Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Lembit too cool for school?

Lembit is attempting to distract me from watching a programme!

'A Prince for Wales?' on BBC One Wales to be precise. Huw Edwards is asking the great and the good of Welsh life, as well as the ordinary people, about a prince for Wales.

Lembit's new glasses are distracting me beyond belief!

Anti-Conservative Emails

Sustainable transport charity the Campaign for Better Transport is to strengthen its volunteer induction procedures after a temporary member of staff sent out an email to supporters asking for evidence that the Conservative Party was "hostile to good public transport".

Harry Phibbs, a Conservative councillor on Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said he had complained to the Charity Commission. He wrote on the ConservativeHome blog: "Here is a charity behaving in the most blatantly partisan manner."

The CBT's trustees had been asked to read the regulator's campaigning guidance and send "a clarification with regard to meaning" to the recipients of the email.

Stephen Joseph, Executive Director of CBT, said the email had not been seen by any of the charity's staff before it was sent and did not reflect the intentions of CBT. He said its campaigning followed commission guidelines and a clarification email had already been sent. "We have strengthened our volunteer-induction procedures and are confirming this to the commission," he added.

Monday, 29 June 2009

All or Nothing

Lord Elis-Thomas told BBC Wales' The Politics Show that the Welsh Assembly had purchased computer software from the Scottish Parliament which enables expenses to be published online.

He said the expenses for the last financial year would be published at 0900 BST on Monday and that later this year all claims would be published on a monthly basis.

When asked about what information had been redacted, Lord Elis-Thomas said that individual receipts wouldn't be available online on Monday.

The new log of AMs' expenses can be viewed at http://www.assemblywales.org/allowances from 0900 BST on Monday.

The full list of what AMs have claimed

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Waiting lists and bureaucracy

While the Assembly Government continues to wrestle with the Wales Office over housing and its many issues, it falls to a local government - Cardiff Council - to take a more common sense approach to housing issues in the capital city.

A single application process for waiting lists has been developed by the council, in partnership with eight housing associations. Just one form now needs to be filled out by anyone looking for housing in the city. This is then entered into a single database which is used by both the council and all housing associations involved. The new common waiting list is administered by the council on behalf of itself and the housing associations and currently has in excess of 6,000 applicants. In total the new waiting list, which covers social landlords, has over 22,000 properties.

Executive Member for Housing Councillor Judith Woodman said, "This has been a long process and has been developed in partnership with all local Housing Associations. It has created a service which makes sense to everyone and probably none more so than those applying for social housing. "I believe the new common waiting list brings common sense to a system so many of our citizens rely on."

Comment Nominations

Taking place in October, The Comment Awards are the first to celebrate comment in all its forms - both print and online from the Commentariat across both newspapers and the blogosphere.

There are 12 award categories, and you can make nominations for as many or as few award categories as you wish by clicking the nominate button on the homepage. Each nomination must be supported by a minimum of 3 or a maximum of 5 articles.

Bronzed down the bay

Just as you thought the headline meant that it was time for a touch of Summer sun and recess, the bronzing refers to Cardiff's new statue in honour of one of its most famous sons.

A seven-foot bronze sculpture of Cardiff-born composer Ivor Novello will be unveiled in the city on Saturday. Novello (real name David Ivor Davies) who died aged 58 in 1951, was famous as composer, singer and actor and one of the most popular musical stars of the 20th century.

The statue shows Novello at work and will be sited near the Wales Millennium Centre where his musical comedy Glamorous Nights was staged as a tribute to him in 2005. It is the work of Peter Nicholas, who was educated at Ebbw Vale County Grammer School and studied at Cardiff Art School and the Royal College of Art, London.

The celebration will begin inside the Centre on the Glanfa Stage at 10.30am where, after a brief performance by singer Beverley Humphries featuring Novello's music, and short speeches, the audience will move outside for the unveiling ceremony at 11am.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A Welshman's home is his castle, and a last chance for Dr Gibbons to prove some worth

"et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium"

The Western Mail reports that a 76-YEAR-OLD man has been on hunger strike at the doors of the National Assembly for 15 days and vows to remain until he wins an inquiry into his planning dispute.

This is the latest protest by Iorwerth Jones, from Llandovery, who was found not guilty of causing £30,000 of damage to council offices in Llandeilo during a rooftop protest in 2007.

He has been locked in conflict with the council since 1979 when a lorry park was sited near the home he was building. This has been replaced with a pet food factory and he claims his house has been devalued.

Carmarthenshire County Council said it was “beyond belief” last year when a jury at Swansea Crown Court found him not guilty of breaking roof tiles with a hammer.

He met Jane Davidson, Assembly Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing, last week but was not satisfied with her response.

Mr Jones said: “I had an hour with her. It seems she is trying to push it aside.”
“I want an inquiry. I want the truth to come out. As long as she keeps on saying she is not going to do anything I’ll be here.”

A spokesman for the minister said: “Ms Davidson met Mr Jones with his constituency AM Mr Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Welsh Assembly Government officials out of concern for his health. During the meeting Ms Davidson listened to Mr Jones’s issues but made it clear that her statutory role in the planning process meant she could not intervene in an individual planning issue.

“Ms Davidson’s private office staff continue to discuss Mr Jones’ health and welfare with officials from the National Assembly for Wales (very noble but impractical - why not send in the resident GP), who are responsible for the T Hywel building where Mr Jones is protesting.”

The Assembly Government argues no evidence so far suggests the local planning authority acted in such a way to justify an inquiry.

The Assembly Government can hold a public inquiry into a planning issue if it believes the original decision was “grossly wrong” and the public interest is at stake.

Mr Jones’s case has been referred to the local government ombudsman on four separate occasions but a basis for an investigation has never been found. However, Mr Jones is adamant he suffered an injustice.

Chris Burns, assistant chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “All his complaints have been dealt with in the proper manner and in line with the appropriate rules and regulations.

“The council’s offer to purchase his property was flatly rejected by Mr Jones.”

Let's hope that his health doesn't take a turn for the worse and that he's given a proper meal in the heavily subsidised staff restaurant. One thing's for sure, he's in the wrong place for snacks.

Rhodri Morgan's urges hit American shore

Welsh culture (and our First Minister) will make a huge splash in Washington DC for ten days starting today.

And 80 trade ambassadors will be there to drum up businesses for Wales. The nation will be taking centre stage as the featured country at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the US capitol. Sights and sounds of Wales will join African American oratory and Latin American music programmes as the main themes of this year’s festival.Wales will put on an exciting programme of activities to an expected million visitors, including concerts by Last Choir Standing winners Only Men Aloud and harpist Catrin Finch.

More than 150 poets, singers, musicians and craftsmen will be showcasing their crafts at a site portraying many aspects of Welsh cultural life, landscape and environment. An installation by Angharad Pearce Jones runs the length of the central festival walkway, and takes some of the more common textures and aesthetics of Wales to Washington - including dry stone walls, kissing gates and rugby posts. Visitors will also be able to sample food from Wales.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who will be representing Wales at the festival’s opening ceremony on Wednesday, said:

No longer will Wales be Europe’s best kept secret. With so many ‘experts’ from Wales showcasing their talents at one of the world’s biggest cultural festival events, we have a unique opportunity to raise our profile in Washington and right across North America.

Visitors to the festival will be able to learn more about our traditional and contemporary cultures and we hope that inspires them to visit, study or invest here. To coincide with the festival, we are also taking the biggest trade mission to leave Wales over to the United States. Around 80 companies will be participating in the event with the aim of making contacts with American companies and winning new business.

Let's hope he leaves his urges at home.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Expulsion and Combustion

The UK has ordered the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats in a tit-for-tat action after Tehran also ordered two UK diplomats to leave the country.

If you're going to put on a silly protest and burn the Union flag, at least have the decency to make the flag yourself, and not leave that job up to your children.

Sights you don't see in the Senedd

Seeing as Wagstaff has returned to regular posting. Here's my offering in the series.

Part 7:

A mass cull, or discovering the correct procedure for falling on your own sword.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Slow Rejuvenation for Welsh Labour?

With the recent announcement of Local Government and Social Justice Minister Dr Brian Gibbons standing down as an assembly member at the next election, is Welsh Labour looking for new blood to rejuvenate its fortunes?

To date, Cardiff West; Cardiff South and Penarth; Pontypridd; and Aberavon will all be 'fresh' Assembly Members from 2011.

The First Minister has said he is likely to step down around the time of his 70th birthday in September, however, he has been urged to stay on for the sake of the Labour party (apparently he's popular, and a man of the people - suppose it depends what people you ask). He is likely to not seek re-election in 2011 in order to join his wife in retirement from main political activity.

  1. Rhodri Morgan (to retire and join his wife at home)

  2. Lorraine Barrett (to become a humanist celebrant)

  3. Jane Davidson (to move onto a new challenge for the rest of her working life)

  4. Brian Gibbons (to return to GP practice)
To be continued...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Up in arms over selective refurbishment of office nests

Following on from past topics that seem to have gone by the wayside news comes to me that the Cathays Park refurbishment of the Welsh Assembly Government's civil service hub is stirring up a bit of resentment among the rank and file of its inhabitants.

The trade union has described the recent headlines as sensationalised and focusing on the £42million (excluding VAT)* rather than the need to take health and safety into consideration. Opposition party leaders described the announcement at the time as "... the Assembly Government feathering its own nest" and "... absolutely shocking that the Labour-Plaid government can justify spending this amount of money on refurbishing their offices."

New developments show the outrage of selected individuals that have had to put up with leaking roofs and uncomfortable working conditions for over 12 months, while discovering that a secondee to the Assembly had requested and been granted permission to refurbish their office on the same floor at a cost of nearly £5,000. Union sources are saying that they were initially told that the request had been justified on health and safety grounds, however, when they asked for copies of correspondence relating to the request - none was forthcoming from management.

* this figure doesn't include the running cost of refurbishment that has taken place on selected floors over the last four years.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Domestic violence affecting work

Recent research is raising awareness after showing that between 10% and 12% of women experience domestic violence on an annual basis according to the British Crime Survey and despite significant under-reporting, one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.

It will come as no surprise that the experience of domestic violence can lead to an increase in absenteeism, poor timekeeping, and a fall in performance at work which lead to official warnings.

According to Women's Aid research, among employed women who had experienced domestic violence in the past year, 21% took time off work and 2% lost their jobs.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Second chance saloon for taking the Mick out of Opik

Gossip follows the recent news that Liberal Democrat Mick Bates has announced that he will not stand at the next Welsh Assembly elections in 2011, making some think that Lembit Opik may have a second chance at retaining his 'Montgomeryshire home' if beaten into second, or even third place in the much awaited UK general election.

That aside, Mr Bates, the AM for Montgomeryshire, had a majority of just under 2,000 votes at the last assembly election, and is chiefly known for two moments of madness in the Assembly:
  1. Appearing in a Santa suit in the former chamber to raise cash for charity; and

  2. Raising a middle finger to the laughter of other AMs.

Sex discrimination at the Home Office

The Home Office has recently been found guilty of sex discrimination at an Employment Tribunal.

The discrimination was in the way it treated a woman who had time off while pregnant. The case centred around a maternity pay policy introduced by the department in 2007 which altered the criteria for qualification.

The Civil Servant in question had to take unpaid special leave in August 2006 and, after the birth of her baby, the department wrote to her to say that she would not qualify for contractual maternity pay.

The Employment Tribunal found that the policy discriminated against women because they were more likely than men to take unpaid leave. The judge decreed that the department had failed to consider the diversity related impact of the policy and condemned the timing of the letter to the employee as "extraordinary insensitive".

She was awarded compensation for loss of earnings and injury to feelings. The tribunal also imposed the maximum uplift of 50% on the department for failing to address her initial grievance.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Enjoying what Europe has to offer

When the European election turned politics upside down in the UK - even here in Wales - trust me to be enjoying a break in a beautiful country that hopes to be a member of the European Union one day.

Caption: All thanks to reform and postal voting.

BBC UK Politics

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Welsh Political News

UK News from Times Online

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