Tuesday, 31 July 2012


Perhaps the Con Dems think that height of Olympic-mania is a good time to bury bad news, and that few will notice yet another questionable privatisation, in this case the tendering of contracts for the UK’s air sea search and rescue helicopter service. Three companies are competing for contracts to provide search and rescue helicopter services throughout the UK.

The contract winner, or contract winners, would take over from Royal Navy and RAF and operate from sites across the UK. Three companies, Bond Offshore Helicopters, Bristow Helicopters and CHC Helicopter are on the shortlist published by the Department of Transport. The UK Westminster government hopes to reveal the winners early next year.

The business, has been broken up into three lots, which include covering coastguard duties.
  • Lot one is to deliver the service at, or near, Sumburgh, Stornoway, Culdrose, Leconfield and Valley using helicopters with a minimum rescue capacity of eight casualties per aircraft.
  • Lot two is to deliver the service from Lee-on-the-Solent and at, or near, Chivenor, Prestwick, Lossiemouth and Wattisham using helicopters with a minimum rescue capacity per aircraft of four casualties per aircraft.
  • Lot three is a contract covering the requirements of both lots one and two.
This is in my opinion a privatisation too far and reveals the full extent of this Governments slightly crazed ideologically driven desire to privatise almost everything, what’s next the privatisation of the Police Service?

Monday, 30 July 2012


Powers over water resources should to be devolved to the National Assembly of Wales, the Welsh people, not shareholders, should be able to profit from the sale of Wales’ natural resources. The ‘not-for-profit’ social enterprise model instituted in Wales by Glas Cymru must not be weakened or undermined by any changes to regulations in the Con Dem’s new Water Bill which needs to face serious scrutiny before the Westminster Parliament and the National Assembly.

Water is a valuable asset in Wales and while many of the regulatory powers relating to Water in our country are in the hands of the Welsh Government. The water clauses in the Government of Wales Act 2006 actually prevent the National Assembly from taking financial advantage of our natural resources to benefit the people of Wales.

The Con Dem’s Water Bill (full text) is decidedly ideologically driven and aims to introduce more market competition into the water industry. They appear to have turned a blind eye to the fact that the largest water supplier in Wales is Glas Cymru, which is a not-for-profit company – something that could be used as a successful social enterprise and a business model elsewhere.

The last thing that we need to do is to turn the clock back in Wales by moving from a not-for-profit system which puts customers first to one in which boosting the shareholders’ dividends and profits are the main motive. Yet due to the Labour in Wales Welsh Government's inertia no one knows their plans as they have not held a consultation on the water industry or confirmed their plans on creating a single environmental body in Wales.

Meanwhile the draft Water Bill will continue to makes progress and no doubt the outcomes of private discussions between the Welsh and UK Governments will no doubt eventually emerge. To ensure full transparency there is a need for detailed well publicised debates in the Assembly about what the Welsh Government plans for the water industry in Wales.

Plaid has consistently called for the devolution of powers over water resources so that our country can tap the potential of our natural resources. We need these powers devolved so that we launch ambitious projects to generate green energy and secure the future of a sustainable economy.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Natalya Khusainovna Estemirova

Natalia Estemirova (Photo Civil Rights Defenders)
28th February 1958 – 15th July 2009

Just over three years ago (July 15th 20098) an award-winning Russian human rights activist and board member of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial. A school teacher in the early 1990s, who became Chechnya’s leading rights activist, investigating and documenting abductions, torture and extra-judicial killing by state security forces. She was abducted and murdered by persons unknown on the 15th July 2009 around 8:30 a.m. from her home in Grozny, Chechnya, as she was courageously working on extremely sensitive cases of human rights abuses in Chechnya. So far no one has been prosecuted for Natasha Khusainovna Estemirova’’s murder.

Friday, 27 July 2012


Police in Cuba have freed a group of dissidents they had arrested on Tuesday at the funeral of the prominent activist Oswaldo Paya. Pressure group the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said most of those arrested had been freed, but the group did not give exact numbers. The dissidents were picked up for questioning by police after shouting slogans against the government. The dissidents were arrested (last Tuesday) as they were leaving the church where Oswaldo Paya's funeral service had been held.

Pswaldo Paya's funeral (Associated Press)
Mr Paya (aged 60) died in a car crash on Sunday. His son, Oswaldo, suspected that the car may have been forced off the road. Mr Paya alleges that two survivors of the crash said they had been forced off the road by a truck that rammed their car repeatedly.

Cuban officials say the driver, a Spanish national, lost control and hit a tree. Diplomats have told Reuters news agency there is no evidence to back Mr Paya's allegations and that they believe it was a genuine accident.

Oswaldo Farinas staged hunger strikes to draw attention to the plight of political prisoners in Cuba. In 2010 he received the Sakharov Prize, the European Union's human rights award for the second time having previously won in 2002. He was the founder of the Varela project, a campaign (begun in 1998) to gather signatures in support of a referendum on laws to guarantee civil rights. In May 2002, Cuba's National Assembly was presented with a petition of more than 10,000 signatures calling for an end to four decades of one-party rule. The Cuban government described Mr Paya as an agent of the US who was working to undermine the country's revolution.

Thursday, 26 July 2012


Many people are concerned about the state of the economy as the latest GDP figures show a deepening of the double-dip recession, with a 0.7% drop in output during the second quarter. This is not good and the UK Westminster Government has not helped matters with cuts on capital spending projects as the crisis in the construction industry (whose output has slumped dramatically with quarter-on-quarter falls of 5.2% and 4.9% in the last two quarters) threatens to get worse.

The UK Westminster Government spending plans will do lasting damage to our long-term economic prospects. It’s time for job-creating taxation powers to be transferred to the Welsh Government so that we can create ‘made in Wales’ economic solutions, as by now it’s pretty clear that those from London are clearly not working.

Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson Jonathan Edwards MP (on Wednesday 25th July) said:

“These are truly disastrous figures showing that the economy is in a downward spiral, with the worst double-dip recession since the 1950s.

“They show weakness across the economy, with the construction industry quite clearly in crisis.

“We are paying the price for failing to invest in infrastructure spending when the financial crisis began. If the London parties had introduced our infrastructure policies when we first proposed them then the construction industry would be booming and we would be looking forward to new roads, hospitals and schools.

“Instead, cuts to capital budgets mean that very little construction is now being undertaken by either the public or private sector.

“The concern is that these cuts are doing not just short-term, but very long-term, lasting damage to the productivity of the economy.

“We are in a lost decade with a stagnant economy contracting once again and the current direction of travel shows no indication of improvement, and the Tories still refusing to recognise that their financial plans have failed.

“It is now more urgent than ever that job-creating levers, such as control over income and corporation tax, are given to the Welsh Government so that we can have ‘made in Wales’ solutions to these economic problems – because it is clear that the Tory government in London don’t have a clue.”

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Customers of Caerleon’s HSBC branch are angry following the announcement that the bank will close its branch in Backhall Street on the 2nd November 2012. HSBC stated that the branch is currently only open for limited hours during the week and HSBC is deciding whether or not to leave a cash machine on the site after the banks closure.

The South Wales Argus noted that a campaign to save Caerleon’s only bank from closure is mounting as hundreds of people sign a petition against the move on Friday (20th July), which has filled 14 pages’ worth of signatures. HSBC has already closed the next nearest branch to Caerleon, on Caerleon Road, St Julian’s, in June 2011.

As of March 2012, some twenty One communities in Wales had no bank, and forty seven have only got one bank, says the Campaign for Community Banking Services. The problem of closing banks affects all parts of Wales, while it is more readily identifiable in rural communities; it also affects our urban areas as well.

HSBC is closing its branches across Wales - Presteigne, which was closed on Friday 9th March 2012 (despite over 500 people signed a petition against the closure of the Presteigne branch), and in Blaenafon (where over a 1,000 people signed a petition against the planned closure of the last bank in the town), Torfaen, closed on the 11th May. HSBC says that both banks have seen a significant decline in the numbers of customers using their services and are no longer commercially viable.

Campaigners rightly claim that businesses in the area will suffer and that residents (especially the elderly) who are reliant on public transport to bank in a nearby town will be disadvantaged. Just for the record HSBC (March 12th 2012) had closed six branches in Wales between last September and December 2011, including Llandysul, Ceredigion, and Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in Powys. The company has closed 17 "under-used" banks in Wales since 2009 in urban and rural areas.

Both HSBC, Barclays and the rest have been quietly closing small rural banks in recent months, and NatWest plans to cut opening hours. The British Bankers' Association says more customers now go on-line and banks must examine branch running costs.

Despite the spin this is about nothing more than cutting running costs, the banks have little (or no concern) for their customers or the concerns of the customers or their communities. As noted by the US Senate, some banks have other more pressing interests than those of their domestic customers like helping to launder money for drug dealers, dictators and terrorists, so much for being a local bank.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


The Treasury Minister David Gauke has said it is "morally wrong" to pay tradesmen such as plumbers, builders and cleaners in cash in the hope of avoiding tax. He says that the practice came at "a big cost" to the Treasury and meant other people had to pay more to help balance the books. The Westminster government has highlighted this in its desire to clamp down on tax avoidance. The minister’s pronouncement may indicate a desire by the Westminster government to hit out on those who can least affords to tax evade.

On a similar theme, a report written by James Henry, a former chief economist at the consultancy McKinsey, for the Tax Justice Network, ‘The Price of Offshore Revisited’ makes interesting reading. The report estimates that the global super-rich elite had the best part of some $ 21 trillion dollars (or £ 13 trillion pounds) stashed away in secret tax havens by the end of 2010. The figure is equivalent to the size of the US and Japanese economies combined. Why do I somehow suspect that this interesting document will probably not be on George Osborne, David Cameron or David Gauke’s summer recess reading list.

Friday, 20 July 2012


For most people a crime is a crime and if you got caught you tended to do the time or take the punishment. If the vast majority of us fiddled our expenses, we would be prosecuted, lose our jobs and perhaps (depending on the scale of the fiddle) go to prison. Likewise helping yourself to a bottle of water after a riot can get you 30 days in prison, yet misselling members of the public around £ 3.9 billion pounds worth of PPI results in no real punishment for the people responsible.

Bob Diamond’s partial use of the Nuremberg defence, whereby there was no real problem with fiddling the Libour rate, because he had told someone in the Treasury what was going on, may not work in court because merely informing a superior of criminal acts committed or about to be committed is no excuse for committing the criminal act. The banks aside for a moment, if most of us don’t pay our council or road tax we get prosecuted (and our cars get crushed into the bargain) yet tax evasion largely goes unpunished.

Tax evasion may be costing the UK exchequer some £64 billion pounds a year, the equivalent of £1,000 pound per person within the UK. The shadow economy also hits the exchequer hard and indirectly affects every one of us in the wallet. Non declared income, tax loopholes, simple avoidance or off the books economic activity within the shadow economy adds up to tax free economic activity to the tune of £ 160 billion pounds a year. This is around 10.5% of the UK’s GDP, and is ironically somewhat large than the UK’s deficit which sits at around 8.3% of the UK’s GDP.

Tax Research UK, estimates that this shadow economic activity means that the Exchequer loses out to the tune of £64 billion pounds per year, this is some 16 times larger than the £ 4 billion pounds that the UK Government estimates its misses out on due to tax evasion. That is roughly about £1 pound out of every £8 in the economy. Yet the Con Dem Government in its ideologically driven reckless slash and cut approach to the public sector has reduced the number of staff in Revenue and Customs from around 100,000 to 65,000 and plans to reduce the numbers to around 50,000 by 2015 – talk about a no brainer!

Mind to expect the Tories to seriously tackle tax evasion, is a bit like expecting New Labour to stand up to the Trade Unions or both of them to have an honest debate about Party funding. The UK Government is heavily involved in aiding and abetting tax evasion worldwide, British Overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands, help to hide some £ 1.6 trillion pounds from the different nation’s tax authorities. So it should be little wonder that some of the city banks are hand in glove with drug dealers, dictators and terrorists when it comes to money laundering.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


The agricultural industry makes a significant contribution to the Welsh economy and its employees deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. Yet unless urgent action is taken to tackle the cut in the cost of milk, the Welsh dairy industry will face a crisis that will drive farmers out of business and leave consumers facing a rise in shelf prices.

Plaid having long campaigned for a Supermarket Ombudsman welcomed the Chancellor's announcement that a Milk and Groceries Ombudsman would be established following the recent Budget. Yet many people (and Plaid included) have real concerns that the proposals will fail to give the Ombudsman any real teeth to ensure a good deal for farmers.

The proposed cut of two pence per litre of milk due to be introduced in August would leave farmers at a loss, paying more to produce milk than to sell it. This is wholly unsustainable and threatens one of the Welsh economy's most valuable assets. Any Supermarket of Milk and Groceries Ombudsman needs to take a serious look at the dairy industry and put itself squarely on the side of farmers against supermarkets and their shareholders.

Before the last Westminster General election in May 2010 there was much talk (even from the Conservatives) of the need for a Supermarket (and even a Milk) Ombudsman, when there was a pressing need for votes, since then there has been relative silence from Westminster, save for the Chancellors budget mutterings. The Supermarkets having purchased their tame politicos in the Westminster village (well before the Political Parties and Referendum Act 2000 came in) would be quite happy with a weak Ombudsman, who’s pronouncements they can ignore continue to aggressively pursue ever greater shares of the profit with minimal regulation.

At present one litre carton of full-fat, non-organic milk can cost around 65p (01.02.2012 figures). From this a farmer got between 21p and 28p. Production costs come in at around 28p. No wonder that over the last ten years two thirds of dairy farmers in England and Wales have gone out of business, that it is estimated works out as one dairy farmer leaving the industry every day.

The situation has not got any easier for the farmers or the consumers, especially as we now have to factor in increased transport and production (fuel) costs. When it comes to a fair deal the current milk prices make grim reading as  widespread promotions continue to be offered on liquid milk by the usual suspects. Supermarkets are also widely offering branded and organic milk on promotion – guess who takes the hit for cost cutting – the farmers!

The most recent DEFRA figures, show that the average UK farmgate price stood at 26.98ppl in May 2012 (it was 29.27ppl at the end of January 2012 and 29.38ppl in November 2011). The May figure showed a 0.85ppl (3.0%) decrease on the April average price. Annual comparisons show a 0.6ppl (2.3%) increase year on year. The GB average price was 27.97ppl in May, a 0.49ppl (1.7%) decrease on the previous month and an increase of 1.46ppl (5.5%) compared with May 2011. The Northern Ireland (NI) average for April fell to 21.99ppl, a decrease of 3.00ppl (12.0%) compared with April and 3.74ppl (14.5%) less than the previous year.

We are in the process of losing a critical mass of milk suppliers (something the NFU is only too aware of) and we have reached the point where UK farmers are no longer in a position where they can supply the UK's “core milk requirement” around 13 billion litres per year (2010 figures). In 2009 / 2010 year there was a 15 percent drop in UK Milk prices. If you look at the wholesale prices e.g. Butter, Cheese, Cream, etc the situation is no better.

Over the last 10 years that Supermarkets’ margins (e.g. the amount of the price they take) on milk have doubled. Now with a trend for both the processor and retailer to be the same, we have a situation where they take over three quarters of the price of a pint. We have now reached the situation where in a land once renowned for Dairy farming and with cheap milk, we are becoming a net importer of milk.

We (as customers and consumers ) also some of the blame because we let this happen, if we want quality milk and dairy products (that are produced in these islands from UK milk) then we will have to change the way we buy, if we do that then out farmers will get a better deal. There is little point in hoping that the Con Dem Government (or a future New Labour one) will get its act together because they just won't.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Like many people I welcome the proposals to introduce electrification to the Valleys Lines rail network, something that is long-overdue and will be an important investment in our country’s somewhat neglected transport system. I view the proposed if limited electrification of parts of Valleys Lines network as a good start, with more to follow. What we should get is the electrification of the following lines:

  • Cardiff Central to Cardiff Queen Street
  • Cardiff Queen Street to Aberdare
  • Cardiff Queen Street to Cardiff Bay
  • Cardiff Queen Street to Coryton
  • Newport to Ebbw Vale
  • Cardiff Central to Maesteg via Pontyclun, Bridgend
  • Abercynon to Merthyr Tydfil
  • Grangetown to Penarth
  • Cardiff Central to Danescourt via Radyr (City Line)
  • Cardiff Queen Street to Rhymney
  • Pontypridd to Treherbert
  • Cardiff Central to Bridgend via Barry - Bridgend (Vale of Glamorgan)
  • Barry to Barry Island
  • Bridgend to Swansea
This is a good start, which combined with the electrification of the main line from Swansea to Paddington, will begin the modernisation of our railway network. This when combined with the Wales and Border franchise being run as not-for-dividend social model (which could happen when the franchise expires in 2018) could lay the ground work for a renewal of our railways in Wales.

The omission of any reference to reopening the final stage of the line from Ebbw Vale to Newport is disappointing and is something that needs immediate action. Over the medium term electrification should be extended to the other Gwent lines, through to Abergavenny and Chepstow.

If the governments in Cardiff and London were serious about our railways then serious consideration also needs to be given to looking at reconnecting some of our towns to the rail network. A good follow on would be reconnecting Caernarfon, Dolgellau and Builth Wells to the network, reopening the Llangefni and Amlwch on Ynys Mon, improving North – South rail communications and getting freight off road and back onto our railways.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


Plaid has rightly called for an urgent extension of support for small businesses in Wales in order to safeguard jobs and livelihoods during the recession. Welsh Government support for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is due to run out in March 2013 – and the doubts over future support are leading to uncertainty for businesses throughout Wales. The Welsh Government needs to commit itself to extending support for SMEs beyond March 2013. Plaid has renewed its call for government support to be extended to help more businesses. Plaid’s Small Business Job Protection Scheme would give financial help to extra 8,000 businesses in Wales by offering full relief from Business rates to businesses with a rateable value of up to £12,000 and tapered support up to a rateable value of £18,000. Plaid has argued that revised GDP figures that show that the double dip recession is even deeper that initially feared something that make it exceptionally important for the Welsh government to take urgent action on business rates. The party has also said that the Welsh government should be investing in capital projects which would help to create and safeguard thousands of jobs across all of Wales. 

Plaid Cymru AM, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, said:

"It is imperative that the Labour Welsh Government takes urgent action in light of yet another stark warning about the depth and severity of this recession. The revised GDP figures show that the double dip recession is even deeper that initially feared and that is very worrying news indeed for the people of Wales especially as the worst of the ConDem cuts is still to come.

"As well as the general economic conditions which are making life very difficult indeed for small businesses, there is currently great uncertainty about how much support they will get from the Welsh Government after March next year. We’re now less than 9 months away and businesses do not know what their business rate bills will be for next year. The Labour Welsh Government is making it increasingly difficult for businesses to plan – and that is leading to uncertainty about jobs as a result. 

"Small business owners have been doing all they can to maintain staffing levels during the economic crisis, yet their efforts are under threat from Labour’s lethargy. This situation needs urgent action if jobs and livelihoods are to be safeguarded. 

"It’s bad enough that Labour ministers have refused to commit to Plaid Cymru’s plan to support small businesses during the economic crisis. We would extend support to more than 8,000 companies in Wales that do not currently receive any tax relief at all. But currently, Labour won’t even extend the current level of support – and if this uncertainty continues, there is a clear danger that further jobs will be lost." 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Back in March I noted with interest that the trial of Iceland's former Prime Minister Geir Haarde, who was accused of negligence in his handling of the 2008 financial crisis that severely undermined the Icelandic economy, had begun in the capital, Reykjavik. A sizeable part of me thinks that it is quite refreshing for elected politicians to face real consequences for their actions? I mention this again because of the ongoing consequences of the embarrassing childlike spat between Osborne and Balls, which has served to provide a degree of distraction from New Labour and the Conservative party’s cosy relationship with the bankers and the City.

Now as most people know Iceland fell into recession when the country's major banks, including on-line bank Icesave's parent company Landsbanki, crashed in the autumn of 2008. Icelanders awoke to find that they owed six times the island's total gross domestic product (GDP), the world's credit markets promptly dried up, they were left high and dry unable to refinance loans. Iceland’s big three banks, who's business web stretched across Europe (with customers that included Welsh local authorities), collapsed under billions of dollars of debt.

Iceland’s economy had largely been based on and around fishing, but in the 1990s, the banks boomed and expanded abroad and Icelanders got cheap credit (just like the rest of us) with next to no regulation. After the crash, the unemployment rate and inflation sky-rocketed, and on the domestic political front all hell broke loose. A huge wave of angry public protests followed and the then Prime Minister Geir Haarde’s government fell in 2009.

The ex Prime Minster was accused of negligence because he had not ensured financial safeguards were in place. He has denied the accusation, saying he was only doing what he thought was best for the country at the time. The ex PM could face up to two years in the slammer if convicted. Ironically he was one of four politicians blamed in a 2010 parliament-commissioned report for contributing to the country's financial collapse, yet is the only one on trial.

In September 2010, the Icelandic Parliament decided that only the ex Pm should be tried on charges relating to the financial crisis, the trial began in March (2012) and ended with a guilty verdict (in April 2012). From here it certainly looks like the former PM was left carrying the can as two current ministers (Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir and Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson) were not referred to the court, along with some of his former colleagues including the former foreign, finance and business ministers.

In the March 2010, Icelandic voters rejected overwhelmingly via a referendum the proposal to pay the UK and the Netherlands 4 billion euros (£3.4 billion) they lost when the Icesave bank collapsed. The Icelandic citizens view was that they should not be made to pay so much for their banks' bad decisions. Now this is a feeling that I suspect is shared by most of us, save for our elite who are busy making the rest of us pay off their mistakes and the mistakes of their friends at length.

Now where, save in Iceland have the ordinary people had a direct opportunity to pass judgement on any of the deals done to bail out the banks. Back in December 2010, Iceland the UK and the Netherlands agreed a new repayment deal. Iceland's parliament (in February 2011) voted yes to a plan to repay the UK and the Netherlands for reimbursing 400,000 citizens who lost their savings in the collapse of Icesave's parent bank, Landsbanki. Iceland's president, Olafur Grimsson, then put the deal to a public vote. In April 2011, the voters of Iceland once again rejected the repayment deal in a referendum. I wonder how the voters would have voted if we had been given a choice on bailing out the banks?

Anyway while Iceland fell into one of the most severe recessions anywhere in the world when the markets crashed in 2008 and economic output fell by around 12 per cent in two years. Yet despite this Iceland did not fall, an International Monetary Fund reports show that growth has resumed. GDP is expected to increase by a relatively healthy 2.5 per cent in 2011. The Icelandic public finances are on a sustainable path too with government debt projected to fall to 80 per cent of GDP in 2016.

Iceland's output is still more than 10 per cent down when compared to pre-crisis levels. The country's unemployment level is around 6.7 per cent, this is considerably higher than it was pre 2007. The Icelandic standard of living is also well down and there is limited access to foreign currency. The risks to recovery still remain and Icelandic Central bank interest rates are currently going up in order to curb inflation, something that could have an impact on growth. Yet despite all of this the outlook for the Icelandic economy looks much healthier than some other distressed economies in Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Plaid Cymru believes that only a full public inquiry can offer an adequate response to a scandal on such a scale. A parliamentary inquiry could bring senior figures from the last New Labour administration to the dock under oath. Surely Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, and Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, their former economic advisers, would relish a chance to clear their names by being called to account for their actions.

Both New Labour and the Conservatives have been (and still are) entirely fixated with putting the market before people regardless of the cost. A parliamentary inquiry could at least shine a light on the City’s murky dealings. Sadly both New Labour and the Conservatives are still entirely hooked on high finance and dazzled by the City’s dodgy money men, so we may have a long wait before we start to see politicians giving evidence in the dock.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


News that Labour run Newport City Council approved plans to convert a pub into a small Sainsbury’s in Caerleon will sadly shock very few interested observers. Opponents of the development were disappointed by the decision by Newport planning committee to allow the conversion of the Angel Hotel on Goldcroft Common, Caerleon. One of the reason as to why the application was approved may well have been the concern that the developer would appeal if the planning committee threw out the application.

Council Officers and a sub-committee of planning councillors had visited the Caerleon site but recommended Hillvale Properties Ltd’s plans for a Sainsbury’s be approved. Over 1,700 signatures were collected for a petition against the move, along with 128 letters of objection were sent to the council. Some 66 postcards, distributed by Sainsbury’s to local residents, were received in support.

Newport City Council has recently lost appeals against a decision not to give planning permission for a site in Rogerstone to be redeveloped for a Tesco Express store following a planning inquiry in 2008 and plans to convert the former Black Horse Inn pub on Somerton Road into a Tesco Express store over in Somerton. Despite the Council’s and local people’s concerns and objections, the Planning Inspectorate allowed Tesco to appeal.

It is worth noting that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has previously noted that the UK loses around 2,000 local shops each year and if this continue then by 2015 there will be no independent retailers left in business. 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.

The bottom line is that our planning process has been 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 not far away from the point where Councillors will 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 – at which point an part of our local democratic system will have quietly died.

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Plaid Cymru has described the Labour Welsh government’s view of policing as "confused" and "lacking any clear thinking" after the relevant minister seemed unable to answer questions on the issue during questions in the Senedd. 

Plaid Cymru AM Jocelyn Davies had asked the Minister what actions he would support in order to protect policing in Wales from UK government cuts, and why he believes the issue should remain in the hands of the Conservative Secretary of state in Westminster, rather that being under Welsh control.

Under questioning from Ms Davies, the Minister refused to back the devolution of policing to Wales.

Plaid Cymru AM, Jocelyn Davies, said:

"Both Police officers and the general public are very concerned about the impact that the UK government cuts will have on policing on the ground. Those concerns have been repeated by the minister himself who has been more than happy to criticise the way our police service is being run.
"In light of that I asked the Labour Minister whether he would support devolving policing to Wales, thereby taking it out of the hands of Theresa May and bringing it under the control of his government here in Wales. However the Minister, clearly unwilling to give a clear answer, gave a rather confused answer about budgets. 

"It is high time that the Labour government here in Wales clarified its position on this matter as it appears they currently lack any clear thinking on the issue. Either they are content to leave policing to be torn to shreds in the hands of the Tories in Westminster or they should be prepared to stand up and take responsibility for it here. 

"Plaid Cymru wants to see the powers and budget for policing devolved to Wales in order to ensure that Welsh communities get the service most suited to their needs." 

Friday, 6 July 2012


It is worth noting that in 1994 just before privatisation that the subsidy for British Rail came in at about £1.4 billion pounds per year, some sixteen years after the questionable and shambolic privatisation process was completed the subsidy comes in at well over £4 billion pounds. This farcical situation can no longer be justified and Plaid has correctly (once again) called for the Wales and Border franchise (which expires in 2018) to be run as not-for-dividend social model – where any accrued profits are effectively ring fenced and reinvested in the rail franchise.

Even the last Labour in Wales manifesto for the last National Assembly elections in May 2011 included this proposal, admittedly after Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones proposed when serving as Transport Minister in the last Assembly Government. Now apparently Labour in London have woken up to the idea, which if nothing else shows how far they have moved since the heady days of the late 1990’s when a then new Labour spokesperson was quoted as saying that New Labour would have privatised the railway’s when elected if they had not been previously privatised by then Conservative Prime Minister John Major.

Now a major new analysis which lays out a possible policy route to achieve a better railway has been published, by Transport for Quality of Life. The Rebuilding Rail report offers positive options, and recommends a radical but realistic approach by which a future Labour Westminster Government could begin to fix some of the operational problems, extra expenses and travel inconvenience that has been caused by and aggravated by the deliberate fragmentation and privatisation of Britain’s railway system.

For once it would be nice for Wales to take the lead, with a rail franchise run on a not for dividend basis, which could be a publicly owned company with representation from government, passengers, and railway workers. We, in Wales should put party differences aside and make this happen ending the situation where a private company runs the franchise under public contract, receives a public subsidy and where any profits vanish as dividends rather than being reinvested.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


As we wait to hear about the cuts to Welsh Regiments, the news that that the Ministry of Defence decided not to participate in an enquiry by the Welsh Affairs Committee (chaired by David Davies MP for Monmouth) into the future of the remaining Welsh Regiments should not come as much of a surprise. The MoD along with much of Whitehall has a pretty clear track record of being pretty dismissive of Welsh concerns and interests, whether they are related to the impact of defence cuts or the historic acquisition of land in Wales for artillery ranges.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


No one should above the law, be they politicians, bankers or the rest of us. The latest blatant illegality on the part of the banks should result in a criminal investigation into affairs at Barclays (the bank was fined £290m for manipulating LIBOR interest rates between 2005 and 2009). This latest criminal act is a direct result of the financial crisis and its lack of legal consequences, the banks (and the bankers) have got away with it in recent years. Where guilt and criminal intent can be established then those responsible should be charged for their crimes.

The banking sector has developed a culture of entitlement, with its something for nothing operating culture. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has now established that there was systematic abuse and manipulation of interest rates in Barclays’ favour. Any individuals who illegally claim benefit or try to manipulate the system to their benefit run the risk of criminal convictions and prison terms – so why not the bankers who have rigged the market to the tune of billions of pounds? Since when has it been acceptable for a to be fined £290m and the only sanction is to offer to give up your bonus.

It is no more acceptable for the rich people to scam money than anyone else. Such behaviour might be acceptable under a New Labour or a Conservative Government but it is not acceptable to the rest of us. It is worth remembering that much of the illegality took place under the last Labour government, when Ed Balls and Ed Miliband and the rest of them were ‘relaxed’ about people becoming filthy rich.

There is little difference between New Labour and the Conservatives when it comes to their fawning attitude towards the mega-rich in the finance sector and it was their ‘light-touch’ (near nonexistent) regulation which helped City money men rake it in at our expense. The scandals over MPs expenses, newspaper phone hacking and the economic collapse all broke when New Labour were running the shop.

The Con –Dems and New Labour have been happy to stand up for the mega-rich and have cared little for the ordinary citizen. Resignations (and no doubt ‘golden parachutes’) are not acceptable; there have to be some real lasting consequences. So enough off the court of public opinion it’s time for some appearances in the law courts!