Sunday, December 29, 2013

Yet more sloppiness from the £1million+ PR dept at RCT Council.

Yesterday I wrote a piece about the dreadful state of grammar in articles on the RCT Council website.  Since then I have a found an even more appallingly sloppy piece from earlier in December on the subject of going green.

Christmas cards should either recycled in the kerbside collection or one of the council’s SORT centres   (missing ‘be’)

 The Council offers a Christmas tree recycling service and you can find out more by contacting us direct through out website. But why buy a real Christmas tree in a pot this year instead of buying one with its roots cut off? Your tree can then be planted in your garden. Once back in the ground, your tree will then absorb a tonne of carbon, that’s around 10% of your annual carbon footprint

(Think the word ‘not’ should be between why and buy! Out should of course be our.)

With new gifts received this Christmas, there are bound to be clear outs of old furniture, clothing, toys – why not take them to one of the Community Recycling Centres where they can be recycled or reused via too good to waste. Or you could donate your unwanted items to a charity shop where they can be recycled or reused via too good to waste. Or you could donate your unwanted items to a charity shop.


Polysterene is often used to pack toys and electrical equipment and this can be recycled either on the kerbside scheme or at the Community Recycling Centre

(It’s Polystyrene , and it should read via the kerbside scheme, or at the kerbside.)

You can collect your recycling bags from over 150 distribution centre, including; libraries, Council Offices and One4All centres.

 (missing ‘s’)

This really is unacceptable.

We should expect more professionalism from Council PR department.

Yesterday I found myself in the unusual situation of defending the person who tweets on behalf of RCT Council when someone made fun of a typo in a tweet.  Now we all make the occasional typo – I am certainly not immune to that, as I am sure anyone who reads this blog will know.

However, whilst such human error is acceptable, what I have more difficulty with is the grammatical content of some of the press releases that come from RCT Council. The department behind these is a substantial one, and indeed one we have identified as being a prime contender for cutbacks, although the Labour administration seems to disagree.

Just to illustrate the point, here are a few examples from recent articles which have appeared on the RCT Council website. (Errors and corrections are in red.)

On the subject of the Nos Galon races.

The 2013 Nos Galan Road Races| take place on Tuesday, December 31, and is on course to break all records, with the biggest field of runners in its 55-year history. (races are)

So each runner entering has a double challenge – the most important is to raise as much money as possible for charity. If successful they will receive a 23" LED TV with built in DVD player, along with a brand new Kindle. (are we talking about one person which is indicated at the start of the sentence or more as indicated by the use of the word 'they'? )

Secondly we want to see the most outstanding fancy dress costumes that will help brighten up this special night even more. Last year’s winner was retured school headteacher Alun Griffiths, of Glenboi, Mountain Ash, who won with his customised Mr Grand Slam costume  (ok, a typo but doen't anyone proof read?)

The Nos Galan Road Races fun starts in Mountain Ash town centre at 4pm with the children’s races. This will be followed by an elite race and 5k adult fun run and a spectacular fireworks display. (The word races is plural therefore it should read These will be followed by.)

A piece advertising walking and cycling trails in RCT was a master class in how not to write an article.

The Council has as extensive network of walking and cycling trails that thousands of people enjoy per year. (should be each or every year.)

The opportunity to learn more about the history of the County Borough began by following designated trails and walks that will take you to different sites where Blue Plaques have been unveiled. (begins)

For further details visit |where you will find a variety of trails aimed at walkers and cyclists and drivers! where you will find a variety of trails aimed at walkers and cyclists and drivers!
(Bad bit of cut and paste!)

The Carers' pamper scheme had comment from Cllr Mike Forey, Cabinet Member for Partnerships and Adult’s Social Services at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.

(Just which adult is he responsible for, and who looks after the rest of them? I do hate misplaced apostrophes.Especially as in this case there was no need for one at all, Adult Social Services would suffice.)

Good news that this year you can just put your real Christas tree outside on collection day and the Council will take it away

So instead of trying cut them up and put them in the black bag rubbish, they can now be collected on recycling day as part of the Council’s commitment to reduce waste sent to landfill. (Missed a 'to' there. Also have to ask why people would be cutting them up and putting them in black bags when they should be classed as garden waste?)

Recycling has never been easier, with an efficient weekly collection service, free recycling bags easy-to-access community recycling centres, food recycling, collection of larger items, and an ever-increasing list of items that can be placed in the clear bags.
(Apart from this being a rather complicated sentence, there seems to be a random use of commas.  There should be one between 'bags' and 'easy', and there is no need for one between 'items' and 'and.')
Good news for local businesses on the procurement front.
Buyers from Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Amgen Cymru, Cwm Taf Health Board, Coleg Gwent, RCT County Borough Supplies, Amgen and RCT Homes met with many potential suppliers looking for an opportunity to bid for their business in the sixth event of its kind held in the county borough and more than 80 businesses in the area attended.
(And pause for breath.  No further comment is necessary I am sure.)
This rambling form of writing appears elsewhere too, such as in this piece about the Carol Service.

The service was led by the vicar of St Catherine’s, the Rev Peter Lewis. Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Choir performed three songs, while the readings were  undertaken by The Mayor, Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Paul Cannon; The Lord Lieutenant for Mid Glamorgan Mrs Kate Thomas, Nicola Matthews, Mayor’s Chaplain Father Silvio Briffa and the Council’s Group Director of Community and Children's Services, Ellis Williams.
(How confusing is that, and why the random use of a semi-colon half way through?)
Someone in this department really needs to take a creative writing class, or at the very least learn some basic rules of grammar.  Talk about verbal diarrhoea.
Good news indeed of a grant to a local charitable organisation.
The successful funding bid include support to employ a new Business Manager whose role is to promote the newly established social enterprise, gain new customers and volunteers as well as to purchase necessary IT equipment.
(Included / includes support.  As for the purpose of the grant, then is it to employ a new Business Manager and purchase IT equipment, or is it to employ a Business Manager whose role will include purchasing IT equipment? Not altogether clear is it?)

Now some people may think I am just being picky or finding fault for the sake of it, but the PR department is large and costly, we have a right to expect a degree of professionalism.  The Council also claims to value education, and their education dpeartment puts great store, allegedly, on literacy.  What example are they setting here?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Welsh Government to loan £10m to, er….Welsh Government?

Just about a year ago the Welsh Labour Government caused a bit of a stir when they announced they were going to buy Cardiff airport at a cost of £52million.  This at a time when public services everywhere were being asked to make considerable savings.

The airport had been losing money for some time and fewer and fewer flights are leaving from there.  Certainly many people in the South Wales area find it easier and cheaper to travel from Bristol.  Tucked away on the outskirts of Rhoose on the Vale of Glamorgan Cardiff airport is hardly the most accessible of locations.

News has not been good recently.  Earlier this month Flybe announced that they were cutting their flights from there to Paris and Glasgow. 

A few days ago BA stated categorically that they would not go back to operating flights from there.

At a press conference two days ago the First Minister, showing the same stubborn, head in the sand attitude he has over all the other problems over which his government is presiding,  said that they would never completely sell Cardiff Airport.

Then today the icing on the cake.  An announcement that Cardiff Airport is to receive a £10m loan from the Welsh Government to make improvements to the site.  The loan will be paid off over 12 years.

So the Welsh Labour Government is to make a loan to itself to improve a failing airport. How much interest will it be charging I wonder?  What provisions have been made it case it defaults on the loan?

With cutbacks in services being made across Wales the public will find it very difficult to understand just what is going on here.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

So who wants to be an MP then?

So the next Westminster elections are less than 18 months away and I fully expect there to be huge queues of people lining up to stand. Political parties will have to hold auditions on the scale of X Factor to whittle down their candidates, whilst there will be more independent candidates than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means!).

Well it is after all a doddle of a job, with an enormous salary and endless expenses, full of glitz and glamour so why wouldn’t there be any number of people ready to take it on?

Ok so there is a high degree of responsibility, you are in the public eye, get little or no thanks from anyone, have to take endless flak about how useless / money grabbing / crocked you and your colleagues all are. You spend every week split between your constituency and London which doesn’t make for a great family life.

But you get paid a huge salary - £65,738 – maybe as much as the Deputy Head of your local secondary school, half as much as a Group Director in RCT Council, a couple of hundred pounds a year more than the Head of Strategy and PR there. How outrageous is that?  Surely everyone will be fighting for such a job.

Of course there are genuine perks and if you are minded to then you can abuse the system, and if you are lucky and you are, say, a Labour in the valleys heartlands then the electorate will ignore all transgressions and vote you back in regardless.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority have announced that they think MPs should be given a 11% pay rise following the 2015 election, this will take the basic salary to £74,000. 

All three main parties have condemned the announcement saying that it is inappropriate at this time to think of such a thing. However, the public – and indeed the media – only tend to take what they want out of such stories and so MPs will take another battering and public confidence in the system will drop again leading to more apathy. 

So, who’s going to be lining up and putting their head above the parapet in 2015 then?  Doubt if we will be caught in the rush.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pantomime time at RCT Council – oh yes it is

It is little wonder that the Labour party have had second thoughts about broadcasting Council meetings live on the web as they promised in their manifesto. Far too many people would then potentially be able to see the frankly laughable incompetence not to mention arrogance of their members in the Chamber.

Take last night’s meeting, a classic example, this time the performance being given in front of around 50 members of the public – at least the main bulk of it. Not all of them could stomach the nonsense that went on for over three hours.

It began with questions from the public – six in all, the bulk of them to the Cabinet Member for Education who was clearly rattled at being the focus of so much attention. Her voice quavered - whether with nerves or anger it was difficult to tell – as she repeated the same weary lines, that the Council are doing all they can, it is all the fault of the dreadfully wicked people at Westminster etc., etc. If only there was a fairy godmother to hand. Instead there was only Baron Hardup in the form of Deputy Leader Paul Cannon to back her up.

The quaver became more audible as well thought out supplementary questions were put – these of course she had no advance warning of and so hadn’t been able to get an officer to write a response to. Angry parents demanding answers on proposed nursery education cuts were left furious at the constant response that "I’ll reply more fully in writing."

Cabinet Members get paid handsomely for their roles, surely the public have a right to be able to expect a fair degree of knowledge and direct political answers from their elected representatives? The public left thinking of Cllr Hanagan more as the wicked witch than the good fairy.

Moving on we came to a debate on saving money by reducing workers hours and encouraging voluntary early redundancy amongst other things.

Following a Plaid amendment being put Cllr Mike Powell asked to speak, and asked the Mayor, who was chairing the meeting, whether she wanted him at that point to just speak to the amendment or to the motion as a whole. He made it clear he wanted to c0mment on the whole motion. She told him to speak just to the amendment, which was voted down.

She then moved swiftly on to a vote on the motion, denying Cllr Powell the opportunity to speak to it, despite his protestations.

The Chamber reached almost traditional pantomime proportions as the public gallery and opposition benches erupted with calls for him to be allowed to speak. The Mayor, obviously as flustered as her Education colleague, muttered an apology. Maybe some training is called for.

My favourite bit, though, came after a vote on the Treasury Management Strategy. Cabinet Member Maureen Webber attracted the Mayor’s attention and stated that she had left the Chamber during the debate and so under the rules should not have voted. She put her hand in the air to vote ‘by mistake.’

This just about sums up the way in which the Labour party sheep behave. Half the time they are not even aware of what they are voting on, they just put their hands in the air when the leader does. It is a reflex action and shows a frightening lack of thought – oh yes it does…..

Saturday, November 09, 2013

My submission to RCT Council regarding proposed cuts

This is a copy of my online submission to RCT Council regarding the phase 1 proposed cuts.  Views can be submitteed by following this link.

Comments Pages 1 & 2 General & Nursery Education

Whether I have a child in nursery education or not is immaterial, we are talking about the provision of services across RCT and whether they are fair and equitable.  That opinion can be formed whether or not there is a personal interest involved.

To add to my responses to the multiple choice questions:

Q1. There should be no presumption that the Council needs to reduce services, instead it should first look at alternative means of providing those services and making savings not cutting services. This is a leading question.

Q3. The proposals will not in my opinion result in a reasonable level of service in all instances. I think part time nursery education is far from reasonable given the long history we have in RCT of full time provision.

I am not convinced they will be sustainable over the medium term, there has been no real evidence produced of that.  As has been said by the First Minister and The Local Government Minister RCT has failed to take adequate note of the warnings they have had about financial cutbacks over the past three years, there is no evidence lessons have been learned.

The question of whether the services will be as good or better than elsewhere is impossible to judge and is, like many of the questions, a misleading question.  You could ask whether the level of provision will be the same but not if it will be as good.

Q7. Just because RCT will provide the same level of service as other Councils does not make it fair.

Comments Page 3 Meals on Wheels.
Again whether I am a user of this particular service or not is immaterial, we are talking about the provision of services across RCT and whether they are fair and equitable.  That opinion can be formed and is valid whether or not there is a personal interest involved.

My concern here is that there are a small number of vulnerable people who may not be capable of heating a meal themselves, and I would want to be assured that there will be adequate provision made for these.

Comments Page 4 Libraries

I would agree that it is not financially viable to keep open libraries that are not being used sufficiently.  I would hope that alternative provision would be looked at i.e. more widespread mobile provision and the possibility of locating smaller units in other buildings.

Comments Page 5 Youth provision

I am not a user of these services, however I am a Secondary School Governor and have seen how valued the E3 provision is.  I am very concerned by the removal of transport associated with E3 as this will make it impossible for many to attend as they will not be able to get home afterwards.

The Estyn survey last year identified that there were issues around youth provision and it was not always reaching the right people.  There is no evidence in the report to Cabinet that this has been addressed with the proposed changes instead they appear to be purely financially based.

 Comments Page 6 Day Centres

I would agree that it is not financially viable to keep open centres that are not being used at the substantial cost they incur. I also think that the provision is unnecessary for all over 50.

Additional Comments about other services.

There should be a substantial cutback in the PR department which is a luxury this Council cannot afford.

The use of consultants must be cut out, why pay specialist Officers if they cannot provide the advice the Council needs on such issues as HR and legal matters.

Look at cutting a tier of management, front line staff are more vital to the provision of equitable and adequate services.

Look at ways of using the third sector, community businesses and private companies more for delivery of certain services if they will deliver the same or a better standard of service at a lower cost eg leisure services, catering across the board, child care (there should be no need for Council run child care services and the back-up teams involved in running them.  CSSIW regulate the provision, there is no need for RCT back up.

Without knowing what is planned for future phases it is very difficult to comment fully.  It would have been much easier ha this Council followed the same route as others and laid out all its proposals in one go.

Q35 – equality

Whilst these proposals will not affect me personally because of any of these reasons they will affect others unfairly.

Pupils at Welsh Medium and Faith schools will be disproportionately hit by the removal of transport to schools and the cut to part time education. 

Women will be unfairly hit, as they are the ones statistically more likely to be in lower paid or part time jobs which they will have to give up if they cannot find or afford childcare.  Also the large proportion of Nursery school teachers and teaching assistants who stand to lose their jobs are female.

Children in poverty will be hardest hit as they will lose out on essential education and the social benefits that being in school full time and having a hot meal at lunchtime brings.

Don’t be shy Cllr, say what you mean

I have just come across this remarkable piece of fiction from RCT Labour CouncillorChris Williams on the subject of the proposed cuts from RCT Council which have caused so much concern. 

Cllr Williams found a little local fame recently when it was reported that he had parted company with his former employer, Labour AM for Pontypridd Mick Antoniw following disagreement over time off for Council meetings.  To be fair to him he is one of the very, very few Labour Councillors in RCT who have an online presence to let his electorate know what he is up to, although his last blog post was in July, and his last newsletter on there from April, so he obviously does not have a great deal to say to them.

His blog piece sticks firmly to the accepted Labour party line followed by all the Labour sheep, er sorry, Councillors. In fact he states “However, the Cabinet and other Labour councillors are essentially being forced into doing so by a lack of finance, traceable back to the UK Tory and Lib Dem government. RCT’s Labour councillors are adamant on this point.”

Well they can be as adamant as they like but that doesn’t make it fact – people were once adamant that the world was flat.  Yes it is true that the block grant from Westminster to the Welsh Government has been trimmed back.  After 13 years of Labour Government the note from Liam Byrne said it all – there was no money left.  This country cannot spend what it hasn’t got.

However, it is then up to the Welsh LABOUR Government to decide how to distribute that money.  Councillor Williams bemoans the ‘fact’ that “the Welsh Government has been forced into reducing the finance it can give to Wales' 22 local authorities.”

Now that may be true to some extent, they may have had to reduce spending, but then just like RCT Council some of their spending is frivolous and in my opinion a total waste of public money that could be better spent.

Take for instance their purchase of Cardiff airport.  A snip at £52million, but it was bought with no business plan in place and with no idea what they were going to do with it.  They have ludicrously expensive foreign offices that fail to bring in expected benefits, and civil servants were revealed by the Welsh Liberal Democrats to be sending thousands on first class travel.  

They handed out money to pay for the Porth relief road a road which has done nothing at all to bribing investment into the Valleys.  The estimated cost was £37 million, it ended up at £98 million.  They then allowed RCT Council to appoint the same contractors to build the Church Village by pass which saw a similar trebling in costs.

So Cllr Williams don’t bring the hard done by stories here they don’t wash.

He of course has a few little digs along the way, but can’t quite bring himself to say outright just what he means.  Must be a Labour trait.
He claims “there is a great deal of misinformation being put about on those websites, and it is clear that certain individuals with particular political agendas have been using these well-meaning online groups as a means to peddle their lies, and cloud over the truth of the situation.”

Now just who is he referring to I wonder?  And what ‘misinformation’ and ‘lies’ have been put out there?  In fact if he is so concerned then why doesn’t he join in the debate and give the public the benefit of his wisdom?  I am sure the thousands of people on the ‘parents against the cuts to education in rct’ site would love to have him on board.  Or has the group whip forbidden it?

The uncertainty amongst the Labour camp obviously continues as he states “Rhondda Cynon Taff will lose out substantially. Figures of £56million to £70million over 4 years have been mentioned: it is likely the actual figure will be to the higher end of this scale.”   This does not engender confidence amongst the general public.  Surely they have a better idea of how much they need to save?  How can they balance the books if they don’t know how much is needed to be trimmed?

He has another little dig at un-named individuals “I believe it is fair to say that none of RCT’s councillors (perhaps with the exception of one or two unfortunate individuals) want to make any cuts to any front line services. However, the Cabinet and other Labour councillors are essentially being forced into doing so by a lack of finance.”  Just who are these unfortunate individuals in the Labour camp who want to do this, because certainly nobody on the opposition benches seems to? 

They are not being forced into anything they are simply being lazy and accepting the officer’s recommendation of easy targets.  That is not what they are elected for.

The public are waking up Chris to you and your cronies and the attitude of disdain you exhibit towards the electorate.  At least be man enough to have debate in public and name names if you are determined to have a pop.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Knowledge is power - power to the people.

The recent announcement by RCT Council that they are considering cutting a number of front line services including libraries, day centres, meals on wheels, youth provision and full time nursery education has, it is fair to say, caused a bit of a stir.

On the plus side it has acted as a wake up call for many who for the first time are taking some sort of interest in what is it that their local Council actually does.  What this in turn has done is show up the shocking lack of knowledge the majority of people have about the system of government in this country and just who is responsible for what.  It is not their fault, after all politics is a bit of a turn off for many, and the institution doesn’t make it very easy for the average person in the street to get to grips with it.  In Wales devolution muddies the waters even more.

I have said for some time that politics should be taught in schools.  Not party politics of course but the way it all operates. Who runs our schools, who is responsible for the health service, who pays out benefits, how does it all knit together?

People cannot hope to get fully involved and make real change unless they understand where changes need to be made.  There is a very well meaning debate going on via a Facebook group about what alternatives can be put forward to the cuts being proposed by the Labour administration, and there are some very good thoughts there.  However, it is also being taken off track in a number of instances by people talking about merging wards and cutting the number of Councillors, cutting MPS allowances, not sending money abroad, stopping free bus passes and free prescriptions for all.  All worthy debates to be had but nothing that is within the control of the Council and nothing that can help them make the savings they need to.

Knowledge is power so they say, and we should be providing the knowledge so that everyone can have an informed input into who holds the reins of power.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A helpful lesson for RCT Labour Councillors.

It is perhaps appropriate that with much of the talk in RCT at the moment being about education, Labour Councillors, including Cabinet Members who are making massively important budget decisions, seem to have no grasp at all on basic arithmetic.

At the Cabinet meeting on 21st October, Cabinet Member Andrew Morgan, after the obligatory piece of nonsense that the cuts are coming from Westminster, raged that the Council needed to make £60million worth of cuts every year for the next few years. 

At the Council meeting on 30th October Cllr Graham Thomas, whose voice is rarely heard in the Chamber, repeated the same mantra, that no Labour Councillor wants to cut nursery education but that they have to make “£60million worth of cuts this year, next year, the year after…”

Others have come up with the same line.  Now either they are deliberately trying to misinform the public for their own political gain or they really are that stupid.

To quote from the report which was presented to Cabinet by the Director of Finance, who, it is hoped, has a good grasp on these things,

On the 22nd July 2013, Cabinet received an update on the latest projection of the Council’s revenue budget position for the period to 2017/18.

This highlighted an estimated budget gap over the 4 years from 2014/15 to 2017/18 of £56M based on the budget assumptions and modelling undertaken at that time. There is clearly a range of funding gap scenarios possible, and the actual detail, in respect of the first year (2014/15) gap will not be known until the provisional local government settlement is announced on the 16th October 2013.

Given the size of the budget gap faced and the timescale requirements for any implementation of service changes, Cabinet agreed to receive reports on potential service change / cut proposals as soon as these become available, given the need to balance an estimated gap of almost £16M (at best) for 2014/15.

 That estimate of £56m has increased in light of the actual settlement to around £70m, but it is still OVER FOUR YEARS.

 Nobody is denying that these savings are substantial and some difficult decisions have to be made, but the Labour party should at least get their facts right.

Cabinet Member for Education needs to do her homework

In front of a packed public gallery at the RCT Council meeting on 30th October Cabinet Member for Education Eudine Hanagan showed that the pressure is clearly getting to her. As the meeting progressed she became more and more irate and lost any semblance of the professionalism that the public have a right to expect.

So much for any pretence that RCT is a ‘member led’ Authority, when a question was posed by the Plaid leader with regard to how much notice was taken of the consultation responses - which put education as a high priority - when the nursery cuts were being discussed, she referred it to an Officer.  Surely the public have a right to expect more from a highly paid Cabinet Member who is supposedly working full time overseeing the policies and direction of the Education department?

Worse was to come as she allowed her temper to get the better of her, and let slip a few things that her colleagues may have preferred she didn’t say in public and that would surely have had the PR department, run by her son, cringing.

“There are far worse things to come” she spat out which will have everyone wondering just what the Council have in mind next that could be worse than the proposals to cut back on full time nursery education and provision for meals on wheels, libraries, youth services and day centres.

Just when will they announce these catastrophic cuts - before or after they finish the consultation on the present round? Who will they hit next?

She went on to give a prime example of the Labour party’s thinking and the motivation behind both the current proposals and others. Again in answer to a question from the Plaid leader she said

“When we wanted to close a school in your area to save money you fought against it.”

The school referred to is Caegarw in the Cynon Valley.  There was a proposal to amalgamate it with Mountain Ash Comprehensive creating a 3 to 18 through school, a proposal which was eventually turned down by the Cabinet after a strong public campaign. 

Cllr Hanagan’s comments serve to show that the Cabinet have little concern for the public or for providing first class services, it is all about saving money. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Having a pop at Plaid

Plaid Cymru have been in Aberystwyth this weekend for their Conference, and have been regaling us with some of their new policy ideas.

The economy features quite a bit, it is an important strand of their policy making, along with jobs for young people.  They seem to have forgotten that they held the economic development portfolio for four years until 2012 and did precious little with it, but let’s not let little things get in the way shall we?

They also seem to have overlooked the fact that the economy and youth jobs are a major priority when they negotiated with the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Labour Government on the budget over the past few weeks.  Whilst we remained consistent in driving forward our education priority via the Pupil Deprivation Grant Plaid didn’t see it necessary to try and build on the apprenticeship scheme they wanted set up last year, the outcome of which is unclear.

Health is also important to the party who are trying to convince themselves and anyone who can be bothered to listen that they can form the next Welsh Government. Well as I said, let’s not let little things get in the way shall we?

One of their seemingly more bizarre proposals, hot off the back of a brown envelope it would seem, is to charge a tax on sugary drinks.  Leader Leanne Wood said

“We must change consumption patterns if we are to stop the obesity epidemic as well as boost resources for healthcare. So, the Welsh Government I will lead will introduce a sugary drink levy of up to 20p per litre. We will employ 1,000 more doctors with the monies raised, bringing Wales up to the UK average and reducing the need to take services further away from people. This is Plaid Cymru's alternative to hospital centralisation.”

Now whist the health benefits of such a tax may have some merit there are some very obvious flaws, not the least of which is that currently the Welsh government has no power to impose any such tax. However, let’s not let little things get in the way….

The figures just do not add up at all.  Asreported by Wales Online there is some dispute about how much would be needed to pay for 1000 extra doctors, and consumption would have to rise dramatically to bring in the funds necessary.  This would surely negate the purpose of a tax on unhealthy drinks?  Would Plaid be actively encouraging people to drink them to keep the wages coming in? 

Plaid say this will prevent the need for hospital reorganisation but this is pure pie in the sky politics. When everyone else in the South Wales Central region she is elected to represent was making the case for retention of services at the Royal Glamorgan Leanne was sticking firmly to the line that none of the reorganisation should happen.

What level are these 1000 extra doctors going to be at to start with?  That many junior doctors wouldn’t solve the problem of not being able to provide Consultant led services in every hospital. Not with-standing the fact that we keep getting told the recruitment issue is not a matter of money.  Also of course provision of specialist service isn’t only about the number of doctors – there is a need for equipment and training and specialist nurse support – but hey, let’s not let little things get in the way shall we?




Friday, October 04, 2013

Labour lock down? Residents only please…..

A short while ago – the beginning of September in fact – I attended a PACT meeting in Treforest, much to the obvious dislike of the Labour County Councillor there.

Following the meeting I wrote a blog piece Keeping Labourlocal? Anyone told the AM?  Outlining the attitude of said Councillor – Steve Powderhill – his determination to turn these meetings into political events to promote himself, and his insistence that Treforest should have local representatives, despite the fact that the Labour Town Councillor lives in Trallwn and the AM for Pontypridd lives in Newport!

Today I had a phone call from one of our members who is in fact the former County Councillor for the Treforest ward.  He had been approached by a resident who told him that Cllr Powderhill had told him to pass a message on to ‘John Bell and his Lib Dem mates.’

The message was that he was far from happy that we had the audacity to repeat online things he had said in a (public) PACT meeting and that if it continued he would stop going to them and just hold private surgeries instead.  There was also something about him trying to make the meeting residents only, which would indeed be unfortunate for his colleague on the Town Council.

Little surprises me about the Labour party antics these days, but they still do have the capacity to amuse me, usually with the sheer depth of their stupidity.
Top tip Cllr Powderhill - watch what you say in public, it may be taken down and used in evidence against you   ;-)


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Why are the Labour party afraid to debate

Why are the Labour party in RCT so reluctant to engage with the public?  Having promised in their manifesto that they would broadcast council meetings on the web they have now back tracked on that, as indeed  on so many of their pre-election promises.

Presumably they do not want the general public to see the disgraceful way in which they behave; from that point of view they are quite happy to have the main HQ in Clydach Vale.  Now don’t get me wrong, Clydach is my home, I think it is wonderful, but the industrial estate which houses the Council Chamber is not on a bus route and hardly the most accessible of places.

In a world which is increasingly reliant on social media as a means of communication the Labour party don’t seem to engage with that either.  There is a County Council website of course, which is all too often overly party political, but that is run by one of the myriad of public relations staff.  There is a Council Twitter feed which kindly kept us all up to date with the Wimbledon news through much of June.

There is a RCT Labour website – the last update was in March, one of four entries this year.  There is a Pontypridd Labour constituency blog – the last entry is September 2012.

There is no sign of the local party on Twitter or Facebook – a few individual councillors have accounts, but they do not use them to engage with the general public.  They don’t enter into discussion in any groups or in any local forums. 

Of course it is not just online this attitude prevails.  They shy away from debate in person too.  Oh there is their ‘open government’ initiative where people can send in questions to be asked at full Council meetings. The questions need to be sent in a week in advance, and a response will then be written by a member of staff for the relevant Cabinet Member to read out.  Any supplementary questions almost invariably get met with the words “I’ll respond in writing.”

At the referendum meeting last year whilst Welsh Lib Dem Cllr Mike Powell joined the panel and took questions from the floor not one of the 60 Labour Councillors could do the same and instead sent an Officer.

What is it they are afraid of? 


Friday, September 06, 2013

Keeping Labour local? Anyone told the AM?

I attended a PACT (Partnerships & Communities Together) meeting in Treforest earlier this week as part of a plan to find out a little more about what is going on in wards across the area. According to the South wales Police website these meetings “are intended to give you an opportunity to highlight the community issues that are having an impact on your quality of life and to assist in deciding which issues are dealt with as priorities.”

They are usually attended by community Police officers or Community Support officers and the local ward Councillor(s). It was by and large unexciting, full of the usual complaints about youth annoyance / rubbish collections / grass or tree cutting.

The ward Councillor, a Labour representative was obviously a little taken aback to see me there, along with a local Welsh Lib Dem colleague. Aware that there is a town council election coming up in that ward soon couldn’t resist the temptation, from the Chair, to have a couple of cheap political digs.

He referred on several occasions to the fact that he lives in the ward - oddly enough he didn’t mention that he has recently obtained planning permission to build a house in Ynysybwl.

There was a veiled reference to the fact that the previous incumbent – a Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor – didn’t.  Then came the classic line that ‘we’ need representatives to live in the area they represent.

What made this quite so hypocritical?   Well sat next to Cllr Powderhill, and looking a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights was one of the Treforest Town Councillors - Lewis Fackrell.

He was co-opted by the Labour members of Pontypridd Town Council when insufficient candidates came forward in May 2012.  He lives, and stood for election, in Trallwn.  Oops!
So is Cllr Powderhill saying that was wrong – why then did he back him?  Another example of the sickening Labour hypocrisy in RCT.

He may also want to have a word with the Assembly Member for Pontypridd.  Mick Antoniw lives in Newport, having rented a house for a couple of months just to have a Pontypridd constituency address to put on his ballot paper.

I trust Cllr Powderhill will bear this in mind in future.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Labour candidates on lookout for alternative funding

So the GMB union is to cut its funding to the Labour party, bizarrely it appears because they disagree with giving their members a right to choose whether or not they actually want to join the Labour party rather than being affiliated automatically. 

Credit should go to Ed Miliband for this rare demonstration of common sense and fairness. Presumably the GMB are afraid that a substantial number will chose not to join and this will impact on their ability to dictate which Labour candidates should be selected and hence diminish their influence.
The move if carried through will be costly for the party as a whole, and will also mean individual elected Labour members will have to look elsewhere for funding – heaven forbid they may even have to fund their own campaigns!

Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw for example could find himself at a few more fundraisers.  His record of interest at the Assembly states that he received £5000 from the GB for election expenses.  It also states he has received a little over £15000 in gifts and hospitality form the GMB and Unite unions.

I have in the past ranted on numerous occasions about the incestuous relationship between the Labour party and the unions.  It is undemocratic.  Unions should be there to represent the interests of their workforce and not to play politics and interfere in the democratic process.



Monday, August 19, 2013

Putting your head above the parapet – and why people won’t bother

It is a simple but unfortunate fact of life that the minute anyone puts their head above the parapet and starts making their presence felt in the community there is someone there waiting to shoot them down.

This applies whether that is becoming involved with a voluntary project or standing for public office, and sometimes you can’t do right for doing wrong,

I have been involved in a substantial number of voluntary organisations over the years – still am, and whilst most people will probably say “good for you” then there are always those who will whisper behind the scenes “there must be something in it for her.”

They will only see what they want to see – school governors getting front row concert seats for instance.  They don’t see or don’t want to know about the not so nice side of the job – the disciplinary hearings, the staff interviews, the pages and pages of policy documents and statistics to pour over, the decisions that can affect future prospects of a generation.

So why do it?  Because it is rewarding in its own way, at the risk of sounding holier than though, doing something that actually benefits the community.

Those who dare to stand for public office of course leave themselves open to even more condemnation, and lord help those who get elected.

It maybe explains why the Labour party locally like to hide away from the electorate and don’t like to engage in any way with residents let lone opponents.  Mick Antoniw, AM for Ponty has blocked me from commenting on his Twitter feed – no doubt because he had no answers to the questions being posed. I wonder how many others have befallen the same fate.

The Councillor for Treforest has this week been bemoaning the fact that a local Facebook site is becoming too political, yet refused to join other sites where he could answer questions being posed about such things as his stance on the paddling pool.

Then those who do engage more openly have to suffer endless comments about how “all Councillors are the same” and how they are all in it for the money, all liars, etc., etc.

Is it any wonder then that most people seeing just what a thankless task it is would never entertain the thought of standing for Council?  And whilst that nonsense is being perpetuated then making any real change is going to be very hard.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Labour lies and misdirection – give it a rest Tony

Another month, another column in the local press from Council leader Anthony Christopher.  The subject this week?  Well what else but the decisions they are being ‘forced’ to make because of the UK Government.

Absolute complete and utter bull.  This time he (or probably one of the highly paid members of the strategy department - £1m a year for Labour propaganda) writes “the first casualty of the Tory/Liberal cuts were the paddling pools at Penygraig. Trealaw and Penrhys.
Now apart from this being completely incorrect, he (or they) really should keep more track of what they are saying.  I thought the fortnightly refuse collections and the charges for bulky waste collection were blamed on the cuts?  As well as every other thing the Labour Council have decided to do that they think the public may not like.

The Council decides on what to do with its money, the money that comes from the Welsh Labour Government.  They decide to spend £70,000 or so a year on a newspaper to publicise themselves.  They employ a huge publicity department at a cost of over a million a year, headed by the son of a Cabinet Member, a former Labour candidate.  Someone who, by the way, was promoted rapidly from within to a post that didn’t previously exist, which was not advertised and which no interviews were held for.

They decide to give massive extra payments to people so they leave under a ‘voluntary redundancy’ banner.  They fund union representatives so that they can then sell out their own workers, cutting their terms and conditions and threatening zero hours contracts for home care staff.

They make me sick. Grow a backbone and take some responsibility for once.

Proud to be part of Tonypandy Community College

'A' level results are out today and there is excellent news from Tonypandy Community College where I am proud to have been the Vice Chair of Governors for several years.

As reported on the College website, our 6th form students achieved the best results in the College history.

Whilst the media reports an overall stagnation in results across Wales, we have bucked the trend. 

63% of all grades gained were A* and A grades.

83% of all grades were A* – C grades.

99% of all certificates were A* – E grades.

The top achieving student achieved 3 A*, an A and a B.

Not bad at all for a school that according to the Welsh Government ludicrous banding system is in a band 4!

Many congratulations are due to students and staff for this excellent result.  I am proud to be able to play a small part in the success.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Labour Councillors kept quiet over paddling pool plans

It has been confirmed that Labour Councillors knew about paddling pool closures in Mid Rhondda a month in advance and chose to keep quiet about it.

Labour Councillors in the Rhondda were informed by the Director on Friday 15th June that paddling pools in Trealaw and Penygraig would not be opening this year.  In response to a question from Welsh Liberal Democrat Cllr Mike Powell the group Director responsible stated that

“Myself and Councillor Bevan met the local members involved (Cllr Dennis Weeks, Cllr Ken Privett, Cllr Joy Rosser and Cllr Sylvia Jones) on Friday 15th June 2013 to inform them of the situation and the closures.”

The third pool which has not been opened is in Penrhys which is in Cllr Bevan’s own ward. 

It begs the question – just who do these Councillors think they are there to represent?  The answer is obvious – the Labour party and their own self-serving needs. Why didn’t they inform their constituents of what was happening?  Were they too lazy, or too cowardly to face the backlash?

The reason given was that it would have cost approximately £15-£16k on each site to undertake repair work in order to open them up. Unfortunately there was no budget available in Leisure Services to undertake this work.”

If the Councillors responsible thought this was a good enough reason then why not explain that residents? It is unlikely that these pools will reopen in subsequent seasons.  The costs of repair will be even more once they are left for another year. 

There seems to have been little action lately from protestors.  The Facebook site set up for the purpose of initiating a campaign has been very quiet of late. I was removed from there, no reason was given but apparently someone thought I was being a bit too political.  (This after I had brought the issue to the attention of the local press and ITV news and managed to get considerable publicity.)  There is apparently a petition doing the rounds, but the season is half over. 

It is I think a fair assumption that this will only be the start, and it is true that cut backs need to be made, but as has been asked why all in the same Mid Rhondda area?  Those in the Cynon Valley all remain open. Of course there are none to close in Pontypridd.  The only paddling pool there is in Ynysangharad Park, and that will be going when the Labour Council plough ahead with their hugely unpopular plans for the new Lido. 

The main question is why can’t Labour Councillors and Cabinet Members be honest with the people and tell them exactly what their plans are?  Or is that a little too much to expect?