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Thursday, 1 November 2007

Gwesty Cymru

My wife, her brother and his wife fed ourselves at the new Gwesty Cymru restaurant in Aberystwyth on Tuesday night. Food and wine was superb. For the record I had halibut cakes for starters, venison as the main meal, washed down by some Argentinian Malbec wine. On my recommended list and well worth a visit.

Licencing horlicks in Ceredigion

No, there is no legislation in place to licence horlicks but its too good a title to let go and it will hopefully draw your attention! I spent part of the morning discussing licencing policy in Ceredigion, the Licencing Act 2003 is fast becoming an unwieldy monolith when it comes to protecting communities from the drinking public. Since I am not a teetotaller I have to include myself in that category - but of the benign not the rowdy aggressive variety. For the uninitiated you can find more information on the Licencing Act from the Department for Culture Media & Sport .
Anyway, the problem lies with unacceptable behaviour at unearthly hours of the day by patrons of the pubs. Responsibilities for dealing with this are split between the Police and Ceredigion Council, and there lies the first problem. The Council expects the Police to play their role and the Police contend that its the Council's responsibility, the consequence, nothing is done. It can be legitimately argued that the Police should contol rowdy behaviour on the streets, but whether they have the willingness and/or resources to do this is another issue. As one Councillor wryly stated "...expect a hefty rise in the Police precept to pay for this next year..." . Its not rocket science to have a protocol on who does what and if there is a persistent problem then the Police themselves can instigate a review of the licence granted for premises selling alcohol.
That leads nicely to the granting of licences. This is done by a panel of three Councillors advised by legal and licencing officers, we listen to the details of the application, comments by the applicant, comments by objectors, comments by the Police and then come to a decision with conditions attached. Conditions have to be reasonable and relevant but once in place they stay unless changed by magistrates. A decision is only as good as the evidence provided and following the granting of a licence, its after effects cannot be considered. This is where the Act is at fault, communities have no right of challenge to licencing conditions once set, and councillors cannot add retrospective conditions to deal with problems. The Council has decided to lobby the WLGA and the DCMS to make it possible for the Licencing Act to be used to deal with alcohol related unsociable behaviour. Lets hope all other authorities do something similar.
In addition, the Licencing Act cannot be used to make pub landlords clean the streets of fag ends outside their premises, but it can be used to make the owners of kebab shops clean the streets outside theirs. Inconsistency? Yes, but not in the eye of the law as the legislation about smoking in public places post dates the licencing legislation and is therefore not relevant.
This post is a little bit of a legal blowing off of steam, I now feel much better.


I am not the only one today feeling a sense of emotional shock and sadness that Ray Gravell is no longer with us, he will always remain 'yma o hyd'. Even though I only met him a few times I have a sense of personal loss, that a part of Wales has passed away, that a talisman for the culture of Wales has passed away and that a man who cared deeply for his 'bro' and 'milltir sgwar' has passed away so far away from home. Huw Llywelyn Davies said it all this morning when he quoted from Hedd Wyn by R Williams Parry
Troedio wnest ei rhedyn hi,
Hunaist ymhell ohoni.
(Tread you did its bracken,
You fell asleep far from it.)
Our sympathies are with the family at this difficult time.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Ceredigion County Council elections 2008

Ceredigion's ruling coalition (16 Independent, 9 Liberal Democrats and 1 Labour) face a severe test for control next year from Plaid Cymru (16 members). Local authority politics are not favourable at this point in time for ruling groups on all councils having to deal with a 1% efficiency saving (cuts in other words), falling pupil numbers prompting school closures, a difficult financial environment after the CSR announcement, in addition to any local political mess you find youself in. The ruling group have recently made a complete political hash of the Meals on Wheels debate, a policy issue they should not have introduced in the first place, one damning audit report on IT provision has already been published but there is an even more damning audit report on school finances yet to be published.

My prediction Plaid to be the largest group followed by the Liberal Democrats, the Independents third and Labour nowhere.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Carbon footprint

On Thursday last I listened to Elin Jones AM speak at the Stapledon Society (University agriculture, countryside, equine and tourism student staff society) about the One Wales document and rural policy. Apart from the usual agriculture related questions there was one which drew my attention, not initially because of its content but its tone. The way in which it was asked was aggressive, pointed and devious - its a shame it was asked in such a manner as it is an important point of debate. It asked whether the Minister had done a personal carbon footprint assessment.

The question really should have been split in two parts, firstly, what is the carbon footprint of your job, and secondly, what is the carbon footprint of your personal life? Yes, I suppose we choose our jobs but often the circumstances in which we operate are often beyond our control. It is easier for us to behave in a more carbon neutral way in our personal life but often circumstances again dictate otherwise.

Its time for organisations that employ large numbers to have carbon neutral employment plans. Considering the travel that elected Ministers do all Governments should have actions in place to mitigate the effect. By the way this is not getting at Elin Jones but at Government in general. Companies should be placed in the same spotlight.

I know that I could do better with my carbon footprint, I am sure we all can. The car to work each day; moving children between music lessons home, rugby pitches, football pitches and home; travelling around as an elected councillor are all areas where there are tangible benefits but the organisation of all does not produce an adequate or acceptable carbon footprint. Some compromise is probably necessary between the environment, children's education and enjoyment and lifestyle. I choose to be a councillor and if I didn't do it somebody else would !! Still it pricks my conscience and that is a start.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A liberal dose of schadenfreude

Swimming in the schadenfreude is easily done but it sticks rather than wash off like water. Sooner or later political careers end in failure and when political judgement is impending we need to be aware of how we have treated others. Leave the Liberals be.
In a prayer before a meeting of Ceredigion County Council the chaplain at the time said "... only say things if you know them to be true, only say things that are kind, and only say things that need to be said..". I try, best I can, to stick to these words, not always successfully.
There is something sad in witnessing the demise of a once great party, the reforms led by Lloyd George gave hope and fuelled the aspirations of the many (that's the true bit), Ming Campbell is an honourable man (that's the kind bit), and the Liberal Democrats are dead in the water (that's the bit that needs to be said). Oops, a touch too much schadenfreude there, but seriously it is so difficult to avoid when a party is making a pig's ear of everything.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Good news for west Wales

The dirty tricks story rife in Aberystwyth last week went along the lines that Elin had sold Bronglais down the road. No prizes that it was our yellow Libdem friends up to their usual nonsense again.

Its good we have got a decent AM in Ceredigion. This is what you can do when you try.

Plaid Cymru AM: Best indication yet of secure Bronglais future.

Plaid Cymru's AM for Ceredigion, Elin Jones, has welcomed confirmation from the One Wales Government's Health Minister, Edwina Hart AM, that she is determined to ensure a secure and successful future for Bronglais Hospital. The Health Minister also revealed last Tuesday that she remained committed to investing £20 million in community health services in Ceredigion, which will include new community hospitals in Tregaron and Cardigan, and a new health centre in Aberaeron. Commenting on the Health Minister's statement, Ceredigion AM Elin Jones said:

"This is the best confirmation yet that the One Wales Government's Health Minister remains committed to securing a health future for Bronglais Hospital and other healthcare services in Ceredigion with the development of a Rural Health Plan. Furthermore, I'm particularly pleased that Edwina Hart remains committed to investing £20 million in developing community healthcare in Ceredigion through our community hospitals at Tregaron and Cardigan, and at Aberaeron's new health centre.

"The plans for Cardigan's new hospital are already at an advanced stage following a series of consultations with local stakeholders. I now hope that this new commitment to investing in healthcare in Ceredigion will encourage a similar consultation to be held in the Tregaron area because little progress seems to have been made with respect to developing plans to invest in the town's community hospital.

"Over recent months I have been continuously arguing the need to establish a Rural Health Plan to ensure that Ceredigion residents remain able to access healthcare services in their locality. While in urban areas it may be acceptable to centralise healthcare services, in rural areas such as Ceredigion this 'one-size-fits-all approach isn't appropriate. I'm therefore glad that the Health Minister has asked Bronglais Hospital's medical director to investigate the best way for Ceredigion's hospitals and health centres to work together and effectively serve the rural population"

Ming gone

Well it was only a matter of time, but will it make any difference? I don't think so for the following reasons:- The Liberal Democrats cannot persuade the electorate that they stand for anything; political parties who absolve themselves from the responsibilities of leadership are not forgiven easily by the electorate (ref Assembly Rainbow Coalition); they are in a squeeze between Labour and Tories in England and between everybody else in Wales; their election tactics have been sussed as superficial by the electorate; elected representatives get their picture in the papers but don't actually do anything. Good luck Ming, you are better off without them.