Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

If you are sad enough to be reading a political blog over the festive season, may we wish you everything you wish yourself for the festive season and for 2007.

Being an inclusive party, we extend these greetings to those of other faiths and of none.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Is Resolven yet Another Neglected Valley Community?

I find it seriously hard to comprehend why the hole in the wall running alongside Clydach Brook, running through Resolven, is still left unattended. After almost a month of being knocked down, by a goods lorry, the gap in the flood defences on Commercial Road, Resolven remain unfixed!

If the excuse, as usual, is a lack of funding then we need to ask ourselves: Where is the extra £12.5m of European and local funding that was promised for flood defence work back in 2005?

This "Umbrella Project”, supposedly paid for by match funding from the Objective One development scheme highlighted Resolven as one of the communities that were supposed to benefit from extra flood defence.

Please, please, NPTCBC fix the hole in the wall at Commercial Road, Resolven, before the winter rain returns. Clydach Brook, as you well know, has a reputation of rising several feet, within minutes, without warning!

The Labour Councillor for Resolven, Des Davies, has recently attempted to reassure residents that the Local Authority is at least doing something by claiming to have delivered sandbags to the village. There's five sandbags piled up outside the Local Shop directly opposite the hole! Well that’s something, I suppose…………

- Richie Northcote

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shameless Plaid allow Labour to cut schools funding

Welsh Liberal Democrats slammed Labour and their Plaid Cymru helpers for cutting schools budgets, and leaving universities short of cash.

In a fiery debate at the National Assembly for Wales yesterday, AMs queued up to accuse the unlikely partners of selling out on education.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mike German said: "Let me make our position clear. Schools are going to suffer. Schools and universities will be the big losers.

"The party that promised us Education, Education, Education has borrowed an R from the Party of Wales and given us Reduction, Reduction, Reduction.

"By working together the opposition parties had been able to achieve significant improvements to the budget. Working alone, Plaid Cymru have secured an additional £300,000.

"Together we were looking for money equivalent to the salaries of 200 teachers. Plaid Cymru have caved in for 10 teachers. That's not good enough."

He highlighted successes achieved by the united opposition. This includes extra money for our
ambulance service, support for the rail link between Wrexham and London, extra cash for disabled play, some extra funding for universities, firefighters pensions and hospices.

Mr German added that Plaid would go into the 2007 Assembly elections as "Labour's little helpers".

Post Offices - where will the blows fall?

From House of Commons library documents, it appears that the government intends to close 25 post offices in the Neath constituency, and 15 in Aberavon.

We do not yet know how many of these will close immediately, nor which ones face the axe. We hope to update you as soon as we have the details.

What is clear is that New Labour will have outstripped the Tories in the number of post offices closed. For many villages and even towns this means the last meaningful contact with the fabric of national life has disappeared, or shortly will do so.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another significant by-election win

In a high-profile ward in the UK capital, Liberal Democrats have made another gain.

Last night Ralph Scott was elected as the new councillor for Kentish
Town in the London Borough of Camden, winning the seat from Labour.

Ralph Scott 1093
Green 812
Labour 808
Conservative 198

This represents a major victory for us - it is an endorsement of the LibDem leadership of the Council.

The Greens are deeply upset and disappointed - they thought this was their election and they threw everything into it. Labour took a not disimilar tactic but concentrated on throwing dirt. Yet again, David Cameron's pitch for liberal and green votes was a dismal failure.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Foot-and-mouth disease - no compensation in future?

The assembly government is having talks with farmers' representatives about the industry picking up all the bills for outbreaks of animal epidemic disease in future, reports the BBC.

This looks like just the latest in a line of populist moves by New Labour. In 2001 and 2004 there were moves in Westminster to compel farmers to take out insurance against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

"Labour MP for Newport West Paul Flynn said the government should not be 'picking up the bill for everything that goes wrong'."

All very reasonable - but what about the government playing its part? Farmers have no power to prevent suspect animal material coming into the UK. Only the government can do that, and the evidence is that it is not doing it very well. The Treasury's recent across-the-board cuts in manpower will not help.

And can one rely on this government to act decisively and at once in the event of a future outbreak? All livestock markets have to be cancelled and animal movements stopped immediately, the army being called in if necessary. This action was not taken in either of the last two FMD outbreaks.

Bryn Post Office vacancy

Yet another local post office is under threat because of difficulty in finding someone willing to take over when the current sub-postperson retires in the New Year. Residents will welcome their councillors publicising the search for a replacement.

However, it is too simplistic to say that "This is not the result of any commercial decision by the Post Office to cut the service", as the councillors do. They echo the words of Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, that the decline of the post office network is due to "changing patterns" of paying for services and drawing benefits.

The truth is that the government is actively discouraging pensioners and others from making use of the post office. As well as making it more difficult to draw benefits in cash, it has also reduced agency payments to sub-postpeople. The decision to withdraw the facility to pay for TV licences at post offices in favour of the Pay Point network (is there a Pay Point in Bryn, by the way?) is another blow.

It is little wonder that possible volunteers are deterred by the narrowing margins of post office business and worries over the future of the network as a whole. It takes a large dose of community spirit to encourage new sub-postmasters and mistresses at present.

Liberal Democrats would not only restore the facilities of the Post Office Card Account (due to expire shortly), but also restructure Post Office Services in a way which would give every postmaster and postmistress a personal financial share in the business.