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   ;-)