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.