Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ming - The Right Man for the Job

Seeing as we are all in the habit of passing judgement on Mings record thus far, lets look at his record:

1. Dunfermline By-election - Victory with a huge swing!
2. Some losses but also some good gains whilst consolidating our by-election victories in the English Local Elections 2006.
3. Bromley and Chislehurst - Swing of 17% and narrowly missing victory by 633 votes.
4. A refocussed Parliamentary party with sensible tax proposals - ditching the proposal of 50% tax on high incomes and switching to a system of Eco-Tax.
5. A sensible and balanced approach to Foreign Policy and our relationship with the US.

It is becoming more and more apparent to people that Sir Menzies Campbell is the voice of reason in Westminster.

See for further details.

We should certainly not judge Ming on the basis of one opinion poll in the Guardian, for that would be nothing more than self-defeatist and the Liberal Democrats are better than that.

We are supposed to be the party of Optimism aren't we? A party that offers hope to millions of voters who now realise that neither the Labour Party nor the Conservative Party listen to their views, opinions and concerns.

- Richie Northcote

Sheila Waye for Neath

Our candidates for the Welsh Assembly elections of 2007 are now all in place, after the final hustings.

Sheila Waye has been selected by local members to stand in the Neath constituency next year. She is a local businesswoman and carer.

Sheila contested Ogmore in a previous Assembly election and Neath in the general election of 2005.

(Our candidate for Aberavon is Claire Waller, and those on the South Wales West regional list are Peter Black, Jackie Radford and Frank Little.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Who do you trust to run the economy?

The Electoral Commission has just published the major political parties' accounts.

The Conservative Party has reported debts of £18 million and the Labour Party £27 million. The Labour Party's figure includes the £14 million of loans, whose commercial nature has been queried. That still leaves a deficit of £13 million.

The Liberal Democrat party, after the most expensive general election campaign in its history, finished its last financial year in the black, with net assets of £298,000.

By their fruits shall ye know them.

Who would you most trust to run the national economy, or county hall?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zidane and Materazzi - rematch in Skewen?

It seems that a stooshie of World Cup proportions was narrowly missed at a recent meeting of Coedffranc Community Council. If one is to believe the Evening Post, a prominent member of the council offered to take another outside over a probably undemocratic co-option to fill a vacancy.

As a resident of Skewen, I was aware from news reports that a resignation was imminent. One naturally assumed that the resulting vacancy would be widely advertised, as was the much more publicised retirement of Glaslyn Morgan earlier this year. However, the next thing I knew (from the above-mentioned news report) was that a long-standing former member of the CC had been co-opted.

Keith Davies, being freed from his duties as Mayor of the County Borough, and thus able to play his full part in local affairs again, objected to this strengthening of the Labour caucus by stealth. This led to the alleged altercation.

Over the last year, there has been a distressing tendency on the part of the Labour councillors to play party politics on the community council. It is time for the voters of Coedffranc community to be given an opportunity to vote to strengthen the alternative voice on the council.

- Frank Little

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Racist Leaflet? You Decide……

While the events of the 2004 Local Authority Election’s are something of a dim and distant memory, one of the less savoury events of that election, I feel, should be brought into the public domain.

In the Council Ward of Neath North, a leaflet was produced by the Neath Port Talbot Ratepayers Association, of which few people outside that particular ward have seen.

Within this leaflet, it clearly states that:

Did you know that Asylum seekers have more rights to NHS facilities and benefits than British Nationals? Look out for the next wave of bogus Asylum seekers being directed to a street near you, or even moving next door!

While the Labour Party, quite rightly claimed the above comment was racist, no criminal proceedings resulted for that candidate’s agent. Quick to defend their actions, the late leader of the Ratepayer’s was keen to put out a press release to defend their candidate, extracts from that press release follows:

…..This particular leaflet sets out to highlight the many faults with the labour party nationally, one of which is the abysmal record of this government in controlling immigration, and in particular that of bogus asylum seekers, it has only tinkered around the edges of the problem without tackling it head on.

The word Bogus, if you look in the dictionary, is clearly defined as:- Sham, Spurious, False, Fake, or Phoney…….

…..No, this was not a racist leaflet. It is clearly an attempt by a wounded animal i.e. the local labour party to try and discredit the ratepayer association…..

Nowhere in this press release, does the author attempt to enlighten the electorate on why one of his candidates believes that Asylum Seekers have more rights to NHS Facilities or State Benefits than British Nationals.

Perhaps if the new leader of the Ratepayers, Cllr Tutton, has any observations on the above article, he would like to add his comments in the space provided?

- Gary Lewis 08 July 06

Friday, July 07, 2006

No brain surgery west of Cardiff

Health Commission Wales has announced that neurosurgery at Morriston will cease. The only theatre for the whole of Wales will be in Cardiff.

How does one explain this? Wales did not vote for power to be devolved from London only for it to be centralised in Cardiff. It's bad enough for us in West Wales to be deprived of a facility which could make the difference between life and death. People in north and mid Wales must be even more aggrieved and worried.

Figures Make Unhappy Reading

Liberal Democrats in Westminster can exclusively reveal that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is now employing fewer Disabled People now than it was five years ago, down from 5.99% in 2002, to 5.25% in 2006.

These figures come in the wake of a bill in Westminster to reform Incapacity Benefit has been published. This Bill is aimed at getting more people off Incapacity Benefit and back into paid employment.

Danny Alexander MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Welfare Reform, raised the following points:

1. The Government’s incapacity benefit target is more spin than substance, with one million people already due to come off benefit in the next 10 years because of retirement.

2. We need to hear much more about how employers’ including government departments - are to be engaged in this process.

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats can exclusively reveal that the number of people moving off Job Seekers Allowance having found work in the Aberavon Constituency has dropped, quite sharply from September 2004 to September 2005.

September 2004 57.4% found work.
September 2005 41.3% found work.

These figures strongly suggest that people who are unable to find suitable employment are moving from Job Seekers Allowance and onto other benefits, and that Jobs are becoming harder to find within the Aberavon Constituency.

2001 Census data paints a “less than rosy” picture for the County of Neath Port Talbot. The Census data shows that some 24% of the working age population, within the County having a limiting long-term illness.

Only two other counties in Wales, Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil have worse rates of limiting long-term illness than Neath Port Talbot.

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats were quite shocked to see how few Disabled People (as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) were employed by Local Authorities within Wales. Figures obtained from the Local Government Data Unit (2004/05) show that Anglesey employs just 0.22% Disabled People, the lowest in Wales. While RCT employs 3.65% Disabled People, the highest in Wales.

Neath Port Talbot Council employ 1.51% Disabled People, which is substantially higher than many Local Authorities in Wales, but local Lib Dems feel to be totally inadequate when you consider the number of people within the County who have a limiting long-term illness.

- Gary Lewis 07 July 06

Monday, July 03, 2006

Education Education Education

The remarks by the new Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, Richard Lambert, today, will serve as a warning shot across the bows of the Flagship Education Policy of New Labour.

Richard Lambert has declared that:

“Despite the increases in spending, British skills at all levels remain woefully short of world-class, with a shockingly high proportion of our young people still leaving school without the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed by business.”

There would seem to be a familiar pattern emerging here between failures in public services and the Governments response of throwing more and more money at trying to solve the issues. These issues will not go away with an endless flow of funding. The issues need to be addressed at the managerial level, ensuring that the extra funding is being managed correctly. This is where the Government is failing and, unfortunately, it is the future of our children that is suffering as a result.

A government-commissioned inquiry by former Ofsted chief Sir Mike Tomlinson found that even those who did have good GCSE maths and English often lacked "functional" skills of the sort businesses need. This is an issue of particular relevance to Neath Port Talbot County Borough, where the need for a skilled workforce is essential if industries investing here are to compete with the skilled (and cheaper) workforces of Eastern Europe and Asia. If the industries cannot find the skilled workforce they require then they will relocate.

The Governments response is to order a change in the qualifications to reflect this requirement. However, the first syllabuses are due to be available around the turn of the decade! The burning question must be - How much longer does the Government need? They have had 9 years since 1997 and now they want another 4, at least.

Nobody is denying that the extra funding is helping, because it is helping. However, the issue is that, the extra funding is not being managed to its full potential.

- Richard Northcote 03 July 06

Neath Port Talbot – Well Below the Welsh Average!

The figures shown below are obtained from the Local Government Data Unit and clearly show that the number of Women employed in Senior Management Positions within Labour Dominated Neath Port Talbot Council have remained, on average, around the 7.5% mark for the third year running!

2004/05 7.7%

2003/04 7.1%

2002/03 7.4%

2001/02 10.34%

In other Local Authorities, in Wales, women make up over 20% of the senior managers, these councils include Denbighshire, Conwy, Flintshire and Blaenau Gwent. Yet in Neath and Port Talbot women in senior management positions, were running at just over 10% in 2001/02. In stark contrast, 2004/05 the figure was down further to 7.7%, the lowest in Wales.

The Liberal Democrat led administrations of Cardiff and Swansea have 24% and 19.4% respectively, of Women, in senior management positions.

In the years preceding the Liberal Democrat coalition in Bridgend County, the percentage of women in senior management positions was a pathetic 5.6%. Since the creation of the coalition the figure has improved to 10.8%.

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats were recently made aware of an “Equality of Opportunity in Employment” document, last updated in November 2001. Section 2.1 of this document states:

“As a major employer, the authority is committed to taking positive action to eliminate discrimination and to redress past imbalances in order to provide genuine equality of opportunity.”

As yet, there still remains this inconceivable imbalance. I find these statistics to be inconceivable in the extreme that, in this day and age, this imbalance has gone unchallenged for so long. It’s been over thirty years since the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975. I find these figures absolutely appalling, and clearly the council is doing nothing to address the gender imbalance that exists within the senior management structure of the authority.

I urge Neath Port Talbot Council to ensure that all candidates for future Senior Positions are considered on their individual, rather than their collective, merits and upon their ability to do the job in which they will be employed.

- Sheila Waye 03 July 06

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Conservative Arrogance

Here in Wales, the events at Blaenau Gwent have overshadowed the Bromley & Chislehurst by-election. While the Tories just managed to hold onto their 17th safest seat, their majority was slashed by a staggering 11%.

Ben Abbotts (pictured left) of the Liberal Democrats increased the party’s share of the vote by some 17%, achieving a 14% swing from the Tories and a massive 16% swing from Labour and coming within a mere 633 votes of taking this safest of Tory seats. The Labour Party support in this Constituency almost evaporated, pushing them into fourth place behind UKIP. They managed to poll a mere 1,925 votes!

In the most elaborate show of arrogance, the successful Conservative candidate, Bob Neil delivered this scathing and bitter attack on the Liberal Democrats:

“If you sometimes wonder why it is that people are turned off by politics, get a mirror and look at yourselves.”

This just goes to show, how out of touch the Conservative party is. People are turned off by politics because they feel that the politicians are not listening to their views, opinions and concerns. It is also clear that the Liberal Democrats are the party that these disenchanted voters are turning to in the hope of making a difference. For Bob Neil to deliver such vile rhetoric is to further disenchant the electorate and, in a split-second show of arrogance, completely dismiss the hopes and expectations of the 10,988 constituents who voted Liberal Democrat. Just to set the record straight, that’s 10,988 Lib Dem voters who Bob Neil now represents.

Ben Abbotts said:

“This was a campaign in which the Conservative Party tried to take the support of local people for granted - Bromley and Chislehurst was the seventeenth safest Conservative seat in the whole country at the last General Election………Tonight's result has been far from convincing for the Conservatives, and it is clear that Labour has lost the trust of its former supporters. This result shows that as Labour lose support nationally - it is the Liberal Democrats to whom people are turning.”

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Politicians in danger?

"Blaenau Gwent celebrates National Archaeology Week" declares a council press release.
This is appropriate in a week where Dai Davies, the victorious candidate for People's Voice in the Westminster by-election, declared that the old parties should recall the fate of the dinosaurs.

The "adapt or die" message should particularly be heeded by Labour, who were accused of bombarding the voters of Blaenau Gwent with glossily packaged messages, but did not spend any time listening.

It is rumoured that Labour threw many thousands of pounds at both campaigns. They would have done some good for the economy of the valleys, and for their own reputation, if they had spent some of that money on printing their colour leaflets locally.

Our candidates
did well to hold on to the Liberal Democrat vote when the key struggle was between New Labour and traditional socialism.

Liberal Democrats do not have the luxury of traditional safe seats, and are therefore less likely to take votes for granted. However, there is a warning for us in Dai Davies's words, too.

Who should be more worried, Blair or Cameron?

The question was asked on BBC Radio's "Any Questions" this weekend, after New Labour's failure in Blaenau Gwent and the Conservatives' nail-biter in Bromley & Chislehurst.

For me, David Cameron's future looks the more uncertain. The Conservative vote in a supposedly safe Tory seat plummeted, and the Liberal Democrat vote, which Cameron is clearly pitching for, was rock-solid. Clearly, traditional Tories don't like the touchy-feely Cameron touch, Labour voters are switching to Liberal Democrat and LibDems just do not believe the Cameron line.

Blair has already mentally disregarded the failure to regain the Blaenau Gwent Westminster seat. He was not about to renounce his reform programme and re-embrace socialism, which might just have persuaded the valleys voters, but would surely have lost by-elections and council seats galore in England.

The real loser is Rhodri Morgan, who must now be considering his position as leader of Welsh Labour and as First Minister. The People's Voice success in the Assembly election was comprehensive. It also condemns Labour once more to minority government in Cardiff.

- Frank Little