Thursday, 17 April 2008

Senedd Circular: Tea and Crumpet with the First Minister

This article appears in The Wardman Wire:


This week, Miss Wagstaff is both delighted and appalled by her seeming to have lost a week. We can blame Parliamentary Recess, Pippa’s time keeping, or the rumour that the Welsh Assembly Government has banned her blog internally.

Either way, although always partial to a bit of mother-son bonding during recess, it has been a sight for sore eyes to see the Head Boy [Rhodri Morgan] back in school this last week and laying out his plans for all to see. Eagerly assisted by the School Prefects [Cabinet] - after nine months in coalition government - ‘One Wales’ Delivery Plan has been announced, listing pledges made by the coalition government and complete with a detailed easy-to-follow timetable for Jo public. The downside is that some have experienced difficulty in making up their minds as to how many commitments have been made.

This aside, while Pippa was away, another historic occasion has occurred [no connection] as the Queen approved the transfer of new powers to the Welsh assembly in a ceremony at Windsor Castle. The order allows the assembly to draw up Welsh laws to help people with additional learning needs. A further nine orders are in the Assembly-Parliament pipeline, on issues ranging from mental health services to fire safety, however, the process still receives a large amount of criticism from the Welsh Conservatives as being too complicated and should be simplified. Meanwhile, Plaid’s trio are chomping at the bit to help the process along, but seem to have fallen at the first fence. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t think long-term in politics, and are left grazing instead of experiencing pastures new.

Senedd Snippets:

  • When to cull and when to kill.
  • Welsh Assembly Delivers to your doorstep.
  • Tea and Crumpet with the First Minister.

When to cull and when to kill

One look at this headline and you’d be forgiven for thinking it referred to the bold attempt at making ‘difficult decisions’ by the One Wales Government over its pilot badger cull [braver than the pilot a free laptop plan for school children]. It was expectedly welcomed by farmers, but faces fierce opposition from conservationists, and many are also expecting heated debates over the issue from within the Assembly, though the government is confident of winning the vote otherwise it would have reserved its judgement.

A former cull has come back to haunt the government this week in the form of the merger of Quangos with the Welsh Assembly Government. The Welsh Development Agency, Wales Tourist Board and Elwa [education] were abolished two years ago. It was estimated that the changes would save the assembly government £10m a year from 2009. Regarded as a "bonfire of the quangos", this action brought responsibility of the quangos under direct ministerial control.

Questions were raised pre-merger, and former executive chair of the largest quango in terms of its turnover [ELWa], has recently spoken out, saying that she was not surprised with the report's findings, "I think at the time you couldn't predict all of the implications and the outcomes, so it doesn't surprise me that some of the predicted cost savings haven't materialised,"

The assembly's Audit Committee have said the savings seemed to be financial cuts rather than efficiency gains, and reports that there are still ongoing issues – an issue that is likely to outlive Morgan’s administration.

Welsh Assembly delivers to your doorstep

The much awaited Delivery Plan of the coalition government has now been announced, and nearly one year into the Assembly’s four year term.

Following on from this week’s introductory paragraph, Rhodri Morgan [Labour] and Ieuan Wyn Jones [Plaid Cymru] insisted their coalition government was on track. Returning from Easter recess, they both read out their “It’s a coalition but it’s one administration” government’s list of priorities for the remainder of the term. Another bold step to take this week, and one for the Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Liberal Democrats to get their teeth into, after the Conservative leader of the Opposition in the Assembly’s response of, “Yet more glossy propaganda at our expense…”

Tea and Crumpet with the First Minister

A Welsh Labour local government election broadcast has been made on television. This focussed on Rhodri Morgan reaching out to the public from text messages sent to him by members of the public suggesting what policies the Assembly Government should pursue. The broadcast showed the First Minister [man of the people] meeting with three of the texters to discuss their ideas...

Rhodri's Text Life

The First Minister received 237 text replies from an earlier political broadcast in February. Among the topics covered were tackling graffiti, curbing youth drinking, addressing general youth anti-social behaviour, council tax rates, cleaner streets, more cycle routes and better recycling.

Assuring us that their words have not fallen on deaf ears, Rhodri Morgan goes on to comment, “I heard their views loud and clear and will do my very best to see how we can meet their aspirations.”

This reminded me of an anonymous email I received a month ago about a former initiative within the civil service, whereby the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Assembly Government would invite selected staff to a ‘Tea and Biscuits Session’ in order to discuss issues of the day e.g. Admin grades invited to discuss what problems they face while conducting their daily duties. Much seen as an internal public relations exercise at best, it’s comforting to know that initiatives are regenerated, and an opportunity not wasted.

On the other hand of the coalition [to be determined whether it’s a left or right hand], Plaid Cymru followed up these broadcasts with their own ‘man of the people’ image for their leader - Ieuan Wyn Jones was seen comfortably handling members of the public as they interrupt his making of a Plaid-rousing speech to those on the other side of the box.

And finally…

With the run up to the local government election and expected ‘Column Special’, the Welsh public will be stunned into silence (surely not!) by the recent statement that, “Councillors are not getting younger” [average age of councillors is still 61 in the 10 local authorities surveyed four years ago. Across Wales it is 40, while 40% of councillors are over 65]; and possibly even less so by Wales having just elected its first Communist councillor since the 1970s.

Something seems to have stirred the Liberal Democrats into accusing Labour of trying to manipulate the electoral system as the party was worried about doing badly in the council elections on May 1. That particular stirrer was Minister Brian Gibbons, provoking a debate on the future of Wales’ 22 unitary authorities by threatening to cut their number if they don’t perform.

Only at election time. Only in Wales!!??

14 comments:

Peter Black 17 April 2008 at 21:35  

It appears that the Western Mail was misled regarding the last time a Communist was elected in Wales. A communist won a by-election for the Coedffranc Central Ward of Neath Borough Council in the mid 1980s and was subsequently elected to Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council in 1995. He has now retired but not before defecting to Plaid Cymru.

Miss Wagstaff 17 April 2008 at 21:51  

Communist...to...Plaid Cymru. Only Wales!!?? :)

Anonymous 17 April 2008 at 22:24  

What a delivery plan! They may aswell hang themselves now.

Alan 17 April 2008 at 22:38  

Rhodri was very defensive today. Waggy, didn't you start using the term "Gimmick Government"?

Anonymous 17 April 2008 at 23:27  

The quango merger mess has returned to bite Labour on the ar*e. Remember the surplus staff scandal and numbers in a staff-pool. What a bl**dy mess.

Anonymous 18 April 2008 at 10:05  

Noticed that Rhodri has said that Amazon is the biggest number of jobs that have come to Wales. Great, we need jobs. 1200 over five years. What are they - warehouse, admin, drivers, managers etc. How many are being sourced locally? We only ever hear the spin or the froth.

welsh com 18 April 2008 at 10:08  

I see you've got another award from Valleys Mam. Are you the same person?

http://merchmerthyr.blogspot.com/2008/04/awards-collect-here.html

betty 18 April 2008 at 10:11  

The Countryside Alliance have claimed that TB has cost us £53million over the past decade.

betsan's friend 18 April 2008 at 10:34  

I enjoyed Betsan Powys' take on the delivery plan:

"I wondered aloud whether it didn't have just a bit to do with one half of the coalition holding the other half to account, a check-list that'll come in increasingly handy as 2011 looms and the red-green coalition prepares to disengage? Nonsense, says Rhodri Morgan. "This is a two party coalition but it is one administration". I didn't hear the DFM answer that particular question."

Anonymous 18 April 2008 at 12:57  

The Plaid party political broadcast was similar to a poor Carry-on sketch.

Dotcommentator 18 April 2008 at 17:13  

Crucial element missing from the delivery plan: funding.

How much will it all cost? How will this be paid for when the last comprehensive spending review allowed only a small rise in Welsh public spending? Since the Welsh government has no borrowing or tax-raising powers how will everything be paid for?

Anonymous 19 April 2008 at 02:56  

One reason why the delivery plan is being published so late is because the parties did not discuss coalitions before the election. In future, it is vital that the parties announce their coalition intentions clearly before the actual election. Otherwise, the voters effectively have no say, the Government is formed on the basis of behind closed doors discussions, and documents like this limp into the public domain almost one year after the event.

negrin 21 April 2008 at 16:25  

Rhodri Morgan lives in the past we have left Jim Callaghan and Michael Foot in the past and we never want to see those days back again. We want to do away with this dependancy society that we now have in Wales with the coalition determined to give away as much of our hard earned cash as they can with silly 'gimmicks'.

Anonymous 21 April 2008 at 16:34  

Why should you pay for medication? Why should you pay to park your car at hospitals? Parents would love to see their children return home with free laptops. Gimmicks, or as we've seen them - free 'stuff', resonates with voters.

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