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Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Soon after the 1st November we will see the return of those night lights out in Cardigan Bay indicating the presence of scallop dredgers. From 1st January they will come even closer to shore. Under Byelaw 12 - Restrictions On Fishing For Bivalve Molluscan Shellfish Variation To Permitted Fishing Areas set by the North Western & North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (NWNWSFC) , dredging for scallops will recommence in Area 3 of Cardigan Bay on the 1st November and additionally further inshore in Area 3A from 1st January. The relevant point is that these are productive lobster fisheries important to the fishermen operating out of Aberystwyth and other harbours in West Wales.

The danger that a string of lobster pots face from the powerful and frequently imprecise nature of scallop dredging is significant, indeed, the loss of expensive pots as a result of careless dredging can destroy the livelihood of a lobster fisherman. The likelihood of accidents increase as dredging comes closer to land particularly when scallop dredging is speculative and away from recognised scallop beds. I understand that the Cardigan Bay Fisherman Association and the Welsh Federation of Fisheries Associations has expressed similar concerns about the vulnerability of lobster strings. Entangling with a string of lobster pots will cost the lobster fisherman in excess on £2000 (£45 per pot and anything from 45-60 pots per string) and can easily cause significant financial loss. It is precisely as a means of preventing such damage that clearer identification of scallop boats is required.

Currently there is no requirement for scallop dredgers to carry the Automatic Identification System (AIS) or a similar satellite tracking device, which would make their position and activity visible to onshore positions. The NWNWSFC should require scallop dredgers to install identification equipment as a tool for Sea Fisheries Officers and Coastguards to monitor dredgers fishing outside designated areas and/or in danger of damaging lobster pots. Currently lobster fishermen have no legal protection when their pots are damaged short of the indirect effects of conservation legislation protecting scallop beds. The Isle of Man Government has introduced for the 2008-2009 season a requirement for satellite tracking devices to be installed on scallop fishing boats operating within its own 3 mile limit.

Only vessels under 50 ft (15.24m) registered length are allowed to fish within 3 miles of the Isle of Man and require a permit to do so. You will be automatically issued with a 3 mile permit if your vessel is less than 50 ft. Under existing conservation measures ALL vessels fishing for scallops or queenies inside the 3 mile limit are required to have an operational satellite tracking device on board. In addition all vessels fishing for scallops or queenies inside the three mile limit are required to complete and return a detailed scientific logbook as supplied by the Department.

The NWNWSFC should do the same. Satellite tracking would also allow the identification of boats fishing in the protected waters found in Cardigan Bay. I have written to the NWNWSFC with this suggestion, lets hope they take it on board.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Home and mortgage help

The credit crunch and subsequent economic downturn should have focussed the minds of politicians on keeping people faced with the loss of their job in their homes. Reposessions are increasing and its good to see that Welsh Assembly Ministers have introduced a £5m mortgage rescue scheme. Good move earlier this summer and considering subsequent events, an inspired one as well. However, it is likely to need more than £5m in the pot. Central government has woken up and is considering action on reposessions.

Good progress so far by the Assembly, so what are our Welsh MP's doing? It seems the Welsh Affairs Committee are not best pleased by one measure on housing - The proposed draft National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Housing) Order 2008 - and want to restrict powers on affordable housing devolved to the Assembly. Not a good start when it comes to having real powers to deal with real issues that will affect people's homes and mortgages on a daily basis. The Presiding Officer is right in his criticism Tensions rise over housing powers. There is a great danger that MP's will increasingly be seen as being obstructive and obtuse. If you don't think the Assembly can do the work, what do you propose instead?

Aberystwyth with Adam Price MP

Spent Friday evening with Adam Price MP giving a talk to Plaid members in Aberystwyth on the National Vet School for Wales campaign. Adam spoke in his usual eloquent style on the credit crunch, banking problems, the economic difficulties that small nations like Wales face, and the Plaid response to these difficulties. We were told to expect a formal announcement on these next week. One point of interest was the needs for investment in public infrastructure projects as a means of stimulating the economy. Lets prepare a list for Wales and make sure we are at the front of the queue as it has been repeated by Government sources on Sunday morning.

My line on a new vet school in Aberystwyth goes something like this; there is a scarcity of graduates with large animal expertise, monitoring and controlling animal diseases will become increasingly important with climate change, institutions like Aberystwyth University have aspirations that develop their higher education provision but also contribute significantly to the local economy, and finally it is part of a new agenda for Wales that creates national institutions for a self respecting country. These arguments are good enough for me but they need to be articulated widely to make the case to individuals and organisations that will eventually decide the fate of the project. It is an ambition where we are seeing many pieces of the jigsaw lining up. Now is the time to strike.

Friends of Cartref Tregerddan

The Friends of Cartref Tregerddan is a voluntary support organisation set up over 25 years ago, primarily to raise money to support the care of those living at Cartref Tregerddan, Bow Street, but also to respond to changes in policy and operation instigated by Ceredigion County Council and others. It has been an honour to be its Chair for the past few years. The Friends are a focal point for interested members of the community and representatives of local community councis. It meets at approximately 2 monthly intervals and has raised over £60k locally to improve the well being of residents. The main fundraising events are the summer barbeque, autumn tea, christmas raffle and monthly whist drives. We also make regular grant applications to Cronfa Eleri and the Lady Grace Trust to buy the most expensive items. During the past 25 years the Friends have paid for trips for residents, Christmas presents and also substantial capital projects like specialist beds, a conservatory and more recently a large open porch to allow ambulances to park near the front door in shelter when picking up passengers.
It is so important for homes like Tregerddan to have community support, it is important for residents to make sure they remain part of the community, to staff who maintain the highest levels of care often in trying circumstances, but it is also important to the community as an expession of the fact that we still care about all members of society not just the priviliged few.
Contributing to the work of the Friends gives me a real sense of satisfaction.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Calls made for local improvements on child poverty.

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James has called for urgent action to eradicate child poverty after the release of statistics showing that 47 per cent of Ceredigion children live in low-income families.
While the numbers of families living at or below the poverty line in Ceredigion was slightly lower than the Welsh average of 59 per cent, certain areas were significantly higher. In the Cardigan – Teifi ward, 77 per cent of families are classed as having low incomes, closely followed with the Aberystwyth – Central ward with 74 per cent.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty, the organisation which obtained the figures, organised a rally in London to mount further pressure on Gordon Brown and the Westminster Government to commit the resources required to put an end to child poverty.

Commenting on the statistics, Penri James said:

“While I believe that it’s reassuring that child poverty figures in Ceredigion’s Communities First areas are at or below the Welsh average, I do believe that more needs to be done to address this issue in other areas of the county which aren’t covered by this successful scheme.

“In light of these newly-published statistics, it is important that Ceredigion County Council and the Assembly Government reappraise the Communities First areas to see whether all areas of multiple deprivation, including high child poverty levels, are covered and open to additional funding.

“It’s estimated that an additional £3 billion must be made available to so that the Westminster government to meet its own targets on child poverty. I therefore hope that Gordon Brown will listen to the case presented by the Campaign to End Child Poverty and ensure that his government increases funding to tackle this problem”.

Plaid Cymru’s County Councillor for the Cardigan – Teifi ward, Catrin Miles, added:

“It’s hardly surprising that Cardigan’s Teifi ward has the highest rate of child poverty in Ceredigion. Relevant statistics have consistently shown that this area is one of the most deprived in the county but to date little has been done to address this issue. I will therefore be raising this matter with Council officials to see what action can be taken to deal with this situation”.

The figures quoted were obtained by the Campaign to End Child Poverty. The main data covers August 2006. However, ward breakdowns are for August 2005. The data cover all children eligible for Child Benefit, including 16 and 17 year olds still in full-time education.

Financial Freeze

Its good news that representatives of the Assembly Government and the WLGA are going to the UK Treasury to discuss the recovery of public funds frozen in Iceland. Its still not clear from many Authorities whether they were following appropriate guidelines and until the full facts are known the jury will be out on liability. It is even more worrying that the return on the frozen accounts could be as low as 30%. This will put in peril some current projects but also restrict or even cancel future capital schemes. Local authorities constantly need to invest and reinvest in the infrastructure that serves society and much of this will now be on a prioritised statutory/mandatory basis, however much will remain undone.

One such scheme is the the UK Government and Assembly intention to bring private sewers into public ownership. There are so many badly constructed sewers in poor condition - developers making a fast buck and burying the evidence quickly - that the eventual bill will land on the doorstep of private individuals, this is likely to be substantial. Sooner or later this kind of hardship will fall upon us, lets hope the Minister gets some luck in London.

£200,000 welcome boost for local arts centre

Local Plaid parliamentary candidate Penri James has said that £200,000 investment in an Aberystwyth arts centre will be a welcome boost to the area.

The money, announced by Plaid Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones, will go to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre to help to build a new 16 unit complex to house artists, craftspeople and related businesses.

The investment in Aberystwyth is part of a national package to allow communities across Wales to see national collections of art. Centres in Llandudno and Cardiff will also be receiving funding. The Minister said that following a feasibility study that showed that the creation of a National Gallery would cost the taxpayer £90m, he had taken the decision to invest in existing galleries across the nation so that a ‘mobile national gallery’ could be created.

Local Plaid parliamentary candidate, Penri James, said:

“This money will be a welcome boost to arts and culture in the area, the development of the new complex will increase in the amount of contemporary art created in this area. It will also make it easier for people living in the Aberystwyth area, from all backgrounds to contribute to and to experience our nation’s arts and culture.

“I welcome the decision by the Minister not to commit to the investment of £90m in a national gallery; this would be something our communities could ill afford at this time. The Minister has taken the only responsible course of action in the current economic climate.”

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Letter to Cambrian News - costly Lib Dems

Dear Editor,

I was very disappointed to read Mark Williams MP’s criticism last week of the Assembly Government’s intention to merge Local Health Boards and NHS Trusts in Wales and create seven regional health bodies. Mr Williams has conveniently forgotten that it was his Lib Dem party which supported the creation of the 22 Local Health Boards in Wales when they briefly shared power with Labour in Cardiff many years ago. As a result, as many as 50 NHS organisations have existed at the same time in Wales!

It’s quite evident that our MP and his Lib Dem counterparts would prefer to have six Chief Executives and six Directors of Finance in Dyfed rather than one of each to serve the whole area. I wonder how many local residents would prefer this costly Lib Dem policy rather than an emphasis on improving frontline health services preferred by the present Plaid-Labour Assembly Government. Improving local healthcare is more important that preserving bureaucracy and high-paid posts.

Yours sincerely,

Penri James

Lib Dem hipocrisy

Saw this story the other day in the Daily Mail on LibDems want a 20p hike in fuel duty (so much for tax cuts then!) and tried to match it with Mark Williams MP issuing a SUPERMARKET PETROL PRICE CHALLENGE. Again an example of Lib Dems saying one thing on a UK level and something totally different on a local basis.

Monday, 13 October 2008

More on Vet School for Wales

As reported in the Farmers Guardian Motion to establish veterinary college in Wales

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Vote for positives

It is so much better to vote 'for' something positive rather than vote for the opposing camp because you 'dislike' or 'hate' a candidate or a set of views. Its particularly disturbing that some American voters are taking precisely this approach and the Republicans are getting benefit from it. John McCain attempted to lance the boil on Friday (see BBC) probably because he knew that John Lewis was going to voice his concerns. Not enough I'm afraid.

Don't believe that such despicable behaviour isn't used over here, the algorithm goes something like this
  • Government/Organisation/Company makes proposals not likely to be delivered in the short term,
  • MP/MEP/AM responds that he/she is angry/annoyed/dismayed at these proposals,
  • MP/MEP/AM frightens life out of interested parties,
  • MP/MEP/AM and only MP/MEP/AM will save populace from such proposals.

Have a look for this algorithm in the local press, no prizes. Clue - The name of the MP/MEP/AM is usually the first 2 words in the first paragraph. It actually makes them sound a bit like the Mr Men, "Mr Angry", "Mr Annoyed", "Mr Dismayed".

Poll on Assembly Powers

No surprises here in the poll was carried out by the Institute of Welsh Politics (IWP) for the Assembly Commission (see BBC). The Conservative rank and file in particular, and if truth be told the leadership as well, see the Assembly as a threat to the Unionist hegemony. Lets expect no support for additional powers from that direction. The Labour Party has delivered devolution, credit where credit is due, but it is seriously split between two equally influential camps. The pro Assembly faction see the Assembly delivering the kind of 'clear red water' policies not seen in London and want to go further. The anti Assembly faction is mainly encamped with the Labour MP's who see the current Assembly as an erosion of their influence let alone a Parliament or an Assembly with additional powers. Many of the arguments offered by this group are arguments of self preservation rather than principled aspects of policy (Don Touhig, Kim Howells, Peter Hain). Even though it is an unionist party (deliberate small 'u' here) the Liberal Democrats see the Assembly as the only body where sooner or later will have a chance at government (they weren't particularly successful the last time they tried and I have no real wish to see them back. Expect Liberal Democrat support for further powers. Self determination is a raison d'etre for Plaid Cymru, the competence shown by our Ministers goes some way to shoot the fox raised by Dr Kim, and the lead shown by the SNP in Scotland is another example of what can be done. These polls are an useful measure of the task we face in persuading the electorate that a Parliament is required in Cardiff.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Electronic Identification Device - sheep

I have blogged in the past about the campaign that Jill Evans MEP is running against EID in sheep and my support for that campaign. Well done our MP, he has also joined the campaign and secured a debate on the matter in Westminster Hall on Wednesday 15th October . What is important is to seek a derogation for the UK, we cannot demand that our Ministers refuse to implement European Council Regulation 21/2004 since it would incur financial and other penalties, particular in relation to the Single Payment. Lets be careful what we ask for. I look forward to the debate and to being able to comment.

Vet School Campaign gathers support

My speech at the Plaid Cymru Conference calling for a vet school to be set up in Wales has gathered support. Thank you all.

An Early Day Motion put forward by Elfyn Llwyd MP on a NATIONAL VETERINARY SCHOOL FOR WALES has gathered MP support which cane be tracked here

That this House notes the importance of the veterinary profession to the livestock industry and in pet care; considers that the recent outbreaks of bluetongue and foot and mouth disease in the UK will adversely affect animal welfare and the productivity of the agricultural industry and require significant monitoring input from acknowledged experts; further notes that there is a growing demand for highly trained veterinarians that is currently being met by an increasing number of foreign-trained graduates; acknowledges that Wales, uniquely among the nations of the UK, has no veterinary school; and further considers that additional veterinary training to meet demand would be achieved by establishing a National Veterinary School for Wales in Aberystwyth in order to complement the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

I am pleased that the local MP has provided his support. Would it be churlish for me to suggest that this is yet another campaign that the Lib Dems will support only later to claim that they are the leading lights? - we shall wait and see but I shall keep you informed.

What is important here is that all parties see the benefits of establishing a vet school in Aberystwyth, benefits to the local economy and to education. Its a fight we can and must win for Ceredigion.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Trains and cars

I spent the evening listening to two proactive Plaid Cymru Councillors discuss railways and our use of cars. Cllr Mark Strong from Aberystwyth and Cllr Rob Phillips from Lampeter elequontly conveyed ideas on how the rail system can be used to deal with the after effects of climate change and life in a post peak oil world. In a rural area we still need cars but railway investment like the Waverley Rail Project offer possible alternatives. Currently a new rail project has to provide government with a financial return yet investment in road projects requires no return. Anomalies like this are built into the system and a return to the age of rail as a means of mitigating the effects of climate change is not possible without major changes of policy and public opinion.

Financial freeze

Little did we think that the current banking crisis would hit home as a result of decisions taken in Iceland. On face value, Ceredigion County Council has through no fault of its own had £5.4M frozen by the Icelandic Government. Now, my Plaid Cymru colleague Chris Franks has touched on the kind of questions that need to be asked,

When I was a councillor I met with local authority treasurers, my first question was always 'are you sure the money is invested in a safe haven rather than in accounts that paid the top interest rates'. I would hope members of local authorities in Wales would have asked similar questions.

Where Ceredigion and other authorities are concerned, answers to the following questions will have to be volunteered:-

  • Were the appropriate rules followed when this money was invested?
  • If the credit rating advisors persisted to provide a triple 'A' rating to dodgy banks then why should they be paid a consultancy fee when the taxpayers money is under threat?
  • Were there any warnings received about the creditworthiness of Icelandic banks and when? Did the authority invest after such a warning?
  • Is the invested money part of an earmarked reserve? If the answer is 'Yes' then which projects? In Ceredigion does this mean the new office building or the Penweddig PFI project?
  • Is the invested money part of the general reserves?
  • Is the invested money part of the daily cash flow needs of the authority? If its frozen then will the liquidity of the authority be affected and is there money available to pay bills and salaries this month?

The sooner we get the answers the better. In the meantime the Assembly should get its thinking cap on and persuade the UK Treasury to stump up the cash deficits which have been incurred. Local authority services are as important as a liquid banking system.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Letter on wet weather facilities - Tivyside Advertiser

Dear Editor

At the tail end of yet another wet summer there is a need to contemplate its effect on the local economy and suggest a course of action to take. Hoteliers in Ceredigion have already commented earlier this year that bookings are down as a direct consequence of the wet weather. This is not good news for the tourism industry as a whole which is so important to coastal Ceredigion and its hinterland. We need some good weather to bring in visitors particularly around the late summer Bank Holiday which traditionally has the greatest economic impact in Ceredigion. If as a result of climate change the weather will get increasingly uncertain then we need alternative local wet weather solutions to maintain the tourist economy. There is a need to develop an infrastructure of activity facilities that caters for the day visitor and those in local accommodation during periods of wet weather. The exiting developments by Cadwgan at Cardigan Castle are one example; Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park is another but we need to include more indoor attractions in our tourism portfolio to complement present outdoor activities on the river, in the hills, on the sea shore; theme parks; boat trips and the coastal path to name just a few. All should be attractive to the seaside visitor who seeks an alternative. Pembrokeshire has such an infrastructure in place, Ceredigion should do the same. As part of the consultation process on the Local Development Plan it is important that the effects of climate change on the local economy be taken on board and policies formed that allow the development of this economic sector. Now is the time to open the debate and set a challenge for the County Council and participating bodies responsible for maintaining and developing the local tourism economy.


Penri James Ymgeisydd Seneddol San Steffan Plaid Cymru Ceredigion Westminster Parliamentary Candidate Plaid Cymru Ceredigion

Plaid Cymru welcome Urdd Eisteddfod site selection.

Plaid Cymru in Ceredigion have welcomed confirmation that the Urdd National Eisteddfod in 2010 will be held at the National Trust’s Llannerchaeron estate near Aberaeron. The Urdd recently announced that Llannerchaeron had successfully beat competition from ten other locations in Ceredigion to host the largest youth festival in Europe.

Commenting on the announcement, Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“I’m glad that the Urdd have finally revealed that the 2010 Eisteddfod will be held at Llannerchaeron. This is an ideal location which is in easy reach of all parts of Ceredigion and I hope that this will encourage all of the county’s residents to become involved in the event”.

Cllr Moelfryn Maskell, the Plaid Cymru County Councillor whose Ciliau Aeron ward includes the Llannerchaeron estate, added:
“Hosting this important event at one of Ceredigion’s most historic tourist attractions will give visitors a taste of what the county has to offer. I am also confident that a very warm welcome will await competitors and visitors from all parts of Ceredigion and Wales when they descend on Llannerchaeron in May 2010”.

See also

Canvassing in Llanon

I took the opportunity to visit businesses in Llanon to see how good a summer they have had. Llanon is a village where you have a business with a multi million pound turnover (Pugh Computers), others which are there to service the tourist economy and others to service the local economy. All were in reasonably good spirits but things could be better. Its always a pleasure to see the enthusiasm and dedication of local entrepreneurs. In the evening I held a meeting with the Llanon branch of Plaid Cymru (see image below).