Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eve of poll

Only a brave (some might say foolhardy) candidate would be disturbing voters tonight as Liverpool and Chelsea battle for 2nd spot in the Champion's League final. So its all down to polling day. My thoughts about the day.
Well I will focus my thoughts on Plaid Cymru in Gwynedd. (on the basis that others will be posting about Labour in the urban areas).
I start from the point that for many years the Party of Wales have been the local "establishment" here in Gwynedd and therefore should know where their core supporters are to help turn out the vote. A test of their machine - if it still exists.
Yet I also have a feeling some willing workers have left for the pasture of protest vote represented by Llais Gwynedd. That could mean trouble in a number of wards. There are also wards where the Plaid candidates are past their sell by date - it happens in all parties.
Popular local candidates might just unseat some big Plaid names, and it would be no surprise if Dafydd Iwan and Richard Parry Hughes are feeling the heat come the count. If either fall that will be a big news story in Gwynedd. If Plaid Cymru loose control then it will be another council with no overall control and not having the political direction (like it or not) of recent years.
And then what? Well the balance of seats, and who can deal with who, will be interesting. The Plaid and Llais battle has become very bitter and very personal in places. So deals could be difficult. Labour - lets see how many seats we get first, and their distribution. Some gains are possible for us (3 have a great interest to me), but from the relatively small pool of candidates we have in Gwynedd. The "independents" will be a group that could be facing some interesting choices.
So local elections having some real interest and some real implications for local communities.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

(The photos are of Castle square improvement works and properties adjoining the Square improvements).
Some postings seem to suggest that I am unfair in highlighting the interests of Mr Dafydd Iwan and Mr Alun Ffred Jones AM in 'Arianrhod', a property investment company.
The questions are described as a pre election fishing trip, yet they can also be read as legitimate questions to ask of two publicly elected representatives. So some clarity from my view point:
a) I have no problem with their involvement in a property investment company, indeed I wish them and others involved with the company every success,
b) I have no objection in principle to the practise of property investment.
However I think publicly elected representatives do need to take great care when promoting (as Mr Iwan and Mr Jones have done) publicly funded investment in places that immediately adjoin places in which they have private business interests. That is why the questions have been asked and I am sure the responses will help clarify any misunderstanding.
Gwynedd Council have stated in January 2008 that
"The Caernarfomn Town Centre Regeneration Scheme is a landmark urban regenerations scheme worth over £2.4 million which consists of a combination of public realm improvements and an associated traffic management scheme which will create a strong sense of arrival within the town centre. The redevelopment work is considered a pivotal element to the successful regeneration of the town, and forms and integral part of the long term strategy to regenerate the town and its surrounding area".
Gwynedd Council describe a key element of the town centre scheme as :
"Substantially improve the physical environment of Castle Square which is a 1.3 acre site in the historic town of Caernarfon" - that improvement should be good news for anyone owning property on the Square as it will make their properties more attractive (that is a stated aim of the investment).
Those physical improvements are happening literally on the doorstep of properties owned by Arianrhod.
Hence the questions so we can be clear private and public interests are not being mixed.

Brunt shoots Baggies to Premiership glory

Well it was a little tense at time but Chris Brunt stepped up to the mark to hammer in the vital equaliser which, barring some incredible mathematical twist, sees Albion back in the Premiership.
So an FA Cup semi-final and automatic promotion - well done to everyone.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who are we - I don't know says Adam

It seems I need to dust down the pledge board beacuse Adam likes the Tories again. Oh well it took a bit of work last time, but for the progressive cause I'll engage again if need be. Its up to you Adam - if you want 'Dave', 'George' and the Boris types running Wales thats up to you - I know where my loyalties are. In spite of recent postings I might even find Dafydd and Ffred easier bed fellows.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Daftdd Iwan, Alun Ffred Jones AM and property investment

1. Background

For some time I have kept a watching brief on a property investment company called Arianrhod. This company purchases local property and renovates/lets to businesses. It attracted my interest after Mr Dafydd Iwan listed the company amongst his interests on his personal web site. However the reference to him being a Director of Arianrhod was removed from his personal web site last year.

Yet in January 2008 his brother, Mr Alun Ffred Jones AM (Arfon) , added an entry to his Assembly register declaring an interest in this same company. My interest was therefore renewed.

Here is the 2003-2007 register

Here is the 2007-2011 register

The addition of Arianrhod is a notable change to the register for Mr Alun Ffred Jones AM.

2. Some Context

Arianrhod is a company that invests in property, and most of its property it seems (but not exclusively) is held in the town of Caernarfon. (source Companies House). The company has purchased property from Gwynedd Council.

The company deals in property and its purpose is to let/sell the property assets it buys to provide local business opportunities. The properties are held as company assests.

Plaid Cymru President Dafydd Iwan was, and is now, a former Director of the company called Arianrhod. (source Companies House records). It is unclear whether he still holds shares in the company.

It seems shares in Arianrhod cost £1,000 each. (source Companies House).

Alun Ffred Jones AM is also a shareholder. (Source – a new declaration in the Assembly Register of Members’ Interests January 2008).

Arianrhod owns several properties on the Square, Caernarfon. (Source Companies House)

Gwynedd Council is carrying out regeneration work on Castle Square, Caernarfon. This work was welcomed by Dfaydd Iwan who holds the regeneration portfolio for Gwynedd Council. It is work funded by the Assembly where Mr Alun fFred Jones represents the Arfon constituency.

Arianrhod has also attempted to buy the Goleuad Building in Caernarfon, Victoria Dock area, from Gwynedd Council. (Source Gwynedd Council, BBC website, Caernarfon Herald etc)

Mr Iwan sat on the Victoria Dock Joint Venture Board. This body considered the future of the Goleuad building. (source minutes of the Victoria Dock Joint Venture Board).

Gwynedd Council has refused a Freedom of Information request to release contact reports, e-mails and file notes on contact between Gwynedd Council and the company Arianrhod.

In the Assembly register of Member interests as at Jan 08 Mr Alun Ffred Jones AM makes a new entry declaring shares in the company Arianrhod. There is no parallel entry in the register for 2003-2007.

Arianrhod and Grifffilms sought grant aid from the Welsh Assembly Government for the Goleaud building. Alun Ffred Jones and Dafydd Iwan are/were directors of Arianrhod. The purchase and project did not progress but Arianrhod was involved.

3. Questions to provide clarity :

As Alun Ffred Jones AM was not declared in Companies House records as a director of Arianrhod, did he hold shares before January 2008 ?

How many and to what value ?.

What was the value of those shares and properties?

When were those shares acquired ?

Did Alun Ffred Jones AM comply with rules for declaration of interest on these shares in Arianrhod before January 2008?

Did Dafydd Iwan or Alun Ffred Jones AM declare an interest in properties on Castle Square/Y Maes when discussing publicly funded grant aid improvements to Castle Square Caernarfon ?
Does Alun Ffred Jones AM accept he has a personal financial interest in property on Castle Square Caernarfon ?
Does Mr Dafydd Iwan still have a similar financial interest in the Castle Square via shares in Arianrhod ?

Arianrhod and Grifffilms asked the Welsh Assembly Government for Grant Suppport. Alun Ffred Jones and Dafydd Iwan are/were directors or shareholders of Arianrhod. To help clarify this matter will Gwynedd release records of all e-mails, meetings and correspondence with the company Arianrhod and confirm who represented the company Arianrhod in all meetings held with the council ?

Which other Plaid Cymru representatives hold Arianrhod shares?

As a shareholder did Mr Alun Ffred Jones AM declare an interest when Arianrhod was seeking grant aid from the Assembly Government?

I invite any correction of fact in this matter and hope the answers to these questions will provide clarity on the activities of the company and reassure the public on these matters.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Welsh champions

The Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen Caernarfon Under 16's today played in the Minute Maid Schools Cup Final at Latham Park Newtown and ran out 5-4 winners after extra time. Penglais Aberystwyth were the gallant runners up. The glory followed a 6.45 am departure from Caernarfon and well done to Aaron Simpson, Andrew Owen, Luke Bartlett, Warren Palmer, Liam Broadbent, Nathan Craig, Alan Owen, Sion Roberts, Ben Bolton, Dylan Roberts, Ben Davies, James Peters, Carwyn Roberts, Cai Llwyd, Luke Davies and Gareth Eaglestone and their coach Bryn Williams.
Anyway if you win such a competition here is the medal - I never did myself so well done son !
(bad luck to Syr Hugh Owen under 18's who lost 1-0 yesterday to Hartridge - the other political link being that Caio Iwan plays for the under 18's).
Well done to Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen (my old school) for having two teams in the Welsh finals thisweekend. And ysgol Brynrefail, Llanrug for making the Under 14's final. Arfon is rich in football talent it seems.

Sunshine and snow

In a melancholy Sunday mood so rather than words lets look at a nice picture of Wyddfa/Snowdon taken earlier this week during the glorious mix of sunshine and snow.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A taste of the Emirates and Old Trafford etc

After a solid afternoon of leafletting in support of Labour candidates it was nice to return home in time for the football results and a good away win for the Baggies. It could still go wrong but I can now taste the return to Old Trafford etc. Next weekend at home to Southampton could seal it. 2nd place remains a real mystery with Hull slipping up after a great run and it my be a matter of who holds their nerve best.

Keep looking for a team with a late run of form for the third play off place.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gwyneth Dunwoody

It is right to pay tribute to Gwyneth Dunwoody MP. Many will comment that she was a style, and generation, of politician that we do not see as much today. Politics is a poorer place with her passing.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Greed ?

It is established fact that in many areas of public expenditure the Labour government has provided record sums to renew our public infrastructure and we seen new schools, hospitals and public buildings across the UK. So the news we may have been ripped off in the same period just makes me feel depressed about the antics of those involved. The same monies might have provided more public facilities and school buildings etc.

No doubt many have also been involved with PFI and refinancing deals that my union, UNISON, has been working hard to evidence concerns.

Why a little depressed ?- they are in it for profit and should I not just accept it? No I think public money should be used for the intended purpose, not lining the pockets of construction companies.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The pain of adjustment

The news about falling house prices will not be perceived as totally bad news as the majority have bemoaned the unsustainability of the increases in recent years. Yet given the importance of this asset (yes it stopped being just a 'home' some time ago it seems) the government clearly needs to act so the bump is not too painful.
Of course we are suffering from the global nature of modern capitalism and yet again I suspect the rules for the financiers will be adjusted to ensure their ongoing health.
So where are we know?. Well even with current adjustments I asume house prices only return to the levels of early 2000's but it is the tightening on the availability of finance that hits confidence.
Gordon needs to bring his massive knowledge to help meet this challenge but I suspect there are no 'UK alone' solutions.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Was this meant to happen ?

Bridgend seems to be the latest council having a spat over the local government job evaluation scheme. Last week Denbighshire made the headlines when some new pay line seemed to disadvantage essential care workers.

It seems very strange that at a time when 'headline' pay rates are causing problems we also see a squeeze on some low paid jobs as a result of this whole process.

I recall Edwina had to reflect on the effects of the Agenda for Change on health workers, will the same process effect local government workers?

Lots of water yet to go under the bridge but politically it all seems a bit strange.

(I suppose declaration of interest required as a current local government employee!).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Well done

Blogging has been light as I went off to London to support Sue in the London marathon. Well I consumed plenty of coffee and flapjacks and kept in touch with friends via text. Five hours after starting Sue ended in Horse Guards Parade and, hopefully, the guiding centre at Felin Bach near Caernarfon is a few quid better off.

If Welsh bloggers want to share any appreciation of the physical effort made then cheques payable to "Girlguiding Caernarfonshire" can be sent to 19 Stryd Menai, Y Felinheli LL56 4HX. Diolch.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More trouble brewing

The suggestion that athletes could be expelled if they display a flag indicates that Olympics 2008 could get ever more tricky, and that must be viewed with some trepidation for the organisers of London 2012. Troubles in one period can often roll over in to subsequent events.

Perhaps China may make some additional moves before the games start but it is difficult to see such a regime adapting at a quick enough rate to overcome human rights concerns.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lavatories of innovation ?

A friend suggested that Plaid Cymru have decided to make their councils "lavatories of innovation". I am sure he misread the press release.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Time to tackle racists

It seems the BNP may be running a candidate in Bangor and it is therefore my pledge that we will not let them come to these communities and spread their poisonous messages. More on this as nominations are finalised.

We can all have a variety of concerns about our communities, but it cannot be right to allow people to turn to the BNP for solutions. It is not clear which bit of the BNP this person represents but we will take a democratic message of hope to any ward where the BNP seek to make inroads.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

23 hours, 1 goal, disapointment and fun

So the Cup Final was not to be but at least the semi finalists also got a day out at Wembley this year. In spite of the result, and the inevitable football curse of the former player, and in spite of a train nightmare turning it in to a 23 hour day it was a nice day out. So back to the League and the push for promotion.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Eve of big game - early start

So the web site of Gwynedd Council gives us some idea of the runners and riders for May 1st. My own ward (Y Felinheli) will switch from Labour to Plaid without a contest. C'est la vie, and good luck to Sian Gwenllian as she steps forward to represent the village on Gwynedd Council.
It seems there are more elections to be contested than normal and some interesting battles to come. I suspect Dafydd Iwan could be in trouble in Bontnewydd and contacts tell me Parry Hughes has problems.
Labour group leader Brian Jones seems to be have been returned unopposed.
Of course we have to wait the full process and make sure noone withdraws, and all papers are accepted. Good luck to all of Labour's candidates.
In my case I have to apologise for the first full Saturday of the campaign as I am off to WEMBLEY WEMBLEY

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Last minute reminder!

For anyone thinking of contesting the council elections on May 1st the nominations close at 12.00 midday tomorrow (Friday 4th April). That concludes the public service announcement.
We will then get some clearer idea of how many seats are being contested in Gwynedd and whether all the threats of Llais Gwynedd are sustained to the nomination period. It promises to be interesting and wards facing an election that have not seen democracy such as voting in years!.
The Gwynedd Labour Party is shaping well given the general climate, and seems to have a similar number of candidates ready as for the previous Gwynedd election.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sad and messy end

The announcement by Bertie Ahern marks a sad and messy end to this politician's contribution to our politics and relative peace in recent years. As a qualified planner it also makes me reflect on the care required when working in town planning to ensure actions are above board. Ahern may have done wrong at the political-develper end of the spectrum and, for whatever reason, got himself in a pickle, and the self denials run contrary to the emerging evidence.

Royal Mail - satisfied customer.

How dare anyone criticise the Royal Mail! They have today made a customer in North Wales very happy as the ticket for the semi final was safely delivered.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fire alarms not horse boxes

A wag at work suggested that Mr Brunstrom should have invested more in fire alarms rather than horse boxes !