Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welfare reform half truths and propaganda not helping

It never ceases to amaze me how many people fall hook, line and sinker for political propaganda based on headlines and hype and not fact.  Many of then allegedly intelligent, thinking, rational individuals.  Some masquerading as ‘independent’ happily spreading blatant Labour propaganda thus saving them the trouble of doing it.

They happily gulp down the half-truths put out by people such as 38 Degrees without really examining the so called facts presented.  Take this campaign for example – to “Stop the Welfare Reform Death Scandal”  which refers to something called Callum’s list

It is headed ‘the welfare reform scandal has to stop’ but most of the links between the stories and welfare reform are tenuous to say the least.

The first report, tragic though it was for the family, was of a man who had already tried to commit suicide once a year before. The letter re benefits may not have helped his state of mind but it was not solely responsible for his death. That is sensationalism.

5 and 6 happened in 2008 and 14 in 2009 – hardly the coalition’s fault then, or the fault of welfare reform.

13 - Jobseeker committed suicide after being rejected for 200 jobs – dated April 2010.

15 - had worked as a supervisor at the Brierley Community Centre in Little Hulton for 16 years before it fell victim to spending cuts. The news tipped her into depression and she had already taken an overdose of pills eight days before she was found dead at her home in Walkden, just before 5pm on May 13. Mrs K, had been offered another post with the council but took voluntary redundancy

16 – this sad tale is of a man who committed suicide immediately after being told he was being made redundant, hardly the fault of benefit cuts then.

All of these tales are tragic to those involved, and I wouldn’t argue there are concerns over ATOS and some of their methods and decisions. Many are tales of people with obvious mental health problems and they should have received appropriate help for that mental health care needs drastic improvement across the UK, but to say they committed suicide because of government cuts is plunging politicking to new depths.   

There are tales of genuine hardship coming forward and they need to be looked at and the system changed if and where necessary, but this nonsense makes a mockery of those who are genuinely struggling.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Message to Labour – not all poor people are on benefits.

I really am getting sick and tired of hearing about how many families are losing out as a result of Welfare reforms.  Now let me make it clear, I firmly believe that the welfare system should provide adequately for all those in need be it the unemployed, the sick, the disabled, anyone who through no fault of their own is unable to earn a living wage and needs help.  That is what it is there for.

I also think that some of the welfare reforms are a step too far – the so called bedroom tax for example.  The whole mess surrounding Council Tax benefits leaves a bad taste, and there are some horror stories coming out about people on disability that give rise to concern.

However, the system had to be reformed, and Labour should have bitten the bullet a long time ago and put the brakes on a benefits system that was rocketing out of control.  But then as was claimed while ago by Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, poor people vote Labour, so they will keep up their pretence of standing up for them. (Whilst putting up Council Tax in RCT by 4%)

The basic premise is that nobody should be better off on benefits than if they were working.  This is not to say they should not get enough to live on, but surely there should be a base line and above that then the State is right to say ‘no more.’

I have said before, there is a whole layer of society who is seemingly forgotten about – those hard working families who earn just about the limit where they can claim a state benefit.  They have to struggle on regardless and pay full price for everything.

They don’t get Council Tax relief, or housing benefit, or free school meals for their children, or discount at gyms and leisure centres, or even to get their dog neutered!  

So what of those people?  Does Labour, the party of the working class, care about those?  Or would they rather continue to play politics and hope that their voters do not scratch beyond the surface of the spin they are putting out.  Listening to Owen Smith it seems the latter is going to be the case.




Monday, January 14, 2013

Labour Councillor takes bovine excrement to new levels

There is a group on facebook called 'you know you are from Pontypridd when...'   mostly full of harmless chatter and people reminiscing about Ponty.  Amongst them is the Treforest Labour Councillor Steve Powderhill.

Now things rarely get too political on there, but now and again someone will pipe up with a comment about the Council or something it is or isn't doing, to which Cllr Powderhill's inevitable answer is that political debate should be taken elsewhere.  The subject of a few such comments has been the paddling pool fiasco which has stirred anger amongst a large number of Pontypridd residents in all wards - including Powderhill's.

When said Councillor started bragging about what a good job he is doing for Treforest and what dreams he has for its future (pass the sick bucket please) paddling pool campaigner (and non party political resident) Amanda Jones decided to question him on why he didn't support keeping it.

His response gave me almost as good a laugh as tonight's Mrs Brown's Boys and was certainly more inventive than Coronation Street

“Amanda, anyone who knows me knows I am my own man and will stand my ground when I believe in something, My area is Treforest and I intend to do my best to clean it up and turn it around and it is probably the most difficult ward in RCT. Ok because you don't read about me and see me in the newspapers every week other than irresponsible journalism and cheap political swipes at me doesn't mean I don't care, i'll do my talking when it is the right time and that's not now, when the time comes maybe you'll understand why I seem quiet I can assure you it's not because i'm afraid of anything, more I don't want to jeopardise anything like the grant funding etc now I respectfully ask you to put your comments about the pool on the page set up for it and when the time comes I will fight for what the people of Treforest tell me to fight for regarding the pool and everything else even if I sometimes don't agree with things I will vote in the way my electorate tell me to and actually the only thing we have voted on to date is outline planning to secure the grant funding. As i've said a few times I love this group, the chat, the memories old photos etc I don't want to spoil it with politics and neither will the majority on here so please keep politics for the right time and place not here. Thank you.”

Now the people of Pontypridd, including Treforest, have made their opinions clear.  A 2077 vote to 151 in the referendum on keeping the pool seems pretty clear to me.  So at what point exactly does Powderhill intend starting to listen?

He says the only thing they have voted on to date is planning permission.  Yet he voted in favour of that, knowing it would mean the removal of the paddling pool. There won't be another opportunity for him and his fellow backbenchers to vote and keep the paddling pool.  His chance has passed.

He attended the meeting in the Muni in October,but didn't say a word for or against holding a referendum.  So when is his self  enforced silence going to end?

As for posting "on the page set up for it"  there is one slight problem there for anyone wanting to question him or any of his Labour colleagues - they are too cowardly to go online even and face the public never mind doing it in person.

Friday, January 04, 2013

We don't need more Councils but more creative ones

Earlier this week it was reported in the media that the Mayor of Llanelli Town Council was leading an attempt to break the town away from Carmarthen County Council and establish Llanelli as an Authority in its own right.

The proposal fell at the first hurdle when he failed to get the support of fellow Town Councillors, but it was not likely to have got much further anyway.

The story of course planted a seed in the minds of others, or in some cases reawakened an idea they had earlier tossed into the air – what about doing this in Ponty?  Pontypridd is similar in a number of respects to Llanelli, and there are residents in both towns who will argue that they get the short end of the stick from the County Council.

Yet there are people in the Rhondda who will argue that all investment goes to Taff Ely, Cynon residents who says it is all spent in the Rhondda, and no doubt people in Carmarthen town who claim all the money goes to Llanelli – you get the picture

Of course even if Llanelli Town Council had voted in favour then the proposal was a non-starter, mainly because of the reasons given by the Council Chief Executive to the media.  You cannot just declare independence for one town without having knock-on effects and you are then talking about complete reorganisation of local government boundaries.  That is going to happen at some point but when it does it is going to result in bigger authorities not smaller ones. The Minister would simply refuse permission.

There is merit in the idea of delegating more responsibility (and the budget that goes with it) for some aspects to Town and Community Councils – many of which at the moment are little more than talking shops.  Devolution of power closer to the people is an idea that could work in certain instances if done properly, but random declarations of independence will not help.

It is not a breakaway Council and a battle with nearby towns that either Llanelli or Pontypridd need.  It is a Unitary Authority – wherever that may be based – that has both officers and elected members with vision and ambition for the whole area, and maybe Town councils that are more pro-active.