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.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A new grid connection across the island.

The National Grid is consulting about proposed routes for a new grid connection to serve Wylfa B (if built) and the offshore Celtic Array.  The consultation can be seen on their website.  The preferred option is a  overhead line along one the following corridors:

There was a subsea HVDC option, but that would have cost more. I'm always surprised when those who support the construction of Wylfa B and associated infrastructure, then turn round and oppose wind turbines on land, normally on the grounds it may keep the tourist away. Or those who oppose wind turbines on land but think that the more expensive off shore wind farms are better, forgetting that a grid connection would also be needed for them.

As for Wylfa B, whilst I have no problems with nuclear power, it seems it's now too expensive as a viable option if we want to keep the cost of electricity down, and not forgetting the line of new pylons buzzing away as they cross the landscape.

Friday, 12 October 2012

UKIP and jam jars.

I see UKIP are at it again, making a mountain out of  a molehill.

The Daily Post today has a letter from John Buffon and MEP for Wales claiming that the EU has banned "the reuse of containers such as jam jars" he explains further the EU rule is "to prevent 'dangerous' chemicals leaching out of pre used containers". Anyone who breaches the rules could be fined £5000 or even go to jail he writes.

What a load of utter crap!!!!!

An article in the Northern Echo says "Church organisations and the Women’s Institute are warning members that selling produce in re-used bottles for public events breaches a European rule preventing containers being re-used unless designed for that purpose."

The Northern Echo further explains "A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said local authority environmental health officers were allowed to use their discretion in enforcing the rule.

 He said: “The EU rules state that anyone selling commercially must use a container that is designed for that, so, technically, the rule means people selling products cannot reuse a container that was not designed for re-use."

 I suppose if you were looking for the ideal container designed for re-use that does not leach out dangerous chemicals I suppose the ideal candidate would be a jam jar. After all we use glass 'cause it doesn't leach out dangerous chemicals.

Mr Buffon talks of common sense but sadly; in the world as it is today, there are many out there who would for profit, sell you food in reused containers knowing that it could through leaching damage your health.

As ever UKIP are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, there are very good reasons behind the legislation, but that wont stop UKIP  going for the headlines......have you heard EU have banned reuse of jam jars, gosh...what will cook do now....what a bunch of  right wing idiots and no mistake.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Prospects for Wylfa B get even gloomier.

Yesterday, there was only two companies left to bid for Horizon Nuclear and build Wylfa B.

Today,  if the report in 'The Times' is correct, this in the near future could go down to one. It seems that Toshiba and owner of Westinghouse; seen as a front-runner and heavyweight player in the nuclear sector, according to 'The Times' "wants to quit the nuclear industry altogether and is struggling to raise finance for the join venture."

It would appear that the days of nuclear energy are coming to an end, with Germany and Japan already committed to phase out their own nuclear plants, and investors very reluctant to invest in new builds due to ever growing costs.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Chinese walk away from Wylfa B?

The talk was, especially amongst local politicians,  there would be at least 3 strong bids to take over Horizon and build Wylfa B.

And according to this weeks Holyhead and Anglesey Mail that would indeed seem to be the case. "Plans for Wylfa B have taken a major step forward as bids have been submitted for Horizon....bids have been received by three consortiums" they say.

However, according to the Financial Times this Wednesday (in an article by Guy Chazan, Anousha Sakoui and Jim Pickard) "A Franco-Chinese consortium has walked away from the race to build Britain’s new generation of reactors in a setback to the government’s hopes of ushering in a revival of nuclear power."

Also the Westinghouse consortium had failed to secure Chinese state backing and the Finacial Times says "Some industry experts believe only Chinese companies have the financial firepower to shoulder the immense cost of building new reactors."

So it seems on Friday that only two bids were received from Westinghouse and Hitachi, and we may know who is the preferred bidder in about three weeks,  but even then there is still uncertainty as to whether Wylfa B will ever be built.  

Monday, 1 October 2012

Lost in translation - what does small government mean?

In Mondays Daily Post Dylan Jones-Evans (the economic adviser to the Welsh Conservatives Party) has an article with the headline "Small Government, not Big Society, should be the focus of Coalition".

A conclusion he reaches is "if a real difference is going to be made to the delivery of public services within such constraints, then the real focus of the UK Government needs to be on encouraging and supporting its own employees to develop bright ideas to make our public sector not only the most innovative in the World but, more importantly, the most cost-effective."

And what is the Coalition Government doing to encourage its own employees to achieve this, um would that be cutting pensions rights, freezing pay and making it easier to sack them - yep go figure.

He also spouts the usual right wing clap trap "that the public sector continue to have low productivity, be risk adverse and focused more on managing process than outcome".

Which may be true for some councils but not all councils, take for example Gwynedd County Council and their contract to maintain the A55 Expressway across the island - see Gwynedd Council A55 Partnership Leads the Way?

And “This is a unique agreement, whereby a public sector workforce undertakes an operational and maintenance service for a private sector company,” said Gwyn Morris Jones, Gwynedd Council’s Head of Highways. “It is also unusual to have such a long term – 18 years – contact in the civil engineering sector.”

Returning to the Prof's headline that the Conservative led coalition government should focus on small government [or small state for it's from the USA] rather than the big society, I got slightly confused because according to one website -  RationalWiki

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has helped to reinvent the concept of Small Government™ in the minds of the British people through his Big Society™ program. The Sunday Times remarked that it was "an impressive attempt to reframe the role of government and unleash entrepreneurial spirit." Through this campaign, Cameron demonstrated his advanced knowledge of Small Government™ by repackaging it for the British public. Because the Brits are socialists, they love Big things, especially government. Thus, they simply cannot understand the benefits of Small Government™ (this is likely due to socialist indoctrination at state schools). Because all government is simply a sliding scale between Small and Big Government™, cuts in government programs aren't just making government smaller, they're making everything else bigger! Hence, the Big Society™!

Rational Wiki who are they you may ask? - from the website  It's best to think of RationalWiki as a bunch of drunken skeptics down the pub pointing at bullshit and loudly shouting "BULLSHIT!" and then returning in the morning to add their references, maybe. Our good stuff is great, though.

To finish, it seems to me this idea of a 'Small Government™'is really a right wing concept from the United States, and Dylan Jones-Evans does really like to point out this or that from the United States in his articles.  I suspect though that should you;for example,ask the majority of the poor of the USA, who did not have nor could they afford health insurance, they may say they have hope now because big government had intervened.