Saturday, 29 December 2012

People understand need for change in Welsh NHS

As we are continually reminded by politicians...we are in a heap of trouble and it may get worse in 2013. So I suppose things have to change to make the most of the limited resources available, and as such the changes in the NHS need to be taken in that context. However, a recent survey showed that the public would be concerned if any changes affected the quality of care.

A survey by YouGov of more than 1,000 Welsh adults between 16 and 21 November 2012, commissioned by the Welsh NHS Confederation found:
  • 65% of people named “lack of funding” as the biggest challenge facing the NHS in Wales, compared with 46% last year.
  • Almost half (48%) are aware that the NHS needs to make changes to the way health services are organised to make best use of scarce financial resources.
  • There is growing awareness of the challenges posed by caring for an elderly population (up to 53% from 43% last year), and also an unhealthy population (up to 41% from 34%).
  • The Welsh public also appear to understand the need to make changes to improve standards of care. 22% named it as one of their top three reasons for why they think Health Boards in Wales are planning to change the way services are delivered. 32% of people were aware that the quality of NHS care varies from place to place and changes are needed to make all services of an equal standard, while 28% of people were aware that the standards of care provided on weekends is not as good as weekdays.
  • The quality of care was given as the top answer for what people would prioritise when it comes to hospital care. 59% named it as one their three main considerations, while only 14% named travelling distance.
  • Even though most people (59%) feel that their local hospital should be able to provide every type of health service for their local community, 79% of people said they would be prepared to travel further, for example by an extra hour, to see a specialist, while 45% said they would be prepared to travel further for higher quality care.
  • Opinion is fairly evenly split on whether establishing specialist centres for certain types of services is a good idea, with 33% of people saying it would make services better, compared to 19% who thought it would make services worse. 24% people said it would make no difference.
See YouGov: Survey finds growing public awareness of why the NHS must change

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Thursday Quiz - Regional Airports

Whom is the largest UK-owned airport operator, serving around 24m passengers and handling half a million tonnes of air freight every year, through its ownership and operation of Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports ?

That'll be the Manchester Airports Group; privately managed on behalf the shareholders, which also includes the commercial property company, MAG Developments, which has a £350m portfolio across the three airports and is leading the £650m major Enterprise Zone development, Airport City, at Manchester. This year their profits was £65.5m

And who are the owners of the Manchester Airports Group?

They would be the ten local authorities of Greater Manchester. As follows:

• The Council of the City of Manchester - 55%
• The Borough Council of Bolton - 5%
• The Borough Council of Bury - 5%
• The Oldham Borough Council - 5%
• The Rochdale Borough Council - 5%
• The Council of the City of Salford - 5%
• The Metropolitan Borough Council of Stockport - 5%
• The Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council - 5%
• The Trafford Borough Council - 5%
• The Wigan Borough Council - 5%

Sound like a good model on how to run a regional private/public partnership airport to me, forming part of a regional development know a good example of something that does work, rather than political rhetoric.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

To pylon, or not to pylon....that is the question..

The winner: T-Pylon by Danish company Bystrup Architecture

A report in the Daily Post - 'Pylon plan will damage tourism on Anglesey, say council on Thursday says National Grid plans to erect towering electricity pylons across Anglesey will damage tourism, warn council chiefs.

As we know the National Grid is consulting on proposals for new grid connections for the Wylfa B and the offshore wind farm array, and there is an ongoing debate as to whether the new connections should be subsea and underground. Not unsurprisingly the preferred option is new overhead lines, which got me thinking whether they will be the new T-Pylon design, shown above. You can follow the progress of the new design at the National Grid T-talk blog.

And if you want to read about the options considered for the new connection, costs and other factors: National Grid - North Wales Connections Strategic Options Report. (pdf file) - You will find that the subsea option is at least twice as expensive than overhead lines.

For at the end of the day it will be mostly down to cost, irrespective how desirable the more expensive option may be to all of us.

Section 9, Electricity Act 1989 says:

9 General duties of licence holders.

(1)It shall be the duty of an electricity distributor—
(a)to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of electricity distribution;
b)to facilitate competition in the supply and generation of electricity.

(2)It shall be the duty of the holder of a licence authorising him to transmit electricity—
a)to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of electricity transmission; and
b). . ., to facilitate competition in the supply and generation of electricity.

And in Schedule 9:

1(1)In formulating any relevant proposals, a licence holder or a person authorised by exemption to generate, transmit, distribute or supply electricity—
a)shall have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty, of conserving flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest and of protecting sites, buildings and objects of architectural, historic or archeological interest; and

(b)shall do what he reasonably can to mitigate any effect which the proposals would have on the natural beauty of the countryside or on any such flora, fauna, features, sites, buildings or objects.

The National Grid’s commitments when undertaking work in the UK is set out in their stakeholder, community and amenity policy - to download

And if your thinking what does 'have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty etc' mean, the following is an extract from the Court of Sessions -Judicial Review of a decision of the Scottish Ministers made on 22 December 2011 granting detailed consent under the Electricity Act 1989, section 36 for an application by Dorenell Limited (UK) for the construction of a wind farm on the Glenfiddich Estate, Morayshire, which was dismissed on all grounds:

....[4]In the summary of the report of the inquiry, the reporter explains that the wind farm would be around 8km to the south of Dufftown, and 2km from the northern edge of the Cairngorms National Park. The application proposes 59 turbines on a site extending to 21.5 square kilometres. The wind farm would be operational for 25 years. The reporter proceeded upon the basis that the determining issues in relation to the section 36 application were (i) the need for the wind farm and national energy policy and guidance, (ii) its environmental and other impacts, including tourism and recreation, and economic benefits and impacts, and aviation safety, and (iii) the development plan, other planning policies, guidance and advice, the Cairngorms National Park plan, and the requirements of schedule 9. The determining issues in relation to the decision on whether to direct that planning permission should be deemed to be granted were the same, under exception of the reference to schedule 9. 

[5] Overall the reporter concluded that the proposals would make a significant contribution towards meeting and surpassing national renewable energy targets. The site benefited from a good wind resource. The proposals would result in landscape and visual effects of substantial adverse significance, but these would be localised and limited in extent. In his judgment, the landscape in the area has the capacity to absorb the proposals. The landscape and visual effects, including the cumulative effects and the effects on the National Park, were acceptable. He was satisfied that an appropriate layout had been achieved. There would be adverse effects on recreation, most notably on walkers and hillwalkers in the local area. However these did not justify rejection of the proposals. The effects on the key industries of tourism, food and drink, and their brand images, would not justify rejection. The economic benefit arising would be small.

 [6] With regard to the proposed mitigation measures, the reporter was satisfied that the effects on birds and other wildlife inhabitats would not be sufficiently adverse to justify refusal. He was satisfied that the integrity of the River Spey Special Area of Conservation and the interests of the two European protected species on site (otters and bats) would not be adversely affected.

 You can read the full judgement at  the Scotland Courts website.

So if those opposed to the pylons want National Grid to consider the alternative subsea and underground options they need to show that the National Grid is not following it's own community and amenity policy and/or the Halford Rules. Also that the proposals will be worse than what exists currently, in that....there is already a connection to the grid across the island, which I assume will be taken away when Wylfa A is finally closed. And a reasonable question is what evidence is there that the existing pylons put off visitors from visiting Anglesey - and how much worse would the new pylons make the situation?

Of course there will be an adverse effect, especially locally near to the pylons, but will this in monetary terms be more than the additional cost of the alternative subsea and underground options?

The National Policy Statement for Electricity Networks Infrastructure (EN-5) says.."The Planning Inspectorate should, however, only refuse consent for overhead line proposals in favour of an underground or subsea line if it is satisfied that the benefits from the non-overhead line alternative will clearly outweigh any extra economic, social and environmental impacts and the technical difficulties are surmountable."

See also National Policy Statements for Energy Infrastructure.

And there you have it, the crux of the matter, that until national policy is changed we will be having pylons.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Jobs - a look behind the headlines

Today saw the publication of the latest employment figures from ONS: Labour Market Statistics, December 2012.

BBC News headlines where - UK unemployment falls by 82,000, says ONS

However let us look behind the headlines. If we start with the quarterly growth in the total of people estimated to be employed in the UK:

You will notice that in the last quarter Aug-Oct 2012 the growth in the number of people employed grew as compared to the previous quarter, but less than the same quarter last year. Also in the last quarter there was 54 thousand more men in employment, whereas for women there was 13 thousand less in employment.

And if we look at the growth in workforce jobs in the last quarter:

The growth has come from new employee jobs. Previously there has been a concern about part time and self employed jobs, but this quarter the number fell:

And if we break down growth in employment to regions:

And unemployed by region:

You will notice a growth in unemployed in the growth engine of the UK which is London.

Finally the change in those classed as economical inactive since the previous quarter by region:

And of those economical inactive the change in the last quarter is:

To summaries,  whilst the economy is in the doldrums with low growth, jobs are still being created in the private sector, mostly it seems in Yorkshire and the Humber. 

Notes: Figures in charts in thousands, click on charts to enlarge. Data from ONS.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

And what of the internet - post Leveson

Alison Gow; the editor of the Daily Post, in her Saturday 'feedback on the week in news' talks about the internet, and to paraphrase builds on this idea populated by the some in the media that somehow because the internet is not 'regulated' then neither should newspapers, and that Lord Justice Leveson 'missed an opportunity to at least open an important discussion.'

To start the Leveson Inquiry was an inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press and not the world wide web, and it can be said that the fact she is writing about it, as are many others, surely means Leveson has indeed opened and important discussion about the internet.

This is what Lord Justice Leveson had to say on the relevance of the internet to the inquiry in volume II chapter 7:

3.1 Many editors and commentators have argued that the burgeoning of the internet is likely to render irrelevant much of the work of the Inquiry even assuming that it has not already done so. If, for example, celebrity X’s privacy is violated online, then the metaphorical cat is well out of the bag, and there is no reason why open season should not exist in the printed media. A clear exemplification of that argument is the justification used by The Sun in relation to the Prince Harry photographs, discussed in Chapter 5.

3.2 In my view, this argument is flawed for two reasons. Putting to one side publications such as the Mail Online which bind themselves voluntarily to the Editors’ Code of Practice (and which is legitimately proud of the world-wide on line readership that it has built up), the internet does not claim to operate by any particular ethical standards, still less high ones. Some have called it a ‘wild west’ but I would prefer to use the term ‘ethical vacuum’. This is not to say for one moment that everything on the internet is therefore unethical. That would be a gross mischaracterisation of the work of very many bloggers and websites which should rightly and fairly be characterised as valuable and professional. The point I am making is a more modest one, namely that the internet does not claim to operate by express ethical standards, so that bloggers and others may, if they choose, act with impunity.

3.3 The press, on the other hand, does claim to operate by and adhere to an ethical code of conduct. Publishers of newspapers will be (or, at least, are far more likely to be) far more heavily resourced than most, if not all, bloggers and websites that report news (as opposed to search engines that direct those on line to different sites). Newspapers, through whichever medium they are delivered, purport to offer a quality product in all senses of that term. Although in the light of the events leading to the setting up of this Inquiry and the evidence I have heard, the public is entitled to be sceptical about the true quality of parts of that product in certain sections of the press, the premise on which newspapers operate remains constant: that the Code will be adhered to, that within the bounds of natural human error printed facts whether in newsprint or online will be accurate, and that individual rights will be respected. In contrast, the internet does not function on this basis at all. People will not assume that what they read on the internet is trustworthy or that it carries any particular assurance or accuracy; it need be no more than one person’s view. There is none of the notional imprimatur or kitemark which comes from being the publisher of a respected broadsheet or, in its different style, an equally respected mass circulation tabloid.

3.4 The second reason largely flows from the first. There is a qualitative difference between photographs being available online and being displayed, or blazoned, on the front page of a newspaper such as The Sun. The fact of publication in a mass circulation newspaper multiplies and magnifies the intrusion, not simply because more people will be viewing the images, but also because more people will be talking about them. Thus, the fact of publication inflates the apparent newsworthiness of the photographs by placing them more firmly within the public domain and at the top of the news agenda. As Professor Baroness Onora O’Neill made clear [..], it is important:

“to recognise the extent to which exposure to media content is unchosen – particularly by children, those in institutional settings, and those in public places. Regulation should have regard to the realities of media penetration rather than assuming that it always reflects consumer choices.”

3.5 Ultimately, this is most decidedly not a debate about free speech. A newspaper’s right to publish what it chooses within the general law (whether or not it complies with the Editors’ Code) is not in question, although within a more robust regulatory framework the consequences of a breach of the Code, publication having occurred, might well be such as to have a deterrent effect. To turn this into a debate about free speech both misses the point and is in danger of creating the sort of moral relativism which has already been remarked on. This is, or at least should be, a debate about freedom with responsibility, and about an ethical press not doing something which it is technically quite able to do but decides not to do. This freedom (and where the editors choose to draw the line whether rightly or otherwise) was neatly encapsulated by the decisions taken in relation to Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The 'Prince William and Kate' affect on Anglesey

As you would be with any other couple, you can only be happy for 'Wills and Kate' and their good news - patter of tiny feet etc etc...granny and grandad must be 'chuffed'.

And according to some this is also good news for Anglesey. Which got me thinking...if you look at Google Trends....and the trends for 'Kate Middleton'

The highest trend; up to 6 December 2012, being for the lawsuit and those topless pictures, which maybe confirms the old adage......there's no such thing as bad publicity. The trends for Prince William are

And his highest trend; up to 6 December 2012, was the wedding. For Anglesey..

And the biggest trend was after the wedding and they returned to the cottage on Anglesey - 'Back to remote cottage on Anglesey for Royal Couple'.

As you can see the largest Google search for 'Anglesey' has been from the UK, and if you delved further from Wales.

Of course you can't really reach any conclusion from these figures, they are just trends in Google searches, other than deduce that whilst the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have risen the profile of Anglesey, it might not be as great as made out by some, and that the main interest in Anglesey remains from within the UK.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A free press and regulation can go side by side.

One of Lord Justice Leveson's main recommendations is:

An independent self regulatory body should be governed by an independent Board. In order to ensure the independence of the body, the Chair and members of the Board must be appointed in a genuinely open, transparent and independent way, without any influence from industry or Government.

And in the Executive Summary, Page 17 paragraph 72 Lord Justice Leveson asks...

72. What would the legislation achieve? Three things. First, it would enshrine, for the first time, a legal duty on the Government to protect the freedom of the press. Second, it would provide an independent process to recognise the new self-regulatory body and reassure the public that the basic requirements of independence and effectiveness were met and continue to be met; in the Report, I recommend that this is done by Ofcom.(my emphasis) Third, by recognising the new body, it would validate its standards code and the arbitral system sufficient to justify the benefits in law that would flow to those who subscribed; these could relate to data protection and the approach of the court to various issues concerning acceptable practice, in addition to costs consequences if appropriate alternative dispute resolution is available.

And in there lies the answer as to why there is strong opposition to the Leveson Report, especially from right wing politicians and press - they hate Ofcom. After all before the last election David Cameron said the Conservatives would abolish Ofcom.

Lord Justice Leveson continues:

73. Despite what will be said about these recommendations by those who oppose them, this is not, and cannot be characterised as, statutory regulation of the press. What is proposed here is independent regulation of the press organised by the press, with a statutory verification process to ensure that the required levels of independence and effectiveness are met by the system in order for publishers to take advantage of the benefits arising as a result of membership.

74. In the light of all that has been said, I must recognise the possibility that the industry could fail to rise to this challenge and be unable or unwilling to establish a system of independent self-regulation that meets the criteria. I have made it clear that I firmly believe it to be in the best interest of the public and the industry that it should indeed accept the challenge. What is more, given the public entitlement to some accountability of the press, I do not think that either the victims or the public would accept the outcome if the industry did not grasp this opportunity. Neither do I think the public would find it acceptable if I were to overlook the consequences of the industry doing so.

75. For the sake of completeness I have therefore set out in the Report the options that I believe would be open to the Government to pursue, and some views on the potential way forward, in that regrettable event: these include requiring Ofcom to act as a backstop regulator for those not prepared to join such a scheme. I have made no recommendation in relation to this situation, nor do any of the options in this paragraph amount to an outcome that I want to see.

Now I've already posted about how Finland has a self-regulating press underpinned by statute - Leveson and Press Freedom. and Finland jointly tops the Press Freedom Index 2011-2012.

In the index the UK is 28 and the Republic of Ireland is 15. In Ireland they have a self regulating Press Council and Press Ombudsman, which are independent of both government and media. See Press Council of Ireland.

And the legislation that underpins this independent body is the Defamation Act 2009.

In his reply to the Leveson Report the Guardian says ....[David] Cameron said he had "serious concerns and misgivings" in principle to any statutory interference in the media. He warned: "It would mean for the first time we have crossed the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into law of the land."

Cameron argued: "We should think very very carefully before crossing this line," warning that parliament for centuries had seen its role as a bulwark of democracy. "We should be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and the free press."

Although as I said in a previous post - Leveson and regulation of the press 'statutory interference' with the media can be found as far back as 1881, and the public interest defence.

Of course he is right we should be weary of any legislation that infringes free speech and free press. However, as Finland and Ireland have shown this is not a reason to stop any legislation that underpins self regulation and protects the principles of free speech and of a free press.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Gwynt y Môr Windfarm.

The work on the Gwynt y Môr Windfarm is in full swing, and should you be interested here are a few websites to visit:

AWJ Marine - for weekly progress reports, and notices to mariners.

Vessels at Holyhead - created to observe a busy port, and ships involved with Gwynt y Môr. One of which was the the impressive Stanislav Yudin, a state- of-the-art crane vessel shown below:

Ship AIS - where you can keep track of the ship involved with the project.

RWE - Gwynt y Môr. - News and details about RWE Innogy's flagship Gwynt y Môr Offshore Wind Farm,  currently the largest in construction anywhere in Europe.

Siemen UK - details and news about their substation for Gwynt y Môr.

Leveson and regulation of the press

A simple fact - newspapers are already subject to statutory legislation and regulation in the UK.

Take for example the newspapers main line of defence, when publishing articles - that it was in the public interest to do so.

And consider Section 4 of the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act 1881

4. Inquiry by court of summary jurisdiction as to libel being for public benefit or being true.

A court of summary jurisdiction, upon the hearing of a charge against a proprietor, publisher, or editor, or any person responsible for the publication of a newspaper, for a libel published therein, may receive evidence as to the publication being for the public benefit, and as to the matters charged in the libel being true, and as to the report being fair and accurate, and published without malice, and as to any matter which under this or any other Act, or otherwise, might be given in evidence by way of defence by the person charged on his trial on indictment, and the court, if of opinion after hearing such evidence that there is a strong or probable presumption that the jury on the trial would acquit the person charged, may dismiss the case.

So if we already have a piece of legislation that projects press freedom, then surely there can't be any objection to further legislation that underpins self-regulation and protects press freedom.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Holyhead Marine and Sydney Pilot Boats.

Sharp the second Sydney Pilot Boat - © Vessels at Holyhead. 

Here's a good quiz question - what is the connection between Holyhead and Sydney?

The answer, hat tip to the blog Vessels at Holyhead, is pilot boats as explained in the Sydney Ports Newsletter April 2012:

New Pilot Boat on Track for September
It has yet to be launched and is yet to be named but, if all goes to plan, Sydney Ports will have its first new pilot boat in 23 years in September this year.

The first of two new boats on order, construction of the 16 metre vessel is well underway and is expected to begin sea trials in late June. [2012]

It is being built by North Wales based Holyhead Marine which has more than 40 years experience designing and building work boats, tugs and pilot boats for clients around the world.

Our second boat is also being built there and will be ready for trials towards the end of the year.

Harbour Master Philip Holliday says our old boats have earned their pending retirement having served us well for up to 31 years.

“Our crews have developed strong bonds with our old boats and it won’t be easy for them to say goodbye but our new vessels have a proven track record in numerous ports around the world and I’m confident they’ll become respected work horses on the Sydney Ports fleet.

“They have double chine hulls that handle big seas very well and each will have two 600-horsepower Scania engines capable of driving these 24-tonne boats at better than 25 knots.

Philip said the first boat is expected to be shipped to Australia in September and ready for use later that month.

See also: Sydney Ports October 2012 Newsletter - The First of Three New Pilot Vessels Arrives.

It's good to see that not only do we import ships from down under, we also export some there too, and is further confirmation of the growing success story that is Holyhead Marine

For more pictures of  'Sharp' the second pilot boat see the blog Vessels at Holyhead.

The Netherlands, flood plains and being prepared.

There was an interesting letter in the Daily Post on Friday, from John Lloyd, Chairman of the Flood Prevention Society.

Most of it repeats their claim that all flooding is the fault of the Environment Agency - whom allegedly don't employ any civil engineers.....and civil engineers as we all know are next to GOD and must be obeyed on all occasions...."If they'd done what the civil engineers wanted there would be no flooding and no mistake".

His final paragraph is thus "Holland is 60% below sea level but not declared a flood plain - it's water courses are maintained by river civil engineers, not bird watchers!"

In the first place I assume he means Netherlands, of which Holland is only a region. And then when he says they have no declared flood plains (not really sure what he means) he must have not read the following from Flood maps in the Netherlands (a pdf file):

...Because of this, Dutch flood protection policy concentrates on prevention against floods, i.e. minimizing the probability of flooding. However, absolute protection is impossible, there will always remain a small chance that strong and impressive protection works fail. The flooding of New Orleans (September 2005) has illustrated the damage and disruption that may occur when large metropolitan areas are flooded. Therefore, in addition to flood prevention, it is crucial to be prepared for flooding as well. This policy is needed to minimize damage, casualties and disruption when the rare disaster becomes reality.

And this from Spiegel Online - Dutch Answer to Flooding: Build Houses that Swim.

Climate patterns today suggest that torrential rainfall is something we can expect plenty more of in the future. This year's floods in the Alps or those along the River Elbe three years ago could well be warning signs of what awaits us. Climatologists predict that precipitation in The Netherlands could increase as much as 25 percent. At the same time, because of the small kingdom's dense population, there is increasing pressure to build in areas prone to flooding. Already, though, the country defies the laws of physics simply by existing: More than a quarter of its land lies below sea level. And, year by year, the land is sinking a little bit lower. The Dutch protect themselves from going under through a network of canals and pumps. It is not only the sea which threatens the mighty barrage on the coast. On the other side lies the Rhine River, which branches out and forms a wide-reaching delta with the Maas. To prevent such huge swaths of land from flooding in summer and winter storms, the Dutch are designating more and more land along their rivers as flood zones. Within the next few decades, the area will compose close to 500,000 hectares -- or about twice the size of the German state of Saarland.

And this from University of Twente ... Last year [2005] in the Netherlands 15 locations were allocated along the Rhine branches where – under strong restrictions - it was allowed to build in floodplains.

So in summary they do have flood plains and protected flood zones in Netherlands, and they recognise that even the best designed and built flood defences may fail, and as such they prepare for such eventualities.

The message should be clear, if your property is within an area prone to flooding, even with flood defences in place, you should always ask yourself what would you do in the worst case scenario, and the property is flooded. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best ain't an option anymore. There is plenty of advise and guidance on the internet.

Just in case you are thinking of moving to Netherlands you can find out about potential risks by visiting the following website:,  which  "allows you to discover the risks in your area by entering your post code or place of residence. You can see whether there is an increased risk in your area of, for instance, an aviation accident, natural fires or floods and you receive advice about what you must do in such a case."

Or if your not sure if your property is at risk of flooding here in the UK you can visit the Environment Agency website: Am I at risk of flooding?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Roger Lewis of the Daily Mail is a twat.

Warning this post contains some rude words.

Us here in North Wales have a saying 'part time englishmen' as a derogatory remark about men from South Wales, which these days on the whole is unfair.

However, if someone asked me for an example of such a person, I would refer them to Roger Lewis, the so called journalist whom writes for the Daily Mail.

This nutter and 'part time englishman' recently said this bullshit - "a mob that could teach the Taliban a thing or two - went round vandalising the English road signs." See: Save Wales from the Welsh: Children told they can't go to the loo if they ask in English. Architects shunned if their plans aren't in Welsh. ROGER LEWIS on the nutty Welsh Language Society.

What utter utter crap, of course this twat has form, last year he said - Not many people in full possession of their faculties would find it appealing or necessary to try to turn themselves into a ‘real Welshman’.

Nevertheless, in his quest to call himself a Celt, our author does the maddest thing of all — he actually learns Welsh, by attending evening classes (in London/Llundain) and going on courses. I abhor the appalling and moribund monkey language myself, which hasn’t had a new noun since the Middle Ages — hence pwdin is pudding, snwcer is snooker, tacsi is taxi and bocsio is boxing.
see How I tried to be one of the boyos.

You might say... if you were minded to be kind....that what he is attempting to say; in a cack handed way, is that to be 'Welsh' you don't really need to be able to speak welsh, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I suppose you could also apply the same to the English, and ask whether you to be 'English' you also need to be able to speak english, after all that is the logical conclusion of his argument.

Anyhows as we know with a free press we should expect robust debate, even allowing controversial views....and as such we should also be allowed a reply.....

Roger Lewis of the Daily Mail - you are the weakest fuck off.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Flooding and lessons from USA

I know it's sad for those whom recently have lost possessions in the floods, but then again it's a simple fact - if you own a property near to a river or on a flood plain, even an old flood plain, then you have to expect that sometime in your lifetime your property may be flooded.

Not unsurprisingly every time a flooding incident occurs the politicians are out in force, talking of "shocking scenes of flooding"(copyright David Cameron). And demanding that more defenses be built to protect properties.

But is building more flood defenses the long term answer?

In the USA they have long realised that this is not the answer.

"Flooding remains the most common and one of the most costly categories of natural hazards in the United States. Historically, the United States has relied on structural mitigation, insurance, and disaster relief to mitigate the harm done by floods. However, experience has shown that structural mitigation and related policies can fail to protect lives and property while also contributing to the degradation of the riverine environment."

The above from River Ecology and Flood Hazard Mitigation.

As it seems likely due to 'global warming' we will see extreme weather more often, we need to get a grip of development within flood plains. First of all because of the environmental damage that is does, and secondly because of the high cost in the long term of doing so.

What we really need is a Environment Agency with real teeth, that can have the powers to stop damaging development in flood plains, or developments that would be likely to contribute to damage in flood plains.

But realistically that's not going to happen is it? - can you see any of the main stream parties with enough backbone to legislate for that?

As for existing properties, the answer is seems is to work with nature, and i.e. allow for controlled flooding, which is after all a natural occurrence, and allow low lying farm land to be flooded, with compensation to the farmer, in order to reduce the flow of the river. As the above paper says:

Given these features of flooding and the policy responses to floods, we recommend that federal agencies address flood hazards by using one or a combination of the following techniques, listed in descending order of desirability:

1. Avoid the risk.
2. Minimize impacts of risk.
3. Mitigate risks.
4. Indemnify or insure against loss; compensate.

Risk avoidance is at the heart of Executive Order 11988’s mandate; if this executive order were more effectively implemented, our recommendation would be implicitly adopted, with risk avoidance becoming the preferred tool. Currently, however, federal agencies seek primarily to mitigate and indemnify, not to avoid risks whenever possible.

Which is more or less the situation also in the UK.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Wylfa B - a cash bonanza?

If in the long term Wylfa B gets built, quite rightly there should be some planning gain for the benefit of the community as a whole. But what can we expect in this regard. Well, a good pointer would be the S106 agreement between the developers of Hinkley C and Somerset councils.

Below is an extract from Somerset County Council website:

Somerset councils and EDF Energy have signed a landmark agreement which will deliver nearly £100 million for local communities to mitigate the impact of the proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C.....

[...which will] pay for a range of measures for communities most affected by the development, including:
  • Up to £8.5 million for a housing fund to mitigate potential impacts on the local housing market, including the refurbishment of local properties
  • £12.8 million as the balance of a £20 million community fund for measures to enhance the quality of life in local communities. The £12.8 million will be independently administered by the Somerset Community Foundation, with council, community and EDF Energy representation on the awarding panel
  • Nearly £16 million on a variety of highway improvement schemes, particularly in and around Bridgwater, to ease traffic and enhance road safety
  • Over £7.1 million to improve local skills and training, including a final £2 million instalment for the Energy Skills Centre at Bridgwater College
  • Up to £4.6 million towards community safety measures
  • Almost £5.5 million to support economic development and tourism initiatives
  • More than £3 million to support local education provision and provide extra school places, if necessary
  • Almost £1 million to support local health services
  • £300,000 to be spent on local heritage
  • £350,000 to pay for landscape and visual improvements
  • More than £440,000 to support improvements to public rights of way
  • Over £865,000 on environmental measures, including contributions towards flood defence measures in Cannington (£500,000), Bridgwater (£220,000) and Stolford (£80,000)
  • More than £3.6 million to provide additional resources to the local authorities so that they can monitor and ensure the successful implementation of the development and continue to work closely with local communities

Of course for both Hinkley C and Wylfa B to be built there will have to be some form of public subsidy. An article in the Telegraph says "Subsidies for new nuclear power could add £70 to annual household energy bills, Ian Marchant, the chief executive of SSE warns.

If we carry out a very simple exercise you would say that on Anglesey in 2011 there was 30,600 households, which would need to find £70 more to pay for their electricity annually, that's a total of £2,142,000 - over £2 million. And if we apply that over the likely lifetime of Wylfa B, 20 years that's a grand total of £42,840,000 or nearly £43 million. Or on the same basis for the number of households in Wales a grand total of £1,823,780,000 nearly £2 billion.

As I said a simple exercise, but it rather puts the £20 million community fund at Hinkley C into some sort of context at least, and makes you ask whether this current UK government energy policy is the best way foward to secure a safe and affordable energy supply for the future. 

Supreme Court gives green light to historic bill.

The good people of Wales voted in a referendum to give the Welsh Assembly more law making powers. It made sense to simplify the way bills became law, removing the need to first seek permission from the Westminster Parliament and associated red tape.

It was fitting therefore that the first bill passed by the Welsh Assembly following this referendum was the Local Government Byelaws (Wales) Bill, which made it easier for Councils and others to make byelaws, without the need to seek confirmation from any Welsh Minister. Again a sensible proposition....the removal of more red tape.

However, the then Welsh Secretary 'Sad' Cheryl Gillian decided that the bill exceeded the Welsh Assembly powers and refereed the bill to the Supreme Court. I posted about it at the time see: Sad Gillian wants to play byelaws.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled that the Welsh Assembly had the legislative competence to enact the Bill. You can download the full transcript from the Supreme Court's website.
Hat tip: Betsan Powys, BBC Wales.

The following are extracts from the judgement, highlighting the key issues:

LORD NEUBERGER (with whom Lord Clarke, Lord Reed and Lord Carnwath agree)....

48. In my view, this point highlights the way in which the Bill is structured, and, more importantly for present purposes, it tends to support the argument advanced by the Counsel General, namely that the removal by the Bill of the Secretary of State’s power to confirm byelaws under section 236(11) is indeed “incidental to, or consequential on” one of the principal purposes of section 6 of the Bill, which is, as section 1 states, to remove the requirement for confirmation by the Welsh Ministers, as part of the overall streamlining and modernising of the way in which byelaws are made in Wales.

49. The answer to the question whether a particular provision in an enactment is “incidental to, or consequential on” another provision, obviously turns on the facts of the particular case. The answer may to some extent be a question of fact and degree, and it should turn on substance rather than form, although, of course, in any well drafted Bill, the substance will be reflected in the form, at least in relation to that sort of question......

52. Section 6 of the Bill plainly is intended to have the effect of removing the need for confirmation by the Welsh Ministers of any byelaw made under the scheduled enactments. That is a primary purpose of the Bill, as is clear from reading the provisions quoted above, both in itself and for the purpose of streamlining and modernising the making of byelaws.......

61. The Attorney General’s argument is that section 9 would “confer power” on the Welsh Ministers “by subordinate legislation to remove or modify … pre-commencement function[s] of a Minister of the Crown”. Accordingly, he argues, by virtue of section 108(6)(a) of, and paragraph 1(1) of Part 2 of Schedule 7 to, the 2006 Act, the section is outside the legislative competence of the Assembly.....

63. Although it is perfectly true that there are no express words in section 9 which limit its scope in this way, I am satisfied that it does have such a limited effect. That is because of the simple legal principle, identified by Lord Reed, embodied in the Latin maxim nemo dat quod non habet. Given that the jurisdiction of the Assembly is limited to removing, or delegating the power to remove, functions of Ministers of the Crown when the removal satisfies the requirements of paragraph 6(1)(b) of Part 3 of Schedule 7 to the 2006 Act, the Assembly cannot confer a wider power on Welsh Ministers. Accordingly, the wide words of section 9 must be read as being circumscribed in their scope so as to render the section valid.

I suppose to be fair to 'Sad' Gillian MP the judgement does not say she was wrong in one sense, but confirmed 'the terms on which she was prepared to give her consent to Section 6 of the Bill' - to long as the bill did not confer onto Welsh Government Ministers additional powers outside the scope of the Welsh Assembly. Lord Neuberger says:

67. It should be added that, although this is a successful outcome for the Assembly and the Counsel General, it cannot be regarded as a setback in practical terms for the Secretary of State. Somewhat curiously, the conclusion I have reached as to the effect of section 9 is one which reflects the terms on which she was prepared to give her consent to Section 6 of the Bill.

Having said that, and in light of the Supreme Court judgement, you really do need to ask whether it was absolutely necessary to refer the matter to them in the first place. How much did this cost for starters, and the fact as David Jones, Welsh Secretary points out that..."it was entirely proper for the Attorney General to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court at that stage" does not make the decision to do so right or proper.

I find it ironic that the above judgement came out in the same week that David Cameron, Prime Minister promised a crackdown on judicial reviews of government decisions.

And finally we really need to question the purpose and function of the Welsh Secretary and associated expense -  is it a bureaucracy we can do without?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Education in Wales - time for change?

We in Wales have a good education system, with many dedicated and hardworking teachers, the question though is it good enough?

In a speech this week Leighton Andrews, Education Minister has ordered a wide raging review of education in Wales, and one possibility might be removing education from the control of local councils. Not unsurprisingly the Local Government Association is against such move, but then again the phrase turkeys voting for Christmas comes to mind.

I'm not convinced that education standards will be improved if left up to local councils. Neither am I convinced that best decisions; which in the main should be evidence based and logical, will be made by a bunch of self preening headline grabbing politicians. We on Anglesey have been moribund for decades due to petty infighting amongst our infantile councillors.

The below is a re-post of what I said last September:

Education in Wales - some suggestions

The education system in Wales needs to be reformed, as Leighton Andrews has said we have far too many Education Authorities.

So here are some ideas:

There should be a maximum of 6 Education and Training Boards

All children would be guaranteed a standard education until the age of 18.

A national body would set minimum education standards, but teachers would be allowed to decide how this is achieved.

Each child would have a guaranteed personal education budget for life set by the Welsh Assembly.

There would be a mixture of private and public early learning centres for children between the ages of 5 to 7, with an emphasises on learning by play and participation. Parents would have a choice of where to send there children, however for any establishment charging more than the standard cost parents would need to fund the additional costs.

As these early years are crucial there would be no means testing of the guaranteed element of public funding.

Between the ages of 7 and 16, children would attend area schools. This is where they would learn their 'foundation' education. Parents would have a choice between private and public schools, but parents would need to fund the cost of any private schooling themselves - other than for private or charity 'not for profit' schools.

After 16 they would have a choice of either a vocational course or academic courses, with emphasises for the majority on vocational training.

Vocational courses would in partnership with a private company or public authority or a charity. Public funding would be provided for part of the training, and for small and medium size companies additional tax concessions to encourage participation.

So after 16 (should they decide not to follow an academic route) they could either become an apprentice or stay on at a vocational college till the age of 18. I suppose they could leave school when 16, and there could be many valid reasons why. But say later they change their mind they could still call upon the balance left in their personal education budget to learn again.

The above are mere suggestions, no costing exercise has been carried out, make of them what you may, for I am no education expert, nor do I claim to be one. As I often say my poor grammar alone is proof of that.

See also Time to support and invest in good teachers.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Employment - a look behind the headlines

Yesterday brought some good news on the employment front, as reported by BBC News "The number of people out of work in the UK has fallen to its lowest total for more than a year."

But if you look behind the figures things don't seem that good - take the change in employment over one year in percentage terms:  In employment an increase of 1.8% (513) - of which number of employees rose by 1.3% (319); number of self employed rose by 2.7% (112); number of unpaid family members rose by 4.6% (5) and number in government supported training & employment programmes rose by 86.6% (77). (figures in brackets are in thousands)

And of those, over a year, there was an increase 0.9% (197) in full time employment and an increase of 4% (316) in part time employment. Which can be split further down as follows:

EFT Employed full time - EPT Employed part time, SFT self employed full time - SPT self employed part time. 

Another worrying trend is the increase in number unemployed for more than 12 months:

Finally, regional change in employment since July to September 2011:

and changes in unemployed:

Data from ONS Labour Market Statistics, November 2012

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Growth in Wales tops league

The key findings of the latest Lloyds TSB Wales PMI® complied by Markit says:
  • Business activity grows at fastest rate since February 2011
  • Improvement backed by stronger gain in new business and backlog clearance
  • Input price inflation at five-month high

The Markit press release says: "The latest PMI survey signalled that the recovery in the Welsh private sector economy gained momentum at the start of the fourth quarter. Wales posted a faster increase in private sector output than all other UK regions, and new business growth was the fastest in 20 months. On a less positive note, employment fell slightly and input prices rose at the strongest rate in five months.

Though this may be only a small silver lining on the dark clouds fast approaching.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Let's get real - we need to know who abused the kids.

It's a simple truth, there has for a long time been rumors of a circle of paedophiles that abused already damaged kids at Bryn Estyn, but whom because of their standing in society were afforded a high level of protection.

As I've said before, as someone who was indirectly involved in subsequent Bryn Estyn inquires the notion that there was a circle of paedophiles consisting of senior members of the establishment does not surprise me in the least.  I heard names mentioned and allegation made, but knew that due to their standing; they being rich and 'upstanding members of society' against young and vulnerable kids, the chance of prosecution was slim.

It though does not excuse the fact that out there; still free, is a Senior Conservative who allegedly is a paedophile who abused young children from Bryn Estyn, together with others in a sick circle of paedophiles at the time.

Someone who is powerful and in charge of the establishment can find it very easy to abuse their position, be that a boss groping his secretary or a TV star abusing young children....because there are plenty; who in fear will not allow themselves to see the truth, and bow to the majesty of the abusers deceit.

The Conservative Party need to get real, they need to cut out this cancer once and for all, they know who the paedophiles are, get it done, get it sorted......they without doubt have the evidence....locked away in some lawyers safe... circling the wagons and attempting to blame everyone else wont wash this time.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The politicians answer - hold a review and make it comprehensive.

As we know the Welsh Ambulance service has failed to meet it target of reaching 65% of emergency calls within 8 minutes. As I said yesterday, as a measure of the quality of the service, this arbitrary target is rather pointless, as it easier to meet in large cities and towns than in rural areas. Then there are the factors outside the control of the Ambulance Service that affect these times.......poor weather or busy A&E meaning Ambulances having longer waits, to name but two.

Ideally what you should to do is combine the fire service and the ambulance service into an all Wales Emergency Response Service, and separating the transfer of patients back in to the local heath boards responsibility. Well that what happens in most other countries.

But that not going to happen is it, and if you want to increase response times, which after all is really just an exercise in logistics, making sure you have enough ambulances in the right place at the right time, I suspect what you need is more ambulances, more staff and more money. Especially in the future, with fewer hospitals and greater travel distances,  tying Ambulances and Paramedics up longer.

But of course we ain't got the money, they struggled to agree the Ambulance budget this year, no doubt the health boards wanted to pay less, but demanded a better service.

As reported by  BBC Wales - Lesley Griffiths [the Health Minister] has announced plans to improve response times as well as holding a "comprehensive review" into the service......

It failed to meet the target of responding to 65% of the most urgent calls within eight minutes for the fourth successive month.

But the minister announced she wants to increase the Category A target to 70% of calls whereas in England it stands at 75%.

A final decision will be made after the review is completed, the Welsh government said.

Ah the politicians default position, when they cant make a decision ...which in this case should either be give  more monies to the Ambulance Service to improve their response times, or be honest and say in these days of austerity this is the best we can hope to achieve as things stand.

But no kick it into the long grass by announcing a comprehensive review. Although to be fair to Lesley Griffiths I suspect that in her in tray, there are far more important and controversial issues she needs to deal being the proposed closure of many community hospitals. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Obama and the UK media

Oh for fuck sake, I used to like John Snow...he of Channel 4, but his apparent shock that Obama won is a bit sad and mad...and also rather pathetic....

Apparently and allegedly Obama won 'cause of immigrants, sorry but putting aside the native Americans...all Americans will be descended from immigrants.

The narrative it seems is 'how could Obama win with the USA in a recession' although technically speaking the USA is not in a recession.

If the USA is in recession or about to fall into recession with growth of 1.3 and 2 for the last two quarters...then we here in the UK must be really really fucked.

And whilst the rest of the world were looking towards the USA and the presidential elections, where was our PM David Cameron....yes selling fucking arms to the couldn't bloody make it up.

999 responce times and pointless statistics.

Am always surprised by the fascination the media and politicians have with arbitrary statistics, see Tom Bodden in today's Daily Post.  Take the response times for welsh ambulances and a target that 65% arrive within 8 minutes. Why 8 minutes..why not 10...why 65% - do they actually mean anything? - other than putting pressure on already hard working paramedics. For this statistic measures nothing really, it doesn't show us the 'outcomes'- the quality of care received during the golden hour, and neither can you really use it compare regions.

I've a feeling this statistic was made up by some civil servant living in a large city such as Cardiff. Whereas things are different in rural areas such as Anglesey, and our poor roads, many narrow and winding. It's also a statistic better suited to the olden days, when you had ambulance drivers, whose main job was to chuck you as quick as possible int' back of ambulance and rush you off to hospital, so Doctor could make you all better.

These days we have dedicated and hard working paramedics, whose priority on arriving is to asses the patient and stablise his or hers condition, and if things are really really bad there is always the Wales Air Ambulance to call in, to whisk them away to the nearest Accident and Emergency.

I suppose the clock stops when they reach the location, again easy in a big city, but what about in rural villages and post codes that cover large areas, and houses with no names, and then there's the weather especially over winter, far better that the ambulance arrives in one piece, than not at all.

After all life is about risk, and if you decide to live in a rural area far far away from the madding crowd, well you have to accept things like ambulances may take a bit longer to arrive, and if you judge that risk too high...maybe better you move back to the town or city then.  

Monday, 5 November 2012

Web sites saving our local High Streets.

In a recent post I asked can we save our hight streets? - following which I received an email from

Have a look at It's a new project puting indie retailers online working from one portal. Collective marketing and collective effort.

Not having heard of the website, decided to check them out...and this is what the Guardian had to say in report by Joanne O'Connell:

"No one wants to see their high street crumble. But with household budgets at breaking point, what's the incentive to go local? Supermarkets and online retail giants offer discount prices, 24/7 shopping and deliveries. According to a recent report, some products, such as toys, are as much as 60% cheaper online.

However, two schemes aim to breathe life back into our beleaguered high streets and both allow customers to shop locally on their mobile, PC or tablet.  Customers can either click and collect, or have purchases delivered to their door.

A good endorsement as ever...and trust you'll take a look ...

Friday, 2 November 2012

Welsh Assembly and the Welsh language.

A few days ago David Jones MP and Welsh Secretary said "..This is also very important for the Welsh Language..." when talking about Wylfa B. (see below)

You would think therefore that a Welsh Government bill; intended to put Welsh and English on an equal footing in the Welsh Assembly, would be welcomed as another important step for the welsh language.

Um....well in the first place not sure why this wasn't one of the founding principles of the Welsh Assembly - that the languages of welsh and english had an equal footing - surely the first legal officer for the assembly none other than Winston Roddick QC has some questions to answer?

So a bit confused why "The Wales Office had questioned whether the assembly had law-making powers over the English language." as reported by  BBC Wales News

Or in other words 'how dare they challenge the supremacy of the english language.'

The Attorney General Dominic Grieve though has decided not to take the Official Languages Bill to the Supreme Court.

As Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith said [to the BBC]: "David Jones now has questions to answer as to why he persisted in seeking this wasteful review of the assembly's legislative competence - established after last year's referendum - and what has been the full cost associated with his referral."

Not sure I'll believe a word David Jones MP ever says again.......enough said.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Wylfa B and the welsh language

Listening to BBC Wales news last night about  the visit by Hitachi to Wylfa, was struck by a closing disclaimer made by hobnobbing politicians and directors from Hitachi...that there was no guarantees that the 'new' jobs would be local.

Which I think most of us knew anyway, especially during the construction phase. Building a nuclear power station requires a skilled workforce and they tend to travel round the world from job to job. And with fewer countries now building new nuclear plants there's not likely to be a shortage.

Of course there will be some jobs for locals, well someone has to make the tea, and clean the construction offices etc..etc..

Then there are the permanent jobs, which somehow will dissuade the youngsters of the island from crossing the bridge in search of further education and a well paid career.

This assuming that they want to work in the nuclear industry in the first place, want to be engineers and technicians....and not forgetting the skilled workforce that already works at Wylfa, and those who worked at Trawsfynydd.

Whilst reading the Daily Post this morning and showing my age I had a 'I can't believe it' moment or as I said it 'what the fuck'.....

Apparently David Jones MP, Welsh Secretary said and I quote "This is also very important for the Welsh Language, I remember the saying "Heb waith dim gwaith" and am delighted that the young people from the island will not have to leave if they want to live here, work here and raise a family"

Which on one level is true, without jobs you won't have a community no matter what the native language is.....but really as we know during the construction phase the majority of the workers will be from elsewhere, some traveling daily, some renting accommodation during the week not sure how such an influx of migrant workers will help the welsh language.

Especially as rental cost are likely to go up, as to house prices, most probably pricing many young local families out of the market completely, forcing them to move off the island to find a home.

As Tatsuro Issizuka, Vice-president of Hitachi said he expected the majority of the workers to be from the no guarantees about local jobs and only an expectation that the majority of the jobs will be from the UK.

To try to link Wylfa B and the welsh language, in some rather pathetic attempt I think to discredit Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru and their anti nuclear policy is in my opinion rather stupid. Simple message for David Jones MP 'shut the fuck up' and stop treating us like morons.  

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wylfa B - we been here before

So Hitachi have won the bidding to buy Horizon Nuclear and the rights to build two nuclear facilities...predictably politicians are jumping up and down with joy.

The Daily Post also today got a bit carried light to build Wylfa B, up to 6000 jobs will be created during construction..a further 1000 permanent jobs....could be built by 2020...etc etc..

Of course had New Labour not delayed making a decision about nuclear power, then most probably construction work might have already started.

Now not wishing to piss on anybody's parade, there a lot hurdles to jump even before the first brick is laid. Hitachi will need approval of their reactor design, and prove that it meets new standards following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi, a process that Hitachi said could take three to four years. Then planning permission will be required, and that ain't going to be easy nor quick even with the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

And then there is what Hitachi have said themselves, as reported by  Reuters yesterday. Hitachi said it expected to have the first 1,300 megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant in the UK operational by the mid-2020s.

In other words by 2025 Hitachi hope to have one nuclear plant operational, and at the moment as far as we know that could be at Oldbury.

Or this from Advanced boiling water reactors will be installed at the plants on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales and at Oldbury in Gloucestershire, Hitachi said, adding that about 1,000 workers are expected to be employed at each site. Hitachi’s nuclear power systems chief executive Masaharu Hanyu told Japanese media that his company may sell Horizon shares to investors in the future.

“As it is deemed difficult for Hitachi alone to prepare funds for constructing the power stations, we want to solicit investors,” he said, according to the online version of the Nikkei newspaper.

“It will depend on whether Hitachi can develop it into an attractive company,” he said, adding his company would not itself get involved in power generation.

I think there's also a growing realisation that nuclear power might not be the answer we need, especially if we want to cut cost of electricity to consumers. Yes on Anglesey it will bring some local jobs and make the GDP figures look good, but if as a result electricity prices continue to raise and make us uncompetitive is it really a price worth paying?

Not forgetting that on the top of the island we may have a nuclear plant built by the company whose name is for ever associated with Fukushima Daiichi, and whilst they have a track record of delivering safe projects on time and on wonder whether tourist will take the same view, especially with a long snake of pylons cutting and hissing through the countryside.

And we should remember with  RWE and E.ON, and the confidence expressed then....we have been here before.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Can we save our high streets?

In the Daily Post today Dylan Jones Evans, Economic adviser to the Welsh Conservative Party, wrote about the ideas put forward by the Welsh Conservatives in a bid to revive our high streets.

As we know even high streets in large cities and towns are struggling, but it's even worse in smaller towns and villages - the percentage of empty shops growing year on year, as more shops close due to either going bankrupt or moving to out of town retail centers.

Then there is the hassle of finding somewhere to park, a lack of choice, poorly maintained streets, tight household budgets and busy lives.

In other words without adequate footfall high streets are doomed to fade away.

And of course you have the large out of town shopping centers, with their big brand names in large convenient stores, with free parking and easy access. All approved by politicians of all parties - who now seem to be concerned about the demise of the high street.

But let me talk about the elephant in the room, in times of austerity, when money is tight, and we all work long hours to make ends meet, our first priority is to find the best price without hassle, and these days a growing trend is....the first place we look is on the world wide web, especially with more and more of us now owning smart phones.

The ONS in their retail sales report for September says the key points on internet sales are:
  • The average weekly online spend (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in September 2012 was estimated to be £507.8 million, which was an increase of 9.4 per cent when compared with September 2011.
  • The amount spent online was estimated to account for 8.8 per cent of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel.
  • More was spent online in the non-store retailing sector than any other sector. Spending online now accounts for 63.0 per cent of total spending in this sector up from 62.9 per cent in September 2011. In the food sector 3.1 per cent of spending was spent online, up from 2.7 per cent a year earlier. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spend in relation to all spending.

As you can read we still prefer shops for purchase of food items, though more of us are starting to buy online. And we know who dominates the food sector - that would be the supermarkets.

So being realistic any shop on the high street is going to struggle, even specialist shops, unless they can attract the footfall. And one way of doing so is to have a presence on the world wide web, offering a specialised quality service.

Therefore not sure how much tax breaks would really help, after all we would need to raise that money elsewhere - robbing paul to pay peter and all that. As for free parking in town and village centers is a good idea, but whilst paying for parking may discourage some, doubt it's the main problem.

To me the key to saving the high street is proper maintenance of them, a redesign including in many cases making them more car friendly - get rid of pedestrianised zones where they don't work.

But above all seek young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, and give them support and grants to open shops in their local area. Councils should have powers to take over empty shops and offer them to such entrepreneurs as starter units (like you have with industrial units). And the welsh government should ensure that high street shops have access to fast broadband.

We shall not see the traditional high street again, but that does not mean that it cant adapt and grow and be a place for the next generation of entrepreneurs in niche markets to find their feet and prosper.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Really - the answer is borrow more?

Somewhat puzzled by the 'big announcement' yesterday that Welsh Government is to be given powers to borrow money, but only if the Silk Commission recommends giving them tax raising powers also.

Rather a premature and pointless announcement then, until we find out what the Silk Commission recommends. Unless that is the Conservative led Coalition Government have already decided to give the Welsh Government tax rising powers....which begs the question how much has the Silk Commission cost and what was it for?

I think its rather strange, that we are told on one hand the blame for the current economic crisis is down to the public sector borrowing to much, and on the other the answer to kickstart the economy is to borrow more.

Now as far as I can remember the Welsh Government or the previous Welsh Office have always been able to borrow money through the Treasury at London. But the ability to raise or lower its own tax and borrow without London strings, does on paper seem to make sense.

After all and as we know there are many infrastructure projects in Wales in desperate need of cash. Though that shouldn't include the electrification of the North Wales mainline as Ken Skates AM says in todays Daily Post. There are far more important projects we should fund and it's not even a devolved issue.

And when shadow Welsh secretary Owen Smith says 'borrowing is vital to kick-starting infrastructure projects and the economy...this is to be welcomed' you really need to question whether Labour has learnt any lessons at all from their time in power.

Lets make it plain and simple....the answer is - do not borrow any more money that we cant afford to pay back.

Having said that, one sector that has suffered in the current downturn is the construction industry, and as we know on Anglesey our public buildings are either falling to bits or not fit for purpose. We need to build some new schools and a new acute care home to name just two projects that could held local construction companies (if they where allowed to bid that is) and boost the economy.

But as we know the Council has already the powers to borrow money to pay for infrastructure projects, it just cant afford the payments currently.

All in all, even with Peter Black AM boasting like the idiot he really is, the announcement yesterday amounted to bugger all - and why Welsh Labour fell for this London trap beggars belief.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

We've heard it all before.

I read with interest in the Daily Post that the councillors of Ynys Môn have been given their toys back.

The leader of the Council, Cllr Bryan Owen said and I quote "We have to learn from the past but then leave the past behind us"

You know I really hope they have - but then again like the film 'Groundhogs Day' we've been here before.

There is a long list of previous political leaders from the island on record saying how they have learnt their lesson and that they are sorry...give us one more chance etc etc....

Think Cllr Bob Parry, the then Cllr Fowlie, Cllr John Charlton, Cllr Goronwy Parry - to name just a few poor excuses for councillors that have said in the past they are sorry and that they will try harder.

Have they learnt their lesson? - are you kidding me - no way have they learnt their lesson.

Take Cllr Gareth Winston and bully from rural Amlwch, whom said to the Daily Post "The budget deficit over the next five years is the biggest challenge. There has to be robust discussions on how this is handled and that we look at all services, not just things like care homes and schools."

Or in other words when he says robust what he really means is - if he's loosing the argument he is likely to spit the dummy out, have a tantrum and stomp off whilst swearing under his breath. Yep, for the record another poor excuse for a Councillor.

And not forgetting ghosts from the past, one of which is John Arthur Jones, as ever jumping on the nearest bandwagon, this time being the island's care homes.  His idea lease the care homes to the private sector for a peppercorn rent -  which fails totally to understand the problems faced by the council.

Being that whilst there is enough provision in the private sector for general care homes, there is a shortage of acute care and critical care nursing homes and problems around respite for careers, especially for those with relatives with acute needs. 

Of course John Arthur Jones has a right to his opinion,  as do I,  when I say he is talking bullshit as per usual.

But back to our silly little band of councillors who want us to believe they have learnt there lesson and will behave this time - as I said we've heard it all before. .

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Things are going to get worse....

I'm not about to defend Brown's Labour government, I posted about it before in October of last year - see  It's Broken Britain and we've got no money, but hold on..

But then again the record of the current Conservative led coalition government is no better, in that there 'Plan A' has gone all pear shape.

Let's remind ourselves of the crash of 2008, brought about by light touch regulation of the financial system, when they leveraged the risk high, to a point that everybody went shit, and panicked like mad.

We know that following any crash in the world economy, there will be a period of consolidation, when companies and private individuals in a period of low confidence will either pay off their debts or save for the future (or it seems in the US default a lot).

So the argument goes, it's wrong in the short term, to cut public expenditure to quickly and too fast, especially if your are reliant on private monies to step into the breach and help the economy grow.

And as we know the Conservative led coalition government Plan A ain't working, because it cut to quickly and too fast, and why growth is negative or near to zero. This means that in order to meet their deficit reduction target, by 2015, they will have to cut harder over the next few years.  This austerity could last over 8 years according to some experts.

But who pays for all this? - I say it should be a fair mix of cuts and tax increases, a fair distribution of tax burden. That those who made the most during them good days, when light touch regulations; which they lobbied for, made them very very rich; should in leaner times fully contribute to the upkeep of the country, and not rely on fancy tax avoidance schemes.

After all, why did the world economic system nearly collapse in 2008? - well it wasn't down to pensioner nor the disabled nor single mothers nor the unemployed.

So why, when it comes to a choice between asking the rich to pay a bit more, or the poor to loose out the most; has the Conservatives led coalition government decided to choose the latter.

Blame the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly for living too long, blame it on over regulation, blame it on the EU, blame it on work-shy lazy layabout good for nothing British workers....but above all never accept that you, the ruling elite and your rich friends should also share the blame.

An elite, out of touch with the reality of day to day life, where ordinary people struggle to match their incomes with outgoings...when in desperation they have to turn to pay day rip off merchants to survive, or food banks in ever increasing numbers..

With the economy in ruins....their electricity policy in tatters....building aircraft carriers we cant afford, with no planes to fly off a party at war over Europe, with smaller police numbers..... they about to ask us to vote for something the majority of us never wanted - police commissioners, and the millions a Minister of State who doesn't know how to use a calendar...supported by the Liberal Democrats who thinks it's OK to make an election pledge, fully knowing its was a 'bit doggy' and then act surprised when we the people feel aggrieved when they renegade on's not really a record anybody can be proud of is it?....and just goes to show how poor the 'elite' really are when push comes to shove, and they've laid off Jeeves.

As we leave an age when the establishment covered up the truth, journalists illegally paid investigators to hack for gossip, or paid the police the same, when people who 'of course' new about rumours of child abuse against Jimmy Saville chose not to do anything, and the banks nearly collapsed 'cause of a lack of proper regulation....and all this and more happened during the watch of supposedly educated and clever's no wonder how fucked up the UK has become.

And the answer of  those right wing idiots to all of this, you've guessed it a smaller state and less regulation  - 'I'm all right jack, know bugger off and die, you pleb'

As Lord Kinnock said in his famous 1983  I warn you speech:

- I warn you not to be ordinary

- I warn you not to be young

- I warn you not to fall ill

- I warn you not to get old.