Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sad Gillian wants to play byelaws.

The first historic bill passed by the Welsh Assembly; following a mandate by the welsh public in a referendum - being the Local Government Byelaws (Wales) Bill, has been referred to the Supreme Court by the Attorney General. This doesn't bode well for devolution in Wales, if such a simple bill can cause London to object.

The story was covered yesterday by the BBC see Attorney general in court challenge to first Welsh Bill.

The bill itself is quite simple, it removes the need for councils to seek confirmation from the Welsh Assembly; or concurrent confirmation of the Secretary of State for Wales, for certain byelaws, thus making it easier for councils to make byelaws.

Seeing that local government is a devolved issue I'm not sure why the Secretary of State for Wales would have had any concurrent function in the first place, and the Government of Wales Act 2006 does say in Schedule 5  "The general restrictions in Part 2 do not prevent a provision of an Assembly Measure removing or modifying, or conferring power by subordinate legislation to remove or modify, any function of a Minister of the Crown if the Secretary of State consents to the provision."

The question therefore is - what objections does Cheryl Gillan have to a bill that makes is easier for councils to make byelaws?

The BBC says "She said the UK government had identified its concerns over the removal of the role of the Secretary of State in confirming Welsh byelaws at both ministerial and official level with the Welsh government."

What!!! - It seems Cheryl Gillan wants to play byelaws and requires all councils in Wales to seek her consent for any byelaws, even for byelaws that need not be confirmed by the Welsh Government.

Even though its clear by virtue of Government of Wales Act 2006 and Section 58 1(c) ".. that any function so far as exercisable by a Minister of the Crown in relation to Wales [or the Welsh zone] is to be exercisable by the Minister of the Crown only with the agreement of, or after consultation with, the Welsh Ministers, the First Minister or the Counsel General."

But that can't be the real reason surely? - there must be something else, and I suspect a darker political game behind all of this. Is this an attempt by London to disturb the legitimate work of the Welsh Government on dubious grounds?

Or has the Welsh Government failed to amended the Bill to cater for legitimate concerns raised by the Secretary of State for Wales?

Whatever, we the welsh public duly voted to have additional powers be given to the Welsh Assembly in relation to matters already devolved to it.  But it now seems that in cases where concurrent powers are to be amended, all the Secretary of State for Wales has to do is object to stop any bill proceeding. And the Welsh Government has no appeal - so much for democracy!!

I suspect that this is about something bigger, something else that London wants to stop in due course, and are using this bill to lay down a marker early on - in other words it's London saying to us in Wales, you can legislate as long as we approve.

I have a feeling that there is an old Whitehall mentality still burning in the background, of an old guard that never really wanted to give Wales greater powers in the first place, and a possible reason why the Welsh Conservatives feel more isolated from the main party than ever.

Of course I'm biased, I've never rated 'Governor' Gillan (she whom brought electricity to the people of South Wales - for which they shall always be grateful)- her real legacy will be a tunnel under her constituency, that'll be in England. Some of us wish the tunnel be built as soon as possible, so that Gillan can enter and never leave, and we can have a Welsh Secretary whom really does care for Wales.

We have been here before: Cheryl - your the Welsh Secretary - just in case you've forgotten.

And Wales not part of Europe shock.

And Conservatives want to take powers away from Welsh Assembly.

And The Welsh Conservatives launch their election campaign

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Paying more for fresh milk wont help all farmers.

Today in the Daily Post the Archbishop of Wales....Dr Barry Morgan insisted everyone was responsible for ensuring farmers got a “fair price” – not just the dairies and supermarkets.

He is quoted as saying “It is shameful and immoral it now costs many farmers more to produce milk than they are able to sell it for." And “We are short-changing our dairy farmers and that is a matter of justice and morality." And “We are all responsible and we all have to be prepared now to pay a fair price for a quality product because Fair Trade begins at home.”

But morality is all fine and fair if you have the money to pay the extra in the first place. Lest we forget its not only dairy farmers who have it hard, and the disposable income of most households has fallen. So you have a choice organic milk, premium pasteurised or long life milk, cause the kids don't really like milk these days - what would you do, when money is tight? - I bet then the morals of the choice wont enter into it.

The Archbishop makes the same mistake that many whom have jumped on the bandwagon have made - us paying more for your fresh milk at the retailer; whilst it may help some dairy farmers, it won't help all dairy farmers. Let me explain, Dairy UK's White Paper 2012 tells us that in the UK last year of the 13,647 million litres of raw milk available, the amount sold as milk for consumption was 6,954 million litres or around 51% of total volume.

Now the majority of this milk is sold by the big retailers, with Tesco being the largest in the sector, and hence sets the price to some degree. But most supermarkets have put in place ‘integrated supply arrangements’. Under these systems, a retailer obtains their supply of liquid milk exclusively from a specific group of farmers. The raw milk from these farms is processed under segregated arrangements and delivered to the retailer as liquid drinking milk.

For example Dairy UK says that Tesco have 700 farmers in their scheme. And most schemes will pay extra for quality of supply, and others factors when the contract was entered i.e bad weather payments or increased feed costs etc. Fresh milk for consumption is not something you can import over large distances, and as such is a premium product, and supermarkets will make a great play on supplying their milk from local suppliers.

Which leaves the other 49% of raw milk produced the 6,693 million litres of milk.

It is these dairy farmers whom have suffered most, because of a 'perfect storm' being increased fodder and feed costs and a reduction in price paid on the world market. Dairy UK says Following developments in the world market, EU commodity prices have been on a downward trend, with particularly sharp falls in the value of butterfat. However, prices are now generally cyclical, so a recovery can be expected in the second half of 2012.

Reflecting developments in commodity markets, average EU farm gate prices weakened marginally from the beginning of 2012. However, they remain still well above the level of prices seen in 2008/09.

Not forgetting that many of these products can be exported over large distances. New Zealand for example exports 87% of their milk. And as such the price of Whole Milk Powder, Anhydrous Milk Fat, Skim Milk Powder, Butter Milk Powder, Milk Protein Concentrate, Rennet Casein, Cheddar Cheese (Cheddar) and lactose are set internationally.

If you think about it that's nearly everything with milk in it from your choc bar, to your daily bread or your ice cream. And whilst I know its difficult for dairy farmers and some may decide to pack it in altogether, let's be clear making milk a moral issue isn't really the answer dairy farmers are looking for.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Employment in Wales and the bad news for women.

As reported by BBC Wales on Wednesday, the total number of people recorded as being unemployed  in  Wales went up by 2,000 (actually it was around 1,678) in the last quarter to 132,701.

Below is a summary of the headline figures for the last quarter (March-May):

As you can see the number of people employed in Wales fell by 9,055.

If we now look at the figures for men.

You will notice that the number of men unemployed in Wales went down by 4,772 over the last quarter. The number of men aged 16 -64 classed as economically inactive rose by 9,523.

And looking at figures for women:

The number of women unemployed went up by 6,450 over the last quarter.

To help us understand some of the above, ONS say:

Employment measures the number of people in paid work and differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job.

Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work and are available to start work if a job is offered.

Economically inactive people are not in employment but do not meet the internationally accepted definition of unemployment because they have not been seeking work within the last four weeks and/or they are unable to start work within the next two weeks.

So what can we learn from the above? - I think it shows us that jobs are still being created in the welsh economy, although a growing problem is the number of people out for work for a long time. But what should concern us most, is that the above figures seem to confirm:

Spending cuts will disproportionately affect women: women are more likely to be the beneficiaries and users of public services; and employees in the public sector. (from The Guardian)

The chart below show the percentage of the population claiming job seekers allowance by unitary and local authority:

The chart below show the percentage of the population claiming job seekers allowance by region:

And the percentage change in claimant count by region over one year:

See also: Telegraph - Employment is rising but its not down to job creation.

To download the data for above: ONS Labour Market Statistics, July 2012, and as ever click on image to enlarge.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Great Western Railway.

In around 10 years time if everything else is equal the railway line between Swansea and London will have been electrified, and about time too you may say.

After all, as far back as 1935 parts of the railway network were being electrified, although it seems and as noted at the time by Mr A.V Alexander MP "The Great Western Railway Company seem to have very little urgent necessity for electrification."

And in 1976 Mr Alfred Evans MP speaking at a debate at the House of Commons said "I am not seeking to impose an urban system on the whole of Wales. I am speaking currently of a road from north to south. I remember contesting a parliamentary election in 1945 in the county of Merioneth when the Labour programme included two points. One was to establish a Welsh broadcasting corporation and the other was to establish a major north-south highway. Such a highway is necessary to the development of the depopulated hinterland of Wales. However, the idea has now been dismissed. The Government, speaking of the parts of Wales which they in their policies have denuded of people, say that there are no industries there and, therefore, there is no justification for a major road.

How different was the vision in Italy which caused the Autostrada del Sole to be built over barren hills from the North to the poverty-stricken South of Italy. The authority said that there was no industry there and, therefore, it must have a great road. That is the right way of looking at the situation. I hope that the coming of the national Assembly to Cardiff will provide an additional reason, apart from ease of transport, for building  this major road between the north and the south and that the Government will re-examine the reasons for this long-needed road.

Lastly I turn to the railways, where the decimation of what was once a fine national system speaks for itself. In the early sixties, when I gathered the figures—possibly it is true today—the Southern Welsh Region was the most prosperous region of the whole of the British Rail network. That did not prevent it from being savaged at least as badly as any other region and perhaps worse than most. However, no one can honestly doubt that if Wales had had a Parliament in those days, or even a national transport authority, the attacks would have been far more restrained. There is nothing that we need more in relation to Welsh transport than a Welsh transport board committed to the integration, modernisation, expansion and revitalisation of the Welsh transport system, both freight and passenger. The welfare of Wales would dominate the thought and policies of a Welsh board. However, it is very far from the thoughts of the gentlemen sitting in London on the British Railways Board or in Whitehall, where the road lobby has such complete domination.

I take the matter of electrification of lines as typifying the situation. Britain is not in the vanguard of railway electrification. Only some 17 per cent. of the British Rail network is electrified. It lags behind almost every other Western European country. France is ahead of us with 24 per cent., Western Germany has 28 per cent., Italy has 48 per cent. and mountainous Switzerland has 98.4 per cent. of its railways electrified. However, for the purposes of this debate the most relevant question is: how many of the nearly 2,200 miles of electrified railway on this island are found in Wales? The answer is that there is not one mile of electrified railway in Wales. There has not been one mile since the old Mumbles line closed down.

Wales is a great exporter of huge quantities of electricity but not one mile of Welsh railway line has been electrified. Yet there are some people who claim that this centralist, unitary, metropolitan-dominated Government do better for Wales than a Welsh Parliament would. Have they realised that since the Euston to Manchester and Liverpool route was electrified in 1966 the time was cut by an hour and a half and the traffic has increased by about 200 per cent.? Non-electrification of Welsh railways is reductio ad absurdum of the system which misgoverns our potentially great little country.

What can Wales look forward to under central control? What other than more closures and further decimation of our surviving fragments? I appeal to the Government not to allow one further mile of railway line in Wales to be closed until at least we have a Welsh Assembly on our soil and a Welsh Development Agency to review the situation."

Let's hope that it will not be another 80 years before they electrify the railways of North Wales.

The Great Breakwater of Holyhead.

Quite soon now we'll find out whether the Welsh Government has called in the outline planning application for the waterfront development at Newry Beach, due to the proposed scheme being a departure from the local plan.

There has been much opposition to the proposed development, with a petition of over 4000 signatures being handed to the Welsh Government. One issue much talked about is the upkeep of breakwater, and that is something I shall consider in this post.

First some interesting history about the port and breakwater..

From around 1840 as the Port of Holyhead became more busy, it was considered that a larger harbour was needed. A view had been reached at the Admiralty, whom were in charge of ports at the time, that Holyhead would be ideal as a 'package port' for communication with Ireland.

Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister said at the House of Commons on May 1843 "The evidence was conclusive in favour of the line from Chester by Bangor to some port. Then the question arose which should be the port, and the commissioners decided in favour of Holyhead; and he thought they decided judiciously. The details of the arrangement were still under consideration.

Around the same time consideration was being given for the need of a harbour of refuge on the West Coast.

Sir Robert Peel, at a sitting of the House of Commons on 29 February 1844 said "But take the west coast, and the evidence was most conclusive as to the necessity of having a harbour of refuge, and for facilitating the communication between this country and Ireland, and if he were asked to say what point should be selected for such a harbour, he should certainly select Holyhead."

This proposal gave rise to considerable objections form both Liverpool Port and Dublin Port whom where concerned that a improved and safer Holyhead harbour could take trade away from them. These argument continued for some time.

Sir Robert Peel observed; when asked at the House of Commons on 7 June 1847, whether Holyhead was the best location for a harbour of refuge: that there never was a question more fully considered than this, whether or not Holyhead was entitled to a preference over any neighbouring port in facilitating the intercourse between this country and Ireland. The late Administration had sent two very eminent men, one connected with civil engineering, the other with the Admiralty, for the purpose of making a report on that question. They inquired into the subject most minutely, and made a report decidedly in favour of Holyhead. There was some little imputation, resting upon the slightest grounds, as to their partiality. Two others wore therefore appointed, who made a report to the same effect, decidedly in favour of Holyhead; and he was not sure whether there was not a third inquiry. Here then were three inquiries within the last few years; at least he was quite certain that there were two, which both resulted in favour of that site. He was bound to say that he thought the reasons for selecting Holyhead were quite decisive.

At a House in Committee of Supply 12 June 1857 Mr Wilson said...."When the first Vote for Holyhead Harbour was taken, a very large scheme was proposed to Parliament, founded on the recommendation of the Admiralty; but owing to the jealousy of Liverpool and the neighbouring ports, together with a scepticism on the part of that House as to the utility of the project, the undertaking was reduced from a plan that would cost £1,200,000—the original 1694 sum suggested—to one that would cost only £808,000. The smaller project was the one actually adopted; but to such a remarkable degree had the expectations of those who advocated the more extensive scheme been realized, that even during the progress of the works the Harbour was so much resorted to in its incomplete state, and so inadequate to receive the vessels having recourse to it, that the Government had been compelled to come down to the House and propose increase after increase in the Vote until they had reached the highest amount contemplated in the original plan, and the present estimate was £l,198,000. The following table, taken from the report of Captain Skinner, the Superintendent of Holyhead Harbour, showed the number of vessels which had entered it from 1852:—
Year          No.              Tonnage.
1852 … … 514 … …      34,650
1853 … … 1,293 … … 106,392
1854 … … 1,788 … … 137,058
1855 … … 1,607 … … 119,413
1856 … … 2,394 … … 198,666
The importance of this harbour was very great, because not only did the Irish postal packets go to and from it, but it was for the convenience of the metropolis that the American steamers should land their letters, &c., when they arrived off Holyhead. One cause of the large increase upon this and similar works was, that it was found advisable to complete them as expeditiously as possible. It was due therefore to the exertions of the late Mr. Rendell, who had had the supervision of this harbour, and whose great professional abilities everybody would admit, that they had been able to expend a large sum in the execution of this undertaking in a single year. If important public works of this kind were to be carried out at all, the quicker they were advanced the better for the interests of the community. [An ironical cry of "Hear, hear!"]

These day the main concern is maintenance of the breakwater, as reported by Holyhead and Anglesey Mail back in 2009. In 2006 the Daily Post reported that £10 million pounds was needed to repair the breakwater. At the time Capt Parry said the company's bill for simply maintaining the breakwater was running at £150,000 a year and "significant" repairs were needed.

Although the need for continuous repairs and the high costs associated with the harbour have been known for some time, this from Hansard: Mr Michael Hicks-Beach Commons — April 9, 1889 Holyhead is a very expensive harbour to keep up. The breakwater requires continual watching, and I am sure the salary of this gentleman is well earned.

HOLYHEAD BREAKWATER. Mr Michael Hicks-Beach Commons — March 20, 1890 that there was some neglect with regard to the repair of the breakwater at Holyhead for some years, and that owing to that neglect the storm had had serious effect upon the break-water. I cannot express an opinion.

The Great Breakwater was commenced by the Admiralty in 1847 ( Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847) until Harbours Transfer Act 1862 transferred the responsibility to the Board of Trade, until Ministry of Transport Act 1919 transferred the responsibility to the Ministry of Transport.

I think that's enough history for now, but what we can gather from the past is how important the Great Breakwater is not only to Holyhead but the rest of the UK.

We need to ask whether the burden of the upkeep of such an important breakwater; and a grade II listed structure, should alone be placed onto one private company, whilst many others also gain benefit. We know that because it's in private ownership (with thanks to Margaret Thatcher) certain grants may not be available to them, and we know that others have ideas on how to develop the breakwater. Getting Conygar/Stena Line to pay a commuted sum (presumably to Stena Line Ports) for the future upkeep of the breakwater may provide a short term answer. But what of the long term, what would happen if it really does fall down?

Can I suggest something along these lines - that a charity be set up for the future maintenance and repair of the breakwater, to whom Stena Line Ports could transfer ownership and a sizable contribution towards future maintenance etc, there could be Board of Commissioners with representatives from interested parties. In other words it's a structure of national importance, lets make it a national asset once again, you know like buildings the National Trust looks after... Just a thought...

Note: Many of the above quotes are from Hansard i.e Hansard Search - holyhead harbour of refuge

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The rain in Valley, Ynys Môn for April to June 2012

Looking at data from the weather station at Valley the total monthly rainfall in April 2012 was 65.4mm as compared to the average (between 1931 and 2012) of 51mm, whereas the wettest April was in 1961 with a total of 103.4mm of rain. The driest April was in 1970 when a total of 5.3mm of rain fell.

In May 2012 a total of 47.8mm rain fell compared to the average (between 1931 and 2012) of 53.2mm, the wettest May was in 1993 and a total of 127.1mm. The driest May was in 1970 when a total of 10.4mm of rain fell.

In June 2012 the total rainfall at Valley was 107.4mm as compared to the average (between 1931 and 2012, one years data missing) of 55.7mm. The wettest June was in 1998 and 135.3mm of rain, and driest was 1942 when only 1.3mm of rain fell. Based on a quick calculation of the UK met office stations the UK average for total rainfall in June was around 113mm, with wettest being 245.6mm falling at Eskdalemuir.

Therefore based on my non-official calculations and some provisional data from the Met Office,  in April we had slightly more rain than average, May we had less rain than average and in June we had double the average of rain, but still it was not the wettest we have had since 1931.

Since 1930 the driest month at Valley was May 1942 and 1.3mm of rain, and the wettest month was December 1934 and 240.5mm of rain.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Prof. Longley's NHS report raises important questions, we need serious answers.

I sadly see that welsh politicians are still playing silly games, with patient care, and the urgent need to reform the NHS in Wales. I say get a grip and start dealing with the important questions Prof Longley raises in his report.

And I'm not alone in thinking along these lines, below is a statement from NHS Wales Medical Directors:

We would like to go on record fully supporting the content of Prof. Marcus Longley’s report. As senior doctors, we recognise the evidence it contains, and are confident that it is a true and accurate account of the issues facing the NHS in Wales.

We work with these very serious challenges on a daily basis and it is vital that the report’s key messages are not ignored, and that urgent action is taken.

The NHS in Wales urgently needs reform, otherwise services will collapse and patients will suffer. This report offers the platform to launch those reforms.

The NHS in Wales is too important to be a political football. We all need to work together to develop a safer, more effective and sustainable NHS in Wales for the future.

Dr Bruce Ferguson, Medical Director, ABM University Health Board,
Dr Kamal Asaad, Medical Director, Cwm Taf Health Board,
Dr Simon Mahon, Medical Director, Hywel Dda Health Board,
Dr Mark Scriven, Medical Director, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board,
Dr Grant Robinson, Aneurin Bevan Health Board
Dr Brendan Lloyd, Medical Director Powys Teaching Health Board,
Prof. Peter Barrett-Lee, Medical Director, Velindre NHS Trust

Make your own mind up - to download Prof. Longley's report in pdf format: The Best Configuration of Hospital Services for Wales: A Review of the Evidence.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Should the UK leave the EU and do a Norway?

Norwegian oil field

There is a growing call for a referendum on whether the UK remains an integral part of the European Union, or leave but remain part of the European Economic Area (the YES/NO question). In a recent article in The Telegraph Harriet Alexander reported that Last week, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron raised the possibility of a referendum on Britain's membership. And Norway is often cited as a perfect example of how to leave the EU, yet still thrive.

Also "People worry that if Britain left we would lose access to the Single Market and not be able to travel freely," said Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group think tank. “But that is not the case. Britain can cancel its membership of the EU and retain the trade benefits, following Norway’s example. The only thing we will lose is the bureaucracy and expense."

But is Norway a perfect example for the UK to follow? - for a start take it's population of around 4.7 million which is more akin to the population of  Scotland.

The following is from the CIA World Factbook (my emphasis):

The Norwegian economy is a prosperous mixed economy, with a vibrant private sector, a large state sector and an extensive social safety net. The government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector, through extensive regulation and large-scale state-majority-owned enterprises. The country is richly endowed with natural resources - petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals - and is highly dependent on the petroleum sector, which accounts for the largest portion of export revenue and about 20% of government revenue. Norway is the world's second-largest gas exporter; and seventh largest oil exporter, making one of its largest offshore oil finds in 2011. Norway opted to stay out of the EU during a referendum in November 1994; nonetheless, as a member of the European Economic Area, it contributes sizably to the EU budget. In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production, Norway saves state revenue from the petroleum sector in the world's second largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at over $500 billion in 2011 and uses the fund's return to help finance public expenses. After solid GDP growth in 2004-07, the economy slowed in 2008, and contracted in 2009, before returning to positive growth in 2010-11, however, the government budget is set to remain in surplus.

It has around 5.7 billion gallons of oil in proven reserves compared to UK of around 2.9 billion. And it has has around 2 trillion cubic meters of gas in proven reserves, compared to 256 billion in the UK.

Norway has prospered well, by careful management of its natural resources. Robert Oulds said above "The only thing we will lose is the bureaucracy and expense." but Norway still contributes sizably to the EU budget and the government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector, through extensive regulation and large-scale state-majority-owned enterprises.

Possibly not what the neoliberals and free-marketers of the right had in mind exactly.

No I don't think the UK could use Norway as an example to follow, although it could be a model for Scotland? - after all Scotland with a population of around 5 million and some oil left, with it's close links to Norway through the oil industry, are already practically neighbours.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

NHS in Wales - how can we improve the service?

Let's be clear, the NHS in Wales needs to be reformed, it's costing too much money and we cant afford it. This means having to take some difficult decisions like moving some specialist care to centers of excellence, and either reducing level of care at general hospitals or closing them altogether. One reason for this is the shortage of trained nurses and doctors. And this is not a problem for Wales alone, a similar path is been followed in London see: BBC News Four north-west London A&E departments face closure.

We all need to ask this fundamental question: How do we; having regard to the need to make substantial savings in the NHS budget, provide a modern service that meets the expectations of the public and those of the founding fathers, at a time when the call on the NHS is growing annually?

This should be the benchmark - will my actions make the NHS better, otherwise what's the point?

As Prof Longley says We now desperately need a serious public debate about these issues. Most of the NHS in Wales provides a good and robust service; but key bits are giving serious cause for concern. Choices are now required on what to do about this. To sit on our hands and ignore the evidence is to put at risk the quality of care for future patients.

Which brings me to 'Opposition unites behind no confidence motion in Lesley Griffiths' (BBC News)

As you may know a report published in May by Prof Longley said changes are needed to the NHS in Wales. Welsh Government ministers used this independent report as justification for changes they are implementing in NHS provision across Wales.

Even I could have told them that, the days of general hospitals are over, we can't afford them and they don't provide good quality for money. Of course closing local hospitals is never going to be an easy task, most politicians think that supporting closure of their local hospital would be political suicide.

As the old adage says 'Don't like the message shot the messenger' which is what it seems the opposition parties are doing, with their rather silly motion of no confidence, because they say the report by Prof  Longley wasn't as independent as claimed.

But what will it achieve, say if Leslie Griffiths AM, Health Minister did resign, what then?

To return to my benchmark question, would this make the NHS better? - the difficult question of the need to reform the NHS would still be there, other than some cheap political point scoring nothing would have been achieved.

I suppose there will be a debate on the motion of no confidence, of which there is little chance of it being passed. Are the opposition parties really telling me that instead of the Welsh Assembly debating important issues that affect us all, they want to waste time so they can score some cheap political points. Do they really think the welsh public are that stupid?

And what is Plaid Cymru doing, come on Leanne Woods get a grip!! - remember being seen to side with the Welsh Conservatives will do you, nor your party any favours (just ask the previous leader Ieuan Wyn Jones).

As for the Welsh Conservatives whom according to latest opinion polls are less popular than UKIP, are these the first salvos in Shadow Health Minister, Darren Millar AM bid to become the next Welsh Conservatives leader? - after all, even though I might disagree with what he says, he does seem to be the most effective Conservative AM of recent times.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass

The preferred route for the proposed Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass has been announced by the Welsh Government, although there may be some time before it is eventually built, especially with a price tag that could reach £100 million, if not more.

This was reported by BBC News on Sunday see: Bontnewydd-Caernarfon by-pass preferred route unveiled.

What confused me was the following from the above:

Caernarfon Town Council had written to First Minister Carwyn Jones, demanding to know why no route has been chosen despite two public consultations.

And there was me thinking they had chosen the purple route?

What's the purple route you may ask, see below I reply (click on image to enlarge):

Above plans taken from Welsh Government website - Annex A (pdf file)

Also I think the purple route became a 'TR111 route protected for planning purposes' as shown on the plan below:

To see the plan in greater detail: Welsh Government website - Annex C (pdf file)

By publishing a TR111 plan, the Welsh Assembly Government protects the route under Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995. This means that the Local Planing Authority will refer to the Welsh Government all future planning applications that are within 200 metres of the center line of the preferred route.

Also for any any property being sold within 200 metres of the protected line, the proposed scheme would be declared on any searches carried out, and in certain circumstances any owner having difficulty selling property on the line of the route may apply for blight. In certain cases this might mean the Welsh Government purchasing the property. See Blight and Discretionary Purchase (pdf file). Please note same provisions applies to Wales.

And for those of you wondering what the "Tra34 Net Present Value for the A487 Caernarfon to Bontnewydd Improvement Scheme options" is  - see Welsh Government Disclosure Log 2011.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Barclays and Libor - more than just 'rouge traders'.

I was surprised yesterday that on its main news bulletins a reporter for BBC News seemed to support the 'rouge traders' narrative, when she said something along the lines that Barclays' traders had manipulated the Libor rate for 'personal gain'. Can't remember her name and quite frankly if that is the best she can do, can't be bothered either.

Now whilst this may have been true for the first tranche, it fails to mention what happened in the second tranche of manipulating the Libor rates.

This below is an extract from findings of the U.S.A Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) where they allege:

During the financial crisis period, Barclays believed that the market and media inaccurately perceived Barclays as having liquidity problems in part because the rates submitted for LIBOR by Barclays were significantly higher at times than the rates submitted by other banks. Barclays contended the other banks' submissions were inappropriately low given the realities ofthe market conditions and lack of transactions occurring in the interbank markets. To manage public perceptions that its higher LIBOR submissions meant Barclays was a weaker institution, Barclays' senior management directed the Barclays submitters to lower Barclays submissions in order to be closer to the rates submitted by the other bank, and thus, be a less noticeable outlier from the rest of the banks. The Barclays submitters complied with the management directive by submitting artificially lower rates than they would have otherwise submitted and that were inconsistent with the definition and criteria for submitting LIBOR. As a result, Barclays did not submit rates reflecting or relating to borrowing of unsecured funds in the relevant interbank markets.

I should point that as part of the offer agreement to settle, Barclays did so "Without admitting or denying the findings or conclusions [of CFTC Order]..., except to the extent Respondents admit those findings in any related action against Barclays by, or any agreement with, the Department of Justice or any other governmental agency or office,....."

You can download the full transcript from CFTC website. (in pdf format)

Note: All words in italics are from the CFTC Order.