Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Now that Christmas is fast approaching, many people (me included) are wondering how we are going to pay for it. This time of year people are under considerable pressure to spend more money than they can afford, the situation is worse now because of the current economic climate. People need to think very carefully about where they get credit from, especially during difficult economic times, people may be tempted by disreputable lenders such as doorstep lenders and loan sharks who could lead people into uncontrollable levels of debt.

Debt is a serious issue, and unmanageable debt can have serious and far reaching consequences in terms of family life and mental health and is something that can affect people across every community. When people get into serious debt they can feel pretty isolated as this can make them more vulnerable to the exploitation of loan sharks and other disreputable lenders. To avoid any trouble with disreputable lenders seek help immediately from the police or the Citizen's Advice Bureau as the lender may well have behaved illegally.

Illegal money lenders can range from small time loan sharks to violent and organised criminals operating throughout Welsh communities. Launched in February 2008, the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit (WIMLU) raises awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and provides advice and support to victims. Since its launch, the unit has helped 1,412 victims of illegal money lending. The Unit also works to stop illegal money lenders operating in Wales. Since 2008 their investigations have led to the arrest of 43 loan sharks.

The Plaid driven Welsh government is committed to the establishment and development of credit unions, as a form of social enterprise, in all parts of Wales. So far the One Wales government has achieved all-Wales coverage of Credit Unions, has established access for secondary pupils and helping credit unions to offer more Child Trust Fund accounts. Credit Unions have a hugely important role to play, offering, not just affordable credit but also valuable advice on budgeting.

The former New Labour Government did not do enough to tackle doorstep lenders and loan sharks. We need to look at other ways of protecting vulnerable people in debt. Plaid Cymru has campaigned in Westminster for a cap on interest charged by lenders. This would be an invaluable tool in tackling problems with doorstep lenders and loan sharks and Plaid will continue to campaign for this and any other means of tackling the problem of disreputable lenders.

Plaid AM Helen Mary Jones said:

Plaid Am Helen Mary Jones
“We all know that Christmas can be a very difficult time financially for many families, it is vital that everyone is aware of the risks of loan sharking to people in our communities. Loan sharks very often appear to offer seemingly helpful solutions to people's money worries. Here in Wales, Plaid in government has worked hard to increase the number of Credit Unions in Welsh communities and at a Westminster level Plaid MPs are committed to continuing their fight for the introduction of a cap on interest charges. I would strongly recommend anyone in need of financial assistance to use Credit Unions instead of turning to loan sharks. Credit Unions are now well established in Wales, and can offer affordable credit and valuable advice on budgeting."

Friday, 26 November 2010


I welcome the news that Ofgem is to hold a wide ranging investigation into the questionable practises of the UK retail energy sector after the recent price rises. There is a real need to investigate the current 'competitive market' which does not work in the interests of customers and that an investigation is needed to clamp down on alleged 'cartel-like behaviour'.

We need is a serious investigation into the competitive practises of energy companies by the regulator. Any investigation must be thoroughly in-depth and tackle the cartel-like behaviour of these companies.There can be no justification for profit margins to rise by 40% in less than three months while at the same time inflicting significant energy price hikes on consumers.

British Gas customers are to face a 7% rise in gas and electricity bills which comes into effect on 10th December. As a result of rising wholesale prices, said British Gas. oddly enough British Gas has become the second major UK energy supplier to announce price increases for the winter months - when there is a greater demand, and coincidently a greater profit to be made.

Scottish and Southern Energy also intend to raise their domestic gas charges by 9.4% at the start of December, blaming wholesale prices for the increase in customer bills. This price increase announcement, was made just before just before they reported a 6.1% fall in pre-tax profits to £386m in the first half of the company's financial year.

The bottom line is that current energy system and the energy market seriously disadvantages all consumers, especially the most vulnerable in our society. There needs to a mandatory social tariff for consumers so that the fuel poor are removed from a competitive market that simply doesn't work for them or the rest of us.

We have a very real problem here in Wales where, according to National Energy Action Cymru, a third of properties live in fuel poverty. We must take steps at local, national and international levels to begin tackling the causes of fuel poverty.

Ofgem must clamp down on these injustices and come back with clear and firm recommendations. If the energy regulator takes firm steps against the actions of these greedy energy companies then this would be an important first step.

I suspect that the Ofgem investigation, won't come close to the Conservative pre-election promise for a proper enquiry into the energy industry. Oddly enough that pre-election pledge for an independent inquiry into the £25 billion-a-year energy industry (which has been subject to lengthy and repeated criticisms surrounding accusations of profiteering on electricity and gas) was quietly dropped by the Com Dem Coalition Government in August, no doubt when they hoped that no one would notice.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


There are times when you almost (repeat almost) have a degree of sympathy with David Cameron, all that effort giving the former nasty party a green tinted hoody hugging makeover - wasted? I mean look what he has got to work with Lord Young (sacked/resigned/pushed -take your pick) and now Lord Flight (whose fate is as yet unknown) although falling after a struggle on his sword might well turn out to be an option. Of course Lord Flight is no stranger to letting the Tory masque slip. He has previous or form for it from 2005, when he let the cat out of the bag about possible Tory cuts. Hmmm, it's worth remembering that our economy (admittedly credit driven) was relatively stable then and the crash was a few years away. No, perhaps not, I suspect that these are the real Tories unrestrained and without the makeover.This is only a case of the Tory masque slipping to reveal what lies beneath.  Poor old David, and people used to think that his political life was difficult enough trying to deal with keeping his Liberal Democrat little helpers on board and on message. I suppose you could always try abolishing the House of Lords?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


I welcome the good news that Plaid in Government has exceeded its target of delivering 6,500 new affordable homes during the term of this government, one year ahead of schedule. A total of 6,707 affordable homes have been delivered in Wales since Plaid went into Government in 2007. This means that the Welsh Assembly Government has already exceeded its target of delivering 6,500 new affordable homes during the term of this government, one year ahead of schedule, according to official statistics released today. Some 2,472 additional affordable homes were provided between April 2009 and March 2010, meaning that the total of 6,707 in the first three years of the term of this government, exceeds the target of 6,500 new homes by March 2011 set out in the One Wales document.

Plaid’s Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies AM
Plaid’s Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies AM said:

“I am delighted to announce that we have not only met, but exceeded our target of creating 6,500 additional affordable homes in this Assembly term. This is a particularly impressive achievement given the current economic conditions. However we know that demand for affordable housing continues to grow and we need to deliver even more homes in future. With tightening budgets, this will prove quite a challenge but we are developing new ways in which we can attract other investment and I look forward to working with local authorities, housing associations and others in the housing sector to keep up the good work we have carried out to date and deliver more homes to help families in Wales."

Plaid Cymru has long campaigned against the severe housing pressure faced by many Welsh communities where house prices far outstrip local wages. When they went into government they committed to tackling this problem and set the target of delivering 6,500 new affordable homes during the term of government. A total of 6,707 affordable homes have been delivered in Wales since Plaid went into Government in 2007.

Locally that means that in Monmouthshire, between 2007-10 244 affordable homes were built, with another 81 to be potentially affordable homes to be built between 2010-12. In Newport, that means that 583 affordable homes were built between 2007-10, with another 410 potential affordable homes to be built between 2010-12. In Torfaen, this means that 262 affordable homes were built between 2007-10 and another 182 potential affordable homes to be built between 201-12. This is good news, and it not just a One Wales promise fulfilled but one surpassed.

Additional affordable housing provision in Wales, 2007-08 to 20011-12. (a)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Monday, 22 November 2010


The Labour Party in Wales has said that Wales is underfunded to the tune of £300m which is something that the Holtham Commission, which looked into the way Wales is funded, reported. While I am pleased that the Labour Party in Wales has finally recognised this, I find it hard to reconcile it with the fact that they were in government for 13 years and did precisely nothing to change the flawed Barnet funding system, when they had the opportunity. Now, being in opposition in (and out of) Westminster and in Government in Cardiff Bay, all is urgency (or political expediency) and the crocodile tears begin to flow copiously...

There is that more than faint whiff of self satisfied smug glee and more than a little joyful if not ecstatic hand rubbing from some of Tory mainstream (sorry right) in relation to the mess that some of the Euro zone countries have got themselves into, ignoring the fact that the Euro is actually pretty sound, the problem is being caused by the banking idiocy that gripped much of the world - something that most governments did little to try and curb or criticise when things were bubbling along quite nicely.

The Irish situation is more complicated than most as successive Irish governments made significant quantities of hay while the sun shined brightly and appear to have made little or no provision for rockier economic times (just like almost every other government on the planet) and now the Irish people are paying for it (just like us). All governments Europe and worldwide would do well to note the slowly (and not so slowly) rising degrees of discontent that that paying for the banking crash is generating.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


One of the consequences of the Comprehensive Spending Review, may well be that the proposed £1.1 billion pound Swansea to London rail electrification project bites the dust. Plaid's Ieuan Wyn Jones successfully negotiated the multi-million pound the extension of the proposed upgrade and electrification of the rail line between Swansea and London last year. The original electrification project was (as proposed by New Labour) was only intended to extend as far as Bristol, and only after the intervention of the Plaid driven One Wales Government did they agreed to electrify the line as far as Swansea.

The silence from the ConDem Government in Westminster, in relation to the fate of this project could at best be described as evasive or at worst described as telling when it comes to committing to the extending the electrification programme into Wales - so much for Wales being a ConDem priority. There has been plenty of financial white smoke from the Treasury, but, as yet no clear answer either way.

Here are some statistics to think about:

Electrified Rail in Europe

Switzerland: 100%
Sweden: 77%
Netherlands: 73%
Italy: 69%
Germany: 56%
Spain: 56%
UK: 40%

Source: UIC Website: http://uic.asso.fr

Electrified Rail in Wales (After 13 years of New Labour Government).

Wales: 0%

I think that we are too focused on the rail link to London, which has long needed electrification, it's far too easy to end up endlessly complaining about how Wales is left out of this, fails to get that, etc. Wales is unfairly funded - fact. Let's move on, and see what we can achieve with what we have got. The Con Dem's are unlikely, no matter how well reasoned the case is and no matter how well explained the arguments are, not going to change their mind or their position in relation to fair funding for Wales.

So lets' get practical, let's give some real and serious consideration be given to electrifying the valley lines down to the coastal belt. What we are talking about is the Ebbw Vale to Cardiff (and eventually to Newport) line, the lines in Western Gwent, the lines down from Rhondda, Cynon and Taff Valleys to Cardiff and lines into Swansea and Bridgend.

Now if we use part of WAG's Annual Transport budget, which comes in at around £0.76 billion. If we make creative use of European matched funding then we could be talking about doing the business. Sion Barry (in the Western Mail 24th September 2010) estimated that some £200 million would pay for the electrification of the valley lines into Cardiff. Liverpool has long had an electrified rail link to London and has scarcely benefited from it. We can do the London link later, lets do something lasting for our Valley communities and lets look doing it now.

We also need to look at reopening old railway lines, feasibility studies into the possibilities of reopening to old railway lines (between Llangefni on Anglesey and Bangor, and between Aberdare and Hirwaun in the Cynon valley) to passenger traffic have already been called for from Network Rail. Similar feasibility studies need to be undertaken on the old railway lines between Usk via Little Mill to the main line and in the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Monmouth.

If we are serious about delivering reliable, effective and sustainable all weather communications to our communities then reopening old railway lines initially to passenger and then to rail freight is the way to go. These lines to Usk and to Monmouth via Chepstow which were originally closed by the then Conservative Government which initiated significant and damaging cuts to rail services via the Beeching review of rail transport.

If Government in both London and Cardiff is really serious about cutting carbon emissions and road congestion then reopening these lines to rail and fright traffic could provide serious economic stimulation to the local economies and provide a real opportunity for people to make use of public transport which would reduce road congestion. Let's get to work.

Friday, 19 November 2010


This is what happens when the Tory mask slips:

Top Conservative: recession? You've never had it so good

The vast majority of Britons have "never had it so good" because of the low interest rates during the recession, Lord Young, a senior adviser to David Cameron, has declared....


Followed several hours later by

Cameron adviser quits over 'never had it so good' claim 

A no doubt 'unprompted' resignation...

Thursday, 18 November 2010


As Health spending in Wales currently makes up almost half of the Welsh Assembly Government budget, it is more than a tad deceitful for the Welsh Conservatives to claim that they would ring fence entire health budget, revenue and capital, in line with Retail Price Index.

Think about it - if the health spend is ring fenced in cash terms then every other budget (including the Education budget) would have to be cut by 20%, without the ring fence this comes in at around 11.9% across the board - which is bad but at least attempting to make the best out of bad job.This would be seriously massive cut to ring fence one department.

In Gwent local Conservative AMs are doing their best to try to distance themselves from their own Government's cuts including the threatened closure of the Passport Office in Newport. Yet, if you follow their ill-thought out logic then when you ring fencing in health, we will end up facing even deeper more damaging cuts than the billions that have already been proposed by the Conservative dominated Con-Dem Government in London.

The Conservatives (and their Lib Dem little helpers or willing allies - take you pick?) are already planning to take some £5 billion out of the Welsh budget, if we go with their plan to ring fence the health budget, then we would have to take that £5 billion out of only half the budget available. Every time you see a local Conservative offering their support for public spending or campaign against a cut, we should all remind them of this ill-thought out plan that they have proposed.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


While I am not by any means a natural Daily Telegraph reader, said newspaper has done serious service exposing what some of our elected representatives in Westminster get up to when it comes to claiming expenses. The Daily Telegraph keeps digging (and so do some of our MP's) in relation to MP’s on the make. This time revealing that some of Westminster's finest are letting their second homes to avoid being caught out by new rules that were introduced following the MP’s expenses scandal. In some cases MPs are moving into rented properties while letting out the flats the taxpayer has already funded...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Just as winter begins to bite, and the morning air has that pleasant dry,cold and crisp feel to in, there is that faint whiff of coincidence in the air. British Gas customers are to face a 7% rise in gas and electricity bills which comes into effect on 10th December. As a result of rising wholesale prices, said British Gas. Oddly enough British Gas has become the second major UK energy supplier to announce price increases for the winter months - when there is a grater demand, and coincidentally a greater profit to be made.

Scottish and Southern Energy intends to raise its domestic gas charges by 9.4% at the start of December, blaming wholesale prices for the increase in customer bills. It is worth noting that the price increase announcement, was made just before just before they reported a 6.1% fall in pre-tax profits to £386m in the first half of the company's financial year.

The market wholesale price for gas is around half of what it was at peak in 2008, yet over the same time period customers prices have only been reduced by less than 10%. No doubt British Gas and the other cartel members (sorry suppliers) will trot out the old excuses of having to respond to forward energy prices, etc. It's strange that the suppliers did not make cuts when market conditions allowed it, they are merely covering their profit margins as wholesale prices slowly rises. The timing is interesting especially at a time when there are reports of a gas glut, perhaps consumers take on all the risks.

Back in October 2009 the then Tory Energy Spokesman, Greg Clark (currently a Minister of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government) said that the "cartel" of the big 6 energy firms would be referred to the Competition Commission by an incoming Conservative Government. The then Tory Energy Spokesperson also condemned the unacceptable lag between the cost of wholesale gas prices and household energy bills - noting that customers were on average being charged some £74 pound too much for their energy per year.

An 'independent' investigation in the Energy companies refusal to pass on reductions in wholesale energy prices to customers would have been welcome along with the promised 'Energy Revolution' to overhaul the energy sector billing structure and charges. It all sounded great, save for the fact that it was a Conservative Government that was responsible for starting the whole sorry mess in the first place by privatising the energy market in the first place, throwing any rational energy pricing structure upon the whims of the 'market' by allowing the newly privatised energy companies to price gouge customers in the first place?

Oddly enough that pre-election pledge for an independent inquiry into the £25 billion-a-year energy industry which has been subject to lengthy and repeated criticisms surrounding accusations of profiteering on electricity and gas, was quietly dropped by the Com Dem Coalition Government. Heaven forbid that principle get in the way of profit.

Few people this winter will have as cozy a relationship with the gas companies as that exists between the political parties within the Westminster village (and without) and the energy supply companies. For sometime before the last Westminster general election, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats made repeated criticisms (and much political capital) from New Labour for its failure to tackle prices charged by the Big Six suppliers. Both the opposition parties publicly and repeatedly demanded an inquiry by the Competition Commission.

There was a faint hope that an inquiry into the nefarious activities of the energy supply cartel (sorry companies) might have had the power to reform the industry, encourage new entrants to break the hold of players such as British Gas and EDF on 99 per cent of the market and even possibly impose price caps. Yet, it appears that barely four months into the Coalition Government, there will be no inquiry has been called for and the Department of Energy and Climate Change confirmed on the 17th August 2010 that it has no plans to refer the industry to the Competition Commission.

Perhaps there ought to be an inquiry into the dubious (and financial rewarding (in cash and kind) relationship between our political parties and the representatives of the energy supply companies who are pretty keen to shower enough goodies around during Party conference season (and beyond) - I suspect not?

Monday, 15 November 2010


It's worth noting that in 2003, a 15 year franchise for running railway services in Wales was awarded to Arriva Trains Wales. Arriva Trains Wales is currently making a healthy profit from this agreement. Despite this, most demand for additional rail services are currently met directly by Welsh Assembly Government funds and are not funded by Arriva Trains Wales which as its priority is to service its shareholders.

Plaid Cymru's announcement that we will consider putting the management of Welsh railways in the hands of a 'not for profit' company when the current franchise contract with Arriva Trains Wales ends in 2018 is significant. This is major step forward when it comes to developing a transport system to suite the needs of the people of Wales, rather than as an add on to transport policy in England.

In Wales we should consider ensuring the transfer of control over the franchise to Welsh Ministers in order to put the franchise in the hands of a ‘not-for-profit’ company. This would allow the new company to reinvest its profits in developing better and more train services for people, instead of the current model where the majority of profits are returned to Arriva Trains Wales' shareholders. This could release extra money to invest in an improved All-Wales Rail Service which could amount to between £100m - £120m over a decade.

There are some serious potential benefits:

• Significant savings – releasing a fund for possible reinvestment projects such as re-opening lines across Wales, improving journey times or purchasing additional rolling stock.

• The development of an All-Wales transport network – with integrated ticketing and timetables across public transport in Wales.

The Glas Cymru model of how a ‘not-for-profit’ company can operate, already provides an excellent example of what's possible and could have great potential for the delivery of much better and more integrated rail services here in Wales.

Plaid Cymru, in government, has gone to great lengths to ensure that improvements to current rail services where they can be made, have been made, running 'rail in Wales,for Wales, means that the possibilities of reopening previously closed railway lines and closed railway stations becomes something more than a pipe-dream. It would also make sense to get the powers to take over responsibility for running the tracks from Network Rail - as any rail projects in Wales are going to be well down the list of priorities. There needs to be much better integration of track and train - something that will allow for far greater efficiencies.

There is a clear need to ensure that easily accessible rail services are available to far more people in the near future. Improving infrastructure, including rail, is absolutely vital to the development of the Welsh economy - to create the successful, sustainable, prosperous and green nation that we know Wales can be.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


News that overcrowding on trains in England and Wales will get substantially worse over the next four years despite rises in ticket prices should come as no surprise to passengers. The House of Commons's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has noted that the Department for Transports own plans for suggested targets for increasing passenger places would be missed.

The PAC blames the failure on the absence of any requirement to improve capacity within train operators' contracts. The Con Dem government has said plans to improve the situation would be unveiled soon. However, consider that the Conservatives privatised the railways in the first place, it might be best not to have any great expectations on any firm hand being taken with the privatised rail companies. It's also worth remembering that New Labour actually said when they came to office that if the railways had not been privatised then they would have privatised them themselves.

Westminster MPs have expressed their concern about that the "already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and ever more intolerable". Public Accounts Committee - Fifth Report - Increasing Passenger Rail Capacity - makes interesting reading notes that the fundamental problem was a lack of any real incentive for the industry to supply extra capacity without additional taxpayer support.

Basically the current franchise agreements, train operators are required to make "reasonable endeavours" to give peak passengers "a reasonable expectation of a seat within 20 minutes of boarding", but there is no legal burden upon them to expand fleets or improve stations to achieve this.

So what this means is that it has fallen to the taxpayer to provide funds to Network Rail to carry out any upgrade work And that the franchise agreements are merely allow the privatised rail companies to milk their franchises for all they are worth at our expense. This is somewhat ironic because as a result of the economic downturn, the Association of Train Operating Companies actually expects demand for rail travel to grow by around a quarter over the next five years. So the long suffering rail passengers will get a double whammy - having to pay more to be less comfortable.

And this after 13 years of New Labour Government - what a mess!

Friday, 12 November 2010


The news from the Royal Mail that it intends to close the Usk sorting office next year will not only mean a relocation of the workforce to Pontypool as of January 2011, but also shows that particularly if the manner of the announcement is repeated across Wales over the next few years that there is little or no concern for our local communities. It's apparent that the Royal Mail has already made its mind up and I concerned that whatever coherent case is made against closure the Royal Mail will merely pay lip service to it, go through the motions and then merrily press on.

Monmouthshire is a relatively large county and the closure of the office in Usk will lead to a poorer service for the public, especially in rural areas. The Royal Mail has said the closure was a commercial decision yet it has refused to say how much money would be saved by this move to Pontypool. So much for transparency - as far as I can recall (despite the desires of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government) the Royal Mail is still publicly owned so should come clean with the details of any savings that are being made.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Sadly, on Thursday there will be some people out there who will probably feel inconvenienced or put out by the two minutes or one hundred and twenty seconds silence that will be held at 11am. And no doubt come next Sunday there may even be some people who will actually worry about the disruption caused to the traffic by remembrance parades, that prevents them from going about their businesses.

I think that they would do well to remember on Thursday and on Sunday that their petty inconvenience comes at pretty high price. They would do well to remember that as well as remembering the actions of the veterans and survivors who served in Two World Wars, Korea, The Falklands and the Gulf Wars, and other conflicts, on Remembrance Sunday, we are also remembering those who never came back.

Those people, who as Lincoln said, most eloquently gave their last full measure of devotion, to comrades and country, for some of whom there is literally only some corner of a foreign field, a name on a war memorial, fading photographs and fading memories and sometimes no grave at all. Ponder on that on Thursday at 11 o'clock and on Sunday morning.

Two minutes silence and any disruption of traffic for a few hours on a Sunday morning once a year for a remembrance parade or the wearing of poppies in remembrance is the very least we the living can do to honour our veterans and the fallen.

Monday, 8 November 2010


Last week the Westminster Welsh Affairs Committee heard that most of the £77m tolls (which cost £15m a year to run and maintain, but generate a net revenue of £77m a year at today's prices) raised per year is currently being used to cover debts and that only maintenance and running costs would need to be covered after 2017. A potential big hint to the Committee that Severn Crossing tolls could be much cheaper once the concession to run them ends in 2017.

It was even suggested that tolls could fall to 20 to 30% of current levels. At the moment motorists fork out £5.50 for cars and up to £16.40 for HGVs. Just for the record since the Severn Crossing Plc took over the concession, they have spent £510m (1990 prices) between serving a debt on the existing crossing and building a new one. Over the period of the concession it is expected that the concession holders will raise £1bn in revenue (1989 prices).

The bridge tolls have become in a tax on jobs, a tax on commuters, a tax on growth and a tax on business in the south of Wales. Plaid Cymru's South Wales Central AM Chris Franks (back in June 2010) obtained figures under the Freedom of Information Act, which showed significant difference between the large amounts of money raised by Severn River Crossing plc from the toll, and the relatively small amount spent on treating the damage to the cables on the old crossing (M48).

Since 2006, some £15m has been spent on main cable work on the first Severn Crossing. The Highways Agency suggests that another £5.8m of repairs will take place over the next five years. Some £225,733,000 has been collected in bridge toll revenue since 2006. People may driven to wonder if they are going to get saddled with major work to maintain the bridges after the toll profits have been siphoned off by the concessionary company when the bridges are finally returned to public ownership in 2017.

Sadly just because something could happen does not mean that it will - I cannot for a moment imagine a Westminster Government forgoing this potential tidy little earner. One question that is yet to be answered is come 2017 who actually is going to own the bridge (or bridges)? The situation is potentially complex as the bridge (or bridges) sit on the border - with the toll on the newer bridge being collected in Wales, and the toll on the older bridge being collected in England. Will the bridge and the tolls simply revert back to the Department of transport?

Or does the National Assembly get a look in, by default? If the current tolls were halved then, what could be accomplished by using a percentage to cover maintenance of the bridge and using the remainder of the toll for ring fenced capital projects – such as new integrated transport systems, reopening railway lines, funding tram systems and investing in rail freight? This would be far more beneficial for all of us in Wales than the finance disappearing into the Westminster coffers or to bail out the bankers?

Sunday, 7 November 2010


The High Court judges decision to order a re-run of this year's General Election campaign in the Greater Manchester constituency of former New Labour minister Phil Woolas may well fill more than a few column inches over the next few months. Phil Woolas who was accused of stirring up racial tensions in his campaign leaflets by suggesting Mr Watkins (the Lib Dem candidate) had pandered to Muslim militants, and had refused to condemn death threats Mr Woolas said he had received from such groups. The court heard that Mr Woolas had run a "risky" campaign, which was designed to "galvanise the white Sun vote" because he feared he faced defeat on polling day.

So the Lib Dems and Phil Woolas got their day in court and Phil lost.What happens next may prove even more interesting, and not just necessarily for Phil Woolas who appears to have been seriously thrown to the wolves by the Labour Party. Will the electorate use the forthcoming by-election as an opportunity to give the Lib Dems a kicking for siding with the Tories, is there as yet still unfinished business between the electorate the the Labour Party. What will happen to the Tory and Lib Dem votes as this by-election which will be a first opportunity to pass judgement on the proposed Tory - Lib Dem public sector spending cuts?