Thursday, June 29, 2006

Plaid’s Political Leanings – I’m Confused

Readers of the Western Mail may have noticed the letter submitted by Dai Lloyd, which appeared in the publications letters page on the 26th June 2006.

Mr Lloyd chose to attack the Liberal Democrat led coalition within Swansea Council for being in partnership with the Tory Councillors.

Also in this letter Mr Lloyd tries to make out that Plaid is some sort of Socialist alternative, occupying the left of centre ground on the political map. This is far from the original political leanings of this Party.

Saunders Lewis (pictured above), writer, dramatist, jailbird and original president of Plaid Cymru was well known for his Anti-Semitic and Pro-Fascist views; this man was a true 1930’s style nationalist.

Furthermore, Plaid has always been in various coalitions with Tories, Socialist and various other political shades in between. Dafydd Wigley, consciously set a more Socialist agenda for the South, to attract disenchanted Labour voters when he was leader. This worked, to a certain extent. However, I understand this upset the more conservative “Old Guard” in the North.

- Gary Lewis 29 June 06

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


The recent revelations, by the Government, that the Inland Revenue has overpaid millions of pounds in tax credits is news that will make many hard working families in and around Neath and Port Talbot cringe and think twice. In an area like Neath and Port Talbot where the average income is below that of the national average there are bound to be several thousand families in receipt of either working families tax credit or child tax credit.

The official explanation from the Inland Revenue is that the tax credit system is overly complicated but the Government response that the recent overpayments were less this year than last year will do nothing to ease the worry of many families who are now facing the prospect of having to pay back the amount they were overpaid.

The Government has recently announced that those families who can “PROVE” that they were not aware of the overpayment will not be forced to repay the extra money that they have received.

Aberavon and Neath Liberal Democrats pose the following questions:

1. If the Civil Service tax professionals at the Inland Revenue don’t understand the tax credit system how does the Government expect ordinary families to understand it?

2. Moreover, how on earth does the Government expect anybody to realise whether they have been overpaid or not?

It would seem that the best option would be to write off the overpayments and ensure that the same mistakes are not made in future years.

- Richard Northcote 28 June 06

Back-door, pretend Assembly Members?

Interviewed on BBC-Wales TV's "Dragon's Eye" , Lord Elis-Thomas recommended the House of Lords not to vote against the Government of Wales Bill even though it contained objectionable restrictions on the way candidates are to be nominated for future Welsh Assembly elections. Labour wants to prevent people standing for the Assembly both for a constituency and on a regional list.

(It should be pointed out that only one other nation, among the many which use top-up lists as a method of proportional election, has this restriction, so far as we know. That nation is an ex-Iron Curtain country.)

Nor does the Scottish Parliament, elected by exactly the same method as the Welsh Assembly, see dual candidature as a wrong to be righted. This could be because some Labour Members of the Scottish Parliament are elected from regional lists.

My own view (writes Frank Little, chairman of Neath and Aberavon LibDems) is that separation of candidates is an act of spite by Labour, an inconvenience to opposition party campaign managers, but irrelevant to the democratic process. It would be good to have the offending clause removed from the Bill, but not at the expense of losing the new legislation altogether. I agree with the Presiding Officer that, though it doesn't go far enough, the Bill does provide for increased Welsh self-government.

Lord Elis-Thomas's remarks were immediately taken by Peter Hain, MP for Neath, Secretary of State for Wales (and a few other jobs besides) as an acceptance of his argument that the lists are a back-door method of entry to parliament, are not democratic, and that AMs elected thus are "pretend" members.

Mr Hain should be aware, firstly, that an abstention is not a positive vote and, secondly, that a predecessor as Welsh Secretary, Ron Davies, agreed to the system which had first been proposed by Labour in Scotland.

Those who characterise the beneficiaries of a proportional voting system as "pretend" members should look at local politics. Two-member (or even three-member) wards give local voters the chance to elect councillors of different political persuasion. Does New Labour believe that the Labour councillor who regularly finishes second to John Warman in the Cimla to be a second-class, or even a pretend, councillor? No, he has the same rights and responsibilities as any other member of Neath Port Talbot council.

The same is true of Assembly members voted from the regional list.

Nobody would describe Peter Black as an inferior Assembly Member. Indeed, he is more active in some of the constituencies in the South Wales West region than the nominal constituency representative.

The other claim against list members is that they are not democratically elected. Well, in our party, the names on the list are voted on by a one-person, one-vote, fair, secret ballot after an open election process. We should not be judged by the standards of New Labour, which tends to impose candidates on regions and constituencies.

Their names are also published prior to the election, so that the savvy voter knows the names of the people at the top of each list. In case there is any doubt, let's make it clear here: top of the Liberal Democrat list in South Wales West for next year's Assembly elections are PETER BLACK and JACKIE RADFORD.

Yes, the regional list system is imperfect. It dissipates the constituency link for some AMs. As implemented in Wales, it doesn't even guarantee full proportionality; the arithmetic here is such that it favours the majority party. But it does mean that non-Labour views are represented in the Senedd - sorry, Welsh Assembly - in something like a relation to that of the population as a whole.

Of course, if Labour were truly concerned about democracy, while maintaining a constituency link, the government would be pressing for a fair voting system which did just that. The STV system is good enough for the Irish, and local council voters in Scotland, so why not in Wales?

- Frank Little, 2006-6-28

Claire Waller for Aberavon again

After an exhaustive (and exhausting!) election process, involving candidates from all over Wales, Claire Waller has been chosen to contest the Aberavon constituency in the Welsh Assembly election of 2007.

Claire stood for the constituency in last year's general election, and has stood in a previous Assembly election.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ffynnon Oer Wind Farm

The news that Ffynnon Oer Wind Farm is to become operational this Summer will be greeted with a fair degree of dissent by many locals. The Ffynnon Oer Wind Farm is situated on the mountainside between Resolven and Glyncorrwg and has taken over three years of development.

The arguments against the use of wind power to generate electricity are many and varied. However, it is essential in this modern day and age that we look for new energy forms that are both environmentally and economically friendly. It is even more essential that a sensitive development such as Fynnon Oer, is given the utmost consideration during the planning stage with significant input from the villagers who live nearby.

The continued use of gas, coal and oil by energy companies is becoming increasingly unacceptable in many peoples minds. This does not, however, mean that the answer lies with a new age of nuclear power stations as proposed by the Prime Minister in recent weeks.

Npower who are responsible for the implementation and running of the site have recently announced that they are putting aside £21,000 per annum for the life of the project (10 Years). Interestingly, sources at Entec have stated that this figure has now increased to £32,000 per annum since the project has moved from being a 21Mw site to a 32 Mw site. The fund is calculated on a £1,000 per Mw per year. This fund is to be set up to assist in community projects in the villages surrounding the development.

As a resident of Resolven, I urge Neath Port Talbot Council firstly to ensure that this money is indeed granted to local community projects and, secondly, that the decision making process of where to spend this money is devolved to the local communities themselves.

-Richard Northcote 27 June 06

Growing Dissent in the Labour Ranks

It is usual in a third term for ex-ministers to denounce the leadership of their Government, but what really puts the Prime Ministers low popularity into perspective is when prospective Labour candidates in a by-election, not very far from here (Blaenau Gwent), try and distance themselves from the Labour Administration Live on National television. Perhaps they should consider standing as independents, they might stand a better chance of being elected then.

- Richard Northcote 27 June 06

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Action needed on loan sharks in Neath Port Talbot

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, has called on Neath Port Talbot Council to set up a team to supplement their existing work in tackling debt by dealing with loan sharks in the area.

Mr. Black is asking the Council to follow the example of Birmingham City Council where a group of officers’ work with other bodies such as the Police, voluntary agencies and debt advice agencies to provide support to those who need it. Victims of a Loan Shark can get advice and support. The Loan Sharks team will also investigate and prosecute Loan Sharks.

“In calling for this team I am not decrying any of the very valuable work that Neath Port Talbot Council already do in this area,” said Mr. Black. “I know that as a Council they are already very supportive of the County Borough’s three credit unions and do a lot of work with people who face debt issues. However, there is always more that can be done and Councils can learn from good practice elsewhere.”

“I am particularly concerned that in many deprived and poor communities loan sharks are able to prey on vulnerable people and lend them money at exorbitant rates. That sort of exploitation solves nothing. Instead it sends people further into a spiral of debt and despair. All of the statutory agencies, including the Council, should be participating in an on-going publicity campaign about the dangers of loan sharks and telling people about the alternatives.”

Save Our Local Police

The Labour Government wants to scrap our Regional Police Forces and create super-forces in order to tackle organised crime and terrorism.

We say this will not work. It will divert police from where ordinary people most need them - on the beat in the towns and villages like yours. Ordinary people are more concerned about the drug dealer round the corner, or the hooligans and burglars making their lives a misery, not some criminal mastermind.

Worse still, the scheme the Government has devised may not achieve their stated aims. Experience has shown that much drug crime, and bank and post office raids, are cross-border. Our existing police forces liaise with neighbouring forces in England. This co-operation would be jeopardised by centralising Welsh Policing.

On top of all that, Liberal Democrat Peter Black AM calculates that the cost of the reorganisation could put an extra £70 on the average Band D council tax bill.

SENIOR POLICE OFFICERS have told a Welsh Assembly Committee that an all-Wales Police Force could face a deficit of £79 million by 2012. They want the Home Office to payup - however, Labour in Westminster have refused to give any such committment. If the money is not forthcoming and it has to be met from Council Tax instead, then each Band D household could find itself having to find an extra £70 a year to fund the merger that very few of us seem to want. Welsh Liberal Democrats are also concerned that a merger will mean that the new police force will be less accountable.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Green Tax switch

Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell MP has unveiled plans to protect and improve our environment with a major "green tax switch".

The party wants to cut income tax for everyone, and take millions of the least well off out of income tax altogether, whilst instead taxing pollution more heavily.

"We are the only major party which takes the environment seriously and that does mean that environmental taxes will rise, but we will also cut income tax by 2p in the pound and take around three million people out of income tax completely. This will be good news not just for our environment but for everyone who will benefit from income tax cuts," said Ming Campbell.

You can read his speech in full and watch a video interview with him at

Monday, June 19, 2006


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