPM

What they do in Cardiff is irrelevant to what we do here. I don’t think I have to respond to that question.

Cllr Powell “Would the Cabinet Member comment on the low take-up rate with regard to the townscape Enhancement Programme in Pontypridd?

“Is the process of actually applying for grants too complicated with the criteria too strict and if that is the case, what does the Cabinet intend to do about it?”

(Out of 70 alleged expressions of interest only four applications have been made and three grants awarded.)

Response from County Borough Councillor P.Cannon, QPM

No, the process is not complicated. It is working extremely well and I propose to do absolutely nothing to alter its present position.

How is that for complacency, and this from the man who wants to be the Labour candidate for the post of Police Commissioner.  It doesn’t bode well does it?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Labour losing touch?

Neath MP Peter Hain has been pontificating at the Labour Conference this weekend.
According to the BBC Mr Hain said: "We have got to be constantly on guard to make sure we don't repeat the disease which afflicted us in Westminster - which is the more you stay in power the more managerial you get and the more you lose touch with your supporters."
Maybe he could pop up and have a bit of a chat with his mates in RCT.  He could start with dear Leighton, although in his case maybe arrogant is a better word than managerial.  Now there is a man who has lost touch not only with his supporters but with reality.  He knows best, and he doesn’t care who disagrees with him, he is not for turning.
Then there is the loveable bunch of rogues in the Council Chamber.  Well, ok, maybe not so loveable, but again completely out of touch with the people they are elected to represent.  They announce a Council Tax increase of 2.5% so they can continue to protect public services.  Well how much more could they protect them if they didn’t spend £65K on their ‘Outlook’ magazine – nothing more than a Labour propaganda rag.  Then there is the £85K on newspaper advertising  - which they think buys them the right to dictate to the press what they can and cannot print.
The £1million they spend on salaries in the Public Relations and Strategy department could be tailed back.  But then what would there be for Mr Hanagan to manage?  Who would take the photos that are then used by Labour on their website?  Nice that, wonder if they would acre to send a photographer out to take some for us?
Their supporters don’t have chauffeurs to rely on to run them around to free events – at the taxpayers’ expense.  It turned my stomach to see Russell Roberts and his wife along with the then Mayor Simon Lloyd quaffing back large quantities of free booze at the inauguration of the Llantwit Fardre mayor last year.  Especially when two chauffeurs were hanging around all day waiting to take them home.  Taxi not good enough for our Russell. 
The problem is that there are still too many people who allow themselves to be taken in by the veneer  - the outward gloss that says Labour is the party of the working class. They vote Labour because they have always voted Labour, as did their parents.  They rage about the waste of money and the laziness of their Councillors and the state of the streets, but many of them won’t do the one thing that would make a difference – don’t vote for them!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Labour Cabinet Member faces possible 6 month suspension

A meeting of the RCT Council Standards Committee was held at Clydach Vale on
Thursday, 12 January 2012.
It all appears to have passed very quietly and without comment which is odd considering that the subject of the meeting was a Labour Cabinet Member.  Eudine Hanagan in fact the Cabinet member for Education.
The meeting was admittedly only the initial meeting on the subject – following a referral from the Public Services Ombudsman. 
The Committee had to determine, either, that there was no evidence of any failure to comply with the Code of Conduct or that the County Borough Councillor concerned, should be given the opportunity to make representations either orally or in writing in respect of the findings of the investigation and any allegation that she had failed or may have failed to comply with the Member’s Code of Conduct.”

Now there are no details given of what offence Cllr Hanagan is alleged to have committed, but the fact that the Ombudsman has investigated and decided to refer it suggest that he at least is satisfied that there is cause for concern.
A further meeting will now be called where she will be invited to give evidence.
“Following consideration of the contents of Ombudsman’s report, it was RESOLVED that County Borough Councillor Eudine Hanagan as the person who is the subject of the investigation, should be given the opportunity to make representations either, orally or in writing, in respect of the findings of the investigation and any allegation that she has failed or may have failed to comply with the Code of Conduct.”

No date is given for that meeting but one would hope that the Monitoring Officer will see to it that is it convened with all due haste.  After all there is an election coming up and the Standards Committee have the authority to suspend her for up to 6 months.

I wonder how her son, the Head of Public Relations and Strategy will spin that one.

England rugby jokes - well you have to don't you?

Dai was on his way home from the England v Wales match at Twickenham when he had to screech to a halt and ended up in a massive traffic jam on the M4.
He wound down the window and thought to himself, This seems bad, nothings moving at all. He noticed a police officer walking back and forth, in and out of all the cars, so Dai shouts over,Scuse me officer, whats going on then? The officer replies, an England fan,so depressed about losing to Wales today and the prospect of winning nothing again this year, he feels a right idiot for gobbing off saying England are the best team in the world, hes actually threatening to douse himself in petrol and set himself on fire!!
The officer goes on - His family find him arrogant, and he hasn't got many mates. Im just walking around taking up a collection for him.Oh tidy says Dai, how much have you collected so far? So far, replies the officer, weve collected about 100 litres, but a lot of people are still siphoning!!!

Four surgeons are taking a coffee break. The first one says, "Accountants are the best to operate on because when you open them up everything inside them is numbered."
The second surgeon says, "Nah, librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."
Third surgeon says, "Try electricians. Everything inside them is colour-coded."
The fourth one says, "I prefer English rugby players. They're heartless, spineless, gutless and their heads and bums are interchangeable."

Did you hear about the English rugby player who was found dead outside
a Pizza Hut covered in cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and pepperoni.

Police reckon he topped himself.

The Pope was cruising along the beach in the Pope-mobile when there was a frantic commotion just off-shore. A helpless man, wearing an English rugby jersey, was struggling frantically to free himself from the jaws of a 25 foot shark.

As the Pope watched in horror, a speedboat pulled up with three men wearing Welsh, Irish and Scottish rugby jerseys. One quickly fired a harpoon into the shark's side while the other two reached out and pulled the hapless English fan from the water. Then, using long clubs, the three beat the shark to death and hauled it into the boat.

Immediately the Pope shouted and summoned them to him. "I give you my blessing for your brave actions. I heard that there were some bitter hatred between the Celts and England rugby fans, but now I have seen with my own eyes that this is not true."

As the Pope drove off, the harpooner asked his buddies: "Who was that?"

"It was the Pope," one replied. "He is in direct contact with God and has access to all of God's wisdom."

"Well" the harpooner said, "he may have access to God and his wisdom, but he doesn't know anything about shark fishing. Is the bait holding up OK or do we need to get another one?"

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Where Mick's loyalty lies.

Seems Mick Antoniw has decided that his wbesite does need a bit of updating now and again.  He has added a blog to it now.  One particular post was brought to my attention today in which he gives his astute thoughts on Plaid and the Lib Dems. 

Apparently we are

"not even the main opposition in Wales. If their support falls still further they could end up as a marginalised pressure group rump in the assembly."

I'd be cut to the core if I could for one second bring myself to care one iota about what this egotistical waste of space thinks.

It was the next line which caught my eye though

“My loyalty is to Labour and to the values of democratic socialism”
Sums it up doesn't it.  Not to the people he purports to represent but to the red flag.

He doesn't give two hoots about the Pontypridd constituency or the people there.  He saw it as a safe seat, bamboozled the people by pretending he lived there when in fact the rented house was a cover and he has now moved back to Newport.  He has what he wanted, an Assembly seat where he can sit with his Labour pals and pontificate,
Well done. 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Lunatics have taken over the asylum

On the subject of education and Local Authorities and the part they need to play in raising standards  I can’t say I have a great deal of faith in RCT’s education department and even less in the ability of the Labour Cabinet Member and her colleagues.
The recently appointed Director of Education Chris Bradshaw is a money man.  He started out in the finance department.  In 2007 he was the Director of Strategic Policy & Continuous Improvement.  He presented the grand plans for Ynysangharad Park to Cabinet in June of that year setting out the case for regeneration of the Park and Lido.  Five years on and the plans have got no further – they are still talking about putting a business case together.

He had a spell in charge of Communities First and made absolutely no impression at all. 

Then he made the move to the education department – with only one aim in mind, to save money.  His first plan there was the closure of all sixth forms in RCT which met with outrage in many quarters – including amongst RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats.

He has no education background and on the face of it little understanding of educational systems.

On the political front it is even worse.

Now I have made it very clear what I think of school banding – it is a nonsensical system.  However, it is surely the cause of some embarrassment for the Cabinet Member for Education in RCT that the school at which she has been a governor for some considerable time – Tonyrefail Comprehensive – is rated as the worse performing school in RCT.
If she has not been able to influence standards in her own school then what hope can we have that she can make any meaningful contribution to raising them in other schools.
But of course she can always rely on the support of her colleagues, all with their finger on the pulse.
Several of her Labour colleagues sit on the same Governing Body as I do.  Last week we carried out our annual performance review with a presentation and some debate about our performance across the key stages.
The subject of the apparent demotion of science by the Education Minister cropped up, with comments similar to those I expressed on a previous blog post cropping up.
One Labour Councillor who also sits as one of the reps on the Education Scrutiny Committee announced with disgust that of course this was a result of directives from Westminster.  Now I know they like to blame up for absolutely everything, but this idiot actually believed what he was saying.
I pointed out that he was wrong, that education is devolved – this accompanied by much nodding of heads and murmurs of agreement from staff in particular.   He dismissed this as just being a technical point, that they were just doing what they were told.
I rarely lose my temper at governors meetings, and I try to never bring politics into it, but the sheer idiocy of this man did get the better of me.  I pointed out in no uncertain terms, whilst he sat getting more and more flustered, that the banding system and decisions regarding key competencies and curriculum and everything else were the remit of one man and one man only, his Labour colleague at the Bay.
It is quite frightening to know that this is the level of understanding of people supposedly running this Authority.  It is also a mark of just how blindly the Labour lot follow like sheep. Never questioning, never deviating from the Party line - even when they have it completely wrong.

I agree with Leighton

For once I agree with Leighton Andrews – no don’t worry I haven’t had a knock on the head or been taking any banned substances.  I agree with the headline attributed to him in the Western Mail that an ‘adequate’ education system is not good enough for our children.
There is huge scope for improvement in Local Authorities across Wales – yet they have not been helped by constant changes of direction and frankly some crackpot schemes from Labour Cabinet Ministers.  Janey baby before her transfer to the environment department and her mission to save the planet spent some considerable time running around the world bringing back ideas which were then part implemented, usually without adequate financing.
Curriculums change at the drop of a hat depending on the latest idea to waft around the ether at the Bay.
And now we have Leighton.  Possibly the most hated figure in education today.  His single minded arrogance is quite extraordinary and whilst the headlines say all the right things – education needs improving, it is not good enough, we need to do better, etc.,  his actions give little hope to those of us working at school level.
His much criticised banding system has attracted much media attention.
What has attracted less attention is his plan to change the measurement of core subject indicators.  The core subjects for some years now have been maths, English (Welsh in Welsh medium schools) and science.
In future only maths and English will count.  This could well lead to a downturn in science standards.  Schools will no longer have to push that subject in order to keep their base standards measurement up.  There is a new measure of the best 8 GCSE results attained by each pupil.  There may then be a tendency to settle for pupils sitting exams in ‘softer’ (easier to pass) subjects.
The knock on effects of this could be substantial.  We will not be turning out scientists.  Where will our engineers come from? How does it match up with Edwina’s plans for enterprise zones based on energy and engineering?
Joined up thinking appears to have gone out of the window.
Adequate is not good enough for our children.  But until the likes of Leighton start taking on board some proper professional advice instead of trying to make a name for themselves it will not improve.