Showing posts from October, 2009

It's not just houses that people can't afford to fuel

Posted on This is My Truth on October 20th The Charter aimed at ridding Wales of fuel poverty by 2018 launched today outlined how one in four Welsh households suffered from fuel poverty, meaning they have to spend 10% or more of their income on heating. Though the concept of fuel poverty is familiar to us the figures are stark and shocking. Perhaps less well known is the fact that Wales is also riddled with transport poverty. One in four households don’t have access to a car – in communities like Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil as many as 35% of families are car-less. But because jobs and services are often difficult to access by public transport many on low-incomes feel forced to ‘invest’ in a car. Research shows that buying and running a car is a major cause of people getting into trouble with debts. Those on low-wages who do have cars spend nearly a quarter of their income on the cost of motoring. And the cost is set to rise. The price of oil has already more than doubled si

Objective what?

Posted on This is My Truth on October 11th The BBC today reports what we already know - the current round of EU Structural funds is likely to be Wales' last. It was only our lamentable economic performance that saw us narrowly qualify for the current round of Convergence funding. The enlargement of the EU to include even poorer areas than our own is likely to mean that in 2013 we'll have to learn to live without the top level of European structural funding. What the BBC failed to ask was, is that a bad thing? Clearly £1.2 Billion over seven years is not to be spurned, £171 Million pounds a year clearly matters. But in the context of the annual WAG budget of over £16 Billion a year, it is relatively small. More important to my mind is the opportunity cost incurred trying to spend the EU grant available to Wales. Over the last decade Welsh public servants have learned a whole new language - Eurospeak. It is a secret code. They talk of the intervention rates which they can dr

Lame legged duck?

Posted on This is My Truth on 9 October So on Tuesday December 1st the new Leader of the Assembly Group will be announced. A full week later the Assembly will vote on next year's budget and, so we are given to understand, once it has been 'put to bed' Rhodri Morgan will relinquish his seat at the centre of the Cabinet bench in the Senedd chamber. He's staying on because the budget negotiations are expected to be tricky, and the coalition could be destabilised if he went before they were complete. But for a whole week Rhodri Morgan will be First Minister in name only and we'll enter into a period of 'cohabitation'. Authority is bound to flow away from the incumbent, and no deal can be reached without the consent of the First Minister in waiting. This is hardly a recipe for stability. If I were Ieuan Wyn Jones I'd be looking to make the most of this potenital window of opportunity. And as my old friend Gareth Hughes has noted, there are already troubl

The Tories on...poverty

Posted on This is My Truth on 7th October As part of his own medium-term strategy for positioning himself for the leadership Conservative AM Jonathan Morgan has set out his party's claim on the Social Justice agenda. He is right that tackling poverty cannot be the property of any one party. But he gets carried away with the symbolism of the Conservatives setting out to capture this agenda, without tackling the difficult detail of this intractable problem. He wants to see a greater emphasis on business and enterprise in the Communities First programme. He echoes the criticism of the community lead initative and suggests the answer lies in a clearer focus and a greater "understanding toward the economic issues which are the most pressing". He wants a greater role for central Government and a strong set of targets and benchmarks. That will be help acheieve "a positive synergy to bring about affirmative empowerment", apparently. I believe that we should restruc

An invitation

Posted on This is My Truth on 6 October 2009 I must admit I am fascinated by who will get the nominations of Jane Hutt, Brian Gibbons, Don Touhig and Mark Tami. But I doubt I’m terribly representative. So far the attention has fallen on the process of how the next Labour Assembly Leader will be chosen, and on the personalities of those who wish to lead it. We've been told about their voices too. Edwina Hart tells us she’ll be a strong voice for Wales, and Carwyn Jones we're told will be a voice for the whole of Wales. No news yet on Huw Lewis' voice, but I'm sure it's coming. Of course these are all relevant to the choice facing Labour Party members, but the bigger question is what they would do. With cuts to make to public services, what will their priorities be? Will they continue to pursue economic growth or will they seek to place a greater emphasis on quality of life? With Labour membership falling and its social base changing, what direction will they take

After Rhodri Morgan

Posted on Comment is Free on 1 October He entered the national consciousness with a metaphor about an amputee duck, and bowed out with an equally incongruous line about mushy peas. Rhodri Morgan likes being contrary. The 70-year-old first minister for Wales today formally announced his retirement and triggered the race to succeed him as Labour group leader in the Welsh assembly. True to form he kept everyone guessing about exactly when he would go, tweaking the nose of the Welsh media as he went. But while Morgan has long exasperated those in the bubble, his great gift has been his ability to project himself as a man of the people. Even as his party provokes angry reactions from their traditional supporters, there remains a residual affection towards "Rhodri". Universally known by his first name, he is one of the few politicians people will still cross the street to greet. His record as first minister has been mixed, but his eccentric style has served as a balm and elevated