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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Plaid puts forward Vet College case to FUW

Elfyn Llwyd MP on Friday (13/3/09) joined Plaid Cymru’s Ceredigion Westminster Candidate, Penri James, on a visit to the Farming Union of Wales’s headquarters in Aberystwyth to discuss the need to establish a Veterinary College in Wales.
Penri James launched his campaign to establish such a college – ideally at Aberystwyth to compliment the University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) – during Plaid Cymru’s 2008 autumn conference.

As Leader of the Plaid Cymru Westminster Group, Elfyn Llwyd MP has also tabled an Early Day Motion in support of the growing campaign.

At present, students are forced to train to become vets outside Wales despite the importance of the agricultural industry.

Following their meeting with the FUW, Penri James said:

“Since I launched my campaign last September, there has been growing support for a vet college to be established in Wales. Given the importance of agriculture both locally in Ceredigion and throughout Wales as a whole, today’s meeting gave a suitable opportunity to discuss my campaign with the FUW and highlight how the farming community would benefit from a local vet college.”

Plaid Cymru’s Elfyn Llwyd MP added:

“I was very glad to be able to join Penri during his visit to the FUW to discuss his proposal to establish a veterinary college for Wales. As a national organisation, the FUW had a particular interest in this campaign and I hope that they will now lend their support so that this project can develop further”.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Capital projects - money for Ceredigion

The political opponents of the One Wales Government here in Ceredigion are always placing the blame for their financial woes on the funding received from Cardiff. The Assembly settlement from London is inadequate and the local government settlement from Cardiff is the best available in a tight fiscal environment.

However, they should be reminded that the 2009/10 Transport Grant Settlement announced by the Minister for Economy and Transport (Ieuan Wyn Jones AM, Plaid Cymru) announced on Thursday, 12 March 2008 contained grants of more than £95million to improve roads, develop sustainable transport and encourage walking and cycling across Wales. The grants for Ceredigion are:-
This is good news for Ceredigion. There are further projects as well bringing in capital investment to the county as the new stone mountain in Aberaeron testifies. Lets hear you say well done WAG.

Fly tip in Ceredigion - and get away with it!

The Western Mail ran this story about fly tipping in Wales. The relevant Ceredigion statistics are 1204 instances of fly tipping between April 2006 and December 2008 and no prosecutions. If you assume from the Wales statistics of 157,178 instances and 1051 prosecutions then you would expect at least 8 prosecutions in Ceredigion.
Fly tipping is illegal, dangerous and an environmental eyesore. Ceredigion have an on line service to report problems and if residents take time to report then time should be taken to act on the information. How many enforcement officers are there in Ceredigion dealing with fly tipping? I suspect not many. Its time for fly tippers to be prosecuted not let off the hook.

Child Poverty in Cardigan

Speech time in Cardigan, Monday night 9th March. I shared the stage with Huw Lewis AM and other local representatives in an event organised by CredCer discuss Child Poverty. Child poverty and all kind of poverty is the greatest barrier to social justice, social mobility and personal wellbeing. Poverty will have a deep impact on the child, their family, and their community. It points people in the direction of social exclusion, education problems, poor employment prospects as well as wider health and social problems. But child poverty in the UK is not inevitable and it should not be considered as being inevitable. Poverty is recognised as a fundamental component of the One Wales agreement – set party politics aside it is so important for Wales and Ceredigion that there are two parties in Wales – Labour and Plaid Cymru – who’s very existence is concerned with social justice – and are willing to cooperate on this matter. We do not agree on all matters but on this matter there is unanimity of purpose. The statistics are truly awful and often hidden, I am not a fan of the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD). Presently 29% of children live in homes where incomes are less than 60% of median values. 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. Current economic circumstances are likely to make matters worse rather than better. There is a great danger that the positive and aspirational goals of the Assembly will only alleviate matters rather than being a solution. Lets be optimistic and hope that that will not be the case.
The Index is a combination of criteria Income, Education, Health, Access, Housing, Environment and Community - 7 in total. Poverty is a complex problem and solutions will be defined by the action in each of these areas. There is a particular issue in the Teifi and Rhydyfuwch wards here in Cardigan where a higher than average deprivation score in income and housing is masked by a polar opposite score in accessibility due to their close proximity to the town centre. Where there are problems they are masked and overlooked. It is further compounded by the Minister who has decided that the 2005 version of the index rather than the 2008 version will be used to determine support - particularly in choosing Wards eligible to be included in Communities First areas.

In light of these 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.
The need for a coherent national strategic direction on combating child poverty is paramount – that’s why the immediate onset of work of the Child Poverty Delivery Group in implementing the Child Poverty from March 2009 is crucial. As crucial will be the schemes coming out of this. Schemes that share good practice, increase awareness and deal with cross cutting issues. There is a clear danger in placing poverty in a single policy box and its only by policy proofing each policy for poverty will we achieve the goal of poverty elimination by 2020. The Welsh Assembly Government should poverty proof all of its relevant policies.

US Embassy visit

Spent the afternoon of Monday 9th March with James P. McDonald from the Welsh Office of the US Embassy, London. It is a sign of progress that major international countries are interested in Wales and the political activity therein. I have always found their Embassy staff pleasant and articulate and James P. McDonald is no exception.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


Went to Cardigan on Thursday 26th to open the annual Gwyl Ddewi Cawl at y Tabernacl and was met by local Plaid Cymru Councillors Catrin Miles and John Adams Lewis. Cawl with bread and cheese is one of my favourite winter meals as are community gatherings of this kind. Its an opportunity to meet, talk and check up on the well being of your friends and neighbours as well as celebrating our Patron Saint. The feeling of community is such an integral part of the Welsh psyche and community eating and talking such a manifestation of our inherent Welshness.
In a similar vein, there was cawl a chan at Cartref Tregerddan on Tuesday 3rd March where I am Chair of the League of Friends. Wonderfully organised by the staff. Cawl was also excellent.
PS The Liberal Democrat councillor in Cardigan was absent and I did have to field many complaints about the useless leaflets he seems to distribute all the time, I now see where the MP gets his ideas from. Also in Bow Street, the local Liberal Democrat councillor was absent even though he only lives a few doors away. According to 'rumour control' this is not the only important meeting he has recently missed.

Supporting local businesses indeed!!

Our MP's health questionnaire was printed in London, his annual report says he supports local businesses and he is also Secretary of the Parliamentary Print Group. Ceredigion is an important base for the print industry in Wales, we have Gomer Press, Cambrian Printers and y Lolfa as printing companies who need as much work as they can get in difficult economic circumstances. We also have other smaller but no less important presses. The words in the annual report are rather shallow if we compare them to our MP's deeds. I will leave it any replies what the headteacher's remarks in the report would be.

Should we call it Liberal Democrat 'double standards' or 'hipocrisy'

Our MP's much publicised questionnaire on health really needs to be exposed as the campaigning data gathering exercise that is actually is. Even though I am an on the Electoral Register in Ceredigion, you shouldn't be surprised that I didn't receive a copy since it is extremely unlikely that I would crop up on a Liberal Democrat database as a supporter or potential supporter. It was targetted at a specific demographic in order to collect information.
I am pleased that Mr Smith from New Quay came to the same conclusion. It is worth reading Helen Mary Jones AM as reported in the Tivyside Advertiser, it says it all. What right do the Liberal Democrats have in collecting information about an individual's health in order to use it later? Absolutely none.

6th form funding

I have for the past few years repeatedly warned the Local Education Authority that funding of Secondary Schools is a matter they need to address with the utmost alacrity. The formula's used by Ceredigion discriminate against bilingual schools like Penweddig and Dyffryn Teifi and when it comes to 6th form funding, any school with less than 700 pupils. Formulas always give advantage to numbers rather than the quality of education. With the funding proposals for 2009/10 balancing the budgets will be impossible. All bar one of the Secondary Schools in Ceredigion are in deficit. An audit report commissioned by Ceredigion in 2007 recommended that Ceredigion address underfunding issues, this has not been done. In a modification during 2007 of the funding formula for secondary schools, money was taken from the bilingual schools (Penweddig and Dyffryn Teifi) and redistributed to the other secondary schools. This has made the situation worse in both those schools and substantially contributed to the funding deficit. Ceredigion is fully aware of this issue yet nothing has been done to rectify the problem. It is time for Ceredigion Education Department to think strategically about the education system and draw up proposals about the future of the service, the current structure is creaking at the seams.

Welsh Kite Trust

The season for watching Red Kite nests and recording breeding success is upon us, my CCW watching licence arrived in the post a few days ago and the Welsh Kite Trust's annual get together gets everyone ready. A meeting within sight of Gigrin, Rhaeadr could not have been a more appropriate location. Tony Cross, the superbly commited field officer reported on another successful season (2008) despite the gales in late April destroying a few nests. Reports were also received on the expansion of Welsh birds into England and the reintroductions to Ireland. The commitment of the trustees, individuals like Tony, landowners and all the voluntary watchers have made the conservation of the Red Kite a real success story and made it the closest thing we have to a national bird. I think we should make that proposal and extent the love of this bird to other endangered raptors as well.

Student issues in Aberystwyth

Saturday 21st February according the the news media was the day that civil war broke out in Plaid Cymru with the vote in the Plaid Cymru National Council. For the uninitiated, its the National Council that decides on policy and receives reports on Party activites on a quarterly basis, it is second only to the Annual Conference in its importance. The National Executive meets on a more regular basis to decide how to implement policy and make policy recommendations to Conference and Council. Confused? it seems to work and provide a democratic mandate.
A difference of opinion was always going to happen when you have two political parties working together in the Assembly each having to implement the other party's policy. Remember, implementing top up fees is a Labour policy. QED. Its an inevitable consequence of coalition politics which those reporting and commenting on a traditional adversarial politics fail to take into account.
Its a difficult choice primarily the result of a difficult settlement for the Assembly by Westminster. Also an underspend in the health service in England will mean less money fro Wales but that's another matter for another blog. Do Plaid Cymru Ministers in the Assembly have difficult choices to make? YES. Are they going to be criticised for this? YES. Are they compromising? YES. Of course the Lib Dems will criticise but have they got an alternative position. Be ready for a flood of misleading leaflets.
This is where I have to think hard about compromise myself, I have called for, and still believe that there is a strong case for a veterinary school in Wales, preferably located in Aberystwyth. Now, where will the funding come from for this potential development. The public purse is tight and and I am reluctant to accept until all other alternatives have been explored, that the only source will be top up fees.
To finish, why wasn't I at the National Council? Well I had a more important duty, we had a visiting day in the University and I was working - and it was a successful one. If we don't attract and recruit students to Aberystwyth on the basis of academic rigour, academic success, interesting courses, research excellence and that it is a particularly nice place to live and work then everything else doesn't matter.

Playing catch up

I have been too busy over the past 2 weeks to do much blogging, anyway, here goes!