Friday, 9 December 2016

Were on a Road and Rail to nowhere.

At 63 I am beginning to be  resigned that I am unlikely to see an independent Wales.
Still it seems that I have more chance of seeing the above than seeing a decent rail system.
In a leaked letter Economy Secretary Ken Skates has been told. that Network Rail believes it will take 28 years to get the Welsh rail system up to standard, 
,Mr Skates said he was informed this was because of the current level of investment.
He met Network Rail officials on yesterday  after describing conditions for rail passengers as "unacceptable".
Network Rail said it was committed to working with the Welsh Government to get value for taxpayers' money.
Mr Skates has accused the company - which maintains tracks across the UK - of a lack of investment in clearing leaves this autumn, which cause damage to train wheels because of the extra braking pressure required.
He believes this has led to over-crowding and reduced punctuality of services as it forces more rolling stock to be removed from routes.
Arriva Trains Wales said 54 out of its fleet of 127 have had to be taken away for repairs this autumn - an increase of 54% on the same period last year.
In the letter seen by BBC Wales, sent last month to Network Rail's route managing director Andy Thomas, Mr Skates said Arriva Trains Wales raised concerns about the level of work being carried out to clear leaves from the lines.
He wrote: 
"I have been informed that Network Rail responded that this was due to budgetary reasons and that at the current level of investment it would take 28 years to get the Welsh network up to the prescribed standard."

 A Network Rail spokesman said:

 "We have jointly concluded with Arriva Trains Wales that the reduction in fleet availability cannot be solely related to Network Rail's autumn plan as we are increasing spend and activity."We are committed to working jointly with Arriva Trains Wales and the Welsh Government to ensure maximum value for taxpayers' money."

 In a debate at the Senedd on Wednesday, Plaid Cymru's economy spokesman Adam Price described current conditions for Welsh rail passengers as a "national crisis".
He referred to three examples on social media yesterday in which one passenger told of his experience of a train catching fire, one had been on an overcrowded service where a passenger fainted, and another claimed to have a seat for the first time in 11 months.
An Arriva Trains Wales spokesman denied one of its trains had caught fire, instead saying there was a problem with an exhaust.
He said: 
"We understand and apologise for the frustrations around the capacity issues faced by commuters which has been made worse recently by the additional maintenance required on damaged train wheels caused by the autumn leaf-fall."We continue to work hard with our partners in Network Rail to reduce the impact of this issue."
This presumably does no even include reopening lines such as the Carmerthem  Aberystwyth route


Its almost as if that there was a policy to make sure Wales can not be united by a rail/road infrastructure in order to make it dependent on links with Liverpool and Birmingham in the North and London in the South. 

Could it be possible that on the day that a Senedd or Parliament Independent Wales is opened, elected member could still having to travel from North Wales to Cardiff by rail via England.

Or facing the tortuous journey on the A470

  We need a 10 year infrastructure plan for both Road and Rail networks and one that seeks not to make Wales dependent on only links to England (and of course other European markets) vital as they are but on serving the Welsh people who probably have a harder time in internal journeys than most of Independent and indeed Regional Europe.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Westminster ignores Wales. What a surprise.

It come as no surprise  that  a report claims Scotland has enjoyed better relations with Whitehall than Wales

According to the Wasting Mule 

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee reports that 

“the Scottish Government appears to have experienced a more effective and responsive relationship with Whitehall than can be said of the Welsh Government”.
They go on to say

“It is unacceptable that 17 years after the advent of devolution Whitehall departments, when considering the effect of UK policy decisions, are not better at involving and consulting the devolved administrations, so that their views and interests are positively engaged at the outset, rather than as an afterthought.”
The MPs are  seem to put the entire blame on the UK government

 “The onus for facilitating constructive dialogue between the devolved administrations, while negotiating the process of leaving the EU, is on the UK Government. It is, therefore, vital that the UK Government’s commitment to engage with the devolved administrations is meaningful and is not simply a tool to allay the concerns of the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive.”

 A Welsh Government spokesman said:

 “We will study this report with interest, but we very much agree with the central conclusion, that our inter-governmental machinery needs significant further development if the UK is to meet the challenges of Brexit effectively. We need to see a wholehearted commitment on the part of all the UK administrations to redrawing the relationship between the component parts of the United Kingdom in the post-European Union period, including both the distribution of responsibilities and the machinery of government between the four nations.”

 A spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives said:

“The Prime Minister has been steadfast in her wish to involve all devolved nations in this process of negotiating our withdrawal from the EU. However, it is quite appropriate that the Prime Minister should lead those negotiations.
“The re-establishment of the Joint Ministerial Council was evidence of a commitment to establishing a new grown-up relationship between the devolved administrations and the UK Government – one in which we all work together to forge the future for everyone in the United Kingdom.
Does this really only lie with the government at Westminster though?

I'm reminded of the old saying

"The squeaky Wheel gets the Oil"

Westminster knows that it cannot ignore Scotland even the most die hard unionist  knows that Scotland needs to at least be given the impression that it is being listened to not only over Brexit .

Cameron may have created English Votes for English Laws in order to show the Scots that , having rejected Independence power still remained with the English Tories (including the Blue- Labour ones).

Northern Ireland will constantly pose a threat to  the Union and it doesn't take a genius to see that Brexit just might convince some of the Unionist majority there that Post Brexit their future might not lie in a sectarian past  and maybe their neighbours  South of the Boarder still in the EU have more to offer.

But Wales what do they threaten .

The people voted for Brexit and therefore tied themselves to England and the interest of London and the South East.

There is no evidence that there is a desire for even parity with Scotland.

The ruling Labour group in the Assembly and that party itself  consider it as no more than a Glorified County Council  and are quite happy to carry on as they are.

The First Minister reflects this and apart from the occasional protest allows to walk all over them.

Scotland has a better relationship with Westminster because it is not prepared to be bullied and roll over, Westminster may be angry about this but they know that if they play it wrong they could lose Scotland.

Wales on the other hand may make a weak protest , but as the Harri Webb poem our Budgie told ( i wish i remembered the whole poem )

If you ignore him he'll squawk and squawk.and rattle the bars of his pretty cage.But he never get out he'' never try it,and a cloth on the cage will keep him quiet
For Wales to have a proper relationship with Westminster we need to show them that unless we are listened to we will try and get out of "pretty cage" maybe just maybe we be treated with respect. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Taking the Pisa again.

It seem that when the PISA results come out all we have to do is rewrite the same articles or blogs we wrote three years ago .

Yes its a case of Deva Ju, and Wales’ schools system has been ranked the worst in the UK in the international PISA tests published today.Results from tests taken by 15-year-olds across Wales for the OECD survey of standards across the globe show we are adrift of the global and UK average in reading, maths and science.
In Wales, 3,500 pupils took the tests
Scores show we not only do worse on average than the other UK nations, but also have fewer high performing and more low performing students in science, reading and maths.
It is the fourth consecutive set of Pisa results in which Wales' students have performed worse than the rest of the UK.
These statistics show how Wales' scores have failed to improve in Maths and Reading for 10 years, which falling back significantly in Science.
It gets even more embarrassing when  it allows the the chief inspector of schools in England to claim that the   Wales and Scotland's results the  a major study of educational performance are 
"dragging the UK down", 
Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw told the BBC News Channel that Welsh education is "paying the price" for abandoning standard assessment tests.
He said,
: "England's results are, I think, pretty good. The focus of Pisa this year was science and we've improved our position from 21st to 15th.
"We're doing better than the other home nations - Scotland and Wales. Their results are dragging the UK performance down a bit."
 remember when the Welsh Government took away all the accountability measures that we have in England - Sats, testing and so on - and that was disastrous, absolutely disastrous and Welsh education is paying the price for that.
"We didn't do that in England. We kept the testing at [ages] seven, 11, 14 and we kept accountabilit
y and that's what the Welsh system lost."
Wales abandoned Sats and school performance league tables in 2004.
Is that the cause of our poor performance ? Well  it is an argument that has some merit in that it prepares students for such testing later and could identify weaknesses.
When I said we could repeat what was written 3 years ago  there would be one omission , the former La Passionaria of the opposition benches  said in 2013
the then Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Kirsty Williams tweeted: "
Really sad and angry that 14 years of Welsh Labour Education Policy has led us to these #PISA results."

She is now of course the Education Minister in the "not a coalition" government so it provides a problem of the Lib Dems who now are led by the sole Welsh Lib Dem MP since they have no AMs on the opposition benches .

Mark Williams  said,

It is extremely disappointing to see Wales, once again, lagging far behind the rest of the UK. Sadly it is not a surprise. We are playing catch up and cannot afford to waste a single moment in raising standards for all pupils and schools.
"It is no easy task, but Kirsty Williams and the Welsh Lib Dems have already proved ourselves up to the job. In opposition the Welsh Lib Dems secured more than £280m to support our poorest pupils. In Government, working with teachers, parents and pupils, Kirsty is driving forward much needed reforms.
"We know that great leadership and excellent teachers are the best way
to improve our school system. I welcome that Kirsty Williams has prioritised a new Leadership Academy, reform of teaching training and a relentless focus on raising standards and reducing the attainment gap.
“Wales must now stick with Kirsty’s plan which will deliver the education system that our yo
ung people, and the country, needs and deserves."
Now clearly the former La Passionaria, after less than a year in the job cannot be blamed for the current results .

But if she had not taken the what is admittedly a poison chalice.I very much doubt that she would have been reticent from  the opposition benches yesterday  and agree that a New Education Minister should have time to settle down.

That part of the problem, in that a response to the PISA results could result in changes and the current one abandoned although  three years is to short evaluate them.

So we respond by changing the Minster and then the curriculum , but do we give enough time to see tat any reforms work?

But clearly under Labour in the Assembly  we have seen constant failure when you look at exam results as well as the PISA rankings and they have failed to come to grips with the stark problems that face Education in Wales.

I admit I don't know what the answer is , and we should be careful in how we criticise if we don;t have any solutions ourselves.

But we can't go on like it . It is part of the Job of the opposition to point out government failings.

Three years from now I will probably be writing the same Blog and that the improvement sought  by the "not a coalition minister" may have not taken place,

Even a minor improvement may allow her to claim that her polices are working.

But how much longer can we be both failing our Children and our Nation as we seek to catch up with the rest of the world ?

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Native Americans should seek representation in the US Congress.

Sunday’s halting of the Dakota Access pipeline marks a key victory for Native Americans involved in the months-long protest, 

Of course it could be  reversed by Donald Trump after he is inaugurated  so maybe there should be constant vigilance 

Tim Giago, a journalist and Oglala Sioux Tribe member who has covered Native American issues for decades has claimed the movement at Standing Rock represents the latest chapter in a centuries-old history of indigenous people striving to protect their land, and its magnitude goes beyond nearly any Native American protest before it.
“Over the last 50 years there have been protests taking place and I don’t think any of them have united like this one,” said Giago, who described the Army’s announcement Sunday that it would freeze the pipeline’s construction as “a major victory for the Indian nation.”
"The theme Water is Life has taken on a whole meaning not only for the Indian nations but for people in the United States and also all over the world," 
Hopefully it will  lead to Native Americans unifying the same way  we in Wales did after the aftermath  pf the The building of the  Tryweryn reservoir which was instrumental in an increase in support for the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, during the late 1950s. Almost unanimous Welsh political opposition had failed to stop approval of the scheme, a fact that seemed to underline Plaid Cymru's argument that the Welsh national community was powerless.] At the subsequent General Election the party's support increased from 3.1% to 5.2%.

Maybe it's time Native Americans demanded representation in congress  A number of Us territories have a (non voting) representative in congress . Though Native Americans with a total population of about 5- 6 million could claim  up to 8 representatives  and voting rights.

They could look to New Zealand where the Māori have been represented in Parliament from 1867.

At the moment There are seven designated Māori seats in the New Zealand Parliament (and Māori can and do stand in and win general roll seats), and consideration of and consultation with Māori have become routine requirements for councils and government organisations.

I am sure Māori representatives  would argue that this does not mean that they are not ignored , but they do have a voice.

Its not for me to tell Native Americans what they should do , but if they  did have a voice in the US congress. Something that would have helped  the Oglala Sioux early on.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Everone deserves decent housing conditions including Asylum seekers.

Yesterdays Sunday Politics covered the   The sub-standard condition of some housing for asylum seekers in Wales which the Welsh Refugee council  described as is "an accident waiting to happen", 
Problems seen by BBC Wales include broken fire alarms, leaking plumbing, damp, and broken electrical sockets.
Clearsprings Ready Homes which provides all asylum accommodation in Wales declined to comment.
The Home Office said it was committed to providing safe, secure housing.
According to the latest statistics, there are 2,495 people in Wales currently seeking asylum.
While their claims are being processed, they are not allowed to work but can receive somewhere to live.
Sohail Ahmed, 25, who fled Pakistan in 2012, has been seeking asylum in the UK since June and has been housed in Cardiff for the past two months.
BBC Wales' Sunday Politics programme visited where he lives and saw issues including a defective mains powered fire alarm, a window that did not close properly, damp carpets, a leaking kitchen sink and bath and broken furniture.
Mr Ahmed said:
 "When I came here and then see all this situation, I call them [Clearsprings Ready Homes] many times, they are making promises but since that time nothing has happened.
"At the end of the day we are still human. I'm standing here not only for myself.
"I do believe that if I'm suffering hard from these things, there are many thousands of people who are suffering from these things."
Clearsprings Ready Homes has a £119m contract with the UK government to provide all asylum accommodation in Wales.
It is due to expire next year but the Home Office is considering an extension.
The company was criticised earlier this year over concerns about a policy which required people at its Lynx House centre in Cardiff to wear wristbands to allow them to get food.

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins, who is a member of the assembly's equality, local government and communities committee, which is conducting an inquiry into refugees and asylum seekers, said she was aware of the issues.
"There are other families across Swansea, some of whom I've visited, who are experiencing the same things,"
"They're coming into houses that are very old, very damp, with numerous problems and really they should be fit for purpose before the asylum seekers are housed here.
Clearsprings Ready Homes declined to comment but in a response to inquiries made by Ms Jenkins, the firm acknowledged that 

"clearly there is an issue that needs urgent investigation".

There will be those who will argue that there are many Welsh people living in similar conditions .

Indeed we often see arguments that we cannot look after our own 

But of course we can , what we lack is the will to do so.

If UK citizens are living in the same conditions as Asylum seekers , then it time we sorted both out ,

It is   years since Ken Loachs  play about homelessness Cathy Come Home was first aired on the BBC

By coincidence, another charity for the homeless, Shelter, was launched a few days after the first broadcast. Though it was not connected to the programme, "the film alerted the public, the media, and the government to the scale of the housing crisis, and Shelter gained many new supporters.

And yet we still have families living in hostels and the same condition as the Asylum seekers highlighted yesterday on the Sunday Politics.

Only last week came the news that in Birmingham a homeless man found dead in the city centre on the coldest night of the year.

There was a huge outpouring of emotion after the man's body was discovered in John Bright Street late on Tuesday night.

He was believed to have been aged just 30.

It is however important to realise that the case of the Swansea Asylum seekers is an example of the state of the UK today in how it treats the dispossessed including our own citizens.

They should not be separated, especially by those who constantly vote for politicians who have done little to help those who are homeless or living in overcrowded or sub standard housing.

Making sure everyone lives in decent conditions should be our aim,regardless of their origin or circumstances.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Just who is bringing Cardiff Council into " into disrepute"?

There appears to be something rather odd with how A spokesman for the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and  Adjudication Panel for Wales. works when it comes to "disciplining " errant councillors.

Cardiff councillor and Assembly Neil McEvoy will face a tribunal over allegations he breached the council's code of conduct.
If he is found to have breached the code of conduct, he could face suspension for up to a year as a councillor or disqualification as a councillor for up to five years.
Coun McEvoy is currently the leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Cardiff council. He was also elected to the Assembly in May, representing South Wales Central.
A number of complaints have been investigated by the Public Services Ombudsman and the case has now been referred to the Adjudication Panel for Wales.
The allegation is that he breached paragraphs 4(a), 4(b) and 6(1)(a) of the councillors' code of conduct.
They read:4(a) You must carry out your duties and responsibilities with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of their gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age or religion;(b) You must show respect and consideration for others6.1 You must— (a) not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.
What ever you think about McMcevoy it does seem strange that it is being made by a Council  which has seen the ruling Labour group losing seven council seats under either through resignations or by-election losses.  
Former group spokesperson Sue White quit on Monday after two years as a Llandaff North councillor.
In a statement, she told Wales Online she resigned “because of bullying and what I perceive to be racial discrimination”.
Ms White said:
 “There is a culture of bullying in the Cardiff council Labour group which has been allowed to go unchecked for far too long.
“I myself have experienced it when I was the group secretary and, most recently, when I defended the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (AMA).”

she later sdded
"I have worked for the Labour party all my adult life, my parents have been Labour activists for 70 years, and the behaviour I have witnessed while I have served as a councillor in Cardiff bears no resemblance to the fundamental Labour policies of inclusion, equality and respect."
I do not know what Neil Mcevoy has been accused of he is admittedly a controversial  and confrontational politician, but it seems the complaints  and disciplinary process  particularly  under

6.1 You must— (a) not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.

seems to be geared against opposition councillors , whereas those in charge can dismiss allegations of bullying and racism by setting up a investigation run by themselves .

Note I welcome comments, and will publish them and do not seek to censor them, but please be aware of the Libel Laws 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Unionist makes comparison of number AM with that of US Federal government.

David Taylor former Labour Special Adviser.and failed Labour candidate for North Wales Police Commissioner (Despite being endorsed by Dafydd El) has been commentating on the proposal to  raise the number of Welsh AM to 82
Unlike John Dixon at Borthlas  or Owen at Oggy Bloggy Ogwr who take a open and critical view of the proposals  Taylor is completely hostile 
The title 

"This Is No Time To Bloat Welsh Politics Even More" 

Shows from the start that it was not going to be balance critique.

He writes 
.... there is now a serious risk that continual moaning from Cardiff Bay about not having enough AMs, or powers, or money to do the job effectively, and to excuse poor performance, will ultimately lead people in Wales to the conclusion that devolution just does not work.If the events of 2016 teach Welsh politicians anything, it should be that there is nothing inevitable about the future of devolution.

Mr Taylor is perfectly entitled to express  opinions and some of his points are valid.

But he completely loses the plot 

For he writes

....However Some AMs are saying they can’t do that and provide adequate scrutiny. Well here’s something they should have known before standing for election: politics and being an elected representative can be hard work – it’s meant to be. The best way of proving their worth would be to get on with it.
The United States, with a population of 320 million, has 100 senators, 435 voting members of the House of Representatives and is generally considered to do a pretty effective job of holding the leader of the free world to account.

 Mr Taylor seems to be unaware that the USA is Federal Nation  with 50 states each with their own Legislature.

Utah  Population 2,995,919   for incidence has 104 members consisting of 29 Senators and 75 Representatives,

Iowa Population 3,123,899 has 150 members 50 Senators and 100 Representatives.

Mr Taylor could argue these states have much more powers than the Assembly  but he  doesn't instead he uses a totally  superfluous example.

What of my own views 

Well the fact that the 82 number is based on the the proposed 29 Westminster Constituencies  electing  3 members is rather a lazy approach.  

There is no reason for the Assembly Constituencies  to mirror the UK .The  Scotland  has   73 MP  elected to represent first past the post constituencies  whilst thre are 59 Westminster  Constituencies   and of course a similar  disparity would occur in Wales if the Westminster proposals go through.

As a supporter of STV  I wonder if three is to small a number to see true proportional elections  

The chances of a Party winning more than one seat in a Constituency seems slim and we could three parties all on 29 seats .

Although that would be  unlikely the largest party would have no more than 35 (out of 82) seats in a very good year which could mean the largest part are never in power as others form a coalition.

We need about 20- 25 constituencies electing 4 or 5 members in a 80-100 member Assembly to get a real working Proportional  Assembly or Parliament.

The number of AM is a Chicken and Egg thing in that what comes first increase members or increased  powers . Personally i would prefer the former if the latter was to follow quickly

Lets have a proper debate and see decent proposals. But lets not of comparisons  with the Legislatures of Federal Legislatures rather than the member states until we are an Independent nation ourselves