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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Westminster must continue additional CAB funding

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James has called on the Westminster Government to ensure that continued additional funding for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) network features in the forthcoming Pre-Budget Report.

During last year’s Pre-Budget Report, the Chancellor provided an additional £10m to allow the CAB to cope with an increase in cases as a result of the recession. This funding is due to come to an end at the end of March 2010.

324 CAB offices throughout the UK have taken advantage of this additional funding and have thereby been able to increase their opening hours, including the bureau at Cardigan.

Commenting on the need to ensure that additional funding continues to be available for CAB bureaux during the recession, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster candidate for Ceredigion, Penri James, said:

“Unfortunately, the additional funding provided by the Westminster Government for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau network to help them deal with an increased demand due to the recession will come to an end next spring. However, the effects of the current recession are likely to continue much further into the future.

“I therefore hope that every effort will be made to ensure that an important advice service offered by the CAB network to those suffering the results of the recession will continue to be funded by the Westminster government beyond March”.

Minister congratulated on prompt Ceredigion Single Farm Payments

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James has congratulated the Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones AM, after it was announced that over 80 per cent of farmers in Wales will be receiving their Single Farm Payments this week.

Elin Jones AM, Plaid Cymru Agriculture Minister and Assembly Member for Ceredigion, revealed during the Royal Welsh Winter Fair that 1,434 Ceredigion farmers will be receiving payments worth £19,737,898.96 this week.

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

“The fact that Elin Jones has managed to get 82.5 per cent of Single Farm Payments in Wales out to farmers on the first day the European Commission allows such payments to be made demonstrates the Plaid Minister’s determination to supporting the local agriculture industry.

“The winter months are certainly the most expensive months for farmers and having a positive cash flow by having their Single Farm Payments promptly in the bank will go a long way towards reducing unnecessary interest charges and allow the money to be used for farming and not to pay the bankers”.

Concerns over Probation Service sentence evasion

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James has expressed concern that criminals in Ceredigion might be getting away with not serving their community service orders.

Data obtained by the Plaid Cymru Westminster candidate under the Freedom of Information Act shows that there were 276 Community Payback or Community Service Orders issued in Ceredigion between 2006 and 2009. However, only three breaches of these orders were recorded during the same period.

This is substantially lower than the data for neighbouring counties. During the same period, 950 orders were issued in Carmarthenshire, 468 in Pembrokeshire and 615 in Powys. These counties experienced 285, 58 and 254 breaches respectively.

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“I find it difficult to believe that there were only three breaches to Community Service Orders recorded in Ceredigion during the last three years. Evidence from neighbouring counties suggests that this number should be much larger.

“These figures indicate that either we have very well behaved criminals in Ceredigion or that they are getting away with not doing their sentences and that this evasion is not being recorded”.

These figures come as the UK Government is looking to cut £24m from the Probation Service’s budget.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster Leader and MP for Meirionydd Nant Conwy, Elfyn Llwyd, secured a debate on the matter in Parliament.

Penri James further commented:

“The announced cuts to the Probation Service’s budget will inevitably make the situation in Ceredigion even worse. The courts are being encouraged to put in place structured and supervised community penalties, but what use is this if there isn’t enough staff to supervise these orders?

“These Community Service Orders are here for a reason – to ensure that offenders repay society for the distress that they have caused. At the moment, these penalties do not appear to be working in Ceredigion and I fear that budget cuts could make the situation much worse”.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Lib Dems run with the hare and the hounds

There is uproar in New Quay about parking charges at the Ceredigion County Council owned car park next to the medical centre, and rightly so. During the last year the Welsh Assembly Government, of which Plaid Cymru is part, has abolished car parking charges at hospitals. It is the right thing to do.
Whilst I am totally supportive of the petition for free parking to those visiting the medical centre in New Quay, it is rather ironic that it has been sent to Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams. The decision to include parking fees in the annual County Council budget was supported by Liberal Democrat Councillors and implemented by the Council Cabinet on which sits three Liberal Democrat Councillors. They have had several opportunities to stop this punitive health tax but have refused to do so.

It is only right to point out that the MP cannot run with both the hare and the hounds and must at some stage accept a collective responsibility for the actions of his party.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Liberal Democrat Farming press releases - pinch them from the NFU!

If you don't have anything to say about agriculture then get it from somebody else. This press release by Mark Williams MP is amazing in its barefaced cheek, now he didn't meet Wynfford James but gives the impression he did, didn't do any background research but gives the impression he did, and didn't actually do anything but gives the impression he did.
MP shocked by milk sales figures
11:57am Wednesday 25th November 2009

Ceredigion’s Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams has expressed his concern after new figures showed supplies of Welsh Milk sold to the public sector have dropped by 22%.

At a meeting with NFU Cymru’s Milk Board, Wynfford James, Head of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Food, Fisheries and Market Development Department, explained that the total spent on food and drink by the public sector in 2007 was £66.49million.

Mr James went on to explain that his department has identified that there are substantial opportunities for producers of Welsh fruit and vegetables to supply to the public sector but that there had also been a significant drop in fresh Welsh milk supplies - down by 22% since 2005.

Commenting, Mark Williams said:
“Public procurement is an important tool in ensuring that local producers are supported, so it is a real concern to see a drop in the amount of Welsh milk being purchased by the public sector.

“This issue has been widely publicised, and all parts of the public sector should be aware of the importance of public procurement, so it is extremely disappointing that we have gone backwards.

“The Welsh Assembly Government must take heed of these figures, and ensure that Welsh milk is supported by the public sector.”

The original NFU press release is here, and is copied below.

Supplies of Welsh milk sold to the public sector have dropped by 22% according to latest research figures which Mansel Raymond, NFU Cymru’s Milk Board Chairman, has described as ‘alarming’.

Wynfford James, Head of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Food, Fisheries and Market Development Department, explained to NFU Cymru’s Milk Board members that the total spent on food and drink by the public sector in 2007 was £66.49million.
Welsh food and drink producers from a supply perspective could provide £30.3million of that total spend, but, at the moment Welsh producers are only able to access £14.7million of that public sector market place.

Mr James went on to explain that his department has identified that there are substantial opportunities for producers of Welsh fruit and vegetables to supply to the public sector but that there had also been a significant drop in fresh Welsh milk supplies - down by 22% since 2005. Public sector procurement policies and structures are to blame in the main with many such bodies now favouring a ‘consortium’ approach which makes it difficult for smaller, Welsh based suppliers to bid for and win these contracts.

In response to the tracking studies completed by the Welsh Assembly Government, Mansel Raymond said, “I am very alarmed by the drop in Welsh milk purchased by the public sector. The Welsh dairy industry is in decline and therefore it is the sector
that needs the most support at the moment. Our industry is going through real tough times and whilst public procurement contracts are a small part in a much bigger picture every little helps so it is incumbent on the Assembly Government and other public bodies to do much better.”

John Lougher, a milk producer from Glamorgan, suggested that the biggest drop in Welsh milk supplied was from Local Authorities. The position would be compounded further with the demise of Assembly Government funded School Milk Facilitators. These people were key in helping schools trawl through the administrative nightmare that comes hand in hand with the European free school milk scheme. Mr Lougher said, “Milk is a healthy drink and needs to be introduced at an early age. Sadly, I know there are a lot of schools in Glamorgan that are not getting any milk at the moment, let alone Welsh milk. These Facilitators are key in getting schools to
take up the scheme to the benefit of their pupils.”

Members of the NFU Cymru Milk Board assured Wynfford James that they would be keeping in regular contact with his department and a firm eye on future tracking studies to ensure that the position was much improved in terms of the amount of Welsh milk and indeed Welsh food and drink in general that was purchased by the public sector.

The cheap shot at the Welsh Assembly Government ignores the fact that local authorities are also major procurors of Welsh milk. What I would like to know is how much milk did Ceredigion County Council buy during the same period? Will he make a statement?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Ceredigion 14-19 Learning Partnership

Ceredigion Cabinet has started the ball rolling with secondary school reorganisation with a meeting of School Governors in Aberaeron on Monday night to discuss the 'Ceredigion 14-19 Learning Partnership Terms of Reference and Governance Arrangements'. A grand title enough to frighten the life out of any non legal mind but its all about how secondary schools, Coleg Ceredigion and vocational trainers can work with each other under a strategic banner managed by Ceredigion Education Department. Most is driven by WAG and the national education agenda.
In Ceredigion its the Lib Dems who are in charge of the education portfolio so I came prepared not to expect a lot. After the usual rambling introduction we were treated to a 20 minute disection by the Director of Education of this Cambrian News article. Maybe he had been reading a bit of George Monbiot and wanted to join in the fun but to start a night to discuss the future of secondary education listing, in his opinion, the inaccuracies and misinterpretations of the Cambrian News was brave and unusual. He insisted we were there to discuss options and no solutions were to be foisted on anybody. Several other officers provided additional descriptions of the proposals which I can summise that a strategic board will be created with guidance power on policy for school governing bodies but that the ultimate decision will be taken locally by governing bodies themselves. Then came the stick, if governing bodies failed to comply with the wishes of the strategic board then the big brother Welsh Assembly will step in. Ceredigion will become another Anglesey or Denbigh.
This is fundementally the wrong approach. Anglesey and Denbigh are totally different scenario's, one arises from poor political leadership and the other from poor officer leadership. You cannot build a sustainable consensus in favour of a policy if your over-riding argument is one of threat if the right decision isn't taken.
These are my other concerns:-
  1. The strategic pyramid is unclear and it appears that there is a chain of pyramids in place. Is it the Cabinet's policy that over-rides all others? WAG policy? or the local policy of individual governing bodies?
  2. There is no compulsion for governing bodies to submit to the will of the strategic board and the governing bodies hold all financial powers. Strategic direction will not work without finance so why create such a powerless structure unless finance will no longer be controlled by governing bodies. One to watch.
  3. There is no direct line of accountability in the structures proposed.
  4. There is no direction on how disputes, and there will be many, will be resolved.
  5. There is no clear statement why the structures are being put in place and what they aim to achieve.

One of my favourite quotes is by Disraeli " a progressive country change is constant..." and even though Ceredigion has historically had some of the best secondary education results in Wales, we cannot stand still and systems, structures and education have to evolve. I am yet to be convinced that collating power in a single county based structure is the right way, I do think that successful and capable governing bodies play a constructive role in society. Speaking as a parent, governor and former pupil, these are developments we must watch.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Who does Alun Davies AM represent?

In May 2007 Alun Davies was elected as a regional Labour AM for Mid and West Wales. In July 2009 he was selected to stand in Blaenau Gwent at the 2011 Assembly elections. As far as I can make out he nowadays spends most of his time arguing to move transport funding from rural Mid and West Wales to the Heads of the Valleys. We can see why he is doing this but if he was a proper democrat he should resign his seat and let us have sombody who would represent Mid and West Wales.

Fair Funding for Wales - no progress by Hain

I feel a sense of anti-climax after the Westminster Labour Government announcement on the Barnett formula - nothing has really changed. Yesterday we were told to await a 'newsworthy' announcement, maybe even a promise of a full review and a floor on funding cuts. It didn't really materialise. Both the Holtham Commission and the House of Lords have said that the Barnett Formula should be replaced, both inquiries included respected economists. Wales will according to Holtham be underfunded by £300m per year and up to £8.5bn over the next decade yet we will not receive any additional revenues Wales is ‘disproportionately disadvantaged'. Now ‘disproportionately disadvantaged' sounds too subjective an interpretation open to substantial political influence. Not much progress - again.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Labour in (political) climate change denial

One of the characterisations of climate change is the unexpected appearance of extreme storms that appear, cause lasting damage, and disappear with the same intensity. Such is the political storm that started in Cardiff this morning with the release of Welsh Labour’s statement on future progress, or not, of the referendum on additional powers for the Assembly.

The paragraph that caused offence to Plaid Cymru was

“Our internal policy process has already begun: Welsh Labour’s Welsh Joint Policy Committee has met, prioritised the need to campaign for a General Election victory, and agreed to start considering the All Wales Convention report in detail as a prelude to stepping-up wider Party consultation with AMs and MPs, councillors, trade unionists and members as soon as the General Election is over.”

Hapless? Innocent? Misread? Misinterpreted? Deliberate? Calculated? Who knows? Probably the lot! However a lasting damage has been done, not to the Coalition but to Labour.

I have no doubt that Peter Hain made promises to his fellow Labour MP’s that no referendum would take place on his watch, that they the MP’s were primus inter pares, at no juncture would the fledgling Assembly usurp their influence, and latterly, that Sir Emyr was a ‘knight of the realm’ and could be trusted to return the right answer. But politics is an evolving game and the Assembly now has a far greater influence on our day to day lives than the London Parliament, as well, Sir Emyr is a physicist who looked at the facts and came up with the answer that did not suit Peter Hain’s convenience. Peter Hain designed an LCO system to suit his short term political needs, not a way to govern Wales - it actually makes the case for moving to Part 4.

Labour still hasn’t subscribed to political climate change here in Wales, they were thoroughly out manouvered (again!) by Plaid – the threat not to vote for the new First Minister focussed Labour minds – the Tories are in a political ascendancy and for once Kirsty Williams made a half decent speech. The Labour hegemony has gone and Labour are in denial. By the end of today we had witnessed one spectacular climbdown, a complete U turn. I am not ready to believe that Rhodri is too demob happy to care about Wales but the original Labour statement was a formidable faux pas. Vaughan Roderick has another theory that this was cunning Machiavellian plan by Rhodri to get back at Peter Hain.

Whatever the original motive, Labour seem more intent on defending the indefensible, it’s evidence of a Party of MP's too long in Government. Life is moving on and delivering a referendum for Wales would partially redeem their reputation. The ball is in Labour's court and we shall wait and see what dear Peter has to say tommorrow. I am not hopeful.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ceredigion Highways During Winter

Our house received a posted leaflet from Ceredigion County Council this week about the highways in Winter and in particular the precautionary salting routes. Actually we received 3 copies, one for each individual on the Electoral Register. Its not uncommon for husband and wife to share a copy and my eldest son is away in University and not currently at home - we are not an unusual family, all residents do not require an individual copy. I know of one house which has received 4 copies.
If the Electoral Register is to be used then it is not beyond the wit of information technology to send one copy per household. One is more than enough, the rest lie unopened.

Heritage Minister visits Arad Goch with Penri James.

Plaid Cymru AM and Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, yesterday (Thursday) joined Ceredigion’s Penri James on a visit to Arad Goch’s headquarters in Aberystwyth.

Penri James – Plaid Cymru’s Westminster Candidate for Ceredigion – arranged the visit to see first-hand the theatre company’s recently renovated premises and learn about the innovative work carried out by the company.

Last year, Arad Goch’s headquarters in Bath Street, Aberystwyth, was re-opened following an ambitious project to expand and renovate the premises with financial assistance of from the Arts Council and the Objective 1 fund.

Following the meeting, Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“I have long known of the important and innovative work carried out by Arad Goch, both locally and throughout Wales. The company’s new facilities in Aberystwyth have allowed them to increase their activities and offer a wider range of services while retaining a particular emphasis on working with young people”.

Plaid Cymru AM and Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones AM, added:

“I was very glad to be invited to see Arad Goch’s modern facilities in Aberystwyth and to learn about their commitment to making theatre more accessible. In particular, the company’s emphasis on taking theatre productions directly to individual communities continues to be very popular and I wish them every success for the future”.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Plaid Cymru launches transport survey

Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary candidate, Penri James, has launched a survey asking for people’s views on public transport, and on developing safe walking and cycling routes to the north of Aberystwyth.

With increasing numbers of cars, congestion and parking problems, Penri James wants to look at creative ways of reducing traffic and improving the environment.

Recently, the County Council has made a good start. A path links the Glanyrafon Industrial Estate to Aberystwyth, and this year the path from Tregaron to Aberystwyth was completed, which connects Trawsgoed, Llanilar, Llanfarian and Rhydyfelin with the town. However, there’s nothing similar to the north of Aberystwyth.

Penri James and Plaid Cymru have now distributed surveys to many communities to the north of Aberystwyth to collect the views of residents both on local public transport standards as well as the need to develop cycle routes.

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

“Developing safe cycling and walking routes, together with improving our public transport, would be great ways of reducing the traffic on our roads. As well as providing a connection between the villages and Aberystwyth its also important that we have safe walking and cycling routes between the villages of North Ceredigion.

“I’m trying to get an idea of the demand for this and I’m pleased that a number of responses have already been returned to the Plaid Cymru office. However, it isn’t too late for other residents to send in their views and I would be grateful if they could spare 5 minutes to give their views on local transport”.

Additional copies of the Transport Survey can be obtained from the Plaid Cymru office in Aberystwyth.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Welsh Audit Office - Flood defences can’t keep pace with environmental change

The report by the Welsh Audit Office on Coastal Erosion and Tidal Flooding Risks in Wales is typical of the reports that government and quasai-governmental bodies produce now that we are focussing on climate change. They are important and so is this one, its main point that stronger leadership is needed to manage risks of erosion and tidal flooding should not solely be placed on the Assembly's shoreline. The sums required are way beyond what Councils and WAG can afford and in the absence of devloved fiscal responsibilities a coherent method of funding based on the taxation system has to be a priority for the UK Treasury.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Calls for scallop survey during dredging ban.

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James has called for a comprehensive survey of scallop beds in Cardigan Bay during the current prohibition on scallop dredging in the area.

The Plaid Cymru Westminster Candidate for Ceredigion believes that such a survey will assist in developing a sustainable scallop fishery in the Bay.

Calling for a survey of scallop beds, Penri James said:

“Now that scallop fishing in Cardigan Bay has been put on hold until next year, I believe that it’s essential that every effort is made to produce a detailed survey of the scallop beds in the area.

“The Wales Fisheries Strategy 2008 seeks to produce a sustainable scallop fishery in the Bay and a sustainable fishery needs a baseline to work from. It will guide the appropriate amount of fishing effort once it is reopened next year.

“As a result, I would like to see the Welsh Assembly Government, Countryside Council for Wales and the North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee bring forward proposals to commission such work.

“Of course, I am concerned about the effect the recently-announced temporary ban on scallop dredging will have on local fishermen. However, I also believe that the over-dredging of scallops in the area is a serious threat to their businesses as well as a threat to the local environment”.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Liberal Democrat expenses code is window dressing

Doing something about the discredited allowance system in Westminster is a must, the European system has its problems and the Assembly has, I believe, got its own system more or less sorted. That's why this announcement by the Lib Dems to put in place its own code of conduct for MP's, MEP's and AM's smells of the opportunism for which they are famous. The glaring omission is councillors expenses. What will Kirsty do with councillors who abuse the system? What about those councillors who have council tax arrears? As councillors are paid a significant allowance from the public purse then why exclude them from the code? Are they less important and insignificant? A change in culture on allowances is a requirment from top to bottom so include all not the few.

Aberystwyth in the Autumn

Two significant Open days took place in Aberystwyth yesterday, an open day for the new Assembly Building and an open day for prospective students at Aberystwyth University. I took a flying visit to the first and was involved with the second.
The Assembly building to house civil servants relocated from Cardiff and other locations in mid Wales was formally opened by Rhodri Morgan on Thursday last. Inside its an impressive building but the security is probably a bit much for Aberystwyth. I hope people visit the site and use the cafe in particular and yesterday morning it was busy, which is a welcoming sight. Relocating well paid jobs to Aberystwyth can only benefit the local economy and it was particularly disappointing to see our local MP sniping from the sides about the number of jobs available. In the current economic climate any additional posts in Ceredigion are welcome.
The ability of Aberystwyth University to recruit students also has a substantial effect on the future economic stability of Ceredigion. This year's freshers intake is a record built on the record intake for the last academic year and numbers bring in money, money brings in staff, and staff bring in additional research funds, much of which will find its way into the local economy. A good open day does the world for recruitment and the weather was with us yesterday as well! Its expected as an employee of the University that "...I would say that wouldn't I...." but we need to recognise and congratulate the positive effect that the University, the National Library, the Hospital and other public service institutions have on our communities in Ceredigion. Its economic and cultural.
Public service job provision insulates a local economy from the immediate effects of recession however the effect is often delayed. Without apportionating blame - poor regulation, excessive risk taking, iappropriate economic policies etc. - Government is faced with a lower tax take and increased interest charges to fund its borrowing, which in turn reduces the funds available to finance public bodies. For areas dependent on such funding now is a critical time. Its for that reason want to see my AM working hard to to protect the local economy - which she does, and its the duty of an MP to do the same.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The most important day in the Council calendar?

I have always believed that the day on which central government, be it WAG or any other, announces the local government financial settlement for the forthcoming year as being one of the most important events in their calendar. The day the budget and council tax are set are other notable days.
Today Brian Gibbons AM announced the 2010-11 settlement and considering the state of the economy a settlement of 2.1% average overall (range 1.0%-3.1%) is probably as much as can be expected. Of the rural authorities Ceredigion comes out well on a 2.1% increase from last year. Its good news for Ceredigion and shows how a Plaid influenced Welsh government has worked to minimise the effect of cuts on local government. Incidentally the increase in Assembly funding from London is 2.1%.
From a political perspective in Ceredigion the announcement has undermined an electoral strategy the Lib Dems were depending on for the General Election campaign - Ceredigion is getting a bad deal from the Labour-Plaid Government in Cardiff. That's rubbish, not true and too narrowly focused on a County Council perspective (too many advisors with too many vested interests in the council camp methinks!). Our MP has been busy over the last few weeks distributing leaflets complaining about the lack of funds allocated to Ceredigion CC, well Ceredigion is no better or worse off than any other local authority with the settlement hitting the national average. Maybe he would recommend that we raid the coffers of those Lib Dems authorities in Wrexham and Cardiff who have had above average settlements of 3.1% and 3.0% respectively. As more powerful politicians I suspect that Cllrs Roberts and Berman will give him short shrift.
UPDATE press release by Elin Jones AM and Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn
Assembly Government to pass on same funding increase to Ceredigion County Council.

Plaid Cymru’s Elin Jones AM has said that Ceredigion County Council will be receiving the same percentage increase in funding as the Assembly Government itself received from the UK Treasury.

The Assembly Government’s Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, Brian Gibbons AM, announced provisional figures this week where local authorities in Wales will see their funding for the 2010 – 2011 financial year rise by an average 2.1 per cent.

This is identical to the funding increase which the Assembly Government will be receiving from the Westminster Government next year and Ceredigion County Council itself will in turn be receiving a funding increase of 2.1 per cent as a result of this announcement.

Commenting on the proposed funding increase for Ceredigion County Council, Elin Jones AM said:

“Provisional figures released this week indicate that Ceredigion County Council will in fact be receiving the same increase in funding for the coming financial year as the Assembly Government.

“All public services are feeling the pinch at the moment as a result of the Westminster Government’s multi-billion pound bank bailout. Wales is no exception and the Assembly Government has received a lower percentage increase in funding for the coming year than expected.

The leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Ceredigion County Council, Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn, added:

“While Ceredigion County Council is likely to fare slightly better than other rural local authorities in Wales in this budget settlement, the continued squeeze on public sector finance at all government levels means that we face difficult choices over the coming months.

Latest poll shows Plaid set to regain Ceredigion

One of the largest opinion polls ever conducted shows that Plaid Cymru is well placed to regain the Ceredigion constituency seat at the forthcoming General Election.
The survey – undertaken by renowned pollsters YouGov Plc on behalf of PoliticsHome – consisted of 33,610 interviews across 238 marginal seats that will decide the next UK General Election.

In Wales the poll suggested major gains in support for Plaid and the Conservatives at the expense of Labour and the Lib Dems. Plaid Cymru is predicted to gain three seats while the Conservatives are likely to gain eight constituencies. Both Liberal Democrats and Labour are likely to lose seats.

Commenting on these figures, Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“This latest opinion poll underlines the increased support for both Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives at the expense of the LibDems and Labour throughout Wales. The electorate is clearly looking for political parties who can find solutions to the serious problems we face.

“Here in Ceredigion, these figures reflect the warm welcome which Plaid Cymru and I have received while out campaigning. There is an appreciation that Plaid delivers for Ceredigion but there remains a lot of work to be done as the General Election draws nearer and I’m looking forward to continue campaigning over the coming months”.

Extra Penparcau allotments must be a priority – Penri James

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James has called on Ceredigion County Council to ensure that plans to increase the number of allotments in Penparcau are progressed without delay.
Ceredigion County Council owns land next to the current allotments near Min-y-Ddôl, Penparcau, and a proposal to provide more land to increase provision for local residents was made over the summer. However, Ceredigion’s Cabinet have delayed taking a decision on the plans.

In the meantime, Plaid Cymru’s County Councillor for Penparcau, Rob Gorman, has joined Penri James on a visit to the Council-owned land in question near Min-y-Ddôl.

Following the visit, Penri James – Plaid Cymru Ceredigion’s Westminster Candidate – has raised the matter with Cllr Ray Quant, who manages the portfolio with responsibility for the council’s property.

On the need to increase the provision of allotments in the Aberystwyth area, Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“The demand for allotments in Ceredigion is substantial as the current long waiting list of applicants demonstrates. This list is slowly growing as the benefits of maintaining an allotment – both in terms of providing an efficient way of growing food and getting exercise – are increasinly publicised these days.

“I therefore hope that Ceredigion’s Cabinet can approve plans to provide additional land to increase the provision of allotments in the Aberystwyth area, with the hope that everything will be ready by the next growing season in 2010”.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Press Freedom

Some stories crop up and fill you with disbelief. The Guardian has been gagged from reporting Parliament for an unspecified reason by an injuction sought by those favourites of the media, Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners. Here's the article:-
The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

The Guardian has vowed urgently to go to court to overturn the gag on its reporting. The editor, Alan Rusbridger, said: "The media laws in this country increasingly place newspapers in a Kafkaesque world in which we cannot tell the public anything about information which is being suppressed, nor the proceedings which suppress it. It is doubly menacing when those restraints include the reporting of parliament itself."

The media lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said Lord Denning ruled in the 1970s that "whatever comments are made in parliament" can be reported in newspapers without fear of contempt.

He said: "Four rebel MPs asked questions giving the identity of 'Colonel B', granted anonymity by a judge on grounds of 'national security'. The DPP threatened the press might be prosecuted for contempt, but most published."

The right to report parliament was the subject of many struggles in the 18th century, with the MP and journalist John Wilkes fighting every authority – up to the king – over the right to keep the public informed. After Wilkes's battle, wrote the historian Robert Hargreaves, "it gradually became accepted that the public had a constitutional right to know what their elected representatives were up to".

Guido has more information for all.
The Guardian will appeal, lets pray its successful. If we cannot read reports from Parliament then there is no point for Parliament itself but it always intrigues me, who are the Judges who allow such gagging orders?

Minister for Europe

Lady Kinnock has been moved from Europe Minister to have resonsibility for Africa and Asia and been replaced by Chris Bryant. I have never been impressed by either but its the downgrading of the Europe job that is of concern. In the hierarchial world of Government politics a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (new grading for Europe - Bryant) has to visit a Minister of State (new grading for Africa and Asia - Kinnock). Surely Europe is not less important to us than Africa and Asia? Perhaps there is an easier explanation, is it a face saving exercise for Glenys now that her talents have been found out? Chris Bryant and Europe should get the clout the job demands irrespective of the after effects on the previous incumbent.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Energy policy

The Project Discovery - Energy Market Scenarios report by Ofgem will, I believe, turn out to be one of the most important contributions in getting politicians and the public fully aware of the energy desert that confronts us. The Ofgem press release is here, th FT has collated the main findings here and responses here. The Guardian makes an interesting and valid point here, capitalism doesn't always work.
The four scenarios considered by Ofgem were:-

Green Transition: Under this scenario there is a rapid economic recovery and a significant expansion in investment in green measures. Domestic renewables targets are met and energy efficiency measures are effective. GB gas demand falls but electricity demand increases due to greater use of electric vehicles and heat pumps. The effect on domestic consumer bills is an increase of 23% by 2020.
Green Stimulus: There is a slow recovery from the recession and restricted availability of finance. Governments around the world implement green stimulus packages to achieve environmental goals and boost economic activities. High carbon prices and government policies support investment in renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage. The effect on domestic consumer bills is an increase of 14% by 2020.
Dash for Energy: Global economies bounce back strongly but security of supply concerns prevail over meeting environmental targets. As a result GB renewables targets and the Government’s carbon budgets are missed. Competition between countries for energy resources results in tight gas supplies and high fuel prices. Planning and supply chain constraints prevent new nuclear plant from becoming operational before 2020. The effect on domestic consumer bills is an increase of more than 60% by 2016 before falling back.
Slow Growth: The recession continues resulting in investment in gas and electricity infrastructure being considerably lower than before the credit crunch. Low gas and electricity prices coupled with low carbon prices reduce incentives to build nuclear and renewable power plant. This results in an increasing dependence on imported gas for new gas-fired power stations. The effect on domestic consumer bills is relatively low in early years but an increase of 22% by 2020 as conditions tighten.
Irrespective which scenario is more or less likely, in order to secure our energy supply and meet carbon targets we could be looking at investment of up to £200 billion. Considering that the National Debt is the largest ever and in the region of £800 billion adding another £200 billion makes you gulp. To make it worse, it is likely that increases in domestic energy bills of between 14% and 25% by 2020 (from 2009 levels) and possible wholesale price spikes of 60% in the meantime are frightening. But that is the point! Its time for a major debate on the culture of energy use and a sensible, consistent, without predjudice policy driven debate on renewables/nuclear/fossil energy in conjunction with energy conservation regimes. You cannot divorce one from the other.
The matter of greatest concern is energy security here in West Wales. We are at the end of the line when it comes to transmission but further up the ladder when it comes to clean renewable energy generation. If there is such a thing as 'transmission miles' - by Ohm's Law it does exist - then using generated electricity closer to source has some advantages.

25 years of Cerdd Ystwyth

Aberystwyth has one music shop - Cerdd Ystwyth - and it celebrates its 25 anniversary this year. I am the first to admit that I am not particularly musical but the rest of the family are. My visits to Cerdd Ystwyth are usually errands on behalf of my wife who is a music teacher to pick up books, sheets of music, sometime instruments or often a general enquiry.
On Saturday night we were kindly invited by Libby to the Cliff Cafe on Constitution Hill to celebrate. Thank you Libby for the hospitality and wonderful evening. As you would expect there was musical entertainment, some excellent folk pieces and a band playing material by Django Reinhardt, it was absolutely fantastic. I recognised a touch of Grapelli there but I hadn't heard this music before. Where have I been? What have I been doing? Why I hadn't come accross this before? It really has made an impression.
Now this is the kind of material I normally listen to:-

I must go out and find a CD of Django Reinhardt but it doesn't mean I will stop listening to Rock. Still unreconstructed I'm afraid.....

Here's a clip of Django Reinhardt:-

Friday, 9 October 2009

Elin Jones - Farming Champion

An Agriculture Minister is well used to presenting awards to champions but Elin is now a champion herself. In the Farmers Weekly Awards 2009 Elin and Chief Vet in Wales Christianne Glossop were presented with the Farming Champions Award for their work in dealing with TB. The recognition is well deserved. Congratulations.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Sun and the hidden hand of Murdoch

The Sun's decision to support the Tories should come as no surprise to Labour stalwarts. The warning was given some time ago however there is a more recent sinister development.
Rupert Murdoch announced that News International was to end free internet access to its newspapers, now none of this is possible when you have a free public news service known as the BBC available. QED the next step when James Murdoch attacks the BBC but is careful, I think, to avoid mentioning his main target, the BBC web service.
Labour has indicated a reluctance to comply with his wishes hence support for the Tories who are no friends of the BBC.
A free unbiased press is essential in a proper democracy. I and many others wouldn't be able to fathom the biased views seen so often on American TV. Of course no need to guess who owns Fox News.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Life after Rhodri

We are not quite there yet but the imminent announcement of Rhodri Morgan's retirement plan has attached to it a degree of suspense that underlines his contribution to devolution and stable government in Wales. Most commentators agree that without his presence it would have been different. Alun Michael would have replicated London policies and have WAG operate as an administrative centre without a mind of its own, I for one believe that short of parliamentary powers it is easy to cast the current settlement in this light. Ron Davies would have taken the Assembly further away from London Labour and have a greater economic development focus but I suspect that Labour MP's would have acted to prevent too many changes. A detatchment of Welsh and Scottish Labour MP's is so important in maintaining power at Westminster that they will conveniently avoid the West Lothian question and prevent instability in the 'regions'. A fair assesment would conclude that Rhodri has steered in the clear water in the middle channel.
What happens now? The in tray is stacked with problems, Does the new First Minister honour the One Wales agreement? What policies will be cut to meet the budget constraints? Are budgets more important than badgers? How will the Assembly deal with a possible change of government in London? How to proceed with Sir Emyr's report?
Labour have a lot to ponder on who they elect for the right reasons for Wales not the right reasons for Labour and certainly not for the right reasons for London.

UAV crash Aberporth 23-9-2009

I did hear about this one on Saturday. In the interests of transparency there should be a statement by the operators on what actually happened.

Cardigan 26th September

All day Saturday in Cardigan meeting people and distributing leaflets with campaigners. It started at the coffee morning of the Hospital League of Friends, I hope they did well. As the Chair of a League of Friends at Tregerddan Home for the Elederly I can appreciate the importance of such events.
Later we were joined by Jocelyn Davies AM, Housing Minister, for a walk around Cardigan and to visit local businesses. Market towns are still under pressure when it comes to a shopping experience and County Councils have to come up with innovative ways of attracting shoppers; reduced business rates and free parking are all options. A good day all round. Here's some of the team, thank you all.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Is it a Liberal Democrat Land Tax?

Vince Cable's halo is well and truly fading at the moment with almost every policy he has suggested at the Lib Dem conference being ridiculed or rejected. It started with the StAthan's debacle and moved on to the £1M Property Tax. None of these have been properly thought out.
For example will the Property Tax in rural areas include farms? £1000000 is roughly the value of a 200 acre farm, a common enough size in rural West Wales. Does this mean the the Liberal Democrats are introducing a Land Tax through the back door? I hope not.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Scandalous charges for cash withdrawal highlighted.

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James raised his concerns over the scandalous increase in charges by privately-operated cash machines.

With the national average being £1.75 to withdraw money from these machines – with some charging as much as £2.50 for the service – calls have been made to warn people of the machines under scrutiny.

There are 32 of these privately-operated cash machines in Ceredigion, primarily located in village shops, on caravan sites and in public houses.

Commenting on the high charges faced by users, Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“I am shocked to hear that people face extortionate charges to withdraw their money from their cash machines. I fail to see why people should have to pay to access their hard-earned cash! In some instances, people are charged £2.50 in order to withdraw £10 – that’s a charge of 25 per cent!

“There are 32 of the machines in Ceredigion, many of them located in towns and villages where there are no alternative options to withdraw cash for free. These cash machines also seem to have a growing presence in our public houses – especially in our local university towns where a fresh intake of students will soon be arriving.

“While there has been an increase in the number of free cash machines in Wales over recent months, it’s essential that adequate steps are taken to inform the public about the high charges levied by these privately-operated ATMs. I therefore hope that the UK Government will make a greater effort to regulate how much is charged by these machines and slow down their proliferation”.

A full list of the number of fee-charging ATMs in Ceredigion can be found at:

Sunday, 20 September 2009


It struck me the other day that metainfrastructure might exist. According to Google it exists in a computer engineer's vocabulary but it might exist closer to home.
TAN 8 describes the renewable energy infrastructure proposed by WAG but what about the infrastructure required to create the infrastructure? QED metainfrastructure. Roads are required to bring in large machinery but also, and in my mind more importantly, an electricity grid infrastructure to take the electricity out. TAN 8 cannot be delivered until a proper connection to the National Grid is established, there already exists a connection lag for renewable energy. There exists European legislation that prioritises the connection and transfer of renewable energy on the grid but it hasn't been adopted for the UK.
The scrutiny committees in the Assembly need to take a serious look at the infrastructure implications of TAN 8.

The challenges facing rural Wales

(This is the summary of a speech given at a Plaid Cymru fringe discussion at Conference)

The challenges facing rural Wales cannot be divorced from World aims of producing 2 times the food using less water by 2050 to feed 9 billion people

We need to deal with climate change, be carbon neutral, use less fossil fuels and produce less greenhouse gases. This very much includes farming where dairy cows produce 200 litres of methane per cow per day.

We must secure our own food supply and minimise food waste. Accept that we cannot grow everything cannot live only on mutton, beef and milk. We will still import food.

Food has to be affordable - consumer prices index in August 2008 showed food inflation running at an annual rate of 13.7%. Prices for oils and fats increased by 29% in the year to July 2008, meat by 16.3%, bread and cereals by 15.9%, vegetables by 11.1% and fruit by 10.7%

Targets to increase yields by 50% by 2030 or 100% by 2050 suggests an annual rate of growth in production 1.6%. This has been achieved in recent times but some crops have already reached their genetic potential, particularly in the USA, and it is an open question where do we go from here?

Important methane research at IBERS Aberystwyth to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the food system.

The dependency of the food chain on fossil fuels has implications for all but particularly organic farming. Organic farmers frequently use more fossil fuels to keep crops free from weeds.

Ironic that climate change in all likelyhood will allow us to grow more fruit, vegetables and cereals in Wales as crop growing climate moves westwards.

Last and most important point - water

Wales needs control of its own water. A Welsh Parliament in 2020 will have to decide which valley to flood in order to maintain water supplies! A Welsh Parliament in control of its own water would be a powerful economic entity.

Selling water could solve many economic problems but create many political problems.


I was looking forward to the possibility of working with Adam at Westminster after the General Election but alas it is not to be. Big loss for Westminster but hopefully in 2011 a big gain for the Assembly.

Saturday 19th September

The onset of the Party Conferences signal another step up in activity before the General Election is called, probably sometime next April or May, so they tell me! Saturday's from now on will be filled with visits around Ceredigion and yesterday was no exception. I am actually quite excited about it all.
The early afternoon was spent in Pontarfynach at Miri Mynach, a fete of activity celebrating life in and around Pontarfynach. Wonderful time with Cllr Rhodri Davies the hard working County Council Member.
Met a lady who openly admitted that she was a Liberal and was so pleased that people from Ceredigion were willing to stand for Parliament. She thought this was much better than having candidates coming in from outside since they thought more of their careers than of Ceredigion. I did gently remind her that the current MP was from afar to which she replied "but he does now live in Borth". Ah well, you can't win them all!
On to Cartref Tregerddan and the annual September Afternoon Tea organised by the League of friends of which I am Chair. Opened the Tea promptly at 2.30pm but I should have waited a while for the MP to arrive with family and local potentate in tow! The Tea raised £1200 which will be spent at the Home quite soon. The work done by staff at the Home is second to none as it provides first class care and makes the Home feel part of the community. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Shoppers urged to proactively select Welsh dairy products

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster candidate for Ceredigion, Penri James, has urged on shoppers in Wales to ensure that they purchase dairy products made using Welsh milk.
Penri James made his appeal during the Plaid Cymru conference at Llandudno, and hopes that a greater emphasis on milk and cheese products from Wales will mirror the successful increase in demand for Welsh lamb and beef.

Commenting on the need to ensure that people proactively search for Welsh dairy products while shopping, Penri James said:

“It’s about time that we do the same for Welsh milk and cheese as we have already successfully done for our lamb and beef. Shoppers now instinctively search for meat which has been reared locally and I believe that the same can be achieved with dairy products. Buying locally produced food not only supports the local agriculture industry but also reduces food miles and contributes to reducing our personal carbon footprint.

“Unfortunately, supermarkets currently predominantly feature mass-produced cheese as part of their special offers. This situation needs to be rectified and our supermarkets must accept responsibility and proactively market Welsh cheese products as part of their special offer deals. In turn, this will ensure that a greater proportion of the Welsh population is made aware of the selection of cheeses which are produced using local milk”.

Penri James also promised to raise the possibility of obtaining a special designation for Welsh milk and associated products, similar to the PGI designation which has been awarded o Welsh beef and lamb by the European Union.

Penri James further commented:

“I believe that it’s essential that we look at every possible way of supporting our dairy industry in Wales. I will therefore be raising this matter with the Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones AM, in order to explore the possibility of obtaining a special geographic designation for Welsh dairy produce”.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Concerns raised over Aberystwyth Citizens Advice funding

Penri James, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster candidate, has highlighted growing concerns about the future funding of Aberystwyth’s Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB).
Financial support the Bureau has recently been transferred from Ceredigion County Council to Tai Ceredigion and the level of funding is likely to be cut as a result. This comes as the United Kingdom CAB network celebrates its 70th birthday.

Speaking on the CAB funding concerns, Penri James said:

“Over the past 70 years, our Citizens Advice Bureau network as provided a wide variety of independent advice which is much appreciated by residents – especially in Aberystwyth. This is even more so this year in light of the economic downturn where the advice on offer has assisted those who have lost their jobs or who are suffering from financial difficulties.

“believe that it’s essential that our local CAB office is given adequate funding so that it can continue to provide the same level of service into the future. I have therefore formally raised this matter with the new Chief Executive of Tai Ceredigion, Steve Jones”.

Disruption fears over turbine transport trial

Plaid Cymru’s Penri James has expressed his fear that the planned trial to transport wind turbine parts from Swansea to Tal-y-bont will lead to widespread delays in the Aberystwyth area.
The Plaid Cymru Westminster candidate’s warning came as it emerged that preparations are being made to conduct a trial run on 16 September 2009 to trial access to the proposed Nant y Moch wind farm.

However, Aberystwyth University will be holding the first of its two open days planned for this autumn on the very same day.

Commenting on the substantially increased traffic which is expected in Aberystwyth on 16 September, Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“I’m very concerned to learn that the trial wind turbine journey from Swansea to Tal-y-bont has been planned on the very same day as an important event in Aberystwyth University’s calendar. There seems to have been a lack of communication and consultation on the proposed date for the trial.

“I’m concerned that the roads around Aberystwyth will now become gridlocked with both the wind turbine convoy and additional visitors to the University adding to the usual traffic on our roads. I hope that Dulas Ltd who are organising the trial run will now consider rescheduling their plans to ensure that the practice journey takes place on a day with more ‘typical’ transport in the area”.

UPDATE - the trial run has been postponed until further notice. It appears that the Police want more information on the proposals as well.

Ceredigion Cabinet must take note of music education review

Penri James – who has been an outspoken critic of Ceredigion County Council’s plans to reduce funding for peripatetic music tuition in local schools – has welcomed the Assembly Government’s decision to review music education in Wales.
The Education Minister’s decision comes following criticism that there was insufficient funding for music tuition in Wales after the decision in 2005 to end the ‘ring fencing’ of some local authority funding for that purpose.

Under plans by Ceredigion County Council to reduce funding for music peripatetic tuition, there will be less support for performing activities with the county’s orchestras and choirs likely to suffer as a result.

Following the announcement on the Assembly Government’s intended review on music tuition, Plaid Cymru’s Penri James said:

“I welcome the Education Minister’s decision to conduct a review on how music education is financed in Wales. Here in Ceredigion, the Council Cabinet’s decision to slash funding for peripatetic music tuition is only starting to hit home with the start of the new term, and I fear that parents will be shocked at the extent of the cutbacks.

“Being given the opportunity to perform as part of an ensemble – whether in a choir or as part of an orchestra – is an essential element in the development of a musician. While the Council will continue to fund the lessons themselves, pupils won’t be given as many opportunities to develop their skills as part of a group. Ultimately, this is no different to offering sport training while not organising team competitions!

“I hope that Ceredigion County Council’s political leadership will take this review and the results when they become available into account and make every effort to identify possible ways to continue funding this essential service”.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Plaid yn cyflawni dros Gymru

Mae rhywbeth boddhaol iawn am res o gyhoeddiadau gan Weinidogion Plaid Cymru sy’n cyflawni rhywbeth adeiladol er budd Cymru. Yn ddiweddar, cawsom gyhoeddiad trydaneiddio'r rheilffyrdd gan Ieuan Wyn Jones a’r Cynllun Cymorth i Newydd-ddyfodiaid Ifanc (YESS) a gyhoeddwyd gan Elin Jones. Yr hyn sy’n neilltuol o foddhaol yw llwyddiant Ieuan Wyn Jones yn perswadio llywodraeth San Steffan y bydd Cymru a’i heconomi yn elwa o drydaneiddio.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Plaid delivering for Wales

There is something satisfying in a procession of announcements from Plaid Cymru Ministers delivering something constructive for the benefit of Wales. Lately we have had the railway electrification announcement by Ieuan Wyn Jones and the Young Entrants Support Scheme (YESS) announced by Elin Jones. Its particularly pleasing for Ieuan Wyn Jones to have persuaded the Westminster government that electrification will benefit Wales and its economy.
Sioe Frenhinol Cymru 2009

Mae gan Gymru le i fod yn falch o’i digwyddiadau cenedlaethol, yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, Eisteddfod Genedlaethol yr Urdd, Eisteddfod Gerddorol Ryngwladol Llangollen, Pencampwriaeth Rygbi’r Chwe Gwlad yng Nghaerdydd ac wrth gwrs, Sioe Frenhinol Cymru. Fel y dywedodd un siaradwr yr wythnos hon ‘dewch o hyd i 10% o boblogaeth Cymru yma yr wythnos hon, ac nid oes syndod mai yn y digwyddiadau hyn y daw’r teulu Cymreig ynghyd i gystadlu, i gymharu a rhwydweithio, y rheswm dros bresennoldeb llawer o wneuthurwyr penderfyniadau.

Mae’n debyg fod hyn yn cyfrannu’n sylweddol at lwyddiant y sioe a’r gwahaniaeth rhwng RWAS ac RASE; mae’r RWAS yn sioe amaethyddol, yn sioe geffylau, marchnad Sul fawr, cyfle i rwydweithio, a llawer mwy. Golyga wahanol bethau i wahanol bobl.
Cafwyd tywydd derbynniol dydd Llun, glaw ysgafn gydag ambell ysbaid o heulwen dydd Mawrth, glaw trwm dydd Mercher, nol i’r gwaith yn y Brifysgol dydd Iau a mynd a’m siwt at y sychlanhawyr. Dyma rai o’r uchafbwyntiau a brofais yn ystod y 3 diwrnod:-

Pryder mwyaf – gwylio’r rhedwyr gyda’i meirch dydd Mercher a gobeithio na fyddant yn llithro yn y mwd a brifo.
Joc orau – “The Liberal Democrats were on a stand just around the corner yesterday but they can’t decide where to go today!”
Roedd hyn ar stondin cwango adnabyddus
Digwyddiad mwyaf annarferol – brysio heibio stondin y Toriaid (yn edrych am Glyn Davies i gymharu nodiadau) a chlywed rhywun yn gweiddi ‘Penri’ o’r allfaes i’r chwith. Neb llai na Mark (Williams) newydd weld etholwr o Geredigion yr oedd yn ei adnabod. Sgwrs dda ond cefais fy nrysu braidd gan Kirsty yn gwgu yn y cefndir, fi neu Mark oedd yn ei chael hi?
Boddhad mwyaf – cyn-fyfyrwyr bellach yn arweinyddion o fewn eu meysydd ac yn diolch i Brifysgol Aberystwyth am eu haddysg.
Cwrw gorau – dim llai na chwrw Penlon Steffan a Penny, cynnyrch wedi’i fragu o Haidd Ceredigion.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Royal Welsh Show 2009

The Welsh nation has to be proud of its national events, the National Eisteddfod, National Urdd Eisteddfod, possibly the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, 6 Nations Rugby in Cardiff and of course the Royal Welsh Show. As one speaker said this week 'you will find 10% of the population of Wales here this week' and its no wonder that these are events where the Welsh family comes together to compete, compare and network hence the presence of many decision makers. This is probably a major contributor to its success and the difference between RWAS and RASE, the RWAS is an agricultural show, a horse show, a large Sunday market, an opportunity for networking and much more. It means different things to different people.
Monday was just about right with the weather, Tuesday light rain indispersed with sunlight, Wednesday heavy rain in shorter periods indispersed with no sunlight, Thursday went to work at the University and took my suit to the dry cleaners. However I had highlights throughout the first 3 days:-
Most concern - watching the runners with stallions on Wednesday hoping they wouldn't slip and be hurt in the mud.
Best joke- "The Liberal Democrats were on a stand just around the corner yesterday but they can't decide where to go today!" this was on the stand of a well known quango.
Most unusual occurance- walking quickly past the Tory stand (looking for Glyn Davies to compare notes!) when suddenly over the other shoulder the shout of 'Penri' bellows from the left outfield. None other than Mark (Williams) having just spotted a constituent from Ceredigion whom he recognised. Good chat but a bit perplexed by the scowl in the background from Kirsty, was it meant for me or Mark?
Most satisfying - former students now leaders in their field thanking Aberystwyth University for their education.
Best beer - none other than Steffan and Penny's Penlon produce brewed form Ceredigion Barley.
I can't wait for next year!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Barnett, Holtham, ariannu teg a’r Arglwyddi

Mae adroddiadau arwyddocaol bellach yn cael eu henwi ar ôl eu cadeirydd neu gydlynydd ac yn aml, heb unrhyw gyfeiriad at eu pwrpas. Beth wnaeth ‘Wanless?’ A beth am ‘Dearing’? Mae’r un yn wir am fformiwla ‘Barnett’ ac adroddiadau arno megis 'Holtham' Nid yw hyn yn tanseilio eu pwysigrwydd, yn wir, maent o bwys mawr ac yn hynod berthnasol. Yn ôl y Bas Data Cyfenwau 'Barnett' yw cyfenw un oedd yn byw ar “dir wedi ei glirio trwy losgi” (Baernet) neu enw personol “Bernhard” yn golygu “arth-ddewr.” Nid anodd yw hi yng Nghymru i wneud y naid gysyniadol o ‘slash and burn’ i’r noddi diffygiol a gynhyrchir gan fformiwla Barnett. Mae ‘Holtham’, ar y llaw arall, yn gyfenw lleoliadol Eingl-Sacson o Hampshire sy’n disgrifio rhywun o fferm, neu yn aml, rhywun sydd wedi symud ymaith. Mewn iaith gyfoes - ‘mynd yn frodorol’.
Nid yw marsianfancwyr dinesig yn cael eu hadnabod am ‘fynd yn frodorol’ y tu allan i Lundain, hyd yn oed os ydynt wedi eu geni yng Nghymru, felly pan fo hynny’n digwydd rhaid bod mater sy’n werth ei ystyried.

Yn ystod y pythefnos diwethaf rydym wedi cael Adroddiad Holtham ac adroddiad yr Arglwyddi ar 'Barnett'. Mae’r ddau yn dod i’r casgliad nad yw’r fformiwla’n gweithio, dywedwch rywbeth newydd wrthym meddech chi, ond nid dyna’r pwynt. I newid rhan gymhleth o waith y Trysorlys yn llwyddiannus rhaid i chi adeiladu consensws; mae adroddiadau annibynnol megis Holtham yn werth eu ffortiwn, ond mae adroddiadau gan fawrion Pwyllgor yr Arglwyddi yr un mor rymus gan iddynt siarad yr un iaith â Swyddogion y Trysorlys sy’n gyfrifol am fformiwla Barnett. Mae’n rhan o’r un broses dros newid.

Yn ystod y 13 mlynedd diwethaf mae Llafur Cymru wedi dewis peidio manteisio ar y cyfle i sbarduno newid. Maent yn dadlau, fel Paul Murphy, nad yw newid yn angenrheidiol ac y bydd Cymru ar ei cholled; eto’n codi ofn yn ddiangen pan nad oes dadl arall yn bodoli. Gallaf ganfod dadl symlach, sef fod y mwyafrif o ASau Llafur yn ddifater ar y gorau, ac fel arfer yn wrthweithiol tuag at ddatganoli rhag ofn iddo effeithio eu statws. Po fwyaf fo’n rhaid i’r Cynulliad sgrialu am arian a cheisio cynnal gwasanaethau addysg ac iechyd cyhoeddus dan bwysau aruthrol, y mwyaf anghynaladwy y bydd datganoli’n ymddangos. Gyda blynyddoedd o reolaeth Geidwadol o’n blaenau yn dilyn yr Etholiad Cyffredinol, mae’n strategaeth ddinosoraidd y byddant yn ei ddifaru mewn amser.
Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol eisiau gwahardd dwr potel o Geredigion.

Os oes rhywbeth nad oes prinder ohono yng Ngheredigion, dŵr yw hwnnw, ac os yw’r prynwr yn fodlon talu am ddŵr wedi’i botelu yna gadewch i hynny gyfrannu tuag at yr economi leol. Am y rheswm hwn, mae gennym ddau gwmni llwyddiannus TyNant a Llanllyr yn gwerthu dŵr i’r cyhoedd ehangach a masnach bwytai yn neilltuol. Mae’r poteli’n gain a’r dŵr yn flasus, rhaid eu canmol am greu cynnyrch gwerthfawr!

Mae’n bosib i chi glywed am waharddiad arfaethedig ar ddŵr potel yn Awstralia ond mae’r Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol eisiau ei ymestyn i Geredigion a thu hwnt. Ar Dau o'r Bae ddydd Gwener diwethaf 10/7/2009 cytunodd y Cyngh Mark Cole (cynorthwy-ydd Mark Williams AS a Maer presennol Aberteifi) gyda Vaughan Roderick y dylem ‘heb os’ wahardd dŵr potel. Beth ddaeth dros ei ben? Byddai’r gost i economi Ceredigion yn sylweddol.

Tybed beth mae Mattew Gee, un o Ddemocratiaid Rhyddfrydol blaenaf Ceredigion yn feddwl o hyn oll? Mae ef a’i frawd yn rhedeg pethau yn Llanllyr ac mae’n debyg na fyddant yn bles iawn gydag ymadrodd y Cyngh Cole. Beth am yr holl unigolion sy’n gweithio i’r ddau gwmni? Gwaharddwch ddŵr potel meddai’r Cyngh Cole a gwnewch yr holl bobl hyn yn ddi-waith, cyngor gwael o ystyried cyflwr enbydus yr economi.

Meddyliwch cyn siarad Gynghorydd Cole!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Barnett, Holtham, fair funding and the Lords

Major reports are now named after their chair or co-ordinator and often have no reference to their purpose, what did 'Wanless' do? How about 'Dearing'? The same is true for the 'Barnett' formula and reports about it such as 'Holtham'. This doesn't understate their importance, they are extremely important and relevant. According to the Surname Database 'Barnett' is a surname describing one who lived on "land cleared by burning" (Baernet) or a personal name "Bernhard" meaning "brave-bear". It isn't difficult in Wales to make the conceptual jump from 'slash and burn' to the deficient funding produced by the Barnett formula. 'Holtham' on the other hand is an Anglo Saxon locational surname from Hampshire describing someone from a farm in the hollow and often attributed to one who has moved elswhere. In modern parlance - 'gone native'. City merchant bankers, even if they are born in Wales, are not known for 'going native' outside the City of London, so when it happens there must be an issue worth considering. (I taking a liberty with the 'going native' point as it fits with the descriptor for 'Holtham' so please don't accuse me of 'over-egging' the argument!)
In the last fortnight we have had the Holtham Report and a major Lords Report on 'Barnett'. Both conclude that the formula doesn't work, tell us something new you say, but that is not the point. To successfully change a complicated part of Treasury work you have to build a consensus, independent reports like Holtham are worth their weight in gold but reports from the 'great and good' on the Lords Committee are equally powerful since they speak the same language as Treasury Officials responsible for the Barnett formula. It is part of the same process for change.
During the last 13 years Westminster Welsh Labour have had the opportunity to instigate change but have chosen not to do so. They argue like Paul Murphy that no change is necessary and Wales will lose out, again put the frightners up when no other arguments exist. I find a simpler argument, the majority of Welsh Labour MP's are apathetic at best and usually antagonistic toward devolution lest it affect their status. The more the Assembly has to scrabble for cash and run a pressurised public health and education service then the more unsustainable devolution will appear. With years of Tory rule ahead after the General Election it is a dinosaurial strategy that they will live to regret.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Nerys Evans AM

Nerys visited Ceredigion on Thursday to talk to the Constituency about Plaid Cymru Education Policy. We had a chance beforehand to meet up with Gareth Ioan the Chair of Governors for the new primary school being built in Cross Inn and visit the site itself.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Liberal Democrats want to ban bottled water from Ceredigion

If there is something Ceredigion has plenty of its water, and if the consumer is willing to pay for water in bottled fashion then let it contribute to the local economy. Its for this reason we have two successful companies TyNant and Llanllyr selling water to the wider public and the restraunt trade in particular. The bottles are elegant and the water tasty, well done them on creating a valuable product!
You may well have heard of a proposed ban on bottled water in Australia but the Liberal Democrats want it extended to Ceredigion and beyond. On Dau o'r Bae last Friday 10/7/2009 Cllr Mark Cole (right hand man to Mark Williams MP and current Mayor of Cardigan) agreed with Vaughan Roderick that we should 'definitely' ban bottled water. What was he thinking? The cost to the Ceredigion economy would be substantial.
I wonder what leading Ceredigion Liberal Democrat Mattew Gee thinks of this? He and his brother run the Llanllyr operation and are likely not to be best pleased with Cllr Cole's utterances. What about all the individuals who work for the two companies? Ban bottled water says Cllr Cole and put them out of work, not good advice with the economy in its current perilous state.
Think before you speak Cllr Cole. With friends like this.....................!!!

Friday, 10 July 2009

Cefnogwyr Cerddoriaeth Beripatetig Ceredigion

Mae’r hyfforddiant a ddarperir gan Athrawon Cerddoriaeth Beripatetig Ceredigion ymysg y gwasanaethau mwyaf llwyddiannus ac effeithiol ym mhortffolio Cyngor Sir Ceredigion. Mae’n galluogi unigolion i ddysgu a datblygu sgiliau chwarae offerynnau; i gydweithio ag eraill fel aelod o gerddorfa, band, ensemble neu gor; ac i gyflawni’r safonnau cerddorol uchaf posib. Mae’r gwasanaeth yn ennill edmygedd ledled Cymru a thu hwnt.

Mae cynigion Cabinet Cyngor Sir Ceredigion i ad-drefnu ac ail-ariannu’r gwasanaeth yn peri pryder mawr i ddisgyblion, cyn-ddisgyblion, athrawon a rhieni oll. Ni ddylai’r gwasanaeth, ar unrhyw gyfrif, gael ei leihau mewn unrhyw ffurf. Mae amheuaeth wedi’i fynegi parthed y rhagdybiaethau ariannol a ddefnyddiwyd yn yr ad-drefniad, a’r safbwynt sydd wedi’i fabwysiadu gan yr uwch reolwyr a chynghorwyr gwasanaeth sy’n gyfrifol am y broses o wneud penderfyniadau.

Efallai nad yw hyn yn achos o’r ‘lunatics in charge of the asylum’ ond heb os, dyma enghraifft o’r ‘bean counters in charge of education’. Nid fel hyn y dylai hi fod. Rhaid i ni ddangos cefnogaeth i’n athrawon peripatetig ac ymgyrchu i gynnal y gwasanaeth fel y mae. Rwyf wedi creu Grwp Facebook i ymgyrchu dros yr achos. Plîs ymunwch.
Dychwelyd at ragrith y Lib Dems!

Beth yw safbwynt y Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol ar dai fforddiadwy? Gwnaeth Mark Stephens, y cynghorydd Dem Rhydd sy’n gyfrifol am gyllid yng Nghaerdydd, ddatganiad yn nodi fod yn rhaid i'r Llywodraeth Gymreig roi'r gorau i gefnogi tai fforddiadwy tra bod Peter Black, eu llefarydd yn y Cynulliad wedi dweud nad yw llywodraeth Cymru'n Un yn gwneud digon dros dai fforddiadwy.

Maent yn dweud un peth mewn un ardal, ac yn dweud y gwrthwyneb mewn man arall. Eu polisi cenedlaethol yw ymosod ar Lywodraeth Cymru am beidio gwneud digon dros dai fforddiadwy, tra pan fyddant mewn grym maent yn dadlau dros dorri cyllid i dai fforddiadwy.
Mae tai fforddiadwy yn fater pwysig yng Ngheredigion a rhaid i ni gwestiynu beth yw eu safbwynt ar hyn.
Sioe Aberystwyth 2009

Tywydd da, tyrfa dda – cyferbyniad llwyr â’r wythnos flaenorol mewn rali CFfI gwlyb (trueni mawr gan mai dyma un o uchafbwyntiau’r flwyddyn i nifer).

Yn y gorffennol pell, ni fu fy arbrawf â dangos defaid yn llwyddiant syfrdanol a ni allaf wneud dim ond edmygu ymroddiad a dyfalbarhad yr arddangoswyr drwy gydol y tymor sioe.

Treuliais y rhan fwyaf o’r prynhawn gydag Elin Jones AC a’r Cynghorydd Ellen ap Gwynn, Arweinydd Grŵp Plaid yng Nghyngor Sir Ceredigion, yn cymdeithasu a siarad â mynychwyr y sioe. Synopsis byr - NFU, FUW, rhesi o ddefaid, hen beirianwaith, eraill yn llongyfarch Plaid ar ganlyniad ardderchog etholiad Ewrop yng Ngheredigion, Y Sioe Frenhinol, Sioe’r Cardis i brynu crys rygbi i godi arian gan Dilys Morgan (yn enwog am ei marmaled ym Marchnad y Ffermwyr), ticedi raffl ar gyfer y digwyddiad dan sylw gan Huw Tudor, tynnu raffl y sioe ar gyfer Eisteddfod yr Urdd 2010, sgwrs gyda Dai Jones, Llanilar.

Sylwad gorau’r prynhawn “…welsoch chi’r spin Lib Dem ar ganlyniadau etholiad (Ewrop) yr wythnos ddiwethaf? Rwyf newydd weld Mark Williams ac os byddant yn defnyddio’r un spin yr wythnos hon yna bydd ‘ROCK STAR VISITS ABERYSTWYTH SHOW’ yn ymddangos yn y Tivyside.” Hiwmor iach Ceredigion, gwych!

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Supporters of Ceredigion Peripatetic Music

Tuition provided by Ceredigion Peripatetic Music Teachers is one of the most successful and effective services in the portfolio of Ceredigion County Council. It allows individuals to learn and develop music instrument playing skills; to work with others as part of an orchestra, band, ensemble or choir; and to achieve the highest musical standards. There is nothing but admiration for the service throughout Wales and beyond. Proposals by Ceredigion County Council Cabinet to reorganise and refinance the service are of grave concern to pupils, former pupils, teachers and parents alike. In no way should the service be diminished in any form. Reservations have been expressed about the financial assumptions used in the reorganisation and the stand taken by senior service managers and councillors responsible for the decision making process. It may not be a case of ‘the lunatics in charge of the asylum’ but it’s certainly a case of ‘the bean counters in charge of education’. This should not be so. We need to show support for the peripatetic teachers and to campaign for maintaining the service as it stands. I have set up a Facebook Group to campaign on the matter. Please join.

Back to Lib Dem hipocrisy watch !

Where do the Liberal Democrats stand on affordable housing? The Lib Dem councillor responsible for finance in Cardiff, Mark Stephens, declared that the Welsh Government must drop support for affordable housing while their Assembly spokesperson Peter Black has blogged saying that the One Wales government is not doing enough for affordable housing. They say one thing in one area and the complete opposite in another. Their national policy is to attack the Wales Government for not doing enough for affordable housing whilst when they get into power they argue for funding for affordable housing to be cut.
Affordable housing is a major issue in Ceredigion and we must question where they stand?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Beulah airspace

Visit with Cllr Lyndon Lloyd to the South Ceredigion idyll that suffers from excess traffic like all rural villages. Lyndon asserts that the road through Beulah is the easiest access from Aberporth to the M4 thus from my one evening's experience of holiday and light industry traffic, I can well believe it. What will he say if after the Consultation on an airspace change to establish segregated airspace for the Wales Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) environment its decided that RED ROUTE ONE flies directly over Beulah airspace!

You cannot compare the UAS with military jets but any flying object poses some risk. I am no expert but I hope that those affected and those with expertise respond before the closing date of 28th July. I need to read the consultation document just to educate myself on the implications.

Aberystwyth Show 2009

Bring out the weather, bring out the people - such a contrast from the previous week in a decidedly wet YFC rally (and such a pity as its often the highlight of the year for many).
In the distant past my experiment with showing sheep wasn't a spectacular success and I have nothing but admiration for the dedication and perseverance of the exhibitors throughout the showing season. I spent most of the afternoon with Elin Jones AM and Cllr Ellen a Gwynn, Leader of the Plaid Group on Ceredigion County Council socialising and talking with other show goers. Brief synopsis - NFU, FUW, sheep lines, vintage machinery, others congratulating Plaid on the excellent Euro election result in Ceredigion, RWAS Sioe'r Cardis to buy a well designed fundraising rugby shirt from Dilys Morgan (of Farmer's Market marmalade fame), raffle tickets for said event from Huw Tudor, drew in-show raffle for Eisteddfod yr Urdd 2010, chat with Dai Jones, Llanilar.
Best comment of the afternoon "... did you see the Lib Dem spin on last week's (euro) election result? I have just seen Mark Williams and if they use the same spin this week then the Tivyside will read 'ROCK STAR VISITS ABERYSTWYTH SHOW'...". Good Ceredigion humour, great stuff!!!
There are wonderful pictures on this link.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Iraq War Inquiry

Holding the Inquiry into the Iraq War in private will deny those who have lost loved ones with closure on a desperate affair. Neither will it explain all the unecessary deaths and neither will it provide an open explanation on why Tony Blair placed military forces in the way of harm. The best desriptions so far - from the Stop the War Coalition's Lindsey German 'a bucket of whitewash' and from Plaid Cymru's Adam Price 'The government that tried to keep MPs expenses under wraps is now doing the same over Iraq.'
Gordon Brown doesn't realise that it never was a case of apportioning blame rather a case of apportioning truth.

Investing in the Railways

Today the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) published proposals to reopen some of the railway lines shut by Beeching in the 1960's. Its unfortunate that the report does not extend to Scotland or particularly to Wales since movement between the main North Wales, Mid Wales and South Wales network is not possible without travel into England. It does highlight the 'centrist one nation' thinking of Beeching at the time when a premium was placed on links with London rather than on intraregion movement. Maintaining the Aberystwyth - Carmarthen line and the Afonwen - Caernarfon link would have ensured the intraregional integrity that would serve Wales well today.
The document itself is worth a read but I am not sure what the Secretary of Sate for Transport will make of the paragraph in Chapter 2 -
"... The study does not include Scotland, which is the responsibility of Transport Scotland, nor does it include Wales, where Welsh Assembly Government has developed a strategy for transport in Wales. It focuses on major towns or settlements in England, which has no equivalent strategic national authority considering rail capacity in relation to local or regional needs.." The emphasis is mine!
I detect again a centrist urban approach in this document, take a look at the key factors considerd in the methodology in Chapter 4
  • Population growth (ONS forecasts)
  • Percentage of population living in urban areas (ONS)
  • Percentage of work trips by rail
  • Station usage (station entries per person)
  • Car use (vehicle km per person)
  • Traffic intensity (approximation for road congestion)
  • Number of congested road links (DfT data)
  • Population per station (thousands)
  • Number of settlements (>15,000 pop) not rail connected.
If at the outset the model is based on urban criteria then it is unlikely that rural areas will gain much from the proposals. The BBC report is here.
While I welcome the report, I regret the opportunity that Government has missed in dealing with the economic crisis. A Green New Deal would include development of the energy and transport infrastructure, provide work during the crisis and have a impact in years to come.
Have a look at this interesting article as well :- Railways and Rural Development in England and Wales, 1850-1914

Friday, 12 June 2009

Euro Election Charts

Share between parties in Ceredigion

Majority of winning party by constituency in Wales

% share of vote for winning party by constituency in Wales