Sunday, December 17, 2006

Montgomeryshire Post Offices Under Threat Again?

Montgomeryshire could lose all its village Post Offices following a government announcement this week

In Britain as a whole the government plans to reduce the current network of 14,300 post offices to 11,760. If that pattern were repeated in Montgomeryshire at least 20 could close but Plaid Cymru fears it could be far more as the government withdraws subsidies and leaves only "viable" offices open.

The Labour government is complaining about a subsidy for the Post Office of £250m per year in the same week that, because of its own incompetence, it is writing off debts of £1.1 billion to the Child Support Agency. The Post Office is not a private company. It is a public service and basically does a lot of the government's own administrative jobs such as selling car tax.

Under Labour 4,000 post offices have already been closed and it looks as if rural Wales will bear the brunt of this next round of closures. Labour has downgraded post offices by siphoning off government services which makes them less viable businesses. Plaid has been campaigning against Labour’s plans to close Post Offices which are used by over 350,000 people in Wales to access their benefits and pension. I believe that Post Offices have an essential social role in preserving communities as living entities and help combat social exclusion. Plaid wants to use post offices as government shop windows, providing income for local sub postmasters and so enhancing an essential service to the community.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


On Friday 19 January in Neuadd Llanerfyl we're all looking forward to getting the campaign off to a bang with a Noson Lawen led by Arwyn Groe, one of our budding poets on the national stage and well known as a local commentator on the cultural scene. Arwyn will be joined by Dafydd Iwan, Sian James and local new band Gwiber. There'll be a few short speeches as well so that I, Nerys Evans and David Senior (Plaid Regional List Candidates) can get to know the audience and also at least one poetry competition for the audience to join in. Dyffryn Banw football club are running the bar and there'll also be a raffle.

With tickets at just £6 and £3 for concessions this promises to be an enjoyable and memorable evening so book yours on 01691 870642 as soon as possible.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Welsh Tax Payers Service Gordons' £161bn PFI Debt!

A statistic which passed almost unnoticed in the Chancellor's pre-Budget statement last week was that the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) Debt has now reached a staggering £161bn, up £13bn in just one year. That means that Gordon Brown has had to set aside an extra £13bn in one year alone to service this debt, a figure which is only £1bn less than the entire budget for Wales!

This should concern us all very deeply in Wales. There have been very few PFI projects in Wales because, wisely, local authorities have preferred only to use the money they have rather than mortgage their budgets for decades to come. Now however there is a squeeze on the capital provision for local authorities (Powys County Council will be at least £12m short of its requirements next year) and there are endless calls for "efficiency savings" whatever that may mean in schools and old people's homes. We are constantly being told that there is "no more money in the pot" for education and social services, yet clearly there is £13bn to service the PFI debt in 2006 - 07 as well as £25bn for Trident and £70bn de-commissioning costs for the new generation of nuclear power stations Blair is so keen on.

Is now clear that we, as Welsh tax-payers, are mortgaging our own futures since it is partly our taxes which are going to service this £161bn debt, nearly all of it used for schemes outside Wales. If Welsh authoriites prefer not to use PFI there should surely be a sizeable uplift in their dirtect grant since they are, effectively, saving Gordon Brown billions of pounds a year.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is Jane Davidson there for?

Just what is the point of Jane Davidson? For the second time in three months she has been caught completely unawares by an announcement from Labour in London and then has had to pretend embarrassingly that she knew about it all along but just hadn't told anyone!

Millions of pounds of our (taxpayers') money is currently being spent on reviews of GCSE syllabuses, GCSE coursework, International GCSEs, A level syllabuses and now the International Bacalaureate. Every one of these has been a Westminster initiative which Jane Davidson has meekly complied with even though nobody in Wales wanted them. And it is just pathetic of her to pretend that nothing will happen unless "the three countries [England, Wales and N Ireland] agree" since Wales and N Ireland have effectively nothing more than "observer status" at the disucssion table. What England wants England gets.

Whitehall retains complete control over the curriculum and over GCSEs and A levels as well as over the pay and conditions of teachers i.e. everything it regards as "important". Only what it regards as trivial has actually been devolved to Cardiff.

Once again Jane Davidson has allowed herself to be pushed around by the Whitehall mandarins. She has lost control of the education agenda in Wales and has lost the confidence of teachers in all sectors. She should consider her position.
Does the Right Hand know what the Right Wing is Doing?

Why has Blair suddenly decided to make A levels "harder" when his government is currently spending millions of pounds of our money making them, arguably, easier by reducing the number of units to be studied from 6 to 4 from 2008 onwards? Does his government have money to throw away?