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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”.