Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More half-baked Plaid ideas – more women in politics, by decree.

The BBC reported this week on Plaid leader Leanne Wood’s latest idea – that legislation may be necessary to ensure more women are elected to the Assembly.

Of course she has no real idea of what form that legislation may take – in typical Plaid style it should just happen, the details can be left to someone else.

Her remarks follow on from a call from the Assembly’s Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler for more women to be elected after the percentage of female AMs fell to 44% after the last election, that s 26 out of 60.  (Quite why she has waited until now to point this out is anyone’s guess the election was after all in May 2011.)

Ms Wood said

"Within Plaid Cymru, we have a strong internal democracy which reflects how much we rely on the party membership as a grassroots body.

"The side effect of this is that measures to promote women are not always at their strongest, but must be balanced out with local party control.”

Rather a strange statement really considering that it was only this month after a special conference that Plaid changed their constitution to allow for a one member one vote system. 

Personally I think the whole idea is ridiculos.  Not the idea that there should be more women in the Assembly or at any other level of Government, nothing wrong with that.  But the idea that there needs to be any form of positive discrimination, let alone legislation, to achieve that.

The Assembly in 2006 had 31 women and 29 men, this followed a by election afer the death of Peter Law.  Prior to that it was perfectly gender balanced.  Two out of the four current Party leaders are women – who were elected by an open process on merit not because of any boost given them because they were women.  The Presiding Officer is a woman.  The Cabinet is not as balanced, but to be honest it is difficult to see who they could put in there. 

That was achieved without any engineering so why the panic?

Any form of discrimination is still discrimination.  As long as there is equality of opportunity then the best person for the job should always be the maxim. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The AM for where was it again Slick?

Newport resident Mick Antoniw was elected in 2011 as Assembly Member for Pontypridd, the constituency he claimed to be living in at the time. 

Yet it is sometimes difficult to tell looking at his twitter feed and press releases which seem to be almost solely concerned with union issues and his asbestos Bill.  Even his website has little to say about his constituency.

Take a look at his news page. Asbestos Bill, Agricultural Wages Board, and article about a Statement of Opinion he tabled on the “injustices suffered by Welsh miners following events at Orgreave Coke Plant, South Yorkshire, during June 1984.”

There are a couple of pats on the back for RCT Council, and only one article which really addresses any of the major issues of concern on his patch – the appalling ambulance response times in RCT.  Bottom of the league yet again according to the latest stats.  They have been way off target for some time, but this is the first mention he has made of them, coincidentally immediately following a series of direct challenges I made via twitter to him about it.

Under the Pontypridd tab is a direct lift form Wikipedia which is solely about Pontypridd town, not the constituency.  His ‘campaigns’ show a similar disregard for the area – a report about Tonyrefail which is 18 months old and about which nothing seems to have been done since.

What about the disgraceful state of our town centres, what about a reduction in business rates for traders there, what about car parking charges, what about health waiting lists, what about the paddling pool, what about the disgraceful Estyn report RCT received last year? What about the proposed new town centre for Talbot Green? Does the Pontypridd AM have any comments or concerns about any of the things his constituents are talking about?  Or is he too busy pursuing his union interests?

Each week in the Assembly AMs get to put questions to Ministers.  Many use this opportunity to bring up subjects that are important in their constituency / region.  Today was their opportunity to question the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage.  So what would it be?  A question about empty homes which affects wards such as Treforest and The Graig in particular.  Or about  regeneration – how would the new town in Talbot Green, if it gets the go ahead affect existing town centres, should more be done to regenerate existing centres?  Heritage – maybe a question about the paddling pool?

"What plans does the Minister have to recognise the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Hughes next year?”

A nineteenth century industrialist who founded an ironworks and mining town in imperial Russia, named Hughesovka in his honour. Little is known about his early life, but John Hughes was born in Merthyr Tydfil where his father was an engineer at Cyfarthfa ironworks.”

Although reading on you can see where Slick’s interest may spark from

“It is thought Hughes also learnt his trade there before moving to Ebbw Vale and then the Uskside Foundry in Newport in the 1840s.

There he married Elizabeth Lewis, and had eight children, six boys and two girls, all born in Newport.”

I rest my case.

Public Park or Labour Fiefdom?

Earlier this week I was asked by a post grad journalist student if I would film an interview with her and a colleague about the paddling pool as part of a programme being put together on the subject.  The interview was not for broadcast, merely part of their training / assessment.  So I agreed to meet them at the Park this morning.

Just before I arrived I had a phone call saying they had been told they could not film an interview with me there.  They had apparently asked for permission to film yesterday (but my name was not mentioned then, not to hide anything simply because I presume it didn’t crop up.) They arrived today and were doing some general shots when they were approached by a worker who asked if they had permission.  They said yes but he checked with his manager who asked what they were filming. 

When they said they were meeting me to do an interview they were told they could film some general shots but not an interview with me. At this point several thoughts passed through my mind:
  • Who the hell do these people think they are?  This is a public park, owned by the people.
  • Glad to know they are so concerned about insignificant little me – must be making an impression.
  • How stupid are these people, don’t they know that will be the next story – Council censorship.
I wonder what the reaction would have been if they had said they were interviewing Owen Smith or the anonymous man from Newport?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Labour hypocrites all coming out of the woodwork in RCT.

Well we heard today that WEFO have granted the £3million to RCT to “renovate” the Lido in Ynysangharad Park.  I use the word cautiously because I cannot see how the proposed new building bears any resemblance to the historic baths.

They have the planning permission, and now they have the funding so it is difficult to see any way of preventing this from going ahead and the paddling pool being taken away, despite what would appear to be the opinion of most residents.

The Labour hypocrites have been out in force today welcoming the news.

Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cllr Paul Cannon said:

"We have listened carefully to the views of the community in developing these plans and our aim is to create an environment that attracts visitors, benefits business and where communities can prosper.”

Listened carefully to the views of the public? The 2077 who voted on 1st November to keep the pool he means?  Or the 151 who voted against?  Has he read the letters page of the Ponty Observer lately?

 In the Council Chamber when the vote was reported back he said

This was a cynical publicity stunt by the Lib Dems. Pontypridd Town Council have confirmed that the poll cost £11,000 which will be added to the precept next year. Perhaps the people of Pontypridd will thank them (the Lib Dems) for that.

“It is easy for others to try and make political capital but we have to take into account the wider regeneration issues. Amongst the 800 people we consulted the overall regeneration of Pontypridd was their over-riding concern.

“I move we note the result of the poll and take no further action.”

So much for listening to the people.

The local AM and MP congratulated the Council of course – the same Council that Owen Smith had said failed to consult properly on the issue.  Later on his Facebook page Mick Antoniw AM broke his silence on the issue and said

“this is great news for Pontypridd. there will be disappointment at the loss of the paddling pool which we all share, however , it was vital that this major project and investment in the future of Pontypridd was not threatened. the contstruction of an all year tion of an all year round adventure park will be a major long term asset to the park and will hopefully go some way to allay the sadness at the loss of the paddling pool. We must now look to the future and the ongoing and continued regeneration and development of Pontypridd. Still so much to do.round adventure park will be a major long term asset to the park and will hopefully go some way to allay the sadness at the loss of the paddling pool. We must now look to the future and the ongoing and continued regeneration and development of Pontypridd. Still so much to do.”

Really Slick, nice of you to pretend you give a damn.  What facilities do they have in Newport where you live?
One of the best examples though was Treforest Councillor Steve Powderhill who tweeted:

"WEFO funding secured now we'll see what Treforest want me to fight for ‘the dilapidated old pool or the new lido, play area and splashpool’”

Bit late for that.  He was one of those who voted in favour of granting planning permission to enable them to remove the paddling pool.  Didn’t he understand what he was voting for?  I mean I know they only took about eight minutes to make the decision but still.  Surely the Labour leader explained to his group that they were about to break the first of numerous manifesto promises?

When asked on the “you know your from Pontypridd when” Facebook page if it was correct that the lido would only open four months a year he replied

 “could well be but we haven't even had a chamber debate on what the final project will be so far it's only outline planning i'm looking forward to the debate so let's wait and see no point in guessing.”

Is he serious?  Even the limited information that was allowed to be made public about the fading application stated quite clearly that it would only be open around four months a year.

The decision to press forward with the scheme was taken by the Cabinet, there was no debate in Council, so what makes him think there will be for the next stage?

Maybe he should take a little more interest in what is going on.  He says he will “fight” for whatever the people of Treforest tell him to.  I take it he will be carrying out a survey very soon then, although it may be too late to fight for anything.  Still he could always sign our latestpetition!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is the stress getting to RCT Mayor?

The Pontypridd Observer today reported that

"THE Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Doug Williams, has been temporarily suspended from a Pontypridd branch of a fraternal organisation, a spokesman has confirmed. 

Six members of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) have had their membership suspended following a “disagreement” over how the Pontypridd group was being run."

The piece went on to explain that

"The Grand Secretary of the order, Christopher McMahon, who is based in the Harrogate headquarters, said Coun Williams was “a man of integrity” who was suspended over rules and procedure issues.

He stressed Coun Williams had done nothing wrong and was not suspended for any financial issues or irregularities."

Now I have known Doug for some time  in his capacity as former Elections Officer in RCT, and would not doubt this for one minute, although why the Grand Secretary felt the need to stress it I don't know.

Yet rules and proceure seem to be troubling the Mayor quite a bit lately. Such that in the past couple of weeks he has been the subject of two letters to the press from members of the public about Labour Councillors behaviour and his chairing of a recent Council meeting (see below). 

One resident wrote:

"I was absolutely disgusted by the petty schoolboy bullying that Coun Powell** was forced to tolerate.  Every time he attempted to open his mouth he was shouted down before he could even manage to utter two words.  Every time he tried to speak the rest of the room found it rather entertaining to chat loudly amongst themselves while jeering and booing.   I have rarely been so thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed and found myself bouncing in my seat with anger to find myself witnessing such petty bullying from people who are receiving good money to represent the constituents of Rhondda Cynon Taff.  They even, at one point, threatened to evict him from the meeting.  I would like to know why they are so keen to rid these meetings of Coun Powell. "

(** Welsh Lib Dem Cllr Mike Powell.)

Another wrote

“At one point Cllr Powell was openly insulted by another Councillor but when he attempted to reply he was told he would be removed for the chamber if he dared to speak again.  During the discussion of one item the mayor refused to allow Cllr Powell to make an amendment which I believe is against the rules”

Of course for those of us who have been regular attendees for some considerable time all this come as no surprise, but the current Mayor really is in danger of over-stepping the mark.Maybe the stress of being RCT's first citizen is all getting a bit too much.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Reduce, reuse, recycle

The RCT Cabinet this week gave the go ahead for changes to waste collection in the County Borough. The plan is to collect black bag waste one a fortnight instead of weekly as at present. This will no doubt spark a great deal of debate amongst residents not to mention in the Council Chamber.
There are two reasons why this move has been made in the majority of other Councils. The first and the reason that is apparently driving this change is to save money. The other is to try and increase recycling rates. The hope is that people will recycle more in order to keep their black bag waste to an absolute minimum. With so many materials being collected for recycling, including food waste, there is no reason why people should not recycle more. The system works quite well in other places.
There are a couple of glitches in the RCT system though – one of the most annoying because it is one that seems so simple to solve is the inability to keep residents supplied with plastic recycling bags. They run out on a regular basis, and despite the Council having various means of ordering them – online, by phone, with stickers on the bags, red lines that denote you have come to the end of a roll of bags – many residents are complaining that they do not get any delivered. As the Council flatly refuse to take away recycling in anything other than their bags then no doubt there is a fair amount of recyclable material going to waste.
Of course there also needs to be a change in the mindset of people in order to drive up recycling rates. Some will not recycle no matter how easy it is made for them, and there will also be those who continue to dump rubbish wherever they feel like. That will not alter no matter how often refuse is collected – although it could be argued that it may increase if people have to store black bags for two weeks. (There are also differences across the County in how refuse is collected. Taff Ely has wheelie bins, whereas Rhondda has black bags.)
The main reason why people will feel aggrieved about this is that they were promised it would not happen – and make no mistake, from a political point of view we will be reminding everyone of just that. The Labour party went into the 2012 Council elections with an unequivocal promise that they would keep weekly collections, they did not say they would try or that they would consider it – they said they would do it.
Now before anyone mentions tuition fees, yes I know. It could be argued that the position is the same. However, we were new into Government, and thanks to Labour’s lack of openness the true state of the nation’s finances were not revealed until the coalition took power. Who could forget ex Labour Treasury Secretary Liam Byrne’s note to his successor “there's no money left".
Labour in RCT on the other hand had been on power since 2004 and knew exactly the state of the finances here. They kept going on about cuts and hard times and pressure on public finances – so why make the promises
Then again they promised to keep the paddling pool knowing they had no intention of doing so. Some could see that as manipulation - or to put it more simply, a pack of lies.

Monday, February 11, 2013

We won't give up on paddling pool fight.

The Council are still determined to get rid of the paddling pool in Ynysangharad Park as part of their plans for the so called renovation of the lido, although quite how it can be called a renovation when the hew build is so vastly different is beyond me.

RCT Welsh Lib Dems and the members of the public who make up the SOS Ponty Paddling Pool group are equally determined that the paddling pool must not go.

A new petition has now been set up to have paddling pool classed as listed building

Despite originally saying that the Council would need listed building consent to remove the paddling pool in Ynysangharad Park, CADW have now changed their minds and said that is not the case.

A new Assembly petition has been set up asking the Welsh Government to classify the paddling pool as a listed building. It can be signed at the official Assembly petition site
here, or via www.pontylibdems.org.uk

Antoniw takes the biscuit on employees rights.

Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw really does have some brass neck.  He has currently been banning the drum on several projects associtaed with employees rights. 

The abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board has been troubling him greatly - despite the fact that this organisation no longer serves any useful purpose as workers are protected by the minimum wage.

Then just last week he reported that he

"Asked Minister and leader of the House about corporate governance in Wales. 111 Welsh workers blacklisted for being members of a trades union or raising health and safety issues. some of these companies have received contracts from Welsh Gov worth millions over the years."

Now I would not suggest for one minute that the practice of blacklisting anyone for being part of a union should be condoned - nor indeed for not being part of a union!  But for Mr Antoniw of all people to be taking this holier than thou attitude is a bit rich.

He is of course a former partner in Thompsons solicitors - reprimanded by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and made to pay costs amounting to £88,000 for irregularities involving miners' compensation claims.

Last week Wales Online carried an article  in which it was claimed he refused to give his own employee - an RCT Councillor - time off to attend Council meetings, even though he is legally entitled to such time.

The double standards shown are quite breathtaking, but then we have come to expect little else from him.  He did after all rent a house on Llantrisant for a couple of months prior to the Assembly election merely to have a Pontypridd constituency address to put on his ballot paper.  He actually lives in Newport.

Those he purports to represent really do deserve better. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Glad to see Slick Mick taking notice

Mick Antoniw’s Facebook page

 o    Karen Roberts Talking of Health and Safety any comment on the appalling ambulance response figures in your constituency?

   From my twitter feed
Karen Roberts@KarenClydach

Stats show RCT ambulance dire. Where are our Labour AMs? @MickAntoniwAM@LeightonAndrews@adrianmasters84 @walespolitics @pontyobserver

Having failed to mention anything about ambulance response times over the last year ambulance chaser turned AM Mick Antoniw (Pontypridd) seems to have had his conscience pricked. Well conscience is maybe the wrong word, but nonetheless he has at last woken up to the fact that ambulance response times in RCT have fallen short of the Wales target every month for the past year.

In December they were the worst in Wales with only 43.5% of category A emergency calls being responded to within 8 minutes.  Maybe it was this shocking statistic that finally made him think he had better say something - or maybe it was indeed a result of us bringing it to people's attention that he had said nothing.

Either way he mentioned it in his column in the Ponty Oberver today, and asked a question in theAssembly Chamber apparently. 

Well done that man.  Go for it Michael.  Now, about that paddling pool.........

Monday, February 04, 2013

Self praise is no recommendation Cllr Powderhill.

I have just come across the following post by Treforest Councillor Steve Powderhill on a local facebook group.  The initial post was about car parking charges in Pontypridd,but then he couldn’t resist flexing his over inflated ego.

Cardiff charge a lot more, so that argument doesn't really hold water out of town shopping is killing our towns, supermarkets, outlets etc wish it was different but it's not perhaps the landlords could do more to help the shopkeepers anyway i've got an early council meeting tomorrow out on site in Treforest it's not easy being a councillor despite what some people might think commitment is a heavy burden and I am committed i've taken one weeks holiday intwo years and lost a stone in weight and I know not every Councillor is the same but remember it's quite easy for people to say things it's a lot more difficult to actually do so on that note i'll say goodnight.”

What a load of bullshit, but how perfectly it sums up the Labour attitude. Pure, unadulterated arrogance and hypocrisy. He obviously has no answers, and as usual is not interested in debating any issue that is of importance to local residents and traders.  “Perhaps the landlords could do more to help” – because Cllr Powderhill and his Labour colleagues are not interested,

Then the change of tack to talk about “me, me, me.” 

“Commitment is a heavy burden” oh come on.  Only one week’s holiday and lost a stone – my heart bleeds.  It is however ludicrous to blame that on Council work. Yes it takes up a not inconsiderable amount of time – if done properly, but it is certainly not time at backbench level. 

 As for the stomach churning line about how “it's quite easy for people to say things it's a lot more difficult to actually do so” that is hypocrisy at its best.

This is the man who on his election leaflets made much about being the only candidate living in Treforest, and then a few months later had his planningapplication for a house in Ynysybwl passed by his Labour colleagues, despite Officers recommending it be turned down.

He spent a great deal of time slamming the previous Welsh Lib Dem Councillor who stood down at the last election.  He told anyone who would listen that he did nothing, that he had no influence, and that the only way to get things done was to elect a Labour Councillor. 

Steve Powderhill was the man to get a crossing for the school – still waiting.  He would champion the community against planning applications that were objected to by residents.  Yet failed to get planning permission rejected on at least two sets of flats.

He has failed to stick up for the people of the area over all manner of things.  He, along with his Labour mates voted for the removal of the paddling pool in Ynysangharad Park.  He attended the meeting at the Muni to decide on a referendum and didn’t have the guts to speak up and defend his position.  When asked about it on the facebook site referred to here he said it was not the place to discuss politics, but refuses to do it elsewhere.

Self praise really is no recommendation – certainly not in this case.