Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tough on the Causes of Crime?

The vandalism of the young childrens play area in Resolven, this week, is obviously unacceptable. Especially when it results in depriving the younger children from enjoying these facilities. As a parent bringing up two young children in Resolven, I find this news discerning to say the least. However, I also find the comments of Resolven Community Council Chairman equally discerning.

By declaring that,
It makes you feel that it is not worth trying to do anything for young people
simply puts the attitude of the Community Council into context. To stereotype ALL young people in this manner is not going to help the situation – indeed, it will only make matters worse.

We must not give up on the younger generations of society. They are, after all, our future. In order to address these problems we must look at causality and certainly not administer collective punishment. Those that choose to abuse these facilities, provided by the council, should be punished and punished hard - but in the court. Unfortunately, since police resources are already overstretched, prosecuting these troublemakers is unlikely. A fitting punishment, if caught, would be a community order to clean up the mess and destruction that they have caused.

There is a depth of feeling with our younger generation at present. Sometimes it requires a degree of empathy in understanding causality in these circumstances. Put yourself in the shoes of a 16-20 year old growing up in Resolven and then ask yourself the following questions…….

1. What am I going to do for a job? There’s very little job opportunity in Resolven!

2. What am I going to do in my spare time? There’s nowhere to go, for people of my age, in Resolven……I suppose there’s always the pub!

3. Where am I going to Live? There’s no chance of getting a mortgage………Tens of thousands of pounds outside my price range! Can’t even afford to rent property!

The answers to the questions above are actual responses from 16 – 20 year old youths that I have spoken to in Resolven.

If the Community Council would simply engage with the younger generation, rather than criticise from afar, then they would understand these concerns and begin to address some of them. I do not intend to condone what has happened at the Resolven play area, but we do need to address the root cause of the problem rather than condemn the problem itself. The cause of the problem can be summed up in one sentence:

Social deprivation coupled with low self-esteem, caused by a lack of prospects and hope.

A promise to tackle this issue was one of the main reasons why the Labour Government is in power today. Remember the world famous quote,
Tough on Crime, Tough on the Causes of Crime!
almost a distant memory now. The stark reality is that the Valley Communities have been utterly neglected by the Government. The people of Blaenau Gwent realised this soon enough and dealt the Government a bloody nose at the recent by-elections.

How long before the rest of the valley communities follow suit?

- Richie Northcote

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hope for community councils

At the beginning of August, we commented on the boundary dispute between Blaenhonddan and Dyffryn Clydach community councils. The main item of contention was ease of access to council facilities.

A paper for consideration at the LibDem federal conference in Brighton points the way to a possible answer. One of its proposals is for greater collaboration between councils and for sharing of facilities.

As drafted, the proposals relate only to England, but surely this is something the Welsh party will take on board?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bulgar Off! Says Evening Post Editor

Last weekend, Evening Post editor Spencer Feeney published a provocative leader calling for restrictions on people from the enlarged European Union.

He called for a debate on the subject, but has so far not published any letters on the subject. Well, this was my contribution and I am not holding my breath any longer:

Dear Sir

I am quite happy to talk about the movement of labour across Europe, but can we dispose of one thing first? The financial pressure on towns like Llanelli and Slough is caused only indirectly by immigration. The primary cause is the government's failure to respond to increases in population,as indicated by National Insurance contributions, when making council tax equalisation payments. Instead, it relies on census data which can be as much as ten years out of date.

The pressures would be the same if the new workers came from England, Scotland or other parts of Wales.

People coming to Britain from Eastern Europe to work is nothing new. Poles and Ukrainians augmented the workforce in South Wales, as well as other parts of Britain, as we strove to rebuild after the war. There was even a Ukrainian club in Morriston until the late 1960s.

There is clearly a need for new people. I am told that the Crymlyn recycling plant would have to close if it were not for the Lithuanians who are working there. One presumes that there are vacancies in Llanelli which would be unfilled if it were not for people coming from other parts of Europe.

We have benefited from the EU's concept of freedom of labour. Everybody knows about the brickies of "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet", who made money out of the construction boom in Germany. Not so well known is the commuting of Welsh men and women to work in the hospitality industries in Ireland, or the IT people from the UK who work in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

We can't have it both ways.

In any case, it is probable that the economies of the ex-Iron Curtain countries will take off as the Republic of Ireland's did, after it acceded to the EU. Then we may see the flow of migration reverse!

Yours sincerely,

Frank Little

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Female Prison For Wales

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats have launched a brand new campaign for a Female Prison For Wales. This campaign can be found at:

If you support us in highlighting this requirement then follow the link above and add your name to our petition.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

New governor of Swansea gaol is a woman

Isn't it ironic that our local prison is to be managed by a woman (feature on Andrea Whitfield in the Evening Post of 11th August), when there is no women's prison in Wales?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Have your say on Labour website

That was the headline on Friday's story in the Evening Post of 11th August.

Keen to express my opinion (which, according to Aberavon Labour's press release would be passed on to politicians all the way up to Dr Hywel Francis) on the Labour government's foreign policy, and the shortcomings of the Government of Wales Bill, I hied me to

First surprise was that it is not new (as the Post story said). The site has stories dating back to June. Second was that, far from being rooted in the local party, the site is:

Promoted by Peter Watt, General Secretary, the Labour Party on behalf of the Labour Party, both at 16 Old Queen Steet, London SW1H 9HP

Whatever its faults, this site by 'ere is locally produced. We were not told to "get with it" by Big Brother in London.

And, of course, there is no obvious way to express ones views on the Labour web site. It looks like one of those Labour promises (like care for the elderly) which arouses hopes quickly dashed.

To access the poll, you have to find "Have your say" at the top of the page. Clicking this enables you to vote on a single topic of Labour's own choosing. (Currently, it's on the closure of Port Talbot magistrates court. Given the speed with which other magistrates courts in the borough have been closed, in the face of local opposition, one does not hold out much hope of the politicians taking notice of an adverse vote.)

Our policy is different. We encourage contributions on a wide range of topics and will not "Moderate Out" comments that we politically disagree with. Such discussion is healthy for local democracy. Naturally, we have to abide by the law as it applies to any publisher - no libels or downright offensive messages are acceptable, for instance - but otherwise, anything goes.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Your DNA in Big Brother's hands

Five times more people in the UK have their DNA records stored on central government records than in any other country in the world. Now DNA records do have a key role in the fight against crime - but that doesn't somehow mean that anything at all done with DNA records is therefore OK.

And there are some tough questions for Labour to answer about why they've built up DNA records far, far in excess of what is needed to help fight crime in other countries.

Questions like:-

Why should the DNA records of innocent people be kept indefinitely?

How secure really are the records? (The Observer newspaper recently pointed out that private firms have secretly been keeping DNA records that should have been destroyed. And only today we learned that the tabloid press, via shadowy third parties, makes use of corrupt officials to get access to records of prominent figures. )

Where are the proper safeguards against misuse of the data?

And what is the explanation for a quarter of the DNA records being from members of the ethnic minorities whilst they only make up under one in ten of the overall population; is there really no racial discrimination going on?

That's why, last week, Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, launched a petition against this over-the-top database. Agreeing that DNA has an important role to play in fighting crime doesn't justify keeping the DNA records for innocent people indefinitely and without proper safeguards.

You can sign the petition at

P.S. You can get information on some of our other campaigns at

(Thanks to Lynne Featherstone MP for passing on this information.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Save Greyhounds by Signing the RSPCA Petition Below....

I’m sure most people have been shocked to hear that Animal Cruelty Convictions rose by more than 50% in Wales, last year according to the RSPCA, with a number of high profile cases being highlighted in the media of late.

One of the more disturbing cases of animal cruelty has been the allegations made that a Builders Merchant of County Durham destroyed some ten thousand greyhounds in a fifteen year period using a bolt gun.

The Sunday Times Article, 16th July 2006

The Greyhound Forum, made up from a number of Animal Welfare Charities has called for an immediate inquiry into this slaughter. The Chair of the Greyhound Forum, Clarissa Baldwin said:

“If the reports of the slaughter of thousands of greyhounds are true, the situation is simply intolerable. We have been calling for regulation of the industry for a long time, and after reports like this emerge, it would be unforgivable if the sport’s governing bodies do not sit up and take notice. There have been past instances of horrific abuse of ex-racing greyhounds, which have resulted in prosecution, so there is no excuse for sitting back and ignoring this. The fate of greyhounds after their racing career is over should be at the heart of an enquiry.”

Even more disturbing, animal rights protesters in Spain claim that an estimated fifty thousand greyhounds are killed in Spain every year. Hanging is just one method used to destroy these animals; other methods include injected with bleach or being burnt alive.

Hanging of greyhounds in Spain is especially nasty; the noose around the neck is set at a height so the front paws of the dog don’t touch the ground. The dog is forced to stand on its back legs until it too tired to support itself. Albert Sorde, of SOS Galgos, a greyhound rescue group in Spain is quoted as saying:

“They call it the typewriting death, because the dog's back legs scrabble against the ground and make the clicking sound of a typewriter.....”

Observer Article, Sunday 1st January 2006

An estimated ten thousand greyhounds are retired, at around the age of five, from racing each year in the UK. A number remain with their trainers, others are re-homed by charities like the DogsTrust and the Retired Greyhounds Trust, a huge number just “disappear”.

The RSPCA are calling for a better life for ALL racing greyhounds, the greyhound racing industry must reveal the true extent of the problem

Click Here to Sign the Petition!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Clobbered by council tax?

Tom Brake MP, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on local government, has launched a competition to find the person who pays the highest proportion of their income in council tax.

The competition highlights the Liberal Democrats campaign ‘Axe the Tax’
to replace council tax with a fairer alternative based on people’s
ability to pay.

Announcing the competition earlier today, Tom said:

“This is a light-hearted way to draw attention to a really serious

“Council tax is an extremely unfair tax, hitting people on fixed
incomes, such as senior citizens, particularly hard.

“With council tax, people who can afford it least are hit the hardest.”

Further details about the competition and the ‘Axe the Tax’ campaign can
be found at:

Neath wins in Wales

We bet that the "winner" in Wales will be found in Neath Port Talbot, which has the highest basic council tax in Wales, and most probably in Skewen. Coedffranc community council has the highest precept in Neath.

The council's recent glossy leaflet claims to have delivered the second lowest council tax rise in Wales. (The lowest is in Liberal Democrat controlled Wrexham, by the way.)

That is true only in percentage terms. If you work it out in real terms, in terms of the extra cash you have to stump up, Neath Port Talbot has the fourth lowest rise - but it still has the highest council tax in Wales.

Competition entries

If you want to enter the competition directly, send your details to:

Tom Brake MP,
House of Commons,


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Community councils in trouble

What is a boundary?

The dispute over the boundary between two Neath community councils claimed another victim last month. Ann Llewelyn joined fellow councillors Lynne John, Robert King and Martyn Peters in resigning from their community council.

"Victim" might seem an over-the-top description, but it is highly unlikely that any of the councillors involved went into community politics looking for a fight. By far the majority of people who put themselves forward for election want to do some good for the community. They are certainly not paid, at "parish" level. Some may be grateful for recognition, perhaps, but surely nobody's primary aim is territorial gain or defence.

Yet, because these four councillors took one side or the other in a fight over which community council should represent two areas of Neath Abbey, and have come under heavy criticism because of that, they have felt compelled to resign.

In a nutshell, what's the trouble?
This is as objective as we can make it, but it is only a brief summary. For the full story, see the report issued on 28th April 2006 by the Local Government Commission for Wales.

Last year, the Local Government Commission looked at an area of Blaenhonddan, largely consisting of new housing development, at its western boundary with Dyffryn Clydach. The River Clydach forms a natural boundary here. However, although it is easy to walk from Brookfield or Taillwyd to Bryncoch in Blaenhonddan, the road links are with Dyffryn Clydach.

Because of this easier access to community facilities, the Commission initially recommended that the transfer be made. This was backed up by a narrow majority in a simple ballot of residents, of whom around one-third returned voting papers.

Having received representations from MP Peter Hain, AM Gwenda Thomas, both CCs (Blaenhonddan opposed, Dyffryn Clydach supported, the change) and individual councillors, the Commission changed its mind. It has now recommended that there be no change.

Is the obvious answer too easy?
It seems to us that, since a majority of the residents affected have voted for a change, then Brookfield and Taillwyd should be moved to Dyffryn Clydach community, as originally recommended.

If that vote is felt to be unsatisfactory, or unrepresentative, then hold another one which is not.

Let democracy rule!