Showing posts from July, 2009

End of free bus passes for the elderly?

Posted on This is My Truth on 30 July After all the fuss to get it published little attention has been paid to the report of the Ministerial Advisory Group on transport. The Western Mail picks up on some of the recommendations today but there is much that has yet to be highlighted. It is an intellectually self-confident report and among its bold recommendations is the abolition of the new Regional Transport Consortia and the seizing by WAG of transport responsibilities from Local Authorities. Ieuan Wyn Jones had already rejected this. But one suggestion that is being taken seriously is the ending of the free bus pass scheme for all pensioners in Wales. Though popular with politicians the concessionary fares scheme worries civil servants. At a cost of more than £60 Million in revenue funding last year, the demand led scheme is thought to be unaffordable in its current form. Officials are particularly worried at the poor controls in place to keep spending under control. For example

Churn in the Bay

Posted on This is My Truth on 25 July Another Labour AM has announced that they will be retiring at the next Assembly election. Swansea East AM Val Lloyd has become the latest to respond to Labour's summer deadline to make their intentions for 2011 clear. This comes on top of the retirements of Rhodri Morgan, Jane Davidson, Brian Gibbons, Lorraine Barrett and Irene James on the Labour benches. Also standing down is Mick Bates from the Liberal Democrats and Janet Ryder from Plaid - she has in effect signaled her intention to leave the Assembly by standing in Clwyd South rather than sticking with the north Wales regional list. That's seven AM's leaving the Assembly - more than 10% of the total. Of course of top of this will be those who lose their seats. Irrespective of whether the Assembly has new powers in 2011, it is going to be all-change in Cardiff Bay come 2011.

There's a pattern emerging...

Posted on This is My Truth on July 20th The slow death of ITV Wales, cuts at BBC Wales and the emasculation of the Western Mail have been much discussed. But the weakening of the Welsh media is only part of the story. The decline of civil society has been going on under the radar. The Ramblers have dispensed with the post of Director for Wales, leaving the highly experienced Beverley Penney without a job. Oxfam Cymru have downgraded the role of Welsh Director - making clear they didn't want a 'spokesman' when they recently filled a vacancy. And the WWF have made redundant the well respected Morgan Parry as their Director for Wales. Add to this the fact that the CBI Director for Wales, David Rosser, has widened his responsibility to take on the west of England, and a pattern begins to emerge. There is no doubt that the NGO sector is far from immune from the general economic downturn. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of the redundancies. But when cuts have to

BBC ends live Assembly coverage

Posted on This is My Truth on 17th July Ok, it's a niche market but the decision to axe live Assembly coverage on S4C2 is a retrograde step. As well as inevitably leading to redundancies in the BBC's Political Unit in Cardiff Bay, the move compounds the trend of reducing the amount of coverage of the changing policy agenda in Wales at a time when politicians are contemplating holding a referendum. It may not be mourned in the pubs of Wales, but it is part of a piece - and it is not a pretty piece.

Polishing the turd

Posted on This is My Truth on 16th July "My message to businesses and the wider community is that this Government is committed to reducing congestion and restoring capacity and reliability to this absolutely vital east-west corridor" , Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said yesterday. A series of measures were announced by the Assembly Government to reduce demand on the M4 to compensate for the decision to abandon plans for a 'relief' road. And yet today , outline planning permission was granted for a massive new 'International Business Park' four junctions along. A 300 acre site - bigger than the Cribbs Causeway shopping centre in Bristol - will be built in countryside next to Junction 33 of the M4. Creating extra pressure on the M4 at the same time as new measures are announced to try and reduce it a few miles down the road. It was driven by the old WDA and when that was merged into WAG the liabilities for the site and the commitments were taken into WAG.

Time for a u-turn in transport policy?

Posted on This is My Truth on 15 July The Bevan Foundation has joined an alliance of 20 other Welsh organisations today to call on the Assembly Government to perform a U-turn on transport policy. This afternoon the long-awaited National Transport Plan is put out to consultation. And we can expect genuflections in the direction of sustainable transport, but what meaning do they have when some half of the transport budget is tied up in road schemes? WAG will have to start cutting Welsh greenhouse gas emissions by 3% every year from 2011. And with a quarter of our emissions coming from transport a new approach is needed. For the first time public transport operators have joined passenger watchdogs, health groups and NGOs to press for greater priority to be given to a range of initiatives that promote green transport. Here’s the list of demnads that command the support of this broad alliance: •Measures to promote integrated transport, for example, multi-modal ticketing, bus / rail interc

The price of a free press?

Posted on This is My Truth on July 10th What if the hacking of mobiles phones and personal information had resulted in a serious abuse of power being uncovered? As it happens the rather unsurpising revelation that tabloid newspapers pay private investigators to blag personal data and hack into voicemail accounts relates chiefly to celebrity gossip. But what if these same methods were used to reveal major corruption or a serious crime, would they be justified then? The test of freedom is not when it is used in pursuit of ends you approve of, but when it used to do something you deeply object to. I find the amorality of tabloid journalsim repugnant. The hypocricy of journalists turning a blind eye to the theft of personal information and then moralising about the private behaviour of their targets in print turn my stomach. But would I feel differently if these same methods were used in the pursuit of a higher purpose?

Time to get back round the table?

Posted on This is my truth on 7th July At yesterday's Bevan Foundation conference on the second anniversary of the One Wales agreement Steve Thomas, the Chief Executive of the WLGA, suggested that the programme of Government for the next two years should be ripped up. "One Wales needs to be re-examined and re-prioritised", he said. The Opposition spokesman on Local Government, Darran Millar, also lined up behind the proposal. They argued that the scale of cuts facing WAG and Welsh Local Government over the next few years renders a programme agreed in a more benign economic climate redundant. And given that some 60% of Welsh GDP is accounted for by the public sector, it is hard to argue that the projected cuts in public spending will have profound consequnces for the Assembly budget. Nick Bourne repeated his demand for free prescriptions to be abolished - even though he conceded this would only bring savings of £13 Million after extra funding for stroke services and hosp

The death of the Welsh media - the pace quickens

Posted on This is My Truth on 6th July The Welsh edition of the Times Educational Supplement is under threat. The highly respected specialist title is the only remaining Welsh edition of a quality UK title, and I understand its private equity owners want to effectively shut the Welsh edition down. The owners are consulting with their three Welsh staff on closing the Cardiff office and making the editor and a journalist redundant. I understand they want to keep one reporter to feed in Welsh copy to the London newsroom and maintain the Welsh masthead to give the impression the paper is still committed to Wales. Understandably the eduction sector is not happy. I hear that senior WAG officials and Union reps have united to ‘make representations’ to the TES. The Welsh edition has been a good paper, and an important voice in communicating the increasingly divergent education agenda between Wales and England. Its demise is another indicator that things are going the wrong way. Just as the