Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wylfa B - now far too costly to make commercial sense?

With hindsight maybe we should have foreseen the announcement; that RWE Npower and E.On, would not proceed with the building of nuclear plants in the UK.

After the tragic accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, Germany decided to abandon nuclear power, and their electricity companies faced massive decommissioning costs. See Reuters - Nuclear shutdown costs mount in Germany.

In the UK it was recently re-confirmed by the UK government that new nuclear operators will have to cover their waste and decommissioning costs - see DECC.

Then are the concerns about the new build costs of the third generation nuclear plants. In July 2011, Damian Carrington in his Guardian environmental blog said:

"Time is money, they say, and the new nuclear power plant being built by EDF at Flamanville in France is now at least four years behind time and €2.7bn over budget. EDF blamed the delay on two fatal construction accidents and dealing with safety analyses prompted by the Fukushima disaster."

Maybe some other investors will invest in Wylfa B, but with the world and the UK seeing very low growth; according to the OECD the UK is in recession (see BBC News) - the uncertain costs, the likely project overrun and problems raising the necessary finance what realistic chance is there of that happening?

As an aside, I'm sure there is no truth in the rumours, that the Conservative led Coalition Government talked up a possible strike by delivery drivers, to boost sales of fuel to boost the GDP and tax revenue?

But let me return to the islands problems - the plans of Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru for a clean energy revolution for Wales with Ynys Môn at it's heart; which was heavily criticised by the islands Tories, may now be worth looking at seriously?

After all with the prospect of a Wylfa B if not dead in the water, its delay will mean many years of waiting, in the meantime we need to find ways of stimulating growth on the island and hopefully some meaningful jobs.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Lein Amlwch - Gaerwen to Llangefni

You may have read in the Daily Post that the cost of re-opening the disused railway line between Gaerwen and Llangefni 'would' cost £25 million. This sounds quite a lot, especially at £6,250,000 per mile. I hope you notice that in the report itself the 'would' turned to 'could' cost....

You can download the Network Rail report from the Welsh Government website.

If you do download the report by Network Rail you will also notice that there are many 'if and buts' within - i.e the £25.1 million cost includes "a risk percentage of 35% and is subject to further GRIP development."

Therefore the on their own calculations the cost could be between around £16 million and up to £21.5 million.

But even at £16 million or around £4 million per mile it still sounds rather a lot to me. Time to study the report further me thinks......

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Equal Civil Marriage and Proposition 8.

Today, the UK Government began a consultation on proposals to allow equal civil marriage. See BBC News. You will find the consultation document on the Governments website

Recently in the USA a judgement at the Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, concluded that Proposition 8, as voted for by the electors of California, was unconstitutional.

The following is a small extract from the the opinion of Judge Reinhardt:

"Prior to November 4, 2008, the California Constitution guaranteed the right to marry to opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. On that day, the People of California adopted Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. We consider whether the amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does......

....All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus to legally use the designation of 'marriage', which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationship. Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other that to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for "laws of this sort.""

You can download his opinion in full (in pdf format) from the following website.

See Also: Washington Post - The sanctity of marriage.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Wales Air Ambulance and VAT on Fuel

Most of us would agree that Wales Air Ambulance provides an essential medical service. That is why we  are happy to give donations to the charity that runs this life saver.

Ken Sharpe has been campaigning for some time to exempt fuel the Air Ambulance Service uses from VAT, in a similar way that it is for Lifeboats.

However, the UK Government has said that whilst there is provision for an exemption from VAT for fuel  used in Lifeboats in the European Union VAT directive, there is no other similar exemption that could be applied to other charities.

Ken Sharpe has suggested that if we cannot exempt VAT on fuel for the Air Ambulance Service, the UK Government should instead provide a grant of an equivalent value to the VAT paid on fuel used.

Currently he has an e-petition, which I urge you to sign:

The Air Ambulance Service is forced to meet rising fuel prices year on year including VAT.

The Air Ambulance Service have saved successive governments millions and millions of pounds funded by charitable donations given by the general public to run what has proven to be an essential service.

Whilst the Lifeboat Service has been exempt from VAT on fuel costs since 1977, a similar privilege has not been afforded to the Air Ambulance Service;

We call on the government to have an urgent review of this situation and in doing so We call on the government to return in the form of grants to Air Ambulance Service providers all the future VAT which the Treasury collects from them so that the Air Ambulance Service is in practice exempt from paying VAT in the same way as the Lifeboat Service.

It seems strange to me that should you say have an accident in France, which required that you were flown home by Air Ambulance, that flight would be exempt from VAT. Or should you fall ill at home, the ambulance if it were a vehicle then the fuel used would also be VAT exempt. And if the Air Ambulance flying to your rescue was funded and operated by the National Health Service then the fuel would also be exempt from VAT. But an Air Ambulance if operated by a charity is not?

You can find a summary of the Common system of value added tax (VAT) (‘the VAT Directive’) on the following EU website.

It explains that "For socio-economic reasons, the following are exempted:

certain activities of general interest (such as hospital and medical care, goods and services linked to welfare and social security work, school and university education and certain cultural services);.....

To download the latest consolidated version:  VAT directive in PDF format.

Here under Title IX Exemptions Chapter 7 Article 148 you will find the exemptions for lifeboats:

(a) the supply of goods for the fuelling and provisioning of vessels used for navigation on the high seas and carrying passengers for reward or used for the purpose of commercial, industrial or fishing activities, or for rescue or assistance at sea, or for inshore fishing, with the exception, in the case of vessels used for inshore fishing, of ships' provisions;

Lifeboats are also exempt from VAT for certain equipment by virtue of The Value Added Tax (Equipment in Lifeboats) Order 2002.

Under Title IX Exemptions Chapter 2 Exemptions for certain activities in the public interest there is Article 132 and

1. Member States shall exempt the following transactions:

(c) the provision of medical care in the exercise of the medical and paramedical professions as defined by the Member State concerned;

In the first place I think we can all agree that an Air Ambulance Service is in the public interest and/or a certain activity of general or public interest. It's then down to how you define provision I suppose.

I humbly suggest that for the provision of medical care you need supplies and equipment i.e. an ambulance to take the paramedic or doctor to the patient be that a vehicle or an aircraft specifically modified for the purpose, and fuel for the vehicle or aircraft is rather important you would think.

To me as an ordinary member of the public it seems air ambulances used for the provision of medical care in the exercise of the medical and paramedical professions are exempt from VAT transactions. And whom provides or pays for the service and the provision of medical care is down to Member states to define.

Most probably an over simplistic interpretation of complex VAT rules of which I have little knowledge, still a neat idea I hope you agree.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Tories at war over Conwy Council tax rise.

It seems the Tories of Conwy are at war - A report in today's Daily Post says:

"THERE were calls yesterday for three councillors to be expelled from the Conservative Party for voting for a 4% council tax rise.

The Conwy County Councillors voted with other parties for the rise last month because they felt it would have been illegal not to do so and set a budget...."

You may recall from an earlier post by me Ynys Môn Council Tax - some context that Conwy County Council had in the financial year 2011-2012 and average Band D Council Tax rates the 4th lowest rate in Wales.

You may also recall the big fuss the Tories made when the Commissioners whom run the executive function of Ynys Môn, following consultation made a final recommendation that the Ynys Môn Council element of the Council Tax should increase by 4.5%

I think all you need to say about Conwy’s Tory group leader and Clwyd West Conservative Association chairman Cllr William Knightly; is to quote him directly from the Daily Post, when asked about the fact that Cllr Merfyn Thomas had resigned from his group and will stand as an Independent in May’s local elections:

He is “disappointed” with the resignation of a “damn good councillor”.

Meanwhile Cllr Merfyn Thomas and former Conservative Councillor whom stood by what he believed was the correct choice for his constituents said to the Daily Post:

[...T]he 4% rise in 2012-2013 would be the equivalent to householders in a Band D property of buying “a Mars Bar” a week, not agreeing the rise and budget would have been illegal. Nor was there an alternative budget. He resigned because he didn’t want a whip on such issues.

An interesting concept of localism there by the Tories, which seems to say you can decide locally as long any decision taken concurs with policy set nationally.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Improvements to A5025 between Valley and Amlwch

This week residents whom may be affected by proposed improvements to the A5025, as part of Wylfa B have been written to by Alan Smith, Head of Site Development at Horizon. The text of the letter is self explanatory and is as below:

"Dear Sir/Madam

Potential route improvements to the A5025 between Valley and the proposed site for a new nuclear power station at Wylfa

In November 2011 we wrote to landowners along the route of the A5025 between Valley and Amlwch to outline our approach to considering what road improvements may be needed to support the construction and operation of a new nuclear power station at Wylfa.

I am now writing to all residents living between Valley and our proposed development site to provide our early thoughts on where we believe route improvements may be needed in these areas, ahead of us presenting more detailed options formally to you as part of our first phase of community consultation in the next few months.

Through our work with the Isle of Anglesey County Council Highways Authority and our environmental consultants. Mott MacDonald we're looking at the following areas for possible route improvements:
  • The Valley crossroad - where the crossroads may need to be bypassed
  • Llanfachraeth - where a bypass to the east of the village is being considered
  • Llanfaethlu - where the bends at the Black Lion Inn and Llanfaethlu may need to be straightened
  • Cefn Coch - where the existing route between Bod-Hedd and Cefn Coch may need to be straightened
  • Tregele - where modifications to the site access at Tregele as well as potential changes to the access to Cemlyn may need to be considered.

We have started talking privately to landowners that may be directly affected by any potential changes to the A5025 in those areas prior to developing our options further. These are early stage discussions and we have not developed any firm proposals at this stage.

Its our intention to talk to everyone who we believe may be directly affected by any potential road improvements as part of our project and, in the coming months, will present draft proposals to the public as part of our first phase of formal consultation. We will hold public exhibitions across Anglesey and North Wales where you will be able to view our proposals and give us your feedback. Additionally, we may hold mini consultations specifically on proposals relating to the A5025 as we want to give local people every opportunity to have a say on our proposals.

While dates and locations of our consultation events have yet to be announced, but we will advertise them widely in the media, through our newsletter to every home on the island, and via the Isle of Anglesey County Council.

You can also register for updates on our consultation process at

While we tried to ensure this letter is sent to all residents along the route of the A5025 from Valley to the proposed construction site, if you are aware of anyone that has not received this letter, please let us know.

You can contact us via our freephone hotline on 0800 954 9516 or email address at

The next stage of our work will be to consider what road improvements may be needed along the A5025 from the proposed construction site to Amlwch and we will keep residents in those areas up to date on our early proposals."

Further information about Horizon Nuclear Power can be found on their website

(Note: letter from Horizon scanned using text recognition software, and may not reflect the layout of the original letter. Any spelling mistakes most likely to be mine and my typing skills. A letter in welsh was also sent by Horizon.)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

St David's Day and related facts

A happy St David's Day to you all (sorry it's a bit late computer problems etc)..As you may know Ynys Môn council offices were closed today to celebrate our patron saint's day, no doubt using one of the 'extra statutory days' available to them.

But should St David Day be celebrated by a public holiday?

Wikipedia tell us: Cross-party support resulted in the National Assembly for Wales voting unanimously to make St. David's Day a public holiday in 2000. A poll conducted for Saint David's Day in 2006 found that 87% of people in Wales wanted it to be a bank holiday, with 65% prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to ensure this. A petition in 2007 to make St. David's Day a bank holiday was rejected by the office of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The following is from the National Archives:

Bank holidays were first introduced by the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, which designated four holidays in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five in Scotland. These were Easter Monday, the first Monday in August, the 26th December, and Whit Monday (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and New Year's Day, Good Friday, the first Monday in May, the first Monday in August, and Christmas Day (Scotland). In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, both Christmas Day and Good Friday were traditional days of rest and Christian worship (as were Sundays) and did not need to be included in the Act.

Two additional days were subsequently appointed in Northern Ireland: St Patrick's Day (17 March) by a special Act of Parliament in 1903 and 12 July (Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690), by the Governor of Northern Ireland in 1926.

The 1871 Act was repealed 100 years later and its provisions incorporated into the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which remains the statutory basis for bank holidays. The following changes were introduced both then and subsequently:

1971 - Whit Monday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (which could fall anywhere between 11 May and 14 June) was formally replaced by a fixed spring holiday on the last Monday in May. The last Monday in August was formally made a bank holiday in place of the first Monday in August in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In both cases, this followed a trial period of the new arrangements between 1965 and 1970

1973 - 2 January was created an additional bank holiday in Scotland by the 1971 Act. However, the provision did not come into effect until 1973.

1974 - New Year's Day became an additional bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Boxing Day became an additional bank holiday in Scotland.

1978 - the first Monday in May in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the last Monday in May in Scotland, became additional bank holidays.

Bank holidays designated since the 1971 Act are appointed each year by Royal Proclamation. The Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne bank holiday is proclaimed annually by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

This year in order to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II diamond jubilee there is a special bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June 2012, with the late May bank holiday moving to Monday 4 June 2012.

But bank holidays cost money don't they? You may have read reports that the special bank holiday in June to celebrate the diamond jubilee may cost up to 0.5% of GDP. However according to the website The DCMS Impact Assessment estimates that the cost would be around £1.2 billion, which equates to around 0.08 per cent of GDP, but could be as high as £3.5 billion (0.25 per cent of GDP).

In May of last year a private bill by Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon, Conservative); the St George’s Day and St David’s Day Bill, was debated at the House of Commons. You can read a transcript of the debate about a second reading of  the bill at

In the debate Ian Austin (Dudley North, Labour) seems to think that..."Of course, the Welsh celebrate St David’s day with an Eisteddfod festival." - Or is that another example of taking what Wikipedia says as gospel.

In the debate the figure of £2.9 billion is mentioned as the cost of an additional bank holiday if it affects the whole of the UK. But does it have to affect the whole of the UK? - Scotland and Northern Ireland have   different bank holidays already, and why cant England have a bank holiday to celebrate St George, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a soldier in the Guard of Diocletian ( Wikipedia), and Wales celebrate St David's Day.

Maybe we should use St Patrick's Day as a template, which as we know is celebrated world wide, especially in the USA.

A report by BBC Wales today says:

US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his wife Ann will be celebrating St David's Day by eating specially delivered Welsh cakes. Mrs Romney, whose family comes from Maesteg, has been serving them as her husband's campaign crosses the country..

..The Romney's eldest son Tagg said it was an "unbelievably busy time" for his parents.

His father is the front-runner to win the Republican Party's nomination.

He said: "My wife Jen, who is also of Welsh descent, will be making Welsh cakes and sending a care package to my parents, who are travelling and unable to make them themselves"


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also sent a St David's Day message to Wales on behalf of President Barack Obama and the people of the United States.

"This is an opportunity to reaffirm the strong bonds that unite us and to reflect on the rich and varied contributions Welsh people have made to America over the centuries," she said.

"Several of our founding fathers - including former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams - were able to claim Welsh ancestry.

"Today, almost 2m people living in the US can trace their roots back to Wales. I am proud to say that I am one of them."

She said the United States was committed to "strengthening our partnership as we work together to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for all our people".

So maybe instead of seeing St David's Day as a 'burden' we should recognise the opportunity it gives us to celebrate all things welsh across the globe, starting with an official bank holiday?