Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Looking to learn

Scottish Parliament had a spat because someone told the BBC about the SNP lead new plans for housing before the Parliament (watch the video and the 'not me guv' effort by the Minister).

I will watch with interest where this goes, especially given the emphasis in the One Wales agreement on affordable housing.

However all over the UK I feel we will need to also harness, influence and cajole the private sector to deliver more affordable products in addition to more traditional measures involving council housing and housing associations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I must admit to laughing.......

This news made me laugh at the ironies of life. The offence was also caught in North Wales which adds to the irony. Was it wrong to laugh ?

Monday, October 29, 2007

"monitoring the state of public opinion"

I think this was the term used in the One Wales agreement to provide some context for the proposed referendum on further powers for the Assembly. It seems a sensible get out clause if the skies start to look a little cloudy as the day approaches. Peter Hain seems a little premature in reporting on the state of opinion, but I don't think it requires over reaction.

As from last week we know there is much detailed work to be completed in preparing the ground for any poterntial referendum and people should keep calm heads and focus on that work in the period ahead. That there will be opposition in some quarters to further devolution is not news and part of a mature response will be to get the home work finished in time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yawn in the rain

Its 10 to 7 and everyone got excited because a man threw a ball in the NFL game involving some Dolphins taking on New York.

It proves to me why the Americans can keep this game (I registered for tickets - what a lucky escape !) and why it will not replace "soccer", having just enjoyed the action of L'Pool - Arsenal a few minutes ago.

Anyway wins for the Baggies, Caernarfon Town and Bangor City. Albion go to Watford next week for a top of the table clash.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Light entertainment

Will Plaid back slide ?

The stakes are really high for Plaid in the schools debate. At a national level as part of the 'One Wales' government they cannot over turn the logic that money spent on surplus school places is money being lost to other important public service priorities ( the same as for Labour councils). Yet the issue is far more emotive for traditional supporters of the Party of Wales as I perceive much of their traditional campaigning - while in opposition - was for small schools and rural areas. It was the evil Labour Party who ignored their rural interests etc etc.

It is the stench of hypocrisy that will drive much of the anger that will be vented at Plaid in the coming weeks and months.

Having previously 'persuaded' people on to the Plaid ticket for council elections I wonder how many will suddenly find independence an attractive option before May 2008 ?

Sod the revolution........

As history illustrates many times the seats of power can prove very comfortable and make one start to forget what got you there in the first place. Referendums for independence ? - that can wait, indeeed the people might say no. Time to read and check those endless promises again and see whether they had a caveat - let me enjoy power first.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Local democracy - local responsibility

The schools debate is local democracy at its rawest. It is a councillor's dearest wish to exert an influence over local matters and the organisation of schools is a clear example of the hard choices facing elected members. They also have a responsibility to use public money wisely as there are many competing demands on scarce resources.

Therefore it is a vital few years as decisions are made on future educational patterns.

Of course parts of Gwynedd made a major change many years ago when Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor replaced sixth forms in the more rural areas of Gwynedd. So does this prove change can happen and deliver - or have I missed something important about a decline in post sixteen education in south Gwynedd ?

Gap in postings - it was Goodison's fault

A complicated little story. I had origiinally obtained tickets to go and see White Stripes in Manchetser. Unfortunately that was cancelled as Meg White can't tour. So I ended up, via my wife Sue, with a ticket for Everton's european game at Goodison Park. This is an old fashioned stadium which can produce a good atmosphere, although it was strangely quiet at times last night. Anyway after an average first half the 2nd half livenend up and Everton ran out 3-1 winners. Arteta is a good skilful player and Anichibe seems to have the knock of coming on and making a difference.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

As night follows day.......

Well I only mentioned Denbighshire briefly but it seems the fall out from Gwynedd's school reorganisation is mounting. Of course the dispute is now at its most serious in those heartland areas where former colleagues are now becoming foes. Here is Cllr S Glyn callling for resignation of council leader. I suspect there are a hot few weeks ahead -or will Plaid bottle out and opt for more debate until after May's elections. We wait to see.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Schools debate hotting up for Plaid

From all of this it would seem my prediction of a troublesome time for Plaid is proving ever more correct. Will Denbighshire be the only council to see a new leader in the coming months ?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hard life in the Lords

Tiger Tales flagged up this bit of information. I must get my ticket for the Lords sorted soon....

"Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just had a look at the House of Lords' expenses for 2005/06.Assembly Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas attended 21 times and claimed £10,861."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"the world of the flat-earthers and of the ostriches"

I do not jump to condemn Richard Brunstrom who often decides to lead from the front and is not afraid to confront (perhaps even create) controversy. His contribution to the drugs debate is not one I immediately accept but I will take the time to consider the evidence he has provided via his blog.

To what extent this is the role of a Chief Constable may be debatable and his style is not that of a traditional public servant. Where I think Richard lets himself down in his attitude to those who may hold different views - his blog refers to them as "flat earthers and ostriches". Labelling a significant cross section of the population in this way does not seem language suited to such an important debate, indeed it is a tone of language unbecoming of his role and status. I assume the people he describes as such may include some of his own employees, other chief constables (judging by ACPO reaction) and other folk across our communities. What scope for internal dissent and debate if the boss has already stated publicly he considers you a "flat earther"?. That could be unhealthy for any organisation.

It might include me, but I will consider his evidence without the need to resort to language of such a tone.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Big steps

I will need to read the detail of Gwynedd's school reforms but it seems the council cannot be accused of holding back. We will all await with interest the reaction but I suspect this could prove seismic for Plaid in heartland areas.

There is also the tactic of making a big splah expecting a smaller return.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Public service quality

I suspect a lot of the focus on the BBC will seek to understand how the changes being announced will affect the public service quality of news and related services. In spite of this sort of nonsense the true public service quality that the license payer expects comes from a range of balanced news and current affairs coverage. Or is that just the slanted view of a wanabee politician ?

Some interesting debate on last night's news progammes including those questioning whether we have reached the stage where the shelf life of a public service broadcaster has passed - time eating away at another public sector principle. Reform or die ?

I don't think it can be seen in such simple terms and the details of the announcement may tell us more about where public service broadcasting is heading.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Health across North Wales

Edwina Hart said
Presiding officer, last week I was able to make a statement to Plenary on reconfiguration of health services and structures in South Wales. I indicated, then, that I hoped to return today with a similar statement of progress in relation to issues in North Wales and Powys.

Members will be aware that proposals for service reconfiguration in North Wales have proved controversial across the whole of the area. My approach has been to identify the underlying difficulties which have caused such public disquiet, and to put in place new procedures which, I hope, will allow us to take local populations with us in shaping new , and better services, for North Wales.

Today I want to bring together four strands in that approach, so that Members can be aware of the full picture, as it currently stands.
Firstly, Members will already know, from my oral statement of 25th September , that Michael Williams, then Acting Chair of the Swansea NHS Trust, has been commissioned to undertake a review of consultation processes adopted in relation to service reconfigurations at Prestatyn and Blaenau Ffestiniog. I remain convinced that we have to find new ways of ensuring that consultations are fair, open and thorough and that they are perceived to be so by local patients and clinicians. The Williams report will be with me in December , and I intend to study it carefully, not only for what it will tell us about what took place in Prestatyn and Blaenau Ffestiniog, but for any more general lessons on consultation it may contain. In the same statement I set out new arrangements for consultation on proposals in relation to Llandudno Hospital, making it clear that no services changes should proceed until that new consultation has been completed. That work is now underway, with the CHC in the lead role.

Secondly, I have concluded that in North Wales, as in the South, one of the key reasons why secondary care proposals have run into difficulty, is that plans for developing primary and community health services had been under-developed and under-described. I have therefore asked Dr Christopher Jones, RCT LHB Chair and a General Practitioner himself, to undertake a review of current plans in North Wales for community services and to provide me with a report on their appropriateness for the communities they serve. I want to ensure that primary and community services in North Wales are as strong and as forward-thinking as we can make them. The report which Dr Jones has agreed to produce by December 2007 will help make that happen and, in the process, give confidence to patients that services are being strengthened, rather than diminished.

Thirdly, in reviewing reports of what has taken place so far, and in meeting individuals and groups across North Wales, I have become additionally aware of the importance which clinical governance issues play in some of the decisions which come forward about individual sites and services. The proposed closure of Abergele Hospital, for example, turned, to a large extent, on clinical governance considerations. I have agreed to meet local representatives from Abergele in the near future to hear their views on these proposals, but I have to say today that I cannot ignore the considerable governance concerns about the current services which have been expressed by local clinicians. Presiding Officer, Abergele is only one place in North Wales where these issues have come to the fore. I have decided, as part of my general effort to secure, and bolster, public confidence in bringing about change in the Health Service, to obtain an independent view of those clinical governance issues which are already a matter of public debate from the Academy of Royal Colleges in Wales, and to continue to do so, as and when such matters arise in the future.

Finally, and in order to complete the picture of outstanding work, I turn to a somewhat different issue which has arise in relation to the structural integrity of a major block within Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. While I am pleased to be able to confirm to Members that the building remains safe for its current use, my concerns are that the design of the block is not capable of supporting the improvements in services which will be necessary in the future. I have therefore asked my officials to commission a review into the structural issues in the context of the changes that are proposed for Glan Clwyd hospital and report back to me in December.
Taken together, the four different reports which I have outlined this afternoon will provide vital pieces in the jigsaw of service development which I want to see taking place in North Wales. By January of next year I shall be in a position to take a view on the results of the work I have commissioned and I shall provide members with a further statement at that time.

In the meantime, I repeat the principle which I set out in relation to South Wales services last week. Where there is sound local endorsement of proposals to reform services I do not intend to stand in the way of those reforms proceeding. The completion of the new Porthmadog community hospital and the closure of Bronygarth hospital will go ahead, as will completion of the new hospital at Holywell and the closure of Lluesty and the existing Holywell hospitals, to cite just two examples of developments which are proceeding. Where there is no local agreement, however, as for example at Blaenau Ffestiniog or Flint, then no further change will take place until the work identified earlier has come to fruition.
Presiding Officer, that concludes my up-date of major issues in relation to North Wales. I am as anxious as any Member to make progress towards an agreed and settled set of proposals in every part of the North. But I am even more anxious to do so in a way which demonstrates that local concerns have been listened to carefully and with real respect. I am under no illusions that it will be possible to satisfy every group, or every individual objection to what finally emerges, but I am determined that we do everything we can to find a ways forward which command confidence and credibility amongst patients, staff and the public.

Monday, October 15, 2007


No not a reference to Ming, but the implosion that seems to be hitting Plaid Cymru around the schools reorganisation in Gwynedd. With a new political "party" also in the making for next May's council elections it is clear that Plaid face a difficult 9 months as they struggle to reconcile a responsibility for efficient public services with the decline in the numbers of young people in our midst.

Anyway those not wanting to support Plaid's Gwynedd leadership have to face the hard truth that in Dwyor and Meirionnydd there are major school issues, surplus places, that need to be addressed.

Plaid's problem I feel is that they have spent so long going round the issues and the options, that they have lost people's confidence and the ability to act. I suspect it could prove very damaging to them. When it is time to act it is often better to get on with it - ask Ming !

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blast from the past

In line with the current trends of reliving our youth I am off to Manchester to see Rush. Yes I know they have kept touring but I have to admit this is the first time I have gone to see them since 1982 (?). One way of not reading the Sunday's and all the Brown bunkum. In the same way that polls have turned this way and the other they can as easily turn again.

Perhaps the main lesson is that people are not as sure in their views as they were 10 years ago (no major surprise) and the next General Election will therefore be a different sort of election to those in 2001 and 2005.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Meet the Members

Although we all now know we are not facing a 'snap' election in this (mild) October month the wheel of politics keeps turning. The Arfon constituency is in the process of selecting their next Prospective Parliamentary Candidate and today was "meet the members" at the Celtic Royal Hotel in Caernarfon. Nice turnout and a chance to talk about key issues for the Westminster campaign. We await shortlisting and selection meeting.

ps was it ever going to be a 'snap' election when people had spent over a month deabting it ?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hywel sends jail somewhere else

Well it seems from the Chronicle that Hywel Williams MP would like a jail in North Wales, but not on his patch. There are a number of pracical issues for the Ferodo site like ownership, its distance from centres of population but I would like a jobs profile/economic impact etc before closing the door.

Cardiff's affordables

Work took me off to Cardiff and an Excellence Wales event on Cardiff CCs affordable housing policies. The coach tour took us past the Millenium Centre, but having missed last night's Dragon Eye (drinking I'm afriad) the significance passed me by.

Anyway we all know of Cardiff's economic boom and the dramatic increase in house building levels (they have built more in one year than Anglsey builds in ten yers) but it seems many of Cardiff's completions are in apartments in the Bay.

That is of little use to local families and not aimed at need - this all sounds a little familiar.

Also much debate amongst housing and planning officers on the coach on how we will all feel in 20 years time about the new apartment blocks that have been put up ?

Anyway worthwhile and always lessons that can be transferred in spite of rural-urban differences.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Prison down the road

It seems that in addition to the new court buildings I looked at t'other day that any naughty boys and girls could then walk to one of the possible sites for a North Wales jail. I await local reaction reaction with interest as I think the Ferodo site formally sites in the area of Y Felinheli community council. The site will also be known to many of you for the long running TGWU dispute.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Narrow politics of middle ground

It is an oft quoted feature of current political life that much of the battle is for some rather narrow politics in the middle ground. At the moment I can only see the announcement on Inheritance Tax in that vein.

I understand the big picture politics of it all, but it seems to suggest that to those who have we can give more while those in real need, without adequate homes or the homeless, don't get a sniff. But as a society we may reap what we sow. I note Will Hutton outlined some reasons for our recent predicament in last Sunday's Observer.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The "dirty" work of affordable housing

Through my work I spent the day at a WLGA event on affordable housing which was crammed full of presentations, good advice and ideas.

However I left feeling we have enough advice and pointers to good practise. Barring some unforeseen change in the political culture of our nation I feel we have to get down to the daily, solid work of Councils using our housing and planning powers to produce more affordable housing although any extra spending which might emerge from the Spending Review and the so called consequentials would be welcome to local authorities.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hywel's extra spending

In the heat of May's Assembly election a few of us kicked up a fuss when MPs like Hywel Williams suddenly took out full adverts in the Daily Post, much of the space being taken up by Plaid Cymru logos, I felt it was election material masqurading as House communications.

Well it seems from here and here that I was not alone. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Overtime on the Sunday papers

Following this I wonder how many Suday papers are busy writing new articles, new angles and trying to recover any early editions distributed from their print rooms ?

Having told a Radio Cymru phone in some days ago that I thought the wise decision was not too go, I was still a little unsure whether to buy some new walking shoes over the weekend. Well now i know the answer and can buy a new CD instead ! Foo Fighters here I come....

Old football habits

There must be a stato somewhere in the world who has counted the number of times a football team equalise only too concede a goal within say five minutes of the equaliser. So Southampton 3-2 Baggies after recovering from a 2-0 defecit.

Well done Cardiff and Swansea and great to see Wrexham getting a win.

And wherever people sit on their nationality I thought the rugby win was an immense tactical victory for that team which beat the Aussies - but the All Blacks will take it all to an extra level.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Investment showing through

Labour's investment in public services is showing through in various ways. In Caernarfon the cranes are up and the new court buildings are taking shape and I called by for a look. Here I am in strange pose (perhaps half in fear of a summons) with a facility that will serve Caernarfon's economy well in the coming years.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

"Fit and ready"

It is a matter for the Labour Party but I am happy to confirm that if Gordon Brown calls an election I am "fit and ready" for a Westminster election. One Wales has changed the dynamic of Welsh politics but in a Westminster context I have little doubt that a devolution sympathetic Labour MP could be important and effective for Arfon.

Here I am checking out the CAST sentre in Parc Menai, Bangor a sign of progress and the new economy in Arfon after the Objective One investment.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Over to you Gordon

Well the right wing press will rant and rave and other media stoke up the fires - the Sunday's should be a joy to read with their sources and speculation.

However with the Comprehensive Spending Review due Gordon has his ducks lined up.

Over to you Gordon - ?.

"Our Prime Minister"

I resisted the temptation to stay off work for Cameron's speech but on returning home I am sure I heard him refer to "our Prime Minister". Now some "friends" will say this just confirms their fear about Labour's alleged slide to the right. However I think it is also very telling that Cameron refers to Brown in this way - suggesting that not even he anticipates a change in the situation.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Assembly's helping hand

I am pleased to see that Leighton Andrews AM has been able to announce funding that will see Ty Cegin on the Maesgeirechen estate , Bangor to continue its transformation and vital role within the local community.

Sustainable funding streams are often vital to the long term future of Lottery funded projects and integration with mainstrem services is a way of acheiving this.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Its the way they tell em !

"We have another problem as well. The public does not know that it can trust the Conservatives on the administration of public services."

Philip Hammond - Tory Shadow Treasury

BBC News / politics

Wise move by Tories

I have always beleived that in many constituencies Tories could comfortably vote for Plaid candidates as a safe bet against Labour. I have no doubt that (Lord) Dafydd Wigley's big majorities were based on an appeal across Plaid/Tory boundaries with, I will acknowledge, some Labour supporters thrown in for good measure.

As I have argued before it is possible that this cozy relationship is more strained after the One Wales agreement. This is one element of the additional interest in the Westminster election when it arrives. Welsh Tories clearly see some potential ground to exploit. With Plaid's grip on fortress Gwynedd facing a challenge on several fronts it will be an interesting few weeks/months/years.