Sunday, 29 April 2012


One key issue in the election should be the way our local councils spend their (our) money. Our councils spend around £4 billion pounds worth of our money buying goods and services. Plaid is right to pledge action to ensure that more of that money remains in the local economies – which provide employment and support in our town centres and our communities.

I think that it is perfectly reasonable for the Welsh Government to take action to ensure that a greater percentage of that money can be spent locally in Wales. If you are going to spend public money then you need to work it extra hard and make sure you get real value for money. Plaid’s target of 75% of the public sector spend, being spent here in Wales, is an excellent idea, as it means that  around £3 billion pounds of tax-payers money staying in Wales.

Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM said:

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and of the wider Welsh economy. Plaid Cymru wants to see our public sector supporting small businesses by allowing them to bid for contracts to provide goods and services.

“The more public money we can lock into our communities, the more jobs will be safeguarded and created, the more businesses will flourish, and the more prosperity we’ll have as communities and as a nation.

“As part of the previous Welsh government, Plaid Cymru increased the number of public sector contracts going to Welsh companies to 50%. More work can be done to increase this figure to 75% which would lead to a £1billion boost for our economy.

“Plaid Cymru wants to see the Welsh government working together with local authorities to make this happen. Plaid Cymru councils will introduce procurement models that are accessible to smaller businesses and contracts which will include social and environmental clauses to promote the sustainable development of our economy.”

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Newport City Councillors have delayed making a decision on the controversial plan to convert a Caerleon pub into a convenience store (Sainsbury's) so that councillors to make a site visit. Planning Committee members mirrored hundreds of residents concerns about proposals to turn the Angel Hotel into a Sainsbury’s would create traffic and air pollution problems. The site visit will take place in June and any difficult decision will be made after the council elections on May 3rd.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


M4 Brynglas Tunnels
As a resident of Newport for most of my life save for when I was away in University and living and working in London, I have lived with the Brynglas Tunnels one way or another for most of my life. Plaid in Shaftesbury Ward and Newport are part of the growing opposition to Option D - the construction of an additional 4 lane tunnel at Brynglas - as part of the M4 Corridor enhancement measures as put out to consultation by the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff.

Plaid is aware that should Option D be chosen then this would lead to compulsory purchases within the Brynglas area. The proposition is to increase the M4 around Newport to 4 lanes each way between Junction 28 (Tredegar Park) and Junction 24 (The Coldra). Details of the proposals can be found at: Residents wanting to lodge objections have until Wednesday 6th June 2012 to do so via the website.

The on-line petition can be found at:

Join the ‘Newport Oppose £550 M plans of New Brynglas Tunnel & Demolition of Homes; facebook group via:

There will be a public meeting at 6pm on Friday 27th April at Brynglas House, Newport about the proposed expansion to the M4.


The M4 across the top of Newport was originally constructed in the late 1960’s and was built as a four lane (two each) motorway by the old Welsh Office. The tunnels at Brynglas likewise were bored as two lane tunnels, one each way. It is generally believed by many people in South Wales that the M4 was only built with four lanes in Wales to save money, certainly even as late as the 1980’s when the M4 was built north of Cardiff it was still being constructed as a four lane highway.

Whatever the real truth the planners displayed an amazing lack of foresight when it came to the growth in road traffic and road transport. The motorway around Newport was rich in junctions which meant that people used it to get from one side of town to the other side – this added to congestion problems at peak times (around 40% of people using the M4 around Newport are making local journeys).

The problem of congestion of the M4 though and around Newport has been a real and pressing concern since the 1980’s. This vital transport link is particularly vulnerable to car crashes, which can cause gridlock as did the more recent the fire on a lorry in the tunnels. Since the early 1990’s consideration has been given to how to fix the problem, some junctions have been amended to deter local use, but this has not really helped.

An M4 relief road was considered in the 1990’s and in the late 2000’s during the period of the One Wales Government (2007 – 2011) but it was finally dropped because of excessive cost. What followed was a systematic programme of enhancing the existing motorway, with improvements to the carriageway and the introduction of variable speed limits.


Since January 2011 there has been a consultation process with stakeholders and more latterly with members of the public. The consultation with members of the public has been patchy with over 500 people attending meetings in Caldicot and barely 30 attending similar meetings in Newport.

It is my understanding that this is down to a lack of communication not necessarily a lack of interest on the part of people in the affected areas in Newport, who basically were not informed properly if at all. I am also aware that local ward Labour councillors appear to have been personally informed by the Welsh Office by email in 2011 but appear not to have passed that information to local residents.

Considering that the current Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff favours enhancing east – West communication links at all costs. This is in direct opposition to the strategy followed by Ieuan Wyn Jones (as Deputy First Minister and Minister of Transport) who favoured a much more of a balanced all Wales approach with enhanced North – South links as well as work to improve existing east - west links where there were problems.

The 4 Options

The new consultation process, which is being organised for WAG by ARUP (who happen incidentally amongst other things happen to construct tunnels), has identified four options:

  • Option A would involve the construction of an additional high quality road to the south of Newport, delivered alongside other traffic management and smarter choice measures (Incidentally this is the old M4 Gwent Levels Relief Road reborn – the one that was dropped due to a combination of cost (over a billion pounds at the time), environmental impact and the banking crash/crisis). It would have come in at around 800 million (and then some...).
  • Option B would involve a series of at-grade junction improvements to the Newport A48 Southern Distributor Road (SDR) in addition to other traffic management and smarter choice measures. (This involves the enhancement of the existing Southern Distributor Road (SDR) with flyovers at junctions to speed traffic flow and linking that to the Queensway dual carriage way which would then run though the Llanwern site from Magor to Ringland). It comes in at around 45 million.
  • Option C would involve the grade separation of some junctions and partial or full closure of other junctions on the Newport A48 Southern Distributor Road (SDRSDR, as an alternative route to the M4. It would come in at around £300m.
  • Option D would involve a programme of major on-line widening of the existing M4 Corridor between Junctions 24 and 29 to dual 4 lane motorway standard with hard shoulders, as shown in red on the following diagram. This would see four lanes of traffic in each direction along this section of the M4, including an additional (4 lane) tunnel at Brynglas. Some demolition of existing properties is likely to be necessary to accommodate the online widening and additional tunnel. [NB: This option would impact on housing across Newport from west of the High Cross junction to the Coldra – particularly in Shaftesbury and St Julians]. Junction 25 would be closed to motorway access and the east facing slips of Junction 26 would be removed in order to prioritise the M4 for long distance journeys. Online widening would also be supported by other traffic management and smarter choice measures. Works could be phased in order to improve affordability. It would come in at around £550m.
There are some other points of interest:

  • WAG conceded in 2011 that there are no studies on the effect of traffic congestion on the Welsh economy. 
  • Additionally the Data on traffic flow is not current, but, dates form prior to the current recession and period of high fuel prices. The combined impact of the recession and high fuel prices has led to a drop in traffic flow on the Severn Bridges. This is why the toll franchise on the Severn Bridge has been extended because of the projected drop in revenue for the concession holder. 
  • WAG has also admitted that there are areas where air pollution levels are high along parts of the M4 Corridor, Magor to Castleton. Air pollution is measured via Air Quality Management Areas (or AQMAs) - these are created where air pollution levels are high enough to be a potential health risk and WAG acknowledges that traffic emissions contribute towards air pollution. 
  • For the record Newport has a total of nine AQMAs; four of which are located adjacent to the M4, at: Shaftesbury/Crindau; St Julians; Royal Oak Hill; and Glasllwch.
Useful Websites and Documents:
M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures Programme: Magor to Castleton (M4 CEM)

M4 Corridor Enhancement Measures Magor to Castleton (M4 CEM) Easing the Flow

[This document contains useful maps and additional data.]

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Newport council planning officials have recommend that Sainsbury’s plan to convert the Angel Hotel in Caerleon into a convenience store be approved with conditions by the city’s planning committee when it meets on Wednesday (25th April). The proposals (put forward by Hillvale Properties who are operating on behalf of Sainsbury’s) have prompted over 1,700 people to sign petitions against it, and 127 neighbours have written letters of objection.

Local people have told the council that the plan to turn the pub, located on Goldcroft Common, Caerleon, into a 385 square metre retailer with two flats on the first floor would “exacerbate an already dangerous and difficult traffic situation”. Concerns were raised that local shops – several independent retailers including a sandwich shop and a Spar are nearby – would close, while the petition said the historical character and sense of community in Caerleon would be tarnished.

There are also concerns about anti-social behaviour, noise to residents, and parking which is claimed is already at saturation point in the area. As someone who travels on the bus to and from work past the Angel and parking is grim in and around the area of the Angel and traffic congestion a real issues, at least from where I am sat on bus.

City planners however, noted that a new store opening would “enhance” the Caerleon district centre, adding to its “retail floorspace”, and the store is unlikely to harm the centre’s viability. The planners noted that the Spar and Pipers News shops may lose trade, but “it is not the role of the planning system to restrict competition”. A fair point but what about the investigation into the economic impact of the development on the village?

Planners noted that traffic concerns were “understandable”, but adds “there is no robust evidence” that the proposal will result in “a significant and harmful increase in traffic.” Spaces for seven customer cars during deliveries would meet parking requirements, and Gwent Police had raised no objection to the proposal. Planners have called for conditions imposing restricted delivery hours.

The recommendation is to proceed with the application, despite local objections. One question that should be loudly asked is just who is the planning system serving, clearly not the expressed wishes of the residents of Caerleon. I have no doubt that if the City Councillors vote down the proposed development that they will be told that the developer will appeal and keep appealing until they get the result they want and that this will cost a small fortune.

Now, none of this is new, the larger food retailers are systematically targeting the small shopping areas across the UK as they seek every greater profits and a larger market share. If this development goes a head the medium to long term impact on Caerleon will be a loss of trade, jobs and customer choice. This is not the first time that this has happened in Newport, and it will not be the last.

Back in June 2011 Tesco won their appeal against an initial decision to turn down planning permission for a new store. Over 500 people had objected to Tesco plans to open an Express store in a dis-used pub, the Black Horse Inn on Somerton Road. The Council planning officers had on that occasion recommended that the application be refused over concerns about congestion and road safety issues and a lack of parking provision.

Local residents also objected on grounds of the impact of the development on existing shops. The Council's planning committee considered the application on 1st April 2009 and rejected the plans. The committee recommended refusal on three grounds - that it would be detrimental to the vitality and viability of nearby retail centres; insufficient parking; substandard access.

The Planning Inspectorate however allowed Tesco to appeal to convert the former Black Horse Inn pub on Somerton Road into an Express store. The Tesco PR machine no doubt rolled out the usual claptrap about creating jobs and boosting the local economy, here should have been little doubt that the planned new Tesco Express store in Somerton, is part of an aggressive business strategy expressly targeting local shops and small businesses in local shopping areas, with a view to taking their trade. This is part of a recognised problem which is taking place across Wales and which does not just relate to Tesco but most of the other larger UK wide retail chains.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has noted that the UK loses approximately 2,000 local shops every year and should this continue then by 2015 there will be no independent retailers left in business, something that effects consumers and communities as they effectively lose any real choice in the marketplace. Over recent years across all of Wales, that particularly useful mix of local shops, small businesses and local suppliers have come under increasing pressure as the usual suspects in the shape of “identikit” chain stores have replicated themselves across our towns.

Our planning process has been fundamentally weakened and undermined, as local authorities fear the cost implications of supermarket applications being taken to appeal after appeal if the original outline planning permission is refused. We are on a slippery slope, when Councillors may be advised by their officers to grant planning permission less the potential costs of refusing a development proposal from a large company prove to damaging - so much for local democracy!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Plaid Cymru's Hywel Williams MP used St. George's Day to repeat his party's call for an English Parliament as an answer to the West Lothian Question. Mr Williams outlined Plaid Cymru's evidence to the McKay Commission, which was set up by the Coalition to examine the consequences of devolution for the House of Commons. The main issue is how the Westminster Parliament deals with business that is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and therefore applies to England only.

Plaid Cymru's Hywel Williams MP said:

"Plaid Cymru's core belief is that the people of Wales should have the right to determine their own future – and the people of England have that right as well.

“At the moment, the House of Commons is trying to do two jobs – be the English Parliament and the UK Parliament. These roles need to be separated.

“Proposals for an ‘English Votes for English Laws’ system in the UK Parliament are complicated and probably unworkable.

“The simplest solution is an English Parliament which has similar powers to those of Parliaments and Assemblies for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that English MPs can have a space in which to debate their own problems without other MPs being present.

"Proposals for EVEL within the current system would not remove the democratic deficit where English MPs vote on legislation and funding which affects Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The recent report from Richard Wyn Jones and the IPPR showed the support for an English Parliament and we believe that such a move would make sense if allied to wider constitutional change including reform of the House of Lords and a permanent commission to ensure fair funding for Wales, independent of the UK Treasury.

“The McKay Commission needs to have an expanded remit which would allow them to answer the West Lothian Question and not force them into creating more bureaucracy in what is already one of the world's most Byzantine and archaic parliaments.”

Monday, 23 April 2012


As someone who has sought election to both the Westminster Parliament and the National Assembly I came across all sorts of campaigns and groups seeking my support. There are plenty of worthwhile campaigns in Monmouth constituency, one which I hope succeeds is the campaign to create a community centre on the site of the former Park Street School in Abergavenny. The campaign to create a Community Centre on the site of the former Park Street School in Abergavenny has received a boost as Abergavenny Town Council has agreed to write a letter in support of the scheme to turn the site of Park Street School into a community centre. Abergavenny Community Centre Limited (ACC) was formed by residents after the closure of the school some six years ago in an effort to secure the site as a community centre and a place to hold activities such as a children's day nursery, drop-in cafe, luncheon club for pensioners, music and cultural exchange, room hire, tutoring for pupils and as an arts centre. The former site, which has outline planning permission for the scheme, was set to be sold by auction by Monmouthshire council for between £300,000 and £350,000, with the cash from the sale going into the council’s education budget. This plan was thankfully pulled before the auction took place to give ACC time to raise the necessary funds to develop the Community Centre. If successful in it's objective this campaign will make a real and lasting postive contribution to the people of Abergavenny.

Friday, 20 April 2012


Plaid's Maria Shellard and Leanne Wood AM / AC, Leader of Plaid Cymru
Both Labour and the Conservatives have run Newport over the last couple of decades and during that period both Newport have seen a marked deterioration in services and infrastructure. Many buildings and shops are boarded up, council services are being cut and what attempts that are made to deal with the situation seem to be half hearted and end in failure. Plaid in Newport are saying that it is time for a change and that someone else should be given a chance to run the Council and also to locally represent the people of Shaftesbury. To help ensure this change on Thursday the 3rd of May make a difference and vote for Maria Shellard and Tony Salkeld as strong voices for Shaftesbury and Newport.

Across Wales's Plaid is focusing its campaign on its strong local record in building economic recovery, supporting families and improving local services. With its record number of candidates, the party will also say that, as Wales’ only ‘local party,’ Plaid will work tirelessly to provide a powerful voice and vision for the whole of Wales.

Key Wales-wide commitments will include:

• Providing paid apprenticeship, skills and training schemes – to support our young people.
• Helping local businesses secure public contracts and providing grants and loans to fund business start-ups.
• Campaigning to save vital local services currently under threat from closure and centralisation.
• Bringing empty properties back into use and investing in more affordable homes.
• Introducing schemes to allow local communities to benefit from the ownership and control of our natural resources.

You can download Plaid's 2012 Manifesto

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


The Con Dem Westminster government (in its recent budget) has failed to deal with the problem of soaring fuel prices something that it hitting all of us, but, has added impact on families and businesses in our rural areas. Plaid has again called for a fair fuel regulator which would cut fuel duty when prices spike unexpectedly by freezing the price at the pump. This week's Finance Bill includes no provision for tackling the cost of fuel, which is one of the main drivers of rising inflation. The Bill faced its second reading on Monday. Plaid Cymru and the SNP tabled a motion of opposition on the basis that the Finance Bill fails to address a crucial issue which is damaging economic growth. Fuel aside, this Westminster Government, which once claimed that it was ‘the Greenest Government ever’, has promised much but has delivered little, failing to tackle our over reliance on fossil fuels for energy generation by developing renewable energy.

Plaid Cymru’s Elfyn Llwyd MP said:

"The issue of fuel prices really is the elephant in the room as far as the Budget is concerned.

"Fuel prices are one of the main sources of rising inflation yet the Chancellor has failed to tackle this problem, instead choosing to introduce tax-cuts for the rich and slash payments for the elderly.

"The Coalition has yet again shown itself to be completely out of touch with ordinary people and failed to act on an issue which affects the vast majority of the UK population.

"Rising fuel prices are a great problem for families and businesses in my constituency.

"It seems that they keep going up, whatever the government claims they have done - and so does the fuel duty that they collect.

"Motorists in rural areas spend significantly more on fuel than those in urban areas. Figures from the Office for national Statistics also show that poorer families spend more of their income on petrol than richer families, so there is an earning effect as well through soaring fuel prices.

"After 7 years of Plaid pushing for a genuine fuel duty stabiliser, it is hugely disappointing to see that neither the Labour nor Conservative governments in London have agreed to this common sense idea.

"Looking at the long term, I would also urge the Government to urgently address the lack of investment in renewable energy that we are seeing at present.

"We have to be moving away from our reliance on fossil fuels and moving towards a greener economy.

"Sadly, the Coalition's betrayal of its promise to be "the greenest Government ever" is making this extremely difficult.

"Plaid has consistently maintained that the future of energy generation lies with renewables and we will continue to campaign hard on this issue, regardless of the London parties' inaction."

Monday, 16 April 2012


The second Severn Bridge
The Highways Agency has done a deal with Severn Crossings PLC which means that they will rake at least another £33 million pounds worth of bridge tolls before the concession finally comes to an end in 2017. On the basis of current annual toll income this deal will allow the company to operate the bridges for an additional five months. Plaid is firmly opposed to any extension to the contract for the Severn Crossings with the private company and wants to see the contract ended at the earliest opportunity followed by a significant reduction or removal of tolls on the Severn Bridges. The high cost of the tolls is a matter of real concern for the people of Wales because the tolls impact on businesses, freight and logistics, on commuters and on tourism and are a tax on jobs and businesses.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Denmark has announced that it will be 100% energy independent by the year 2050. The country has ambitious plans for alternative energy, which have only recently gained the favour of Denmark's leaders. In previous years, Denmark has considered energy independence and alternative energy in general as a novelty. The country has changed its perspective as alternative energy technology has grown more advanced and efficient. Denmark now has plans to expand its use of solar, wind and biomass energy.


Monday, 9 April 2012


Plaid has welcomed the Western Mail poll which show that the vast majority of Welsh voters support the devolution of tax-varying powers to Wales.

Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM said;

"The fact that a clear majority want to see the transfer of these powers to our nation is very positive news.

“Plaid Cymru's submission to the Silk Commission has called for the Welsh Government to be able to set Welsh income tax rates.

“Having these powers in Wales would give us more tools to focus on economic growth and the creation of more jobs that would then increase the tax base.

“Surely any self-respecting Welsh Government would prefer to have control over these job-creating levers rather than see them remain in the hands of a remote government in Westminster which doesn't place the economic well-being of our nation as a priority or even an after thought.

"People are saying clearly that they want our nation to take greater control over the economic tools that can help to improve our lives. The First Minister and his Labour Government now have a big decision to make - the choice is between taking responsibility for ourselves or to continue to blame others; the choice is between home rule or continued Tory rule."

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Gwent Police and South Wales Police forces have merged their forensics operations in a bid to save £1 million in public money, at a time when both forces are facing serious budget cuts, this is a sensible decision. The Westminster government announced a 20% cut in police budgets back in October 2010.

Gwent Police has to make some £34 million pounds worth of budget cuts (savings), and South Wales Police has to achieve some £47 million pounds worth of budget savings (cuts) by 2016. The new Joint Scientific Investigation Unit, which will be made up of staff from both forces, will employ 160 staff - 110 from South Wales Police and 50 from Gwent. The fact that no redundancies have been made in either force in creating the unit, should also be welcomed.

Our Police services are facing, much like the rest of us, difficult times financially, Gwent Police is planning to close 17 stations to the public as part of cost-cutting measure, changes which would save around £500,000. Despite the spin and the talk of ‘redesigning the way people accessed its services’, when the dust settles a cut is still and cut and a closure is still a closure. What this means is that from July front counter services won’t be available at:

• Abertillery
• Alway
• Bargoed
• Bedwas
• Bettws
• Brynmawr
• Caerphilly
• Caldicot
• Chepstow
• Rhymney
• Risca
• Maindee
• Monmouth
• Pill
• Pontypool
• Tredegar
• Ystrad Mynach

Gwent Police will retain the Police stations as bases for police officers, specialist departments or office accommodation. Newport’s Central Police station will remain open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Police Stations at Abergavenny, Ebbw Vale, Cwmbran and Blackwood will also remain open to the public from 08:00 to 20:00 GMT, seven days a week. Similar cost cutting measures are being undertaken by South Wales Police and North Wales Police forces.

The Police budget cuts have already lead to a reduction in Police numbers in Wales and England. There were 135,838 police officers in September 2011 - 6,012 (4.2%) fewer than the 141,850 of a year earlier. Only Surrey Police out of the 43 forces in England and Wales actually increased police officer numbers. The figures also show that police numbers have been cut further in Wales and England than they have been in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

One possibly unforeseen consequence of Police budget cuts may be a boost to the Conservative privatisation agenda – G4S a private security company has signed a deal to design, build and run a police station in Lincolnshire. This agreement between G4S and Lincolnshire Police is first of its kind in the UK. As part of the deal, around two-thirds of civilian support staff employed by the force are to be transferred across to the private sector. This contract may will save Lincolnshire Constabulary around £20 million pounds but we may well ask at what cost over the medium term to support staff terms and condition and the provision of services to the public.

While this is probably a step too far for most people, until Policing and Criminal Justice are devolved to the National Assembly. Despite any mutterings to the contrary from Labour in Wales’s elected representatives in Westminster our Police forces here in Wales are in my opinion acutely vulnerable to back door privatisation and further cuts in services. The sooner Policing and Criminal Justice are devolved the better for all of us here in Wales.

Monday, 2 April 2012


A bridge with reduced tolls...

Motorcyclists took part in a midnight celebratory crossing of the Humber Bridge on Saturday after tolls for bikers were scrapped. Charges for cars have also been halved to £1.50. The reductions are expected to boost the region's economy by £250m. Local campaigners have long called for action to be taken on the bridge tolls and the local Grimsby Telegraph, together with its sister papers in Scunthorpe and Hull, has pressed for the charges to be scrapped or reduced to £1 for cars for many years through its ‘Axe The Toll On Health’ and ‘A Toll Too Far'campaigns. Last November, the Con Dem Government announced it would be prepared to write off £150 million of the bridge's £332 million debt to allow for tolls to be reduced in return for the Humber local authorities taking on a more equal share of the outstanding debt of £182 million. Nice if you can get it...