Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Export markets are key.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) confirmed yesterday what some of us have being saying for months, current Coalition Government economic policies are likely to result in a short period of stagnation in the economy.

It also shows that forecast such as GDP, are constructs only and can; as admitted by the Chair of the OBR Robert Chote, be wrong as well as right. They depend on assumptions made of many unknowns.

It is clear; our future prosperity depends heavily on the health of the European economy, and a sustained growth in exports. This is because domestically, if you look at the UK overall debt, you will realise we have already maxed out our national credit cards, and that any recovery bought about by consumer spending (on say white goods, mostly imported) would not in the long term, be sustainable.

The Welsh Assembly in their economic renewal programme talk about choosing winners. One key element should be developing successful export markets for Welsh companies. Why therefore did the Welsh Assembly decide this year to disband the successful ‘International Business Wales’?

Especially as discovered by the CBI in October exports from Wales are falling, whilst they are growing for the rest of the UK.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Observer's Book of Weather

With more snow forecast for Wednesday, the following is an extract from “The Observer’s Book of Weather’ by Mr Lester F.R Met. Soc. Published in 1955.

“In the British Isles snow is more frequent at the latter part of winter and early spring, and this is because there is a greater tendency for easterly winds from the Contingent to bring in the coldest weather around February and March.

Severe snow-storms can often be very local. We have had examples in southern England, with blizzards depositing a foot or more in snow in, say, one part of Kent, and places a few miles away without any snow at all. The explanation for this is that the heaviest falls occur along the continental side of a 'warm front', which in this country, of course, is the southeastern side. The snow rapidly decreases in amount on the opposite side of the front.

We often hear it said that it is 'too cold for snow'. Actually, it can never be too cold to snow, but when the temperature falls low in the British Isles it is generally during an anticyclone, or fine weather spell, and with the oncoming depression, the temperature rises…..

….Although snow is associated with Christmas in the northern hemisphere and is a regular feature of Christmas cards and stories, weather statistics prove that snow rarely falls in Christmas week. The Greenwich records show that, over a period of 83 years, snow has fallen on Christmas Day on only six occasions, and on Boxing Day on ten occasions. Only twice has it snowed on Christmas Eve. These figures apply to southern England only, but even in the Midlands and north of England it is more usual to have a 'green' than a 'white' Christmas.”


It concerns me, that once again a new Education Secretary, this time Mr Gove MP thinks he can play fast and loose with the future of England’s children. It has happened before and sadly, no doubt it will happen again, as politicians cannot help themselves, to “sort out the mess left by the previous administration”.

I’m not saying that everything Labour did was right, after all their obsession with league tables and performance indicators was lamentable for many reasons. It was an excuse for schools to concentrate on the ‘clever’ pupils whilst how shall I put it, dissuading less fortunate pupils.

However, Mr Gove’s idea that we should return in the main to end of term exams concerns me. I hated exams, especially those that could affect the rest of your life. Some pupils I recall took exams in their stride, passing with no apparent stress, but I like many others worried myself sick about them.

I recall my farther; who worked at Rio Tinto in the early eighties, attending a weekend course, at the end of which they where handed an exam paper to be returned within a week. My farther asked did this mean they could look up the answers. The reply was that Rio Tinto did not want parrots who could just regurgitate learnt information, the questions showed whether you could apply the information they had learnt. After all, if you had forgotten a certain formula all you need do is look it up in a book.

Life is all about learning, sometimes by our mistakes, it is a constant revaluation of what we know, from what we have learnt. We should never stop challenging accepted norms or ideas, sometimes in life a practical lesson will teach you far more than a syllabus book and end of term exam ever would.

Education should be about giving pupils a chance in life, it should not be the challenge, that in a very short period defines who they are, and what the rest of their lives will be.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Finest foods from Anglesey

Menai Oysters are suppliers of quality oysters and are featured in the Hairy Bikers cook book ‘Food Tour of Britain’.

Menai Oysters began life in 1994. Set up by marine biologist Shaun Krijnen,(MSc BSc) the company initially concentrated on oyster production, farming the pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. Menai Oysters is a registered oyster and mussel farm located in the Menai Strait, Anglesey, North Wales. The original focus of the business was to produce very high quality shellfish for the wholesale and restaurant market. To this end investment has been directed toward the production, processing ,packaging and delivering of the shellfish. Menai Oysters meets all EU and UK requirements when it comes to health and hygiene.

You can order on line at Menai Oysters.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Education in Finland

Michael Gove MP and Education Secretary said recently that we should learn from other countries. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment in the last 3 assesments made (in 2000, 2003 and 2006) Finland came top of the league table.

“The Finnish education system is an egalitarian Nordic system, with no tuition fees for full-time students. Attendance is compulsory for nine years starting at age seven, and free meals are served to pupils at primary and secondary levels (called lukio in Finnish), where the pupils go to their local school. Education after primary school is divided into vocational and academic systems." (Source Wikipedia)

You can read a full report on Vocational Education and Training in Finland at this link: PDF download

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Care for us all when old.

We are all living longer. How we are to be looked after in our old age is an important question. We need to consider the care we provide and whether it is best suited to our needs.

The first priorities should be quality of life of the elderly, their dignity and respect. Where possible we should aim to allow people to live in their own homes, whilst recognising that in some circumstances this may not be in the best interest of the person.

Care for the elderly in this country is currently shared between the local council and the NHS, but this can lead to conflict of interest, and the lack of a joined up policy. The role of the local doctor is also important in providing quality care for the elderly.

My suggestion new unified regional authorities need to be set up to look after primary care of the elderly. Their priorities would be to ensure early intervention to ensure the health of the elderly and that where possible they can live in comfort at their homes.

Each elderly person would have a guaranteed care package (including a guaranteed improvement grant up to a maximum figure), on which they could draw, should the need arise without having to worry about any savings they may have. Those who wanted could then purchase extra insurance to opt for a better care package, more choices in terms of who treats them for example.

The Elderly Care Authority, in example, would manage short stay homes, to allow for respite care or for short-term care following treatment at hospital. They would employ their own specialist nurses and carers.

The local Doctor would have an important role in setting the standards and in forecasting the future care requirements of their patients, so that informed decisions could be made.

Remember the Elderly Care Authority need not necessarily be a public body, it could be a private firm, a not for profit trust or a charity. I recognise that there are many failings in the care of the elderly in the private sector, some of which are serious, but the same can be said of the public sector. We would need a different model on how we award or give bonuses each year of a contract.

The contract success would be judged on a health and well being satisfaction index of those cared for, the better the care and satisfaction of the elderly the larger the bonus. It should be a contract based on the quality of care provided and not the cost of the contract to the state.

What’s important is that care for the elderly is easy to understand, accessible and available, and that we put care back into the heart of any policy on caring for the elderly.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

External debt and Ireland

The near collapse of the Irish economy should be an important lesson to us in the UK. The main reason for the Irish crisis was not the level of public debt alone. Irelands public debt in 2009 was $42 billion or 57.7% of GDP, ranked 36 in the world. In comparison UK public debt in 2009 was 68.10% of GDP, 22 in world ranking.

Irelands biggest problem it seems, is the total level of its external debts. External debt (or foreign debt) is that part of the total debt in a country that is owed to creditors outside the country. The debtors can be the government, corporations or private households. The debt includes money owed to private commercial banks, other governments, or international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

In 2009 Irelands external debts stood at a stagering $2,287,000,000,000, or 1004% of GDP, or $515,671 for every Irish citizen. This together with other factors bought about a lack of confidence in Irelands ability to service its debts; hence lowering its credit rating and increasing the cost of borrowing money.

We should not be complacent either, our external debts in 2009 according to the CIA stood at $9,088,000,000,000, or 416% of GDP or $147,060 per capita. We are ranked fifth in the world (external debt as a percentage of GDP).

Anglesey - be inspired

Anglesey has long been the inspiration for famous artist, none more famous than Sir Kyffin Williams. Kyffin was one of the most popular living artists in Wales. His works typically drew inspiration from the Welsh landscape and farmlands, you can see many of his painting in galleries all over Britain and many are on permanent exhibition at Oriel Ynys Môn.

On the island today there are many renowned artist following in the footsteps of Sir Kyffin, and below is just a small selection.

"After almost 30 years of taking photographs, for the most part simply to please clients and art directors, I am now thankfully back in a situation where I can take pictures just for my own interest, having to please no one."

Crys Pierce
Crys Pearce established herself as an artist in Oxford, running her own studio during the 1980s. Born in Anglesey, North Wales, she moved back there in 1999 and now sells and paints from her studio/gallery at Maes Yr Awel, Menai Bridge. She has exhibited throughout the United Kingdom and internationally

An Anglesey artist, his work includes landscapes in oil paint of the island and North Wales. Powerful, spiritual works, based on observations of the environment. The paintings are at the same time traditional and contemporary and people connect with them on various levels.

For many more artist inspired by Ynys Môn see Anglesey Arts Forum

Monday, 22 November 2010

Have you a new DAB Radio yet?

Recently my old radio alarm clock stopped working, and as a replacement I though about purchasing a new DAB radio, as there is a discount to be had to encourage us to buy all singing and dancing DAB radios.

But first seeing that I listen to Radio Cymru, especially Dafydd a Caryl of the morning, I thought I’d check I could get Radio Cymru on DAB in Anglesey. The answer no, or as the BBC puts it:

"BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru are only available on DAB in areas where there is a local DAB multiplex operator. Currently there are two of these multiplexes up and running in Wales - the Cardiff and Newport area multiplex and the Swansea area multiplex.

Unfortunately we are unable to expand the coverage of Radio Wales and Radio Cymru on DAB until licences are awarded by Ofcom and the successful operators start broadcasting.

Local DAB licences covering Northeast Wales & West Cheshire, Mid and West Wales and North Wales have been awarded by Ofcom but there are no confirmed dates for the start of these services at present. When they do start, coverage may be limited within the service areas initially, due to commercial considerations and the availability of frequencies."

So not much point buying a DAB radio yet then………..

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Local Heroes - Francis Williams and Rev James Williams

Francis Williams and her husband the Rev James Williams of Llanfairynghornwy, were the founders of the first lifeboat station on Anglesey.

In 1823, Francis Williams witnessed the tragic shipwreck of the sailing vessel Alert off Carmel Head. The Alert, carrying passengers and some general cargo, was returning to Holyhead from Howth, Ireland when she was caught in the treacherous water between Carmel Head and Skerries. There were only three survivors with 140 people losing their lives.

After the shipwreck they vowed to do their utmost, to ensure that such a tragedy would never happen again. By 1828, they had raised enough money for a lifeboat to be stationed at Cemlyn. An Anglesey branch of the Royal National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was formed later that year, when Rev Williams also oversaw the construction of the first lifeboat built at Holyhead. The Rev Williams was the first coxswain of the lifeboat at Cemlyn, and it was not unkown for Francis Williams to be one of the volunter rowers.

In October, 1835, it was decided by members of the Royal National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck to award the Rev James Williams, a gold medal for his exploits in saving the boat Active at Cemaes Bay.

Of the rescue at Cemaes Bay, Barry Cox wrote in his book Lifeboat Gallantry: “The sailing vessel Active, anchored in Ramsey Bay, Isle of Man, during a northwesterly gale, started to drag her anchors then drifted out to sea as soon as they had been hauled up.

Many hours later, the smack drifted into Cemaes Bay, Anglesey, and tried to anchor but grounded a long way from the shore with every successive wave breaking over her. The Reverend Williams arrived after several unsuccessful attempts had been made to launch a boat and, ignoring the mountainous seas, rode a horse into the surf and drew near enough to throw a grappling hook over the smack’s bowsprit.

They were then able to launch a boat and pull out to the wreck whose crew of five were found in the cabin, too exhausted to move. All were landed safely.”

The Rev James Williams who died in 1872, was awarded a second gold medal for his bravey for saving lifes from the ship Sarah.

The Royal National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was taken over by the RNLI in 1885. The Cemlyn lifeboat station closed in 1918, and at Cemlyn you will see a monument commemorating its achievements.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The importance of Europe

Ireland has big problems. The Irish government’s decision to guarantee all investments in Irish banks, is looking less of a good idea than it was at the time. Ireland is in recession and things could be worse without a bailout from Europe.

Some in the UK query why should we; whom are facing harsh austerity measures ourselves, provide financial aid to Ireland?

It is important we do for various reasons. The UK is Ireland’s second largest trading partner behind the USA. Our banks have lent Ireland a substancial amount; RBS and Lloyds alone have total loans of £80 billion to Irish customers, of which £28 billion is in mortgages (source The Times).

If Ireland crashes, then other countries within the euro zone may follow suit. Portugal and Spain in example, both like Ireland have seen a property market collapse. This cannot be good for the stability of the European Union.

The EU is our biggest trading partner; in September 2010, our total value in goods exported to the EU was £11.8 billion in comparison to £10.9 billion for non EU Countries (Source ONS and uktradeinfo). True there are other developing markets China and India, but it will take time and they will not overnight replace any trade lost with Europe as a whole being in recession.

Least of all but still important, an Ireland economy in free fall would be very bad news for the economy of Anglesey.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The importance of 'pawb'

The residents of the island are not in favour of Wylfa B, is I think the message that PAWB, the anti nuclear campaign group were saying when they published the results of a survey of 500 they had commissioned. No surprise there then some would say, but I’m sure the survey carried out by Bangor University was all very scientific and correct.

One of PAWB’s concerns is nuclear waste, and how would future generations dispose of it safely. The thing though for me, at this moment in time, when you think of future generations; I suspect they would say nuclear waste is the least of their worries.

We are consuming and wasting far too much, whilst rushing blindly torwards the future ignoring most warnings about the problems we are causing. Call it what you may, but lets be clear we are not talking about saving the planet; her destiny is already mapped out in the stars. What we should be talking about is saving our civilisation, whether as pointed out by some you can call it ‘civil’ is a moot point. You need only study nature to realise what happens to a species that out grows its own food supply.

And of nuclear waste and what to do with it, 'store it safe for a very long time' is maybe the only answer we have at the moment, but we are rather good at storing things safely for a long time. True there are bad examples from the early days of nuclear development of how not to store nuclear waste, some of which is still a cause of concern at Sellafield. Maybe one day we will develop a means of making the waste safe quicker, than having to wait a very long time as it degrades to a safe level.

It's really down to a judgment call as to whether you think nuclear power today will burden or ease the plight of future generations. I think it is a finely balanced argument, but I believe that nuclear power is one of the best options available to us, which although will burden future generation, it will also in other ways lessen the destruction we leave behind.

Otherwise, we need to drastically reduce our reliance on electricity. In example, goodbye to gadgets like i-phones and i-pads, flat screen TV’s etc, not just because of the electricity they consume, but mainly due to the electricity used to produce them, to keep the networks running, and lets not forget the rare metals used in their production. We would need to embrace a mass transport system and say goodbye to individual electric cars, which are not as green as they are made out to be. But lets be honest, can you really say you could sell that message today?

Nuclear power is a proven technology, but still it’s important that the likes of PAWB keep on asking difficult questions and demand reasonable answers, for it’s an industry that needs proper scrutiny for our well being as well as those of future generations.

In welsh pawb means everyone.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Democracy for Burma - Aung San Suu Kyi

I type these words in the safe knowledge that no one is likely to break through the front door and drag me away to be detained by a regime for daring to criticise the state.

But this is the daily reality for many throughout the world, who dare speak out against an oppressive state. And now and then we see beacons for democracy, that break through the darkness of an evil regime’s propaganda, and give us hope that if we all stand together in our belief in democracy that all is not lost.

It is not only their bravery we applaud, but their dignity and humanity, which had we been faced with the same daily provocation as they, we could not match.

One true beacon can be found in the forgotten land of Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi the pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate, has come to symbolise the struggle of Burma’s people to be free. She has spent more than 15 years in detention, most of it under house arrest, and was only recently released from her third period of detention on Saturday 13 November 2010.

We should all support her and the people of Burma on their path to peace, freedom and democracy.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Local Heroes - Coxswain Dick Evans

"It's not your own life, it's the crew. When I thought I could do something spectacular and very risky I had to remember that I was risking other lives as well." Dick Evans

These are the words of a brave man, whom with his crew on numerous occasions, carried out daring sea rescues. As Moelfre lifeboat coxswain, he is one of the few sailors ever to have won the Royal National Lifeboat Institution Gold medal for bravery twice.

Dick Evans received his first gold medal for bravery when he helped rescue the stricken Hindlea on October 27 1959. In a hurricane, with winds gusting up to 104mph, he and his crew rescued the crew of the Hindlea as 48 foot waves pounded the lifeboat.

He won his second gold medal at the age of 61, for his efforts to help save the crew of the Greek freighter Nafsiporos, which had lost power in a cyclone and was drifting dangerously close to the notorious Skerries islands off Holyhead. With his crew of Murley Francis, Hugh Owen, Evan Owen, Huw Jones, William Maynard Davies, Capt David Jeavons and his own son, David, Dick Evans helped rescue the crew off the ship, despite sustaining great damage to the lifeboat.

At Moelfre by the Seawatch museum, there is a bronze statute in honour of the great man. Dick Evans was born at Moelfre on 19 January 1905 and died 14 September 2001.

You can donate to the RNLI at their website

Remembrance Sunday

For The Fallen by Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Anglesey and the weather

Mention Anglesey to them over bridge and they are most likely to respond with “It always rains there, and what about the wind.”, even glum Anglesey people fall into this trap of saying how bad the weather is.

However if you look at the facts (from the Met Office) you soon realise that Anglesey is not that bad after all. So does it rain a lot in Anglesey, well not really, its about average in comparison to the rest of UK in the spring and summer. In comparison with England and the annual average though it does. Below shows the average rainfall annually, spring and summer.

And there's more good news

We do not get much frost, our mean average temperature is comparable to the majority of England, and as for sunshine we do rather well, especially in the spring and winter. For the jumpy amongst you, Anglesey does not have many days of thunder

And in terms of growing season, we fair rather well also..

So our weather's not that bad after all, if you don't mention the wind...

Above maps are subject to Met Office copyright.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Môn Mam Cymru - breadbasket of Wales.

Ynys Môn was once known as 'Môn Mam Cymru', and was named as such during the middle ages, as its fertile fields were the breadbasket of North Wales.

We know that premium foods are good for remote regions, (i.e. shellfish from the Outer Hebrides) because they can attract premium prices, making the product viable. Also some regions over the years, have built reputations for excellent food, the Ludlow food festival is a good example, or Trinity College of Ireland.

Countries have also shown us the way forward. Bacon and you think ‘Danish’, lamb that be New Zealand, a decent wine irrespective of year, Australia.

Now we know this formula can be successful on the island, Anglesey Sea Salt being one, or Derimôn another. So why cant we build on these success stories and establish an image of Anglesey as a producer of ‘Organic’ and ‘Green’ wholesome food. Why don’t we invest in premium foods, in research to find key markets for the island, and in development and marketing. Associated with this we should encourage award winning restaurants and hotels to open and attract tourist and punters to stay and enjoy. We should aim to be the destination for all aspiring chefs, a place to learn and make a name for themselves.

Tourism makes money, think of nations that consume and spend the most and really dig history, especially if it involves folklore, and the next logical steps are not that difficult are they?

Forget building prisons, or attracting a large manufacturer or some vague concept of an energy island – “yeah dad lets visit that place that produces electricity”, rather lets think within the kitchen and make the island once again the breadbasket of Wales.

Anglesey and job creation - Part II

In part one, I speculated as to reasons why new SME’s may not establish themselves on the island.

We should not, in the first place, forget that we are still recovering from a recession, one that was nearly preceded by the collapse of the world banking system. Neither should we forget that the IMF predicts that there is likely to be a period of stagnation in the economy.

Currently the banks are very reluctant to lend, even to existing customers, as for start up’s what chances have they? But there’s grants available I hear you cry, which is true, but they alone are not the answer, as Ireland found out they do not guarantee long term stability.

So, do not expected miracles anytime soon, until that is the economy recovers and shows sustained growth. Now it seems, is not the time to start a new firm, or expand an existing firm, not saying that it’s impossible, but rather difficult.

But if we are talking about job creation, you cant blame it all on the economy or the banks, or come to that on politicians. Strange isn’t that how the political right believe in 'small' government, and in a free market ideology, but are all to quick to blame politicians, when things go wrong, on matters they say politicians shouldn’t interfere with in the first place. Of course politicians are just as much to blame, how often do they think they can get away with taking credit for the good times, whilst denying they have anything to do with the bad times.

What matters to an unemployed bloke in say Holyhead or Amlwch? I doubt it is the fact the Outer Hebrides out performed Anglesey, he is still out of work. I doubt even if he cares the GVA per head of Anglesey is low, he just wants a job. And this wont be achieved if all we read about is political discourse, and political point scoring, and political negative campaigns. He will still be unemployed.

What are the solutions, what is needed to bring jobs to the island ? - I have'nt got a magic wand or a super new idea, but for what they are worth, here are some suggestions:

The Local Development Plan needs to be fast tracked and prioritised by the Council.

We need a substantial investment in broadband, we should aim to have the fastest service available, so we can have an advantage for a change.

An Anglesey Employment Board should be setup, with representatives from leading business, business organisation, charities, employment projects and specialist advisors to advice the Council, and to draw a clear employment strategy for the island, and working with them an Anglesey Employment Team with representatives of each key Council department and others to manage and implement the agreed strategy.

As for my last suggestion, I know that there are similar in place already, but sadly as a whole there is a perception that they do not seem to be working, and my suggested employment board would not have any politicians on it. Not another QUANGO, well yes, sometimes we have this mistaken belief that democracy equals accountability, when quite clearly it does not. It should be business sense, best practice and a partnership of the willing, driving forward employment strategy rather than the short-term popularity contest of local politics.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Anglesey and job creation - Part I

What are the barriers stopping new companies from setting up on the island, especially SME’s the backbone of any country? The European Union define SME's as any company with more than 10 employees or a turnover of 2 million euro’s. They have various categories starting with a micro SME.

It is education?

As can be seen from the chart below (from ONS), the island in comparison with the remainder of the country is equal if not better.

So its unlikely to be down to lack of a educated workforce.

Is it lack of grants?

Anglesey has access to an array of business grants, a large proportion of which is from the European Union. So it seems it cant be due to lack of grants.

What about access to markets?

It depends on the product, for example the Outer Hebrides; which are far more remote than Anglesey, have a successful fishing industry. Fishing in the Outer Hebrides is a high value industry with shellfish accounting for 90% of landings. They support around 400 full-time jobs plus another 250 jobs in processing and other directly related activities onshore. Also fish farming supports 150 on-farm jobs together with another 170 employed in processing. The industry has an annual production income of around £60m. (Details from Outer Hebrides Coastal Marine Patnership)

In other words quality premium food products that can attract premium prices, which makes them viable. Think of Anglesey and the successful sea salt company another premium product.

Otherwise, in terms of production, location, and access to markets, Anglesey will always loose out to the North East of Wales. Think of the number of 'ordinary' food companies who have tried and failed on the island and compare them to the likes of Tomlinson Dairies of Coedpoeth and Village Bakery of the same village.

Is it infrastructure?

In terms of roads and boats, there is good road access to and from the populated areas of the North East of Wales and North West of England and very good sea access to the Irish markets.

However, in terms of broadband Anglesey would score poorly, and is at a disadvantage if trying to attract new technology firms.

In part 2 I shall build on the above and make some suggestions as to a way forward for employment on the island.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Finest foods from Anglesey.

If you have travelled on the A5025 pass Dulas City (or is it City Dulas?) you may have seen an ‘A board’ advertising a smokery. Well you will have just passed Derimôn an award winning local producer of smoked food.

They produce an extensive range including classic smoked salmon - cold or hot roast, poultry, game, meat, many cheeses through to tomatoes, welsh butter and sea salt. Wherever possible, they source the produce locally to ensure premium quality.

You can order online by visiting their website, or why not visit their shop.

Anglesey and the unemployed – Part II

Before we can think about how you can help the unemployed, you need to know who the unemployed are. According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics the age groups of the unemployed in Anglesey is as follows:

As can be seen a high percentage of the unemployed are in the age group 25-49. Now there are many reasons for this, lack of jobs being the largest factor, in August 2009 the number of unfilled jobs in Anglesey registered at the job centre was 128. It's not supprising therefore, that those who can cross the bridge in search of work.

We should also be honest and admit that whilst the majority of the unemployed are looking for work and want work, there will be a minority that are put bluntly unemployable. However, this will be down to more than just an idle attitude, but other factors, environment, lack of opportunity, and lack of proper guidance when young.

Its far to easy to pick on this small group, especially by those on the right – the rhetoric is all to recognisable – “idle layabouts, doing nothing all day, what they need is a hard days work picking litter, that’ll get them fit for work”. How exactly does forcing someone who does not want to work into ‘hard labour’ going to persuade them that work is a better option, especially when there is well above 10 unemployed people for every job advertised?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Anglesey and the unemployed - Part I

Previously I asked the question how do you help the long term unemployed on the island, the definition of which is anybody who has being claiming job seekers allowance for more than 12 months.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics is as follows:

The population of the island is 68,800, of those 31,600 are economically active, with 2,400 being unemployed, 7.5 % compared to the national average of 8.4% for Wales and 7.9 % for Great Britain. Of those claiming job seekers allowance the number who have been unemployed for more than 12 months is 400 (four hundred) or 23.4% compared to 19% for Wales and 17.8% for Great Britain.

In Anglesey, there are 11,100 economically inactive, of those 2,100 want a job, and 9,000 who do not want a job or 21.5% compared to 20.9% for Wales and 17.9% for Great Britain.

So how do you solve the problem of the long term unemployed – by ensuring they do not become long term unemployed in the first place!

To me it makes sense that we should concentrate on finding work for the 78.5% of the unemployed rather than the 21.5% long term unemployed, the infamous Anglesey 400.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Successful Anglesey companies

If you have crossed the Irish Sea on a day trip to Dublin, or a holiday to Ireland, you will most probably have done so on a Stena Line ship. This year Stena Line has been voted the top ferry company for a record 18th time at the annual Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards.

Stena Line operates the Port of Holyhead, and is an important employer for the island, providing seasonal employment as well as full time work. Stena Line operates three ships at any one time from Holyhead, be it the Stena Express or Stena HSS Explorer to Dun Laoghaire (currently Express), or the sister ships Stena Adventurer and Stena Nordica to Dublin.

Visit their website for the latest offers

Anglesey the commuter belt of Gwynedd?

Yesterday we asked why is there a net outflow of the age group 16-24 from the island, “it’s for the jobs” I hear you cry, but as any good researcher would say, lets consider the evidence that supports this assertion.

We start by looking at the estimated total migration to and from the island last year. The first chart show the top destination for those moving from the island, and the second chart shows the top locations of where people moving to the island where coming from. In 2009 the total migration was balanced.

Chart 1 From Anglesey

Chart 2 To Anglesey

As can be seen the major movement is between the island and Gwynedd.

For the age group we are considering could this be because of house prices? The latest average house prices show that they are lower in Anglesey than in Gwynedd, the exception being flats/maisonettes. But seeing that the average price of a flat in Gwynedd was around £84,000 and the average salary on the island was £19,700 in 2007 even before the closure of the smelter plan, that makes it a bit out of the reach of most first time buyers.

Then there’s rentals, according to nestoria rental prices of properties are similar between the island and Gwynedd. The difference could be supply, and on the day I carried out the search of all rental properties on the web site, in Anglesey there where 38 properties available and in Gwynedd 95. Not a scientific sample and applying a very broad brush a ratio of 2.5 properties for rent in Gwynedd for every 1 in Anglesey.

Therefore the main reason is unlikely to be to buy a house, finding somewhere affordable to rent could be part of the reason, but most likely the main reason will be for a decent job.

Imagine a scene and a moment in time, we would see on Britannia Bridge if you focused in, a young man travelling in a transit van that his father has borrowed from a mate, travelling towards the mainland to his first job and flat.

And then time travel quickly 25 years into the future and on the same bridge travelling in the other direction you may find that very same young man, now older and wiser in a saloon car, with his wife besides him, following a large removals van returning back home, so to speak.

If you look at the map (see here) showing the most and least deprived areas on Anglesey you will see a West and East split, with the west side being the most deprived. Then think of the congestion on Britannia bridge for vehicles leaving the island in the peak morning flow, and t’other direction at the peak evening flow. Then add in commuting distance to Bangor, Caernarfon, Conwy, Llandudno. What conclusion can you reach?

I think there is a net outflow of young people leaving to find decent jobs, and when they are financially secure they return to find a home on the island, primarily it seem in the East of the island so they can commute to their jobs on the mainland. I have of course made a number of assumptions, but above all it’s a scenario that makes sense, and the evidence that I have looked at seems to support it.

This is an important factor for the GVA of the island. The evidence supports what seems to be obvious, that Anglesey is mostly rural residential areas, and of those living here; especially in the East of the island, there is likely to be a high number commuting to the mainland for work, in relation to wage earned and job security.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Anglesey and GVA – The Article

The politicians favourite measure of the economy is Gross Value Added (GVA), especially it seems GVA per head. We know that Anglesey has the lowest GVA per head in comparison to the rest of the Wales. But when you look at how GVA is calculated, you soon discover its not as simple, as it first seems. A report by VONNE (see part 2) highlighted the problems with using GVA as a comparator of different regions, if say comparing a mostly rural area and a mostly urban area.

Anglesey is a poor island economy, and is unique in many ways, even historically it may not have had a sustained ‘prosperous’age. If we consider Amlwch and the copper mines its ‘prosperous’ times was relatively short. This started in 1768 when the first rich veins of copper where discovered in Mynydd Parys. The population of the island grew as miners and associated workers migrated to make most of the new mines. By 1802 however, the best of the copper had already been mined and by 1817 there was bitter rioting, and as John Davies in his book ‘A history of Wales’ says “Amlwch experienced a industrial revolution that failed”.

Returning to the modern era, the reasons why the GVA for Anglesey is relatively low is numerous and varied. It's primarily a rural area, with employment concentrated in the service sectors and low-tech manufacturing. (See Part 1, and report by Council). In addition, Anglesey in comparison to the rest of Wales has a high percentage of long term unemployed (28% for Anglesey, 13% for all Wales). The latest report available from the Office of National Statistics shows that the economical active on the island was 31,600, and the number of unemployed was 2,400.

Another factor is the islands growing elderly population (See Part 1,and part 3), it has a net inflow of those in the age group 45-64, and a net outflow in the age group 16-24. So why are the young leaving the islands, well it is either lack of jobs, or suitable jobs, or lack of affordable homes or a combination of both. Maybe they leave to find jobs and buy starter homes, and return later when they have become more financially secure.

To summarise we should use GVA figures with caution, and not to compare regions especially if they are not similar. However, GVA is a useful indicator of the health of the local economy. More importantly we should be worried that demographics of the island are changing, becoming older.

In part 4 is a plan showing the most deprived areas on the island. There is a warning that you should not compare individual areas, like most deprived and least deprived. However, of interest is that on Anglesey the most deprived areas are Holyhead, Amlwch and the rural area to the West of the island. In contrast, it shows Beaumaris as least deprived area. In essence it shows which areas that should be the priorities, especially the urban areas where we should be encouraging new employment opportunities first.

To conclude, the important questions are:

  • why is there a net outflow of young people from the islands
  • how can you help the long term unemployed find work.

I shall look at these question in later posts.

Anglesey and GVA Part IV – Multiple Deprivation.

Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (2008)

"Deprivation is a wider concept than poverty. Poverty means a lack of money. Deprivation refers to wider problems caused by a lack of resources and opportunities. Therefore, WIMD is constructed from eight different types of deprivation. These are:

•access to services
•community safety
•physical environment."

For more information see: Welsh Assembly and Technical Report
PDF of above map: Indices Map

Above plan subject to Crown Copyright.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

What would you do with a town like Amlwch?

I would develop a world renowned Oceanographic Research and Training Facility at Amlwch. It could be a partnership between say Bangor University and Coleg Menai and private firms like power or shipping companies, such as Eon or Smit. The more you think about it, the more it makes sense. It could even be a centre of excellence. I am sure there would be European Funding for such a project.

It would bring much needed jobs and income to the town i.e students would need digs, and pubs to drink alcohol and shops to buy even more alcohol.

So what would they study and research there, well that’ll be the ocean obviously, say research into new means of generating electricity, and of the top of my head, what about post graduate courses in

  • The effects of old copper workings on the ocean
  • The effects of first generation power stations on the ocean during decommissioning.
  • The effects of offshore wind farms on the oceans

As for the training, the wind farms will need maintaining so qualified workers will be required, and some trained divers to check the underwater structures - maybe the centre could have its own decompression unit.

And seeing how we are on an island why don’t we build more boats, why not train people to do that, to build and maintain boats. I have a feeling that some firms already on the island are crying out for qualified workers.

In addition, it could provide training for the leisure market; diving for example, seeing how there are plenty of sunken vessels within easy reach. .

It’s only a suggestion, make of it what you may, but I think it’s one of my better suggestions.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Anglesey and GVA - Part III Migration

Previously we considered the Census of 2001 that showed that the population of Anglesey was getting older. Today we take a closer look at internal migration to and from Anglesey.

The data is from the National Office for Statistics and “estimates are prepared using data from former Health Authority patient registers and these are combined with migration data from the National Health Service Central Register to give internal migration estimates. The mid-2001-mid 2002 to mid-2007 to mid-2008 internal migration estimates by local authority were revised on 13 May 2010 to include the student adjustment.”

Chart a

As can been seen from the above chart the estimated number of those leaving (outflow) or moving to (inflow) Anglesey is roughly equal each year (shown in thousands in chart a). For the period 1999 to 2009, the total difference between inflow and outflow was a net gain of 400.

If we look at the age groups this shows a consistent net outflow in the 16-24 group (shown in thousands in chart b) and a net inflow in the 45-64 group.

Chart b

In contrast, the figures for Gwynedd are more varied, you could not compare the two directly for various reasons, Gwynedd in example has the National Park.

Chart c

As with Anglesey the outflow, inflow each year are broadly similar, however in Gwynedd over the 10 years there has been a greater variation (again figures shown in thousands in chart c).

For the Age group 16-24 whereas in Anglesey the net balance is a constant outflow, for Gwynedd it varies over time, in some years there is a net inflow, as shown in thousands in chart d below

Chart d

For clarification - net outflow or net inflow is based on the balance of the yearly inflow minus the yearly outflow for a particular age group.

Successful Anglesey companies.

At Holyhead is a success story that provides vital employment in a deprived area. We speak of no other than Holyhead Marine.

Holyhead Marine has one of the most modern and up to date yards of its size in the UK. The range of services available coupled with a skilled and permanent workforce means they can offer an efficient and effective service to their customers when it comes to refit and repair work.

They have an abundance of experience in refit/repair of a wide range of vessels for a number of prestigious clients including the RNLI, Ministry of Defence, Irish Ferries, SMIT, Bay Towage & Salvage and Stena Line.

For more information see Holyhead Marine
Support the Lifeboats

Is this the best example of empowerment for women?

The Daily Post today has an article seeking island contestants for the BBC ‘Weakest Link’ programme. The ‘Queen of Mean’ Anne Robinson we are told is planning a special edition of the BBC quiz, featuring contestants who live on islands.

This is a person who regularly makes fun of those, who dare not fit her image of the ideal world - the overweight, the different, and occasionally, in case you missed it, us the welsh. I personally do not habitually watch the programme, but if this is a reflection of society today, we might as well, all not bother.

‘Oh come on’ you may say, it’s a bit of harmless fun, but that’s the problem it’s not, it’s poking fun at the weaker elements of society, those we should be encouraging to believe in themselves. It glorifies the bully at the expense of the weak, it’s the ‘freak show’ of the worst kind, its not big and its not clever, and it should have no place in today’s society.

Anglesey and GVA - Part II

The following is an edited version of a briefing note from VONNE. To see complete document please follow this link: VONNE

Gross Value Added (GVA) is important measure in the estimation of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is the preferred measure of Government in assessing the overall economic well-being of an area. Both GVA and GDP are measures of output, however GDP is a key indicator of the state of the whole economy. To estimate GDP there are theoretical approaches of ‘production’. ‘income’ and ‘expenditure’. When using the production or income approaches, the contribution to the economy of each industry or sector is measured using GVA.

There is though known problems with the GVA measure. To get an accurate reflection of the GVA of a geographic area (sometimes referred to as GVA per head) you have to understand where each resident works, as assigning GVA to specific areas is often more complicated, and less reliable, by commuting. Hence areas of high workplace numbers (town and city centres) will show disproportionately high GVA, despite having a potentially small residential population. Conversely, high residential areas will have low GVA compared to the resident population numbers. This therefore creates difficulties in comparing areas and is why, when GVA per head is used, it is often accompanied with a note warning the effects of commuting can distort the figures supplied.

However, although GVA has a number of weaknesses, its calculations is fairly straightforward, it is based on information readily available, and it remains the dominant measure of economic activity globally.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Finest foods from Anglesey.

Today we praise another successful Ynys Môn food producer. So whether it’s for their famous Morello Cherry with Kirsch Preserve, or their large selection of marmalades, lemon curd chutneys and local honeys, we highly recommend
Beehive Preserves.

You can visit their website here. Either buy at their shop or by mail order, go on Christmas is not far away.

Picture from

Anglesey and GVA – Part I.

Albert Owen MP caused a bit of a stir when he wrote a recent letter to the Daily Post making some claims about Ynys Môn and the GVA (Gross Value Added) statistics.

Now, we are not about to defend what he said, that’s a matter for him, instead we thought we would consider some of issues that contribute to why the GVA of Ynys Môn is low in comparison to the national average.

First, we can look at the population as recorded by the census of 2001.

For details see Office of National Statistics

Things of note are the islands ageing populations in comparison to the national average, and the disappearing youth from age 19 upwards. We think they went to college or found permanent jobs across the bridge.

Then we can look at the economic inactive. According to a report by Ynys Mon County Council (see full report here) one of the main concerns is the high level of long term unemployed (more than 12 months), in comparison with national average. In March 2007 it was 28% of those claiming job seekers allowance in comparison to the national average of 13%.

To finish on the GVA statistics themselves, and we have no reason to doubt them, we only mention that they where adjusted for Ynys Môn for the pre 2001 data, and are as shown below:

For full report see here

Will temporary jobs lead to permanent recovery?

According to the Office of National Statistics, the UK GDP grew by 0.8 per cent in quarter three 2010. Read full report here.

The 0.8 per cent growth stemmed from:
  • Service sector (0.4 per cent)
  • Construction sector (0.2 per cent)
  • Production sector (0.1 per cent)
  • Growth in the Service sector was driven by the ‘business’, ‘health’ and ‘other’ sectors.

During the last two quarters the job market also showed reliance with employment levels growing by 184,000 jobs in quarter two 2010. However, and not widely reported, this masks differing situations between types of workers.

In the three quarters of labour market recovery from the recent recession, quarter three 2009 to quarter two 2010, total employment rose by 0.4 per cent (120,000). This was driven by part-time and temporary workers:

  • Part-time jobs grew by 2.3 per cent (178,000)
  • Full-time jobs fell by 0.3 per cent (59,000)


  • Temporary employees grew by 10.4 per cent (149,000)
  • Permanent employees fell by 0.4 per cent (101,000)

Which raises an important question, if the private sector is to provide the jobs to replace those lost in the public sector, are temporary or part time jobs the answer. A suggestion, we should be removing the barriers that stop the private sector from employing more of its workforce on a permanent basis. Doing so to the benefit of both employee and employer is the challenge

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

In praise of the local butcher

We on Ynys Môn are lucky; you do not need to travel far to find an excellent local butcher. Anybody that buys meat at a supermarket, please stop, and buy from your local butcher. Of course, not everyone can afford best cuts of meat these days, but you would be surprised at the range of reasonably priced meats a good local butcher will have.

So we give praise to the local butchers of the island, to name just a few – Owen Roberts of Amlwch (Corwas), Valley Butchers of Valley, J. Raymond Jones of Holyhead, E T Jones Sons and Daughter of Bodedern (Lamia), whom is one of the last remaining butchers that slaughter their own locally sourced livestock.

viva le france

On Tuesday, 2 November 2010 David Cameroon, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, signed two historic military agreements each lasting 50 years with the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hopefully this will end the phoney war, that some pretend exists between Britain and France, or more specifically England and France. Some commentators still talk about ‘Waterloo’ as if it were yesterday; it was 1815, not long after the war of 1812 between Britain and the USA. Strangely this is not mentioned when that ‘special’ relationship is talked about.

France and Britain have cooperated military for sometime, it makes sense that as NATO allies, and neighbours; which together spend most on defence in Europe, that we work closer together. As we did in 1905, and the ‘Triple Entente’ (an alliance between the United Kingdom, the French Third Republic, and Russia), not forgetting the first and second world wars, and more recently as we did in Bosnia.

As for a joint military force, well France and Wales have been there already, when back in 1405 French soldiers landed at Milford Haven. They and the army of Owain Glyndwr marched towards England in the hope that the English followers of Richard II would join them and raise against Henry IV.

Finally, some are concerned that the agreements are the first steps towards an European Army, rather forgeting that on 11 August 1950, the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a motion tabled by Winston Churchill which called for the immediate establishment of a European Army so as to form a bulwark against Communism.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Never trust history

Ynys Môn is heaped in history and tradition, or so we are told, but not everything is a straight forward as you think.

Ynys Môn like many other parts of Wales it seems has many Celtic Saints; one meaning of Llan is a parish that surrounds the Church of a Saint. However, when you look closer at the dates, when many of the islands Saints where canonized, you will see they where around the 7th Century, which coincides with the Catholic revival of the period.

It reminds me of a time, after visiting Lourdes in France, we stumbled across a quiet and rather non descript French village and the start of a running joke - “What this place needs is a miracle!”.

We all know of a modern age Druid, that is fighting for the island, however the Druids may have not been here in the first place, even if one has returned, it was sadly the mistaken invention of Henry Rowlands.

Henry Rowlands (1655-1723) was born on Anglesey at Llanedwen and became rector of Llanidan Old Church. He wrote about farming practice in Idea Agriculturæ and in 1710 produced, in Latin, Antiquitates Parochiales about the ancient monuments of the locality. His best known work was Mona Antiqua Restaurata (1723)—literally ‘Ancient
Anglesey restored’—in which he mistakenly linked the island’s Bronze Age sites with the Druids, the priests and lawgivers of the ancient Celts. This fanciful anachronism, compounded by the English antiquarian William Stukeley, was seized upon in Victorian times and still persists today. However Rowlands does deserve credit for focussing attention on the island’s ancient sites.