Friday, 19 December 2008

Move the goalposts and score an own goal

As mentioned in my previous post. We're in need of a good story that not only demonstrates the inconsistency of those running the WAG machine, but also an example of the civil service not getting their own way and yet again promoting one of their own numbers from within.

The Western Mail reports the appointment of a freemason as the head of the NHS in Wales was attacked last night as inconsistent.

Paul Williams left his post as chief executive of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust at the end of last month on a two-year secondment during which he will be in charge of the Welsh health service. He is currently working a handover period with Ann Lloyd, his predecessor, who is retiring.

But a civil servant who contacted the Western Mail contrasted the appointment of Mr Williams with an earlier decision to block the appointment of Gerard Elias QC as the Welsh Assembly’s counsel general – partly because he was a freemason.

In 2004, Mr Elias, one of the best-known barristers in Wales, was personally vetoed by First Minister Rhodri Morgan after he was recommended for the post of top legal adviser at the Assembly by Civil Service Commissioners.

Mr Morgan’s refusal to appoint Mr Elias – and the revelation that he had unsuccessfully sought approval from the commissioners to appoint the candidate who came second, a former Labour parliamentary candidate – created a political storm at the time.

The Western Mail received a typewritten letter saying:

I am afraid this note has to be anonymous as I am a civil servant.

You might find it useful to ask the Welsh Assembly Government why it saw fit to debar Gerard Elias from the counsel general post on the basis of his rather inactive freemasonry but now sees no problem in appointing Paul Williams, a very senior and active freemason, to the post of head of NHS Wales.

No doubt the excuse will be that the counsel general offers advice on legal issues but there is no more sensitive post than head of NHS Wales.

I am not a freemason but I have no quarrel with that organisation. I have no axe to grind for or against Mr Elias, unknown to me, or Mr Williams, known to me but not well-known.

My beef is really with the inconsistency and – let’s face it the dishonesty – around decisions like this which devalue the whole Assembly position.

An Assembly Government spokeswoman said:

We appoint on merit and the best person for the job based on skills and experience. We do not have a policy of excluding individuals based on membership of the freemasons.

Candidates are not obliged to declare membership of the freemasons. The issue of Paul Williams’ membership of freemasons is viewed as a private matter.

I couldn't help but contact one anonymous insider that contacted me a while back on another issue. I was told that "one senior civil servant didn't get what they wanted for Christmas" which I think amusingly falls foul of the tradition of Secret Santa.

Merry Christmas everyone.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break and hopes to return in the New Year]

Dead tree press can't see the wood for the trees

At this time of the year we're in need of a good story that not only demonstrates the inconsistency of those running the WAG machine, but also an example of the civil service not getting their own way and promoting one of their own numbers from within.

This story also makes a refreshing change from the media ignoring what other AMs have claimed in expenses. Instead, they choose to turn the rack on the Conservative leader Nick Bourne over a piddling iPod in a desperate attempt to make the story run and run until his resignation as group leader. Hoping then to happily turn the story into a column stocking filler by running another series of leadership election stories that saves them from having to examine and attack the policies and politics of the Welsh Assembly Government.

More effort should be placed on looking into the National Assembly rules and regulations on expenses that allows what may seem by the general public to be inappropriate claims being made by elected politicians. We need to remember that no politician has broken the rules of the Assembly as laid down by Assembly Commission staff.

Have the Western Mail also gone soft on the Assembly Government since coalition? Fear appears to have set in when it comes to taking on the Labour establishment and particularly since forming a coalition with Plaid Cymru. This needs to change.

The Western Mail's latest column filler - iPodGate - should go a long way to guarantee Nick Bourne's short term survival as leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly. Welsh politics and political parties are not led by small Welsh media outlets, and no one is going to have the stomach to oust a leader just because a campaign is being run by a Welsh newspaper.

The Welsh Conservative party and group in the Assembly shouldn't follow the Western Mail's lead. It wouldn't be good for party politics in Wales whatever party you support.

Anyway. Enough of my rant before Christmas and back to the other Welsh politics story in the Western Mail that isn't classed as 'iPodGate' or 'a soapbox for Adam Price MP'.

This story of Christmas cheer can be read in the next blog.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Welsh Political Awards and National Assembly bias

Strange that there are 3 non-government Assembly Members among the winners of ITV's Welsh Political Awards, and the website of the National Assembly for Wales only manages to announce Dafydd Elis-Thomas as a winner.

Just who clears press releases from the National Assembly these days? Seems clear to me who runs the show at the Senedd.

Wales Yearbook 2008 Political Awards Results (Pippa Wagstaff too shocked to return)

According to the Western Mail the winners of the Wales Yearbook 2008 Political Awards (sponsored by ITV Wales), are:


LORD Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly, was last night named Welsh Politician of the Year at a ceremony in Cardiff City Hall.

The former Plaid Cymru president got the award “for his role in the Assembly’s transformation into a true legislature, passing Welsh laws under its new powers”.

The citation went on to say: “As the Assembly’s first, and so far only, Presiding Officer, he has had no precedent to guide him – something he has seen as an opportunity rather than a problem.

“Dafydd Elis-Thomas has never been afraid to revise his opinions to reflect changing circumstances.

“A radical republican when first elected to Westminster at the age of 27, he has been keen to involve the Queen and Prince of Wales in the Assembly’s ceremonies as he works to weave devolution into the constitutional fabric of the nation.”

Other winners were:

MP of the Year: Paul Murphy.
AM of the Year: Edwina Hart.
MP to Watch: Jenny Willott.
AM to Watch: Andrew RT Davies.
Local Politician of the Year: Councillor John Davies, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council and the Welsh Local Government Association.
Campaigner of the Year: Nerys Evans.

Dafydd Wigley, the Honorary President of Plaid Cymru, received a Lifetime Achievement award.
Elis Owen, National Director of ITV Wales, said: “We are delighted to support these awards, which are one of the ways that we celebrate the hard work politicians do for us in Wales.”

The awards will be shown on ITV Wales in a special programme on Thursday December 18 at 11.05pm, hosted by Wales Tonight’s Jonathan Hill and Sharp End’s Mai Davies. All winners received a personalised cartoon by Mumph and a bottle of Penderyn Welsh whisky.

Is it me or are some of the award results highly questionable and could be described as scraping the barrel? No wonder Pippa Wagstaff is on a break from blogging. At this rate she won't have the will to return!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Taking one step closer to a new Welsh Assembly Government

Turnout in the ballot for the new Welsh Liberal Democrat leader is expected to exceed that of the party's other recent leadership elections across the UK.


Not only will the National Assembly have its first female leader but can we expect a new Welsh Assembly Government to be formed in the not too distant future? After all, new leaders come equipped with new bridges and opportunities.

The ballot to replace Mike German closes at noon and the winner will be announced later today.

A total of 62% of ballots had already been returned to the party's Wales HQ in Cardiff Bay by Friday afternoon.

The two candidates are Cardiff Central AM Jenny Randerson and Kirsty Williams, Brecon and Radnorshire AM.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats 'outgoing leader' Mr German welcomed the arrival of a female successor, saying: “I believe it will be very significant and should bring a change of character to the Assembly.”

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Vote blue, free Green!

Whatever your politics, this is rocky ground for civil liberties and even worse for the institution of Parliament.


Conservative immigration spokesman (and Welshman) Damian Green has been arrested and released on bail in connection with a series of leaks from the Home Office.

He was held on suspicion of "conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office," the Metropolitan Police said.

He was questioned by police but has not been charged and has been bailed until February. He denies any wrongdoing.

It is believed to be connected to the arrest of a man suspected of being a Home Office whistleblower.

Series of leaks

The BBC understands that a junior Home Office official was suspended from duty 10 days ago over a number of leaks and the matter was referred to police. He was arrested but not charged.
It follows a series of leaks, including:
  • The November 2007 revelation that the home secretary knew the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers, but decided not to publicise it.
  • The February 2008 news that an illegal immigrant had been employed as a cleaner in the House of Commons.
  • A whips' list of potential Labour rebels in the vote on plans to increase the pre-charge terror detention limit to 42 days.
  • A letter from the home secretary warning that a recession could lead to a rise in crime.
The BBC understands Tory leader David Cameron is angry about what has happened and stands by Mr Green.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Let them [John Prescott] eat cake

He may no longer hold high office, but that doesn't stop John Prescott shouting from the roof of the 'Go Fourth' battle bus that he's still proud to be Labour.

In the last 11 years, our borrowing has created more than 3 million jobs and allowed more people to get on the property ladder.

Today I'm delighted to have seen clear red water between Labour and the Tories. The choice is between a government that will do all it can to help the poor and the hard working through these difficult times and a Thatcherite Conservative Party that would do absolutely nothing.

I can't wait to tell that to each and every voter from now until when the General Election is called.

So tell our your friends and workmates how important today was. We're going to have to fight for that Fourth Term but by god, we've got something to fight for!

Take care,

JP
Carl Sargeant, Labour Chief Whip in the National Assembly also seems to be full of support for the Westminster package and a union man through and through by commenting
As Unison say - "This is a serious package for serious times. Brown and Darling have shown their strength, courage and determination to face the economic challenge head on. Their extensive experience has kept them in tune with what the country and business needs."
The rest of us are more than slightly concerned that this is the last action of a political party that is going for broke in an attempt to 'Go Fourth' and hold on to power.

In reality, if it has all the appearances of working, it will then work for Labour under the banner of tough-times ahead. Or as we read it - I'll lend you £20bn now but will expect it back with plenty of interest after the next election. If it doesn't work, the Conservatives will be left to pick up the pieces.

I guess Gordon's premiership has nothing to lose at this stage in his greatest gamble to date, or as the Conservatives have described it - the Prime Minister's promise to end boom and bust had proved "one of the greatest deceits ever told to the British public".

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Facebook slip forces juror dismissal

A juror has been dismissed from a trial in the UK after sharing details of the case on her Facebook profile.

Apparently she was unable to decide whether the defendants in a child abduction and assault case were guilty, so thought the best course of action would be to ask all her friends and relatives.

And, given her privacy settings were apparently not activated, the whole of the internet as well.
"I don't know which way to go, so I'm holding a poll" she wrote.

Dismissed

She was obviously dismissed for breaching one of the fundamental rules of jury service, after court officials received an anonymous tip-off.

While Facebook has been the source of numerous embarrassments over the years for countless people, it has also caused real trouble for people in their jobs, including the footballer who accidentally let slip he was going for a trial at another club, and an Australian man who was caught skiving off work when pretending to be ill.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Monday, 24 November 2008

Playing the Regeneration Game

Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews has ruled himself out as a contender to replace First Minister Rhodri Morgan as leader of Welsh Labour. The rest of us did that a year last September.

Hurry up and take the photograph David, because now we're on our own.

Balancing bookends

Since former minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas was air brushed from a picture of the Cabinet, the Welsh Assembly Government has been busy updating its photographs on their website. As well as posting an up to date Cabinet photo, there's also a complete Welsh Assembly Government shot.


The usual suspects are in the photo - First Minister, Deputy First Minister, Counsel General, Ministers and Deputy Ministers. But wait, I see more! There are also what appears to be two bookend hangers-on.

I've asked Pippa if she knows who they are. She does. She also said that I should be able to guess the one on the right.

I'm guessing the person on the right is the new Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Assembly Government Gillian Morgan from her BBC photo. But who is the person on the left? Miss Wagstaff wants me to find out for myself and is giving me no clues.

Given the negative publicity on equal opportunities in the Assembly, I'll be surprised if this isn't a way to get more women in the official photograph. With two women leaving in 2011, they need all the numbers they can get.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Top 10 Reasons They Don't Like You at Work

When you walk into the canteen, do the lively conversations stop? Do the groups quickly disband as everyone scrambles to head back to their offices? Do you think to yourself, "Was everybody's break really over or were they just trying to avoid me?"If any of the following situations describe you, these might be the reason you feel left out:

1. "The Sky isn't really blue - it's actually cyan"
Do you incessantly spout unnecessary or obscure information that would make a sad trainspotter jealous? Get rid of the "know-it-all" attitude or you'll make a career of lunching alone.

2. Chains of Love
Are you never around because you're always out on a "smoking break?" Limit your puffs to standard break times.

3. Workaholic Wannabe
Do you stroll in late, take extra long lunches and don't really start to roll-up your sleeves and dig into some serious work until about 2 p.m.? Then, do you make sure everyone sees you working past 5 p.m.? Well you're not impressing anyone; rather you're annoying those who already have put in a full day before you even get warmed up.

4. Hello Magazine - Office Edition
You're very good at filing away information - about everyone in the office! If you want to keep friends, learn to keep a secret.

5. Devil's Advocate
Do you feel compelled to take the other side of every argument just to make a point? Well stop it! Nothing is more exhausting for your colleagues than knowing you're always ready to challenge them no matter what they say.

6. Nattering
Do you go round the office forcing one-way conversations on your innocent victims? If the only response you receive is, "Right, umm, right," then they're not interested in your blather. Now get back to work!

7. Oh my ba-a-aby!
Related to the nattering talker is the baby babbler who incessantly gushes about her children. Only family and close friends should be privy to details about every syllable uttered, step taken or nappy dirtied. It's wonderful that you love your baby, but just keep the bragging brief.

8. Mr. Un-Clean
Leaving dishes in the sink, old food in the fridge, food splattered inside the microwave and crumbs on the break table is a sure-fire way to annoy fellow workers. Clean up your act.

9. What's that on your nose?
Do you constantly follow your boss around, laugh at all her jokes and drop her name in countless conversations? If so, then you are an arse-licker. Working in an office does require a certain amount of "schmoozing" the boss, but you don't have to tie yourself up in knots to impress her -- while alienating everyone else in the office.

10. Big mouth
Are your phone conversations loud enough to be from the speaker phone even though they're not? Dial down the volume to keep the peace.

If you recognise yourself in any of these scenarios, take heed. It's time to change your ways. Of course you can never please everyone, but healthy interoffice relationships are necessary to properly perform your duties and for future advancement in the company. So get rid of some of your annoying habits and you're sure to gain some new friends.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Complex office relationships

An acquaintance passed an internal journal to me pointing out this piece of legal advice from a submitted question [true story]. Makes you think!

Q. My manager has just told me I am to lose my job. I think this may be because I have been having an affair with one of my colleagues (although this has now ended). Please can you explain my rights?

A. If your employer sacks you because of the affair and you have worked for them at least a year, you may be able to raise a compliant of unfair dismissal with an employment tribunal.

If your affair was with a member of the opposite sex and only one of you is being asked to leave, you may also have grounds for a sex discrimination claim. This can be brought regardless of how long you have worked for your employer.

You may also make a claim if your affair was with a member of the same sex and there is evidence your dismissal was related to your sexual orientation.

If the relationship ended badly make sure bad feelings do not spill over into your working relationship, otherwise you could find yourself accused of sexual harassment or discrimination. This is a particular risk if you are in a position of seniority over your colleague. Either way, your employer will have to follow a proper disciplinary procedure, giving you a right to appeal, before they can dismiss you.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Return of the Blair casts a shadow over Brown

Tony Blair is to co-host a summit on the global financial crisis with President Nicolas Sarkozy in January, in a move likely to infuriate Gordon Brown.

Mr Blair's office has been in in touch with the Prime Minister to invite him to the Paris conference, but Mr Brown has so far refused to accept the invitation, with an official saying last night he was still considering his "diary commitments".

Sources said that Mr Brown was "relaxed" about the event taking place. However, any attempt by Mr Blair to overshadow Mr Brown's efforts on the world stage is likely to anger Downing Street aides. He has rebuilt his political reputation by claiming to lead the world in tackling the global financial crisis – most recently with a "road map" for financial reform he presented at a G20 summit last weekend.

But he may now have to contend with Mr Blair taking on a formal role in the global response to the economic crisis.

The summit will come days before Barack Obama is sworn in as US President on Jan 20, and threatens to upstage a follow-up G20 summit that Mr Brown is expected to host in London in April.

Early Christmas present for Minister's constituents

Counsel General and Leader of the House Carwyn Jones AM has new office in town [Bridgend].

According to the Glamorgan Gazette, Minister Jones (unsure if we're allowed to call him Minister - not officially) is aiming to become Bridgend’s most accessible politician by taking up a new office in the town centre.

He is dipping into his own pocket to rent the former Mortgage House premises, at the top of pedestrianised Caroline Street, from landlords Compute Bridgend.

Mr Jones’ office is currently to be found at the top of a steep flight of stairs above Townsend Florist in Queen Street, Bridgend.

He said:

I’ve had a very generous landlady until now but I need somewhere more accessible as people have been struggling up the stairs to see me.

It’s important to be in the centre of Bridgend and I’m very grateful to be given the opportunity, which was too good to turn down.

I’ll have to finance some of it myself given the present state of allowances but it will give the accessibility people need.

I’ll still come out and visit people in their homes and hold surgeries in the community.
Welsh Labour members take note when voting for your new leader next year (if the main man doesn't stay on a while longer). Bridgend constituents take note while out Christmas shopping and overcome with the urge to reciprocate the Christmas cheer when passing Carwyn's new office.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Final words ringing in deaf ears

Before Sir Jon Shortridge retired from his position as Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Assembly Government [April 2008] he had a few words to share with staff:

Since I became Permanent Secretary, we have worked hard to become more responsive to democratic political leadership, more focused on delivery and more dynamic in the way we operate. This has been underpinned by strong governance and there has never been any significant criticism of our organisation for the way in which we have spent public money or undertaken our responsibilities.
As was explained by one observer at the time, "Spending time with your head in the sand is not marginally better than with it up your own ar*e".

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Prince of Wales at 60

The Prince's Trust was his idea and, in the 32 years of its existence, it has helped more than 500,000 disadvantaged young people to improve their lives. That alone would entitle him to credit. But Charles has involved himself in very much more than the Prince's Trust.

He believes he has a duty to use his position as Prince of Wales to bring together people of wealth and influence to focus on some of the major issues which face us. This is a role which he describes as his "convening power".

The Prince of Wales title carries no established or formal role, so Prince Charles has had to forge his own path. He is patron or president of about 400 organisations, but is best known for the Prince’s Trust, which he set up in 1976 with his Navy severance pay of £7,400.

Prince Charles set up the Prince's Trust because he felt many young people were excluded from society through lack of opportunity.

The Trust gives training, mentoring and financial support to people aged 14 to 30, focusing on those who have struggled at school, been in care, are long-term unemployed or are young offenders. To date, it has helped more than half a million young people change their lives.

The Trust appears to embody the prince's desire to heal society's many modern-day ills.

Relaxed and informal, the Prince of Wales cuts a dashing figure in his uniform as Colonel of the Welsh Guards in his official birthday photograph released today.


Happy birthday, Your Royal Highness.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Sights you don't see in the Senedd

Part 6:


Politicians scuffled and threw punches at each other in the Ukrainian parliament ahead of a vote on whether to dismiss speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Mr Yatsenyuk, an ally of President Viktor Yushchenko, is setting up his own political force.
No comparison with Dafydd Elis-Thomas (wink).

Burma blogger jailed for 20 years

A Burmese blogger has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for posting a cartoon of the military leader Than Shwe.


Nay Phone Latt, 28, was sentenced by a court in Rangoon's Insein prison, said his mother, Aye Than.

Nay Phone Latt's colleague Thin July Kyaw was sentenced to two years imprisonment, Aye Than reported.

Another dissident, Saw Wai, was sentenced to two years in jail for publishing a poem mocking Than Shwe in the weekly Love Journal.

The first words of each line of the Burmese language poem spelled out the message "Senior General Than Shwe is foolish with power".

This specific cartoon idea is by Dr. David Law.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Promoting from within since devolution

Assistant to the Chief Executive and Clerk

The salary range is £25,000 to £32,100 (Band D)
*Please note that recruitment will be at the minimum of the range.

Primarily to support the Chief Executive in her functions and to act as first point of contact in relation to all aspects of her duties, working with Directorates to organise briefing and resolve issues as appropriate, to manage the interface with Assembly Members, external stakeholders and staff. To provide secretariat support to the Assembly Commission on all aspects of its work, and to manage the work and diary of the Deputy Presiding Officer as required.

The successful applicant will be a part of the Corporate Unit and work most closely with:
The Chief Executive, Head of Corporate Unit and Deputy Presiding Officer.
Members of the Presiding Office Team
Directors, Service Heads and managers from across the organisation
Please quote reference number AC/028/08
Closing date: November 14 2008

So sure that this job will go to an insider that I will give up blogging if it doesn't.

The Welsh Assembly Goverment and National Assembly, promoting from within since the dawn of devolution.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Government deserves to fall on data loss alone

Two reports have concluded that no individual member of staff was to blame for last year's child benefit data loss.

Reports by the Independent Police Complaints Commission on the original data loss, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (the 'Poynter' review) on the wider question of data protection, revealed systematic and institutionalised failings within the HMRC department.

The Poynter review identified low morale in HMRC; said there needs to be a better focus on engaging with staff; and recommended HMRC should consider redeploying staff to improve services and increase tax yield rather than continuing with job cuts.

The Chancellor Alistair Darling announced at the time that £155m will be needed over three years to implement the Poynter recommendations. But, unfortunately, no new money is being provided by the Treasury.

Government data loss

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance


Monday, 10 November 2008

Double Standards

Industrial action has been the talk for some time and civil servant members of the PCS union voted by a majority to take industrial action to defend pay. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union has this to say:

For years we have heard ministers and business leaders urging us to be restrained over pay claims. We were told that low pay rises are the key to low inflation and a stable economy. But now we have rising inflation, rising unemployment and a serious economic crisis.

Surprise, surprise, the Chancellor's answer is still pay restraint, or more accurately, pay cuts. Sir Gus O'Donnell, head of the civil service, and the permanent secretaries, tell us that there is no money for fair pay rises because of the current problems in the economy.

What angers me about this argument is how one-sided it is. In the first place, it clearly doesn't apply to the five figure bonuses* some senior civil servants have received.

* Senior civil servants can get as much as £40,000 in bonuses

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Liberal Democrats are thankful for small mercies

In a one-liner, "Gossip mag Opik loses presidential bid".


The vote though might well be remembered more for who lost, than for who won.

In the running were two relative unknowns and one all-too-well-known.

The winner was Baroness Ros Scott, the former group leader of Suffolk County Council.
Businessman Chandila Fernando promised to modernise the party's machinery. And the most recognised name of the three, Lembit Opik, offered a presidency painted in "primary colours".

The party leader, Nick Clegg, will be sighing with relief.

It was widely thought that Baroness Scott was his preferred candidate. In fact, the deputy leader Vince Cable officially endorsed her.

The result:

Ros Scott: 20,736 votes (72%)
Lembit Opik: 6247 votes (22%)
Chandila Fernando 1799 votes (6%)

One thing's for sure - Randerson won't be sleeping soundly tonight.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Court frees Malaysian blogger

A Malaysian court has ordered the release of a prominent government critic free from detention on grounds that his arrest under a colonial-era security law was unlawful, local media and his lawyer have said.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, a high-profile political blogger, was detained in September for allegedly stoking racial tensions by publishing articles that the government said insulted Islam, inflamed racial tensions and tarnished the country's leadership.

But the high court in the state of Selangor ruled on Friday that the Malaysian home minister had acted beyond his powers in having the blogger arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Raja Petra's lawyer, said.

He quoted Judge Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad as saying that the grounds given for Raja Petra's detention were insufficient and that his arrest under the ISA was unlawful.

"It's a historic ruling and definitely a wonderful step in terms of civil liberties in Malaysia," the lawyer said.

Some of Malaysia's most popular blogs offer stinging anti-government commentaries and present themselves as a substitute for mainstream media, which are controlled by political parties or closely linked to them.

According to government estimates, there are more than 700 Malaysians who blog on social and political issues.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

Sights you don't see in the Senedd

Part 5:

The caption could vary.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The forgotten by-election

With the combined excitement of Bonfire Night and a sweeping change in American politics, we seem to have forgotten the probable done deal by-election in Scotland - Voters are going to the polls in Glenrothes to choose a new MP.

Labour is defending a majority of 10,664 in the Fife constituency which was made vacant by the death of John MacDougall in August.

The polls opened at 0700 GMT and will close at 2200 GMT. The result should be known by the early hours of Friday.

The turnout at the last election in 2005 was 56.1%. The seat borders Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency.

Candidates:

  • Morag Balfour, Scottish Socialists
  • Maurice Golden, Conservative
  • Peter Grant, SNP
  • Lindsay Roy, Labour
  • Kris Seunarine, UKIP
  • Harry Wills, Liberal Democrats
  • Louise McLeary, Solidarity
  • Jim Parker, Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party

Update (10:04 November, 7 2008):

Labour has won the Glenrothes by-election, comfortably holding off a challenge from the SNP. Lindsay Roy was elected the new MP with a majority of 6,737 over the SNP's Peter Grant, although the Nationalists increased their vote by almost 4,500.

"This is a substantial setback for Alex Salmond", Brian Taylor BBC Scotland political editor

Guido up to his old tricks

No blog posts are guaranteed to be expected today from Mr Fawkes as he's been up to his old tricks again.

Not a safe time of the year to be walking through Westminster and its always good to have a day off after your anniversary.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

President-elect Obama makes history and a rousing speech


Democratic Senator Barack Obama has been elected the first black president of the United States.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight... change has come to America," the president-elect told a jubilant crowd at a victory rally in Chicago.
The man has come a long way in two years since a 2006 poll predicted McCain would win landslide against him. At the end of an extraordinary 21-month campaign that has seen him inspire millions of people into political involvement, simple enthusiasm was on Senator Obama's side. About six in 10 of the Democratic candidate's voters said they were excited about what their man would do as president. Crucially, fewer than three in 10 people who voted for Mr McCain felt the same way about him. Now there's a black family in the White House.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Christopher Glamorganshire: The story so far (as seen on the blogs)

At the risk of upsetting the sensitive souls of those in power [in Wales anyway], I wondered what I could do next. Shall I talk further about a well-known catchphrase of all talk and little action or failures that have left Wales firms 'poor cousins'? The economy in crisis seems to be a popular topic for the foreseeable future and has been for some time. Not today.

Standing up for a blogging brother. This will do for now.
Following the original article in the Western Mail by Martin Shipton, 9th July 2008 there clearly has a lot more mileage to go in the story of Christopher Glamorganshire, with the latest from the real journalists being that of the BBC, Political Editor Betsan Powys on 18th September 2008.

Betsan clearly has the insider's view looking at the detail of information provided, but we still haven't heard from the Glamorganshire blogger despite numerous attempts from the media to get a message to him. Both Matt Wardman and I have been contacted over the last few months to see if we can get a message across [mediums in the blogging world], and I can only imagine that other bloggers have also been contacted this way. We both are unsure as to whether we are doing this former blogger the power of good by documenting his case in this way, nevertheless we support you, and the best of luck to you Christopher.

My sources in the Welsh power-hub tell me that the tribunal is set for January 2009 [not confirmed].

The following is a list of blog posts to date that cover discussion [those I can find] on the "neutral" blogger that was sacked by the Welsh Assembly Government:

  1. One law for the rich, 9th July 2008 Socialist Party Wales
  2. All the best Chris 9th July 2008, Miserable Old Fart
  3. Chris Glamorgan goes to Court 9th July 2008 Valleys Mam
  4. Welsh blogger's legal action 9th July 2008, Ordovicius
  5. Freedom of Speech: Standing up for the right to blog 9th July 2008, Miss Wagstaff Presents
  6. Christopher Glamorganshire: What a price to pay for freedom of speech 10th July 2008, Miss Wagstaff Presents
  7. LITERATURE - Christopher Glamorgan's Blogging 10th July 2008 Damon Lord Linguanaut
  8. Dooced Welsh Civil Service Blogger goes to Industrial Tribunal Today 11th July 2008 Wardman Wire
  9. In Wales they sack bloggers, don't they? 11th July 2008, The Daily Telegraph Blogs
  10. Welsh Civil Service Blogger goes to Industrial Tribunal Today 11th July 2008, Matt Wardman for Our Kingdom
  11. Inside the Assembly jail 11th July 2008, Cambria Politico
  12. On Exams, Christopher Glamorganshire and blogging 11th July 2008 On a Hill
  13. Tidbits electronig 12th July 2008 Dancing the Polka with Miss El Cajon
  14. What a price to pay 12th July 2008 Facebook Causes
  15. Risk worth taking? 12 July 2008, David Jones MP
  16. Welsh Assemby sacks blogger 12th July 2008 Paul Canning
  17. Christopher Glamorganshire sacking story cut and paste Promotional Tour 13th July 2008 Wardman Wire
  18. Civil servant who blogged about government dumped 13th July 2008, So Said the Organization
  19. Seen Elsewhere (7) 13th July 2008, Question That
  20. Blogpower Roundup - Ian_QT 13th July 2008, Blogpower
  21. Should you be fired for blogging? 13th July 2008, Dube
  22. Setback for public sector bloggers 13th July 2008 Dave Press
  23. Christopher Glamorganshire: Questions to be Answered, 15th July 2008, Wardman Wire
  24. Christopher Glamorganshire: Questions to be Answered 16th July 2008, Miss Wagstaff Presents
  25. Previous Welsh bloggers who lost their jobs: This is a new ballgame 16th July 2008 Wardman Wire
  26. Welsh Blogger Fired from Assembly, Sues 16 July 2008 Committee to Protect Bloggers
  27. Previous Welsh bloggers who lost their jobs: This is a new ballgame 17th July 2008, Miss Wagstaff Presents
  28. Matt Wardman on Radio Wales Good Evening Wales 4th August 2008, Wardman Wire
  29. Blogging civil servants 4th August 2008, Peter Black AM
  30. Matt Wardman on Radio Wales Good Evening Wales about Civil Service Bloggers 4th August 2008, Wardman Wire
  31. POLITICS - Did I kill Pippa Wagstaff [includes section on CG]? 11th August 2008, Damon Lord
  32. WAG and the Assembly Commission catching up with the times...eventually 12th September 2008, Miss Wagstaff Presents
  33. Free speech, huge bills? 18th September 2008, Betsan Powys (BBC)
  34. A Betsan by any other name would smell as sweet 18th September 2008, Miss Wagstaff Presents
  35. Betsan has the inside on this one, 18th September 2008, Valleys Mam
  36. Still Supporting Chris! 19th September 2008, Miserable Old Fart
  37. The 'Welsh' Civil Service Code v Christopher Glamorganshire's Blog, 19th September 2008, Miss Wagstaff Presents
  38. Christopher Glamorganshire Back in the News: Welsh Civil Service Code, 19th Sept 2008, Wardman Wire
  39. This was Christopher Glamorgans profile - good sense of fun, 19th September 2008, Valleys Mam
Matt Wardman's entire series can be read HERE, and my own can be viewed HERE.

If you have seen any articles that are not on the list, please let us know in the comments section.

Lower-grade recruitment has started and finished

Team Supports (North Wales) - Ref:1083092
Team Band £15,500 - £19,000
Division: DE&T, CISD, DCELLS, Rural Affairs & Heritage
North Wales various - Majority will be relocating to Llandudno Junction 2010
Actual starting salary : £15,500

Work Pattern:
Applications from candidates who wish to work full-time, part-time or on a job-share basis will be considered.

Purpose of post:
Individuals recruited will have a flexible approach and a willingness to contribute to the business of the Welsh Assembly Government. The postholder will provide administrative support to the team. This may include dealing with clients, liaising with partner organisations and professional advisors, and carrying out the administrative functions such as maintaining databases, managing enquiries, producing reports and raising the required Purchase Orders and processing invoices. The Welsh Assembly Government values diversity highly within the workplace and welcomes applications from individuals of all genders, ages, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, disabilities, faiths and religions so that it can be more representative of the people whom it serves. The Welsh Assembly Government is committed to the employment of disabled people and is fully committed to the ‘positive about disabled people’ two-tick scheme it employs. Applications from Welsh speakers and under-represented groups are particularly encouraged.

Key tasks:
The key tasks will depend on the post to which the successful candidate will eventually be appointed. Jobs could be available in any of our North Wales offices based in and around St Asaph Business Park, Colwyn Bay or Caernarfon initially with the post and postholder required to relocate to the new Llandudno Junction Office in 2010. Most team supports working in the Welsh Assembly Government undertake the following tasks: Undertake general administrative activities such as drafting emails; letters; filing etc; Use a variety of Microsoft Office packages such as Word, Outlook and Excel; Respond and offer solutions to customer queries quickly and effectively; Undertake projects as delegated by their line manager; Arrange meetings and undertake the role of minute taker;

Don't rush to apply as the deadline was 31 October 2008. The jobs were previously advertised here.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Anniversary


Today is my blogging anniversary or birthday

12 months
330 posts
368 labels
63,102 hits
2,556 Facebook friends before disablement
5 awards
3 bans

5 offers of coffee by the bay
2 threats of legal action
1 offer of dinner
1 offer of marriage

and countless cases of abuse and sexual harassment

Whoever said blogging is dull?

Short blogging break

Pippa Wagstaff is taking a short break to deal with a family issue. Posts have been drafted and will be published at set intervals until she returns.

Senedd Whip

Friday, 31 October 2008

The Benefits of Offline Blog Editors

This is a cross-post from the Wardman Wire, singing the praises of editing your blog offline, rather than using the Back Office of whatever blog application you use.

Offline blog editors are PC-based editors that allow blog posts to be written on a local PC and then uploaded as a separate operation. I was asked about the benefits

I've been using an offline Blog Editor called Blogdesk by Johannes Oppermann. I am very pleased with the software. This is only suitable for a PC, but there are other editors available, and I have a list at the bottom of the article. Here is what Blogdesk looks like: Click on the image for a full screenshot.

20071015-blogdesk-screendump

Offline Editor Benefits

These are the benefits of Blogdesk which I came up with. This is not exhaustive.
  1. I do maybe 95% of my editing offline, and can then "squirt" a post in maybe 10 seconds, rather than having to pfaff with online delays (and I am on a relatively slow - 512kbps - link), and I get a good editor and decent image crop / resize / borders / align utility that is v. quick.

  2. Responsiveness is massively better than any online editor.

  3. The is no need to login to WordPress every time I do something.

  4. I have maybe 25 different post templates some with WP Options and

    Custom fields set up as required etc, e.g., with all the different attribution links in for the different cartoonists each morning.

  5. In my setup I run with 2 copies of WP (the "Magazine" and "Blog" views) - and things like videos have to be posted to each separately easily.

  6. I have boilerplate phrases and paragraphs to hand.

  7. There is no need to upload pictures and photos through the Wordpress online image library feature, which is slow.

  8. I don't have problems with my connection going down or website response times while editing.

  9. I also cross-post quite regularly - I can cross-post just by ticking off boxes next to each one.

  10. I can get straight at the last 99 posts without needing to troll through the Wordpress Backoffice.

  11. I can automatically upload sound files. I only use this feature for small files since I have a tight limit set on my server for "upload" size. I usually use ftp for media files.

  12. I get a full display of categories rather than a little Window showing about 3.

  13. I can disable the WYSIWIG editor in WordPress, which removes one past source of hacker attacks. Note that it is safer now, but on this subject it is useful to be slightly paranoid.

  14. I can do Wordpress and Technorati Tags, and Customised Fields directly from my PC desktop.

  15. I can go and write in a pub over a pint, or on a train without the risks of a mobile connection.

  16. A boilerplate text storage area.

  17. Configuration was a doddle. You need to know your blog configuration settings, and what a few terms mean - but that is about it.

  18. There are decent support forums.

  19. Blogdesk is free.

  20. Blogdesk supports the blog systems WordPress, MovableType, Drupal, Serendipity and ExpressionEngine and does not support Blogger, which means that it helps get people away from Blogger !

A Wide Choice

There are a large number of desktop editors available, both free and paid. A recent post on Smashing Magazine gave summaries of 15, and there was a decent discussion in the comments.

These are the ones they list, which cover different platforms. They are all linked to their home websites in the article:

  • Windows Live Writer (Windows)

  • MarsEdit (Mac)

  • BlogDesk (Windows)

  • Zoundry Raven (Windows)

  • Ecto (Mac)

  • w.bloggar (Windows)

  • Thingamablog (Window, Mac, Linux)

  • Qumana (Windows, Mac)

  • Scribefire (Firefox)

  • BlogJet (Windows)

  • Flock (Mac, Windows, Linux)

  • Post2Blog (Windows)

  • Bleezer (Mac, Windows, Linux)

This is the conclusion reached by Smashing:

If you have little experience in blogging you might try either Flock, Windows Live Writer or Scribefire. Those three have fairly intuitive interfaces and don’t have all the advanced features that more robust programs have. Also, they are free so you can check out what application better manages to cover your needs.

Advanced bloggers looking for a bit more firepower should try Ecto, BlogJet or BlogDesk. BlogDesk works especially well for bloggers who frequently use photos in their posts (Image Wizard). Windows Live Writer and Ecto have extra functionality built in, as they both allow you to install plugins to add specific features.

Every desktop blog editor is a great benefit to any blogger’s toolkit, as it saves time and has features that traditional blog platforms don’t always have.

How to Proceed

My recommendation is to try experimenting, while accepting that some people genuinely do not get on with offline editors. If you like it, the benefits can be significant.

Scribefire is worth a look if you do not like separate applications, as it is a plugin for the Firefox Web Browser.

You may need to experiment - I tried about 6 different editors before I settled on the one I like, so patience may help.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Moving on up with Welsh Labour

You know me. I tend not to listen to rumour just as much as the next person. I tend to keep myself to myself, unless someone speaks so loudly that I can't help but hear.

Rumour has it that heads have been turned in the Assembly, in disgust at the way Eluned Morgan MEP has treated the party with contempt by first seeking re-selection for next year's European Election, only to pull out* when the prospect of bigger and brighter offers became apparent. Whatever some might think are bigger and brighter in the political world is purely speculative and remains to be seen.

Welsh Labour have already announced that each list member bounces up the list by one place, much to the delight of Lisa Stevens (Office Assistant to Eluned Morgan and next bright-young-thing in Labour's camp) whose prospect of becoming an elected politician is apparent, short of an election disaster for Labour.

Rumour has it that there are some who are eager to call for a re-opening of the Labour Euro selection process for Wales, which will undoubtedly be strongly resisted by Transport House, some even blame Transport House for their failure to make the top spot. Rumour has it that senior officers backed the selective few from very early on. In fact, if you were to have rummaged around on networking profiles during the selection process you would have seen Labour officials backing candidates that otherwise stood little chance of gaining a large percentage of votes. Oh, and these were the very same officers who were entrusted to keep the process fair and impartial.

If I were an eager observer of Welsh politics and concerned Labour supporter who cared about my party, what sort of questions would I be asking at this time?

  1. Did Labour receive any motion requests for the Llandudno conference in March that called for the Euro selection process to be halted because of concerns over a stitch-up?
  2. Was an official European office used for canvassing by candidates, against strict ethics rules? i.e. if a member of her staff called constituency secretaries to check they'd received correspondence and then asked if they would consider supporting them in the selection process it would contravene rules and standards in the European Parliament and the Labour Party.
  3. Why were calls for party hustings during the selection process repeatedly refused by Transport House?
  4. Does Eluned have any ambitions of being an Assembly Member, now or in the future?
Purely speculative, of course. You know me. I tend not to listen to rumour or gossip.

* Eluned Morgan MEP - who announced on Tuesday 14 October that she would not seek re-election to the European Parliament, after serving fifteen years as an MEP.

The full list of Welsh Labour’s candidates for the European election is as follows (as revised):

1. Derek Vaughan
2. Lisa Stevens
3. Rachel Maycock
4. Leighton Veale

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Welsh Labour in Europe

Welsh Labour has recently confirmed that Derek Vaughan, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council will head the Labour list in Wales for the European Parliamentary Elections in June 2009.

Derek, who was previously Labour’s second placed candidate on the list, replaces Eluned Morgan MEP - who announced yesterday (Tuesday 14 October) that she would not seek re-election to the European Parliament, after serving fifteen years as an MEP.

The full list of Welsh Labour’s candidates for the European election is as follows:

1. Derek Vaughan
2. Lisa Stevens
3. Rachel Maycock
4. Leighton Veale

Confirming the list of candidates, the Chair of Welsh Labour’s Executive Committee, PAT BRUNKER said: “We’re delighted to be able to present to the people of Wales a strong, talented and determined team of Labour candidates for next years elections to the European Parliament.

“Derek Vaughan brings with him a wealth of experience in local government both as Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council – regarded as one of the best local authorities in Wales - and as a leading figure in the Welsh Local Government Association. He will be a real asset for Labour in Wales and for Wales in Europe.

“We’re also pleased that in Lisa Stevens, Rachel Maycock and Leighton Veale, we have three young candidates – all in their late twenties or early thirties, who will provide us with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, and will help enthuse the younger generation of voters in Wales to take part in the political process.

“We’re confident that the team we have in place will work hard in the months ahead to reach out to the people of Wales, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate that only a strong partnership between the Labour-led Assembly Government, a Labour Government in Westminster and a strong Welsh Labour team in Europe will take Wales forward."

Commenting on Eluned Morgan’s decision to stand down from the European Parliament, Pat Brunker added: “Both Eluned Morgan and Glenys Kinnock have served Wales and the Welsh Labour party with distinction over many years. They can both be proud of their records in representing Welsh Labour and serving the people of Wales in Europe. On behalf of Welsh Labour, I wish them both all the very best for the future."

Biographical Details of Candidates

Derek Vaughan

Cllr. Derek Vaughan is currently Labour Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, and is also the Deputy Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA). Born in Aberfan, he was educated at Swansea University, where he gained a BScEcon degree in Politics and History, majoring in European politics. He was first elected to Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council in 1995, and was the Cabinet Member for Economic Development before being elected Leader of the Labour Group and Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council in 2004.

He is a strong advocate of the links between the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement, having previously been a full time Trade Union official. He is currently a member of the TGWU section of Unite.

Lisa Stevens

Lisa Stevens was born in Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taf, in 1980 and educated at Corpus Christi High School and St David's Sixth Form College, both in Cardiff. In 2001 she graduated from the University of Southampton and went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in newspaper journalism at Cardiff Journalism School.

Upon graduating, Lisa worked as a news reporter for a regional daily newspaper before taking up her current position working for Welsh Labour MEPs Glenys Kinnock and Eluned Morgan.

Among her political interests are youth issues, the environment, international development and human rights. Lisa is a member of the GMB, Amnesty International and the Burma Campaign UK.

Rachel Maycock

Rachel Maycock was born in Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire in 1981. She was educated at Ysgol Uwchradd Llanfyllin High School and Warwick University, where she graduated from in 2003 with a degree in Politics.

She worked in the European Parliament for an MEP, and then worked for the European Parliamentary Labour Party. She currently works for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown on European affairs and links with Members of the European Parliament. She was Welsh Labour’s candidate in the Montgomeryshire constituency in the 2007 elections to the National Assembly for Wales. She is a member of the GMB and Unite.

Leighton Veale

Leighton Veale was born in Swansea in 1976, and educated at Dwr y Felin School, Neath and graduated with a degree in Social policy from Cardiff University.

He was Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire in the 2005 General Election, Regional List Candidate for South Wales West in the 2007 elections to the Natioanl Assembly for Wales, and has been a Labour councilor in the London Borough of Merton since 2002. He is a member of the TGWU section of Unite, GMB, Co-op, and Amnesty International.

His political interests include economic development and social inclusion. He currently works as Public Affairs Officer for Wales at The Stroke Association.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The frustrations of an internet Troll

It seems that I owe Sanddef an apology after jokingly not thanking him for the Miss Tory Staff comment. I have discovered the troll behind certain comments on my posts, which are not particularly damning and not even time consuming to delete. Any blogger will be able to tell you that it's very easy to delete comments when managing a blog.

The pointless 'Miss Tory Staff' comments that ended up - several times - in every post over the last few weeks seem to have stopped (more will come my way due to this post) which proves that the said blogger has realised his mistake. Strange to think that The Steamer has referred to me as "a well-known Labour insider". Each blogger has their own opinion of me, which leaves me none the wiser as to who I actually am. Someone will let me know one day.

Anyone who reads this blog will realise that I'm not in the habit of outing a person, but an anonymous blogger on the other hand is different due to the anonymity.

Perhaps it's because I always look for the best qualities in people that I often get disappointed so easily. In truth, I've always liked the nationalist blogger Che Grav-ara of the Guerrilla Welsh-Fare blog. For starters, we may have different political views, but I do enjoy reading his posts, and respect the fact that he includes links to a wide variety of political bloggers on his own blog (which is always a major plus in the blogosphere, and unusual of a Plaid blogger).

Any blogger is welcome to contribute in the comments section. I rarely delete comments, and if I do, I end up publishing them without the bad language and attribute them to their original owner.

Understandably, 'Che' finds it difficult that I tend to criticise the 'One Wales Government', after all, he is a "mainstream Plaidie; wants independence, has no time for New Labour, and backed the red-green when it came to it." Let's hope that he now practices what he preaches. Let's draw a line under this, 'Che', then hug, and make up.

What has been your best blogging experience?

It is always a good experience to have people comment on your blog and to start a active discussion. I have been lucky of late in that my post seem to have been getting a lot more attention. I am unsure if the content has become more thought provoking or just the hoards of bloggers that have nowhere else to go now Blamerbell has retired are choosing to spread their views around the blogs.

Do you have any prejudices that you are prepared to admit to?

What are they? Although my views are pretty fluid I do carry the stigma that all Tories are bad, all liberals say whatever you want them to just to get your vote and all Labourites are Tories. However I am happy to admit this is a generalist view and that there are a number of Tories (especially the Glyn Davies’ of this world) that contradicts that analysis and do the Conservatives a credit. Whilst they are decreasing there are still some dedicated old guard Labour members (i.e Hywel Francis) that go against the grain of Tony Blair’s spin era. The liberals……well you can’t win them all!

N.B. No bloggers were harmed during the making of this post. No slur caused by labelling someone a tory - on the person or the party. This blog has always been, and remains, non-aligned. Readers [particularly those of Labour and Plaid] should note that the blog description remains the same - as always - and can be read at the top of the page.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Are the Senior Civil Service in Wales earning their salaries?

This post has been in my inbox for some time. Other events have taken over and we seem to forget - far too quickly - how much our public servants earn in relation to the majority of the population. Since Amanwy has now pointed out the latest in the Assembly Government hierarchy, which is the brain-child of new Permanent Secretary Dame Gillian Morgan, I've decided to finish this post.

The Welsh Assembly Government have announced a major re-organisation at Senior level of the civil service in Cathays Park. A new layer of senior civil servants will be created in an effort to join-up government. A policy-performance-bridge between the existing heads and the Permanent Secretary. They are to be called Director General posts, with each earning a salary of £130,000 (I expect there to be a tagline of 'more available, depending on experience' added in somewhere). Expected themed responsibility will cover: Sustainable Futures; Public Services and Local Government Delivery; People, Places and Corporate Services; and Finance. Under each Director General will be the corresponding existing departments, divisions, and branches.

In an ideal world, the Assembly Government will look to outside the Assembly in order to fill these new roles, and not look to reward those that are already stagnating in their current roles within the Cathays Park-based civil service. I can only imagine how many of the existing heads will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of promotion. This may prove to be a consolation prize for some, and only time will tell how many of them will be positioning themselves for these new roles. There are a few that had their noses put out of joint when Dame Gillian Morgan - an outsider - was put in charge back in May.

Not taking into account that dreaded word 'bonuses', the 30 highest-paid civil servants in the Welsh Assembly Government together earn at least £3.3m, the Western Mail revealed in August of this year. This new announcement is - in no doubt - partly a way to reinvigorate our perception of the civil service by bringing in 'a welcome relief' at the same time as a fresh approach, far removed from the old management style of Sir Jon Shortridge. There's no more mileage in the romantic mantra of "Don't go changing to try and please me, I love you just the way you are." Dame Gillian Morgan wants to be seen as a manager promoting something radical within the civil service - concentrating on delivery with a different approach to her predecessor, and putting to bed the theory and rumour that she's going to concentrate too much on health in Wales, given her background.

Whatever the reason, laden with good intention, some will see this as an extra layer of bureaucracy and pure empire building of old-school proportions; or even a career-laden structure to progression for senior managers within Cathays Park. I'm a healthy cynic and also believe that Dame Gillian thinks that there's too many at the top table. Weekly/monthly meetings are taken up by too many items on the agenda, and wants to keep the talking to the few. Departments are difficult to downsize, so are kept the same. The Director General 'bridges' should be able to carry forward the right messages to the top-dog in each, and via these new bridges, the message should be carried forward without fuss to the department heads below. Sadly, as noses will be put out of joint in the process, people will largely forget that those that lead the divisions will remain the same, subject to any knock-on promotion.

Being seen to look outside the Assembly and advertise externally for new talent may be seen as forward thinking, however, the wind is taken out of its sails when you find out this is not new thinking, but common public sector practice.

The salary may very well reflect the roles, but more emphasis needs to be placed on measuring whether a good job has been done in each senior civil service role. At the moment this is only carried out internally, and sometimes by the media taking pot shots - occasionally in the dark.

The obligatory public relations guff that follows the installment of these new top-dogs will soon disappear, and when the air clears, all we're left with is a layer of 'strategic geniuses' that, in time, turn out to be another layer in the silo that make little difference to policy ideas and performance when those that command the middle ranking troops remain the same.

The data shows top civil servants continue to earn significantly more than the Assembly Government Ministers responsible for policy.

The First Minister receives £78,355 on top of a basic AM’s salary of £50,692. Cabinet members are paid a top-up of £40,645.

Corin Taylor of the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “If you’re spending a great deal of taxpayers’ money you should be accountable for what you do and how you are remunerated. If people are doing a good job and their details are out in the open we won’t begrudge them.”

Ten of the 30 civil servants with the largest salaries work in health divisions:

At the top of the list

1. Dame Gillian Morgan, the Permanent Secretary (between £160,000 and £165,000)

2. Ann Lloyd, Chief Executive of NHS Wales (between £160,000 and £165,000)

3. Dr Tony Jewell, Chief Medical Officer (between £155,000 and £160,000)

4. Gareth Hall, Director of the Department for the Economy and Transport - former WDA (between £135,000 and £140,000)

5. Dr Gwyn Thomas, who, as director of Informing Healthcare, is charged with encouraging better use of information in the NHS.

6. Jeff Buggle (£130,000- £135,000) and Bob Hudson (£120,000-£125,000) – both directors in the department for health and social services.

8. Dr Christine Daws Finance Director (between £115,000 and £120,000)

9. Simon Dean, Director of Service Delivery and Performance Management, Health and Social Services Department. (between £115,000 and £120,000)

10. Derek Griffin, Chief Executive of CAFCASS Cymru, the body which looks after the interests of children involved in family law proceedings (between £115,000 and £120,000)

11. Bernard Galton, HR Director (between £110,000 and £115,000)

12. Martin Sykes, Chief Executive of Value Wales (between £110,000 and £115,000)
13. Richard Davies, Director of the Department for Public Services and Performance, Mike Hopkins, head of the lifelong learning and providers division, and Dr Jane Wilkinson, deputy chief medical officer, are all paid between £105,000 and £110,000.

Of the next 15 top-paid officials, six are on between £100,000 and £105,000, and the remaining nine, between £95,000 and £100,000.

Who's Who in Wales

Having read the comments section of a previous post, it got me thinking about the make-up of senior management within the Welsh Assembly Government.

Comments:

Very few senior staffers are actually English, and even if they were, but they were very good and competent would that be so bad? We just want good, if not the best people.

I can't help agree with the better comments above. What I'm wondering is why so many of the Assembly's Management Board are not Welsh. There must be some
talent that we can draw towards Wales or do most talented Welsh people move to
London and SE England?
I understand that when the Assembly was set up, the Management Board* [previously Executive board], could've been described as predominantly non-Welsh. Whether this means that talented Welsh civil servants had chosen to seek better careers outside of Wales is something that I'm not sure about and remains to be seen. We need to remember that the civil service is UK-wide.

This post isn't about being anti-English, and implying that only Welsh people should staff senior posts. That would be a ridiculous statement to make, and an even greater nightmare situation for the civil service to be in given the media criticism in recent years. Selection should always be about choosing the best - ability, attitude, skills, reputation, proven performance, delivery, vision etc. - irrespective of their background, gender or where they come from.

This is what I would call a 'curiosity post', and the following is what I've managed to discover. I'm positive that I'll be corrected in the comments section if incorrect.

  1. Gillian Morgan (Welsh)

  2. Emyr Roberts (Welsh)

  3. Richard Davies (English)

  4. Gareth Hall (Welsh)

  5. Hugh Rawlings (English)

  6. Ann Lloyd (Welsh)

  7. Huw Brodie (English-born to Welsh parents)

  8. Matthew Quinn (English)

  9. David Hawker (English)

  10. Bernard Galton (English)

  11. Christine Daws (English)

  12. Michael Harrington (Welsh)

  13. Jeff Godfrey (English)

  14. June Milligan (Scottish)

  15. Tony Jewell (English)

  16. Adrian Webb (English)

  17. Kathryn Bishop (English)

  18. Elan Closs Stephens (Welsh)

Board Membership
Board Directors are appointed at the discretion of and by the Permanent Secretary. Membership is not wholly dependent on functional responsibilities; it is designed to provide balanced advice and support to the Permanent Secretary, and collective leadership to the organisation as a whole.

The current Management Board membership is as follows:
  1. Dame Gillian Morgan, Permanent Secretary

  2. Emyr Roberts, Social Justice & Local Government

  3. Richard Davies, Public Service and Performance

  4. Gareth Hall, Economy and Transport

  5. Hugh Rawlings, Constitutional Affairs, Equality and Communication

  6. Ann Lloyd, Health & Social Services

  7. Huw Brodie, Rural Affairs and Heritage

  8. Matthew Quinn, Environment, Sustainability and Housing

  9. David Hawker, Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills

  10. Bernard Galton, HR

  11. Christine Daws, Finance Director

  12. Michael Harrington, Corporate Information and Services

  13. Jeffrey Godfrey, Legal Services

  14. June Milligan, Business Development

  15. Tony Jewell, Public Health and Health Professions/Chief Medical Officer

  16. Sir Adrian Webb, Non-executive Director

  17. Kathryn Bishop, Non-executive Director

  18. Elan Closs Stephens, Non-executive Director

* such a bland label that it's been changed to the more dynamic and action-sounding one of 'Strategic Delivery and Performance Board'

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Priority Talent Pool not just a thing of the past

TAXPAYERS are bankrolling an invisible army of civil servants in Whitehall who have no jobs but still draw a salary.

Up to £1million a week is spent supporting the ghost jobs of more than 1,700 redundant workers who are placed in a Priority Talent Pool and keep getting paid until a plum new post comes up.

Despite Gordon Brown’s declaration of war on Whitehall waste the number of phantom employees has trebled in a year, pushing the total annual bill for taxpayers to £50million.

The admission from ministers comes as Britain slides into recession, thousands of workers in the private sector are being laid off every week and millions more are worried about their jobs.

Give the Assembly Government some credit where it's due with its 'first-to-do' culture. They were the first to do this. At least the UK Government has the decency to call it a 'Priority Talent Pool' and not just a 'Central Postings Pool'. The Assembly could learn a little from positive spin, but not much.

To Blog or Not To Blog Debate Videos

This is the full set of the speech videos kindly recorded by Peter Black.

The event itself provided the answer to the question in the title, when the agenda was partly changed due to "advanced feedback" after a debate on the blogs (especially here).

You can read my reflections, and also find a list of articles about the event, in my previous article about the "To Blog or Not to Blog" event.

Introduction

Part 1: Daran Hill, of Positif Politics (and the first bit of Peter Black).



Part 2: Peter Black, and the first part of Eleanor Burnham AM.



Part 3: The rest of Eleanor Burnham AM and Betsan Powys, BBC Reporter and Blogger.



Part 4: More Betsan Powys and the first part of Annabelle Harle of the Electoral Reform Society.



Part 5: More Annabelle Harle of the Electoral Reform Society, and the first part of Matt Wardman



Part 6: More Matt Wardman

and Victoria Winckler, of the Bevan Foundation.

BBC UK Politics

BBC Welsh Politics

WalesOnline

Welsh Political News

UK News from Times Online

Telegraph Politics

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