Sunday, May 13, 2007

Plaid's Best Ever Result in Maldwyn!

With 3076 votes on 3 May Plaid secured its highest ever vote in Maldwyn/Montgomeryshire in any election. The vote increased by 60% over 2003's result and the share of the vote went up by 35%. I am delighted by this result and would like to thank all those who worked so hard for it and, of course, the electors who voted for me. Diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Whole Family Is Helping In The Last Minute Rush!

Monday, April 23, 2007


Small businesses in Montgomeryshire have been hard hit by the changes to the Rural Rate Relief Scheme. A Plaid government will cut business taxes by up to 50% and will make the Post Office a government service point.

Because of Labour underfunding of Powys County Council the Tourist Information Centre in Llanwddyn, the primary schools in Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, Carno, Llangurig and Llanwddyn and the library in Llanfair Caereinion are all under threat.

A Plaid government would fund Powys taking due regard of its rurality and would give a strong voice to the people of Montgomeryshire.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Plaid is the only party which intends to set year-by-year reductions of carbon emissions. Our 3% annual reduction will keep us focussed on the target of creating a cleaner, greener Wales by 2011.

Already Wales is in the forefront of clean energy production. The biomass heating system in my village of Llanwddyn which heats the school, community centre and 29 houses by woodchip is a prime example of the sort of cleaner, community-based energy production which Plaid will encourage. On-shore windmills (Labour’s preferred solution) have a place but Plaid wants to see a much broader range including off-shore windfarms, solar, biomass and water energy generation. Plaid will review the TAN8 regulation governing the citing of onshore windfarms.

We may not all be able to generate energy but we can all save it and Plaid will give universal 50% grants for insulation with more help for those on low-incomes and the elderly. We will introduce a national reward scheme for businesses and households which reduce energy usage. All government buildings will be carbon neutral by 2012 and Plaid will seek to devolve building regulations so that we can adopt the Code for Sustainable Homes.

Transport in Montgomeryshire is a real problem. We are at the crossroads of Wales on both the North-South and the East-West routes. The A44 from Llangurig to Aberystwyth is regarded by the AA as the most dangerous in Britain and public transport is so poor that more households own two cars than anywhere else in Wales. Plaid is in favour of bypasses for Newtown and Llanymynech and a massive investment in rail and bus transport within the county. The challenge to keep Montgomeryshire a green county while also improving transport links is a stiff one but Plaid has the expertise and imagination to meet it.
This is a bilingual message. Please scroll down for English.
Yn anffodus, oherwydd rhesymau technegol, mae hi'n amhosib cyhoeddu'r annerchiad etholiad ar y blog yma ond dyma crynodeb.
Unfortunately I am unable to publish my electoral address on this blog due to technical reasons. Below is a summary and I hope to publish further extracts in the next few days.

Five severe problems facing Montgomeryshire and how Plaid Cymru can solve them.


Montgomeryshire has the lowest average wage in Wales and England. It also has the highest number of households with two incomes which is normally a sign of wealth but in our case it’s a sign of desperation! Many people in Montgomeryshire are also holding down two jobs just to make ends meet and those with the lowest wages have just been badly hit by Gordon Brown’s budget. Plaid Cymru will introduce a National Living Wage set by an independent commission and higher than the minimum wage payable by all public bodies with Assembly contracts.


Montgomeryshire has been losing jobs at an alarming rate and there has been a triple whammy in Machynlleth with WEFO, WTB and MWEA all shedding jobs or moving them out of the area. Labour has just one AM in its cabinet representing a constituency north of Pontypridd and Rhodri Morgan has completely abrogated his responsibilities as Minister for North Wales (everything north of Merthyr!). Plaid Cymru has the interests of the whole of Wakes at heart and, moreover, will move three Assembly departments out of Cardiff by 2011.


Montgomeryshire relies heavily on the family farm. Elin Jones AM single-handedly secured the future of Tir Mynydd funding for 2008 – 11 in the Assembly but the Labour cuts of 2007 – 08 cannot be reversed. Plaid will work with the CAP changes up to 2013 to ensure that the base of Welsh agriculture will not be further eroded. We will introduce a favourable scheme to encourage new entrants into the business and appoint a Milk Commissioner to regulate prices for dairy products. We definitely oppose double tagging of young lambs. Plaid has been in the forefront of the battle to secure adequate compensation for TB and it is obvious that the spread of the disease must be halted immediately.


Affordable housing in Montgomeryshire is very hard to come by. We have the second highest differential between average wages and average deposits for a house in Wales. Plaid aims to put the bottom rung back on the property ladder by releasing more land for development, encouraging Community Land Trusts and providing up to £5000 grant to match fund savings over 3 years


Everywhere in Montgomeryshire we are fighting for our way of life. Because of year-on-year underfunding from the Labour Assembly Government to Powys County Council schools, libraries, TiCs and even public toilets are threatened with closure. Labour is running down our Post Offices and our hospitals. Plaid will stop the hospital closure programme in its tracks, make the Post Office an access point for government services and adequately fund the Council so that it has the money to deliver decent services in a rural area.

Only Plaid Cymru can make a difference on 3 May. Vote Plaid – twice.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Plaid4Maldwyn - an important blog in Welsh politics!

No doubt along with the other 46 Welsh political bloggers this blog has been chosen by the National Library as part of the UK Web Archiving Consortium Pilot Project "because of its importance to Welsh politics"!

I am truly flattered and mark the occasion by a genuine blog entry rather than the usual copies of letters and press releases which I put up.

I am aware that I have been criticised in the blogosphere for hosting a blog which has not been personalised enough but, in my defence, I should like to point out that I have authored all but perhaps one or two of the entries so far. Two, I believe, at most are adaptations from press releases received from Cardiff. Right now I can't remember which they are but maybe that could form a research project for some nerd in the future!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Your vote in the election on 3 May can really make a difference.

It looks as if Labour will lose the iron grip on Welsh politics which it has enjoyed for generations. Only Plaid Cymru will be strong enough to form an alternative government to Labour or to lead a coalition of parties opposed to Labour.

A Lab-Lib coalition would be dominated by Labour and would be no better than what we have at the moment. Nobody is prepared to join a coalition led by the Tories.

Montgomeryshire is in crisis
- farm incomes are dropping, manufacturing jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and we have to fight just to retain our basic public services like schools, libraries, hospitals, post offices and even toilets in both the villages and the towns.

Who do you think can defend the interests of the people of Montgomeryshire best?
The Liberals, who have tried and failed for the past 8 years? The Tories, who will never, ever gain a majority over Labour in Wales?

Or Plaid Cymru – your local party? We can choose policies which are best for us here in Montgomeryshire and here in Wales. We don’t have to check with the bosses in London first because we haven’t got any!

A vote for any other party will let in Labour or a Labour-dominated coalition.

The sky will not fall on our heads if we don’t vote Liberal or Conservative in Montgomeryshire! It’s a secret ballot – nobody will know if you’ve broken the habit of a lifetime and voted Plaid! I promise you that the interests of Montgomeryshire will be safe in my hands. We’ve had Labour Assembly governments and a Lab-Lib government and we’re no better off with either.

It’s time for a change. It’s time to make a difference. Make your vote really count this time.

On 3 May Vote Plaid – twice: once for Montgomeryshire and once for Mid and West Wales.
Gall eich pleidlais chi yn yr etholiad ar Fai’r 3ydd wneud gwahaniaeth.

Mae’n ymddangos y bydd Llafur yn colli’i gafael gadarn ar wleidyddiaeth Cymru am y tro cyntaf ers cenedlaethau. Dim ond Plaid Cymru fydd yn ddigon cryf i ffurfio llywodraeth yn lle Llafur neu i arwain clymblaid i wrthwynebu Llafur.

Byddai clymblaid ‘Lib-Lab’ yn cael ei ddominyddu gan Lafur ac yn ddim gwell na be’ sydd gyno’ ni’n barod. Does na neb yn barod i ymuno â chlymblaid yn cael ei harwain gan y Torïaid.

Mae’n argyfwng ym Maldwyn – mae incwm ffermydd yn cwympo, mae gwaith cynhyrchu nwyddau yn cael ei golli ar raddfa chwithig ac rydem ni’n gorfod ymladd dim ond i gadw gwasanaethau cyhoeddus sylfaenol fel ysgolion, llyfrgelloedd, ysbytai, swyddfeydd post, a hyd yn oed toiledau yn ein pentrefi a’n trefi.

Pwy ‘dech chi’n meddwl all amddiffyn buddiannau pobl Maldwyn orau? Y Librals, sy’ ‘di trio a methu am wyth mlynedd, neu’r Torïaid, all byth bythoedd ennill mwyafrif dros Lafur yng Nghymru hyd nes y bydd y lleuad yn gaws Stilton!

Neu Plaid Cymru – eich plaid yn lleol? Gallwn ni ddewis y polisïau sydd orau i ni yma ym Maldwyn ac yma yng Nghymru. Does na’m rhaid i ni holi efo’n cap yn ein llaw i’n meistri yn Llundain gynta’ – achos does geno’ ni ddim! Bydd pleidlais i unrhyw blaid arall yn rhoi rhwydd hynt i Lafur neu glymblaid yn cael ei harwain gan Lafur, i redeg Cymru eto.

Fydd yr awyr ddim yn cwympo ar ein pennau os na fotiwn ni i’r Librals neu’r Torïaid ym Maldwyn. Pleidlais ddirgel ydi hi – fydd ‘na neb yn gw’bod os ‘dech chi wedi torri habit oes a phleidleisio Plaid Cymru! Dwi’n addo y bydd buddiannau Maldwyn yn saff yn fy nwylo. ‘De ni ‘di cael Llywodraeth Lafur a hefyd Llywodraeth ‘Lib-Lab’ yng Nghymru a ‘den ni ddim gwell ‘ffwrdd efo ‘run ohonyn nhw .

Mae’n bryd cael newid. Mae’n bryd gwneud gwahaniaeth. Gwnewch i’ch pleidlais gyfri tro yma.

Ar Fai’r 3ydd fotiwch Plaid – ddwywaith. Unwaith i Faldwyn ac unwaith i Ganolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


“Only Plaid Cymru has the policies and the imagination to solve the housing crisis in Wales and in particular the desperate shortage of affordable homes in Montgomeryshire”.

This was the message given by David Thomas, Plaid’s Assembly Candidate for Montgomeryshire at a meeting on Wednesday 18 April organised by Land for People in the Town Hall, Welshpool.

Explaining how Montgomeryshire was particularly badly hit Mr Thomas continued “Montgomeryshire has the lowest average wage in Wales and the gap between the average wage and the average house price nearly doubled in four years. People who could have bought a detached house four years ago can now just afford a terraced house because their wages have not kept pace with house price inflation”.

Outlining measures to help those looking for an “affordable home” Mr Thomas pointed to Plaid’s offer of a £5000 grant to match-fund savings and more land available for Community Land Trusts. In addition Mr Thomas claimed “Plaid will put the bottom rung back on the housing ladder and, for those unable to purchase a home, we will repeal the Right to Buy in housing hotspots to create more rented accommodation within everybody’s reach. Planning laws will also be amended so that more homes can be built on the edges of villages and in the countryside”.
Montgomeryshire is in crisis - farm incomes are dropping, manufacturing jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and we have to fight to retain our basic public services like schools and hospitals.

Who do you think can best defend our interests in Montgomeryshire?

The Liberals who have tried and failed for the past 8 years?

The Tories who have no sympathy for our way of life?

Maybe a Lab-Lib coalition dominated by Labour and no better than what we have at the moment?

Or Plaid Cymru – your local party? We have the policies which are best for us here in Montgomeryshire and here in Wales. We don’t have to check with the bosses in London first because we haven’t got any!

A vote for any other party will let in Labour or a Labour-dominated coalition.

Vote Plaid Cymru on 3 May and your vote will really make a difference.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


One of the first acts of a Plaid Assembly Government after 3 May will be to stop the current round of hospital closures masquerading as ‘downgrading’. This was the promise I was pleased to give on a return visit to Llanidloes Memorial Hospital today when I was given a tour of the facilities by Pat Scull (left).

Llanidloes is just the sort of hospital which Plaid wants to see replicated throughout Wales. It provides a range of both primary and secondary care and is also an efficient way of treating patients who would otherwise have to travel to Aberystwyth, Shrewsbury or even Telford.

Accompanying me on my visit were Dafydd Wigley, Plaid’s Honorary President and North Wales Assembly Candidate and Nerys Evans, Plaid’s Mid and West Wales Candidate. Both were extremely impressed by the facilities and Mr Wigley added “The Labour Assembly Government has treated Mid Wales appallingly over the past 8 years. Without a District General Hospital Powys residents need and deserve all the community care they can get and Llanidloes Hospital is a shining example of what can be done with dedicated staff. It would be an absolute scandal if it were to close”.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

An Open Letter to Rhodri Morgan

Dear Mr Morgan

Given that you pay so little attention to what happens beyond Merthyr Tudfil you may not have noticed that Powys County Council is threatening to close four primary schools in Montgomeryshire by August 2008.

None of these schools offers anything less than a good education, indeed one of them, Ysgol Efyrnwy has just had one of the best Estyn reports ever awarded. None of these schools is lodged in unsuitable buildings and every one of them is a real focal point of their community.

The only thing which marks out these schools as candidates for closure is that they have “spare places”, each “empty desk” apparently costing Powys County Council £1000.

I recognise that it is more expensive to fund “small” schools but only in the same way that it is more expensive to perform a hip replacement than set a broken arm. Surely you should not close a school, as Powys intends to do, simply because it is more expensive to fund than a neighbouring school.

The four schools under threat in Montgomeryshire - in Llanwddyn, Llanfihangel-yng-Gwynfa, Carno and Llangurig - between them have 41 “spare places”. I appeal to you, Mr Morgan, to do two things on behalf of these four genuinely community schools. First, out of the £1.2m Assembly surplus for 2006 – 07 would you please direct a paltry £41,000 into the coffers of Powys County Council in order to keep these schools open for another year at least and secondly, given that we are in an election period, would you please instruct Powys County Council to immediately suspend its so-called “consultation” process until it at least sends formal notification of a timetable to the Heads and Chairs of Governors of the schools concerned?


David Thomas
Chair of Governors
Ysgol Efyrnwy, Llanwddyn
Plaid Assembly Candidate for Montgomeryshire

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How can Plaid help our School Children?

As a Chair of Governors at Ysgol Efyrnwy (the primary school in Llanwddyn), as a teacher in a secondary school and as a parent of a university student I feel that I have an insight into what affects pupils, teachers and parents across the whole age range of education from 3 – 21.

Both my children attended our local primary and secondary schools and received a first-class education in each. Powys can justly be proud of its record in providing schools which are close to the community and which pass on its values from one generation to another. It is such a shame, therefore, that Powys’ “review” of primary schools has so far picked on the smallest regardless of their quality, the state of their buildings or the role they play in the community. If elected I shall vote against any proposal when it comes to the Assembly to close these six schools.

In opposition Plaid Cymru secured an extra £4.1m for small schools in 2006 and has arranged for up to £16,000 to be added to each secondary school’s budget (£10,000 for primaries) through the county councils in 2007.

Plaid believes that a good school is not just what is taught in the classroom but that other factors can have just as big an effect. A Plaid government will introduce a programme of free nutritious school meals in primary schools and provide laptops for every child going to secondary school. We will expand the school nurse programme so that there will be at least one for each secondary school and introduce more 20 mph and 10 mph zones outside schools during school hours.

Plaid opposes top-up fees for students and will also pay back student loans for those who live and work in Wales for five years after graduating.
How can Plaid ensure a Healthier Wales?

Only Plaid Cymru can stop the downgrading and eventual closure of Llanidloes, Newtown and Machynlleth hospitals. For all their fine words the LibDems will be powerless in a Labour-dominated government to prevent Labour’s programme of cuts and closures and we all remember what the Tories did to the Health Service while they were in power.

Llanidloes is a prime example of the kind of hospital Plaid Cymru would like to see throughout Wales – primary, community care which provides first class treatment for patients who do not need the specialist services of a district general hospital or who need somewhere to convalesce after surgery. If the Birthing Centres in Llanidloes and Newtown close then the only places to give birth in Montgomeryshire will be Welshpool hospital or at home. Only Plaid Cymru can stop this happening.

A Plaid government will create a Community Health Service which will include nurses in schools, check-ups at work and Centres of Wellbeing throughout Wales where primary care and walk-in facilities will be available, beginning where GP and NHS dentist provision is particularly sparse. Plaid believes that prevention is better than cure.

Mental health services have been particularly poorly served by Labour but a Plaid government would follow Scotland’s lead by implementing a strategy based on local community needs and provision.

A Plaid government will create a Patients’ Rights Contract which will ensure that core services are delivered within defined localities and a no-fault pay-out system if patients receive sub-standard care.

Plaid aims to secure free care provision for older and disabled people. In the short term Plaid will cap charges set by local authorities, raise the threshold for contributing to residential costs and create Benefit Take Up teams to ensure that older and disabled people receive the benefits they deserve.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Powys Wants To Close Six Primary Schools

It is so disappointing that Powys County Council has decided to open its review of 6 primary schools in the county through the pages of the newspapers rather than directly with the staff, pupils, governors and parents of the affected schools themselves. It was through the press that, as Chair of Governors at Ysgol Efyrnwy, Llanwddyn, I learnt of Powys' intention to review the school with its possible closure in August 2008. Sadly, Powys failed to send any prior information concerning these plans to the schools or governors affected, an omission of astonishing insensitivity.

No doubt there will be fierce debate in the coming months but I should like to clarify two glaring misrepresentations which are always bandied around on these occasions.

First, Cllr David Jones talks about surplus spaces in Powys as constituting "more than one in four empty seats" as if all the space in a classroom had to be filled to the brim. We should have moved beyond the idea of every classroom crammed with 30 pupils with no room to engage in the investigative activities through which children learn best. In Ysgol Efyrnwy it is true that there is an "empty classroom" but it is also stocked with musical instruments and equipment which simply would not be in the school otherwise.

Whatever the economic argument "surplus spaces" does not mean nothing is happening. The very space created by fewer pupils often gives those who are left much greater opportunities - something both Powys and the Assembly would surely applaud.

Secondly, Cllr Jones says that surplus spaces "cost more than £4m a year". No they don't! Empty space costs nothing! Maybe it makes it more expensive to educate those who remain but the two issues should not be confused. Of course a small school is more expensive to run than a large one but so is a medium-sized one. The most "cost-effective" primary school is probably a mega-school that serves a radius of 30 miles but is that what we want for our children?
Plaid Helps Pensioners With Council Tax

With Powys County Council Tax bills falling through the letter box householders on fixed incomes, pensioners in particular, will no doubt be wondering how they can afford to pay the extra money demanded in 2007 - 08.

Plaid Cymru recognises the plight of pensioners caught in this situation and, as a prelude to scrapping the Council Tax altogether, proposes to cap their payments to no more than the rate of inflation every year until it is finally abolished. The difference between an inflation increase and the Council Tax increase will be paid on behalf of pensioners by a Plaid Cymru Assembly Government enabling pensioners to keep more of their money and not forfeiting it because of a property market spiralling out of control.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Powys' Change of Heart over Electoral Commission Leaflet

I am very pleased that Powys County Council has finally decided to distribute a leaflet specially written by the Electoral Commission for the Assembly elections on 3 May.

When it became obvious that Powys, alone amongst Welsh councils, was not going to distribute this leaflet I urged the Chief Executive to change his mind. While canvassing during February I encountered a widespread lack of awareness of the upcoming Assembly elections and felt that, with changes to the voting system and the unique mix of seats and lists in Wales, people needed reminding how the 2007 election would operate.

The Electoral Commission wanted councils to be responsible for distributing the leaflets as research has shown that householders are likely to read a communication from the council, particularly if it is bundled with the council tax demand. While that won’t now happen at least a private company will ensure that every household does receive its copy before polling day on 3 May so that Powys residents will be as well informed as anybody else in Wales!
Early action on the Llanymynech bypass is deperately needed

Nearly 2,000 HGV vehicles pass through Llanymynech every day along with an incredible 12,000 other vehicles. This is the so-called Manchester to Swansea Trunk Road but it cannot cope with the traffic of the 21st century. Without a doubt businesses are suffering in Montgomeryshire and right across Mid Wales because of these poor road connections and the long-suffering residents of Llanymynech have had their patience tried for far too long.

With Shropshire County Council likely to decide this week to put off the scheme indefinitely there is need for an urgent review by the National Assembly in conjunction with both Powys and Shropshire County Councils to see how these much needed improvements could be made as quickly as possible.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Nurses' Pay Highlights the Defects of Devolution

Many commentators have recently extolled the power of the Scottish Parliament to improve the lot of ordinary people in Scotland.

Another graphic illustration was afforded this week when the Scottish Parliament decided to award the full 2.5% pay rise to nurses from April and not staggered between April (1.5%) and November (1%) as will happen in Wales and England. This Thatcherite and despised staggered increase now employed by a Labour government will rob a nurse on an average salary of £570 and devalue her pay rise, already below inflation, by a further 0.6%.

The Welsh Assembly needs the same powers as the Scottish Parliament to give our nurses the rewards they deserve. The current devolution settlement is unjust and unbalanced and serves Wales poorly.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Does Rhodri Morgan have any "Independent Thoughts"?

Jane Davidson is defying her London leader by expressing opposition to Trident but apparently she has the full support of Rhodri Morgan who, she says, encourages his AMs "to have independent thoughts".

Perhaps Rhodri Morgan would at last give us his own "independent thoughts" on the Iraq War?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Farmers in Montgomeryshire are Grateful for Plaid's Leadership

Plaid Cymru in Montgomeryshire joins the FUW and NFU in welcoming the extension of the Tir Mynydd scheme thanks to the efforts of Plaid's Elin Jones AM.

Because of an impasse in the Agriculture Committee Plaid's Elin Jones was the first AM ever allowed to offer an alternative budget to ministers for a vote in the Assembly. This agri-environment scheme is very important both to farmers and to recreational users of the countryside and it is unthinkable that the Labour Assembly Government should have considered scrapping it altogether especially when figures for 2006 show a fall in income of 36% for hill livestock farms and 42% for upland enterprises.

Although only about 11% of the working population is directly involved in agriculture in Montgomeryshire many more have an indirect relationship with it and the cuts proposed by Labour (including an irreversible 33% reduction in 2007) would have had severe and long-term effects on the viability of many hill farms in Montgomeryshire.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Plaid Puts The Bottom Rung Back On The Ladder

The Nationwide Building Society's latest report on the housing market highlights the need for imaginative policies to deal with the problems faced by those trying to buy their first home.

The report shows that, compared with just 12 months ago, a first time buyer would need to find an extra £700 for a deposit and would be paying an extra £120 per month mortgage on a typical house. To purchase a starter home at an avergae price now requires an income of £40,000. Added to this grim picture we have, in Montgomeryshire, one of the highest gaps in the whole country between average wages and what is needed for an average deposit on a home.

Plaid Cymru has recognised that the bottom rung has fallen off the housing ladder. That is why we are proposing, amongst other measures, a grant of up to £5,000 (£10,000 for a couple like Lowri and Clwyd above) to help towards a first home.

We will all benefit by giving our young people a chance to stay in Montgomeryshire and local services such as schools, post offices and shops would all gain from having young families as a stable part of their communities.
Labour Admits Its Health Service Failure

Ann Lloyd, Head of NHS Wales, admitted last week that the Labour Assembly Government had "failed to win the public's hearts and minds over the reconfiguration of health services". She can say that again! She added "We have failed to show the alternatives".

Labour has indeed given details about the cuts in Llanidloes, Newtown and Machynlleth hospitals and clinics but has failed to provide specific proposals for replacement services to make up for the loss of treatment.

The good news is that a Plaid Cymru government will stop the downgrading of these hospitals in its tracks and develop a network of services to serve people as close as possible to their homes. That makes sense medically and financially and will deliver the services both patients and medical experts know is best.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Yn Cyflwyno Eich Ymgeiswyr Plaid Cymru

Eich Plaid Leol Your Local Party

Introducing Your Plaid Cymru Candidates


Cefais fy ngeni a fy magu yn Hwlffordd a symudais i Lanwddyn yn 1986 lle rydym wedi mwynhau profi Mwynder Maldwyn. Rydw i’n mynychu rhai gweithgareddau diwylliannol fel yr Eisteddfod, Steddfod yr Urdd, Steddfod Powys (rwyf yn Is-gadeirydd Pwyllgor y Dysgwyr 2007), Gwyl Maldwyn, Y Mari Lwyd a’r plygeiniau.

I have lived in Llanwddyn since 1986 and am Chair of Governors at Ysgol Efyrnwy, Chair of the Lake Vyrnwy Marathon Committee and Vice-Chair of the Learners Committee for Eisteddfod Powys 2007. I am also a member of the Powys Citizens Panel. I have worked for Powys County Council as a Youth Training Officer and as a teacher in Llanfyllin High School.


Cefais fy ngeni yn Llangain, Caerfyrddin a fy addysg ym mhrifysgolion Manceinion a Chaerdydd. Rwyf i’n gweithio fel swyddog gwleidyddol i aelodau Plaid Cymru y Cynulliad.

I am a PCS union official in the Assembly and have a special interest in workers’ rights, rural affairs and the Welsh language.

Labour has had 8 years to make a difference in Montgomeryshire, but instead its urban agenda and obsession with Cardiff have resulted in threats to most of our local services – including our hospitals, schools, libraries and post offices.


I was born in Welshpool and educated in Oxford, Newtown and the Universities of Wales and Kent. I am a Plaid Cymru Councillor on Welshpool Town Council. I have a strong interest in the sustainable economic development of our market towns and offering young people a chance to remain in our communities.

Rydw i’n dysgu mewn ysgol breswyl ar gyfer bechgyn efo anghenion arbenning. Roeddwn i’n un o aelodau gwreiddiol Cyfeillion y Ddaear Y Drenewydd ar rydw i’n aelod o’r Sefydliad Materion Cymreig.

Mae’n amser Newid er Gwell . Mae’n Bryd Gwneud Gwahaniaeth.
Pleidleisiwch dros Plaid Cymru – Dwywaith!

Mae Plaid yn llawn ystyried nad yw pawb yng Nghymru yn byw ar goridor yr M4 na’r A55, ac rydym eisiau gweld pob rhan o Gymru yn ffynnu. Nawr yw’r amser i wneud gwahaniaeth trwy roi eich ffydd ym Mhlaid Cymru i wneud gwahaniaeth ym Maldwyn.

Only one member of Rhodri Morgan’s cabinet represents a seat outside South Wales. It’s time we made the Government in Cardiff sit up and take notice that Montgomeryshire is part of Wales too! Only Plaid can form an alternative government to Labour in the Assembly and put the issues of hospitals, schools, farming and transport at the top of the agenda.

What can Plaid Cymru do for us in Montgomeryshire?

Plaid has put a cap on student fees, won extra money for every school in Wales, secured the future of Tir Mynydd, won extra council tax relief for pensioners and set up an inquiry into the Welsh Ambulance Service.

IN GOVERNMENT Plaid intends to replace council tax with a local income tax, provide grants for reducing home energy consumption, create affordable housing, double spending on childcare, move three government departments out of Cardiff, develop, not downgrade, community hospitals, develop the Post Office as a service of government, appoint a Language Commissioner, purchase food for hospitals and schools locally and hold a referendum on the Constitution by 2011.

It doesn’t matter where you come from – Welshpool, Wolverhampton or Warsaw – if you think that what happens in Wales should be decided by the people who live in Wales then Plaid Cymru is the party for you. Two of our presidents, Saunders Lewis and Dafydd Wigley, weren’t born in Wales.

It doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, how rich or poor you are, how young or old you are or what languages you speak or don’t speak Plaid Cymru is the party for ALL the people who live in Wales.
Beth ydy polisiau Plaid Cymru?
What are Plaid’s policies?

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Plaid Cymru ym Maldwyn Plaid in Montgomeryshire

It’s Time for a Change for the Better. It’s Time to Make a Difference. Vote Plaid – Twice!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Don Rhodri Rides Again!

Why on earth is Rhodri Morgan bringing David Cameron into the Assembly election debate? Most of the things he blames the Tories for are out of the hands of the Assembly anyway and, if Wales is still suffering, as he suggests, it is Labour's fault as they have had 10 years to sort it out!

Rhodri is well and truly in Don Quixote mode, tilting at imaginary foes, afraid to confront the real enemies in his own party. His truest statement is that the Tories have never won a majority in Wales but without a proper Parliament, which Rhodri resolutely opposes, the same thing could happen again and Wales would be defenceless in the face of an unsympathetic government in London - Labour or Tory.

Come on Rhodri, attacking the Tory record in Westminster is so last century. Give us a proper fight based on Labour's record in Wales, not on some bogeyman hiding under the stairs.

Monday, February 19, 2007

PCS Workers Deserve Our Support

The PCS workers who recently went on strike at Revenue and Customs offices in Welshpool and Newtown derserve our support if only because we shall all lose out if, as the Labour government proposes, they are all but closed by 2008.

The loss of 47 posts will take around £1.8m out of the local economy and with jobs in adjacent offices like Oswestry and Aberystwyth also being cut the chances of the workers finding similar jobs is slim indeed.

Also as the nearest manned Tax Office will be in Telford or Wrexham anybody who depends on a face-to-face interview to sort out their tax affairs will be faced with a long journey or will have to use the phone or internet.

With tax evasion and VAT fraud conservatively estimated at no less than a staggering £30bn it would make sense for staff to be retained to recoup these losses which are robbing us all of due revenue.

It is hypocritical of Labour AMs to pretend to support the PCS officers when it is their own government which is cutting their jobs!

A Good Day on the Campaign Trail!

Nerys Evans, Mid and West Wales list candidate, and I spent a very useful day in Welshpool today starting with an hour in the market with Montgomeryshire's farmers. Following that we met with Clive Faulkener of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust and shared some thoughts about sustainable farming, especially in the uplands, which Clive thinks will be particularly at risk from climate change.

We had a very pleasant working lunch with Nick Knight, Mark Lingard and Anwen Evans of the County Times and then spent an hour with Oldford Commiuniites First and heard about some of the very interesting developments there from Mandy and Hannah. We then met with Dave Morris, PCS union convenor in HMRC Welshpool, who had done some research on the economic consequences of the proposed job losses and had calculated that the impact on the economy would be about £1.8m per year - an awful lot for an area like Welshpool.

Our final visit was to Derwen Farm Shop in Guilsfield where we met Rachel Joseph, the owner, and Zoe (see photo above with [l to r] me, Zoe, Nerys and Rachel) The shop is full of superb and mostly Welsh produce and is a shining example of what can be achieved by local sourcing of food - something Plaid Cymru will be treating as a priority in the new Assembly after 3 May.

I should like to thank all the above for taking time to meet with us today and also to Arwyn Groe, Mike Allen and Sion Powys for accompanying us during parts of the day.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Labour in Westminster keeps ignoring Labour in Cardiff

The past two weeks have offered us vivid illustrations of the political imbalance which exists between Westminster and Cardiff.

First we heard Sue Essex apparently supporting PCS workers against the action of her own government in London and then we had Rhodri Morgan calling for 0% interest rates in Wales. Both of these Assembly politicians will be routinely ignored by their counterparts in Westminster and what London wants (job losses in the public sector and punitively high interest rates for manufacturing industries) it will no doubt get.

Unfortunately we can expect much more of this after 3 May. The Government of Wales Act ensures that Peter Hain and his Westminster pals will have no fewer than five opportunities to overturn any measure proposed by the Assembly. This is a direct consequence of Rhodri Morgan's obsequious capitulation to his MPs when he chose the ridiculous Orders in Council over the sensible recommendations of the Richard Commission.

With the weakest legislature in Europe on offer it will be no surprise if participation in the Assembly elections on 3 May falls below 40% and Morgan and Hain will have only themselves to blame.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ambulance Response Times Put Residents At Risk

Last year a footballer with a broken leg had to wait for 40 minutes on a cold pitch in Llanwddyn for an ambulance to arrive. Last month a family near Llanwddyn waited 50 minutes for an ambulance to attend an emergency call. Will the next occasion be 60 minutes or even more?

I have no doubt that the ambulance crews themselves are doing a sterling job but the management of the service leaves much to be desired. It is true that for 360 days of the year perhaps we may only need a routine service but on the other five we expect an emergency response from what is, after all, an emergency service.

The whole of the north-west of Montgomeryshire, including the accident blackspots of Lake Vyrnwy and Pistyll Rhaeadr, is being put at risk because of the down-grading of the Llanfyllin Ambulance Station and this needs to be re-examined urgently.

In 2003 the Labour Assembly Government promsed that ambulances would meet their response time targets in 65% of life-threatening situations by March 2005. Latest figures show it is actually happening on just 54% of such occasions. Something is seriously wrong and it requires immediate action.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Nerys Evans, Plaid Candidate for Mid and West Wales, and I will be visiting Welshpool businesses on Monday 19 February.

Welshpool is typical of many Welsh towns with its historic produce and livestock markets alongside more recently developed light industry and services. Plaid Cymru proposes cutting business rates to support Montgomeryshire’s market towns and also developing both public and private transport links so that goods produced in Montgomeryshire can access wider markets more easily”.

We will also be visiting Welshpool Town Hall to discuss the exciting developments on Welshpool Town Council with Plaid Cymru Town Councillor and Mid and West Wales candidate, Cllr David Senior.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Call for an Inquiry into Ambulance Response Times in Montgomeryshire

Today I am calling on the Powys Local Health Board and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust to launch a joint inquiry into the ambulance response time of 50 minutes to a fatal accident near Llanwddyn, Lake Vyrnwy, on 18 January.

I know it was an awful night and the ambulance crew certainly did everything they could but 50 minutes to respond to an emergency call does seem unreasonably long. I wrote to the Welsh Ambulance Service in May 2006 warning them that removing the 24-hour staffing from Llanfyllin and requiring its ambulance to provide cover for other stations in Montgomeryshire would leave a large area of the county without adequate provision. Maybe for 360 days a year a routine service is acceptable but, sadly, sometimes an emergency response is required and it has taken this tragic accident to highlight the deficiencies.

I have consistently argued that the north-west corner of Montgomeryshire, characterised as it is by narrow roads and the tourist hotspots of Lake Vyrnwy and Pistyll Rhaeadr , deserve to be served by an ambulance which is stationed permanently in Llanfyllin and which is staffed 24 hours a day.
Rhodri doesn't want a Referendum!

I am sure that all the parties in Wales want the Assembly elections to be fought on the genuine issues affecting us in Wales but Rhodri Morgan is naive if he thinks that some voters at least willl not take it as a referendum on Blair's Britian.

He also seems to have forgotten that the Labour party scandalously and unashamedly used the 2003 Assembly elections as its own referendum on Blair's decision to go to war on Iraq and portrayed those of us who thought it was perhaps not the best option at the time as somehow anti-British.

The fact is whether the 2007 Assembly elections are a referendum on Blair's legacy or on Rhodri's future the result will be the same as the Welsh electors have clearly had enough of both.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Ceredigion and Mid Wales NHS Trust's review may regard Machynlleth as ‘peripheral’ and that may be true geographically but for patients in and around Machynlleth it is very much at the centre of their preventive care and post-operative treatment.

It’s not good enough to say that Machynlleth is only 15 miles from Aberystwyth. The road is not good and that sort of thinking doesn’t take account of the distance people have to travel from deeper in Powys or Gwynedd before they get to Machynlleth in the first place. And with the Dyfi bridge closing more frequently each year this review could put many patients at risk.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Plaid Cymru Noson Lawen Llanerfyl 19 January 2007

Plaid Cymru held a very successful evening of entertainment in Llanerfyl on 19 January when the guest artists included Plaid President Dafydd Iwan, local celebrity Sian James and the new band Gwiber from the Llanfair Caereinion area (see photo). The evening was expertly compered by Arwyn Groe and, together with a quiz, competitions and donations, raised nearly £1000.

We were delighted to be able to present such a varied evening showcasing the established talents of Dafydd and Sian and the new but very accomplished sound of the rock band Gwiber. Arwyn supplied us with some original and amusing poetry so a great time was had by all.
LibDems finally catch up with Plaid!

Plaid Cymru in Montgomeryshire welcomes Mr Opik's conversion to the cause of reason and common sense concerning the present situation in Iraq. He is wrong, however, to claim that his party is the first to call for a troop withdrawal. Plaid Cymru did not support the war, voted consistently against it and has been calling for British troops to withdraw for over 3 years.

Plaid Cymru has sponsored a number of debates about Iraq in Parliament and it is only because of the amazing courage of Adam Price and other Plaid MPs in the face of open hostility from Labour and indifference from the LibDems that the issue has received the prominence it deserves.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


More funding is desperately needed for pupils in Powys who speak neither English nor Welsh.

In the past 2 years the number of pupils requiring EAL (English as an Additional Language) support in Powys has risen by over 150% from 82 in January 2005 to over 200 in January 2007. In addition these pupils are spread through 46 schools in the county so it is difficult to concentrate the help which they need.

I am calling on the Labour Assembly Government to not only increase the funding for EAL to Powys but to do so now, not a year later as is the usual custom, as the money needs to be spent straightaway to help these children integrate into our excellent school in Powys. It seems unfair that Powys has to raid other budgets for 12 months to meet what is a current pressing need and has to wait for a year to be reimbursed by the Assembly.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Plaid Calls for Independent Milk and Supermarket Ombudsman

While one mainstay of Montgomeryshire farming, rearing livestock, has seen its market pick up in recent years the same cannot be said of that other mainstay, dairy farming.

Since the abolition of the Milk Marketing Board the price paid to farmers for their milk has fallen by 26% while its price in the shops has continued to rise. Of the 55p per litre paid in the shops only 16p goes to the farmer who produced it. In the past year alone 1,000 dairy farms have finished production in Wales and England and the situation can only get worse if the profit margin is squeezed even further.

Plaid Cymru has recognised the seriousness of the situation in Montgomeryshire and is backing the current campaign "Low milk prices have a high cost". It is also calling for the establishment of an Independent Milk and Supermarket Ombudsman who will be responsible for pricing and other aspects of the industry and would also make sure that the current voluntary supermarket code of conduct was made legally binding.
Westminster Wastes Welsh Wealth

The revelation today that the Royal Navy has committed itself to £12bn expenditure over its budget in the next 10 years should shock all those who think that our money is safe in their (Westminster's) hands. Scarcely a week goes by when some defence contract is not found to be massively over budget (and often years late) yet we allow our taxes to be wasted like this with barely a murmur.

Wales' share of the £12bn overspend (some of it on aircraft carriers which experts deem technically deficient) would be at least £600m or £60m a year - enough to buy a laptop for every man, woman and child in the country! We pay enough taxes and the money is there if only we could get hold of it to spend it on what we think best.
Why is Balkanisation Good but Balticisation Bad?

When Peter Hain raises the spectre of Balkanisation are we to assume that he would have preferred the continuation of a one-party state, dominated by one of its constituent groups which supressed the cultures and aspirations of its minorities?

And will Mr Hain please explain why Balkanisation - the fulfilment of national hopes by the dissolution of a large and centralised state - is a bad thing, but Balticisation - the fulfilment of national hopes etc - is a good thing? Both the Balkans and the Baltics now contain states smaller than Wales (Slovenia and Montenegro in the former and Estonia and Latvia in the latter) and I don't hear any of them begging to be reincorporated into their fomer empires.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What's Powys done to derserve this?

Yet again Powys has received an inadequate settlement to fund its services across the county and things could have been even worse had not Plaid Cymru secured extra monies both for central services and local expenditure such as school heating bills.

It is clearly unacceptable however that Powys, which has one of the lowest average wages in the UK, one of the worst differentials between wages and house prices and one of the highest instances of people holding a second job just to make ends meet, should receive 15% less in its revenue increase from central government than even the average settlement in Wales. Powys has slipped from being the best supported county in Wales to 12th or average position but its needs have not changed. Sadly this is only to be expected from a Labour Assembly Government whose cabinet is composed, except for one, exclusively of AMs from the former South Wales coalfield.

Only Plaid Cymru can challenge Labour's stranglehold on politics in Wales at the Assembly elections on 3 May. The Conservatives hold ten out of twenty regional seats so any constituency gains will be offset by regional seat losses. The LibDems will only ever be bit-players in Welsh politics - the spare wheel to keep Labour's car on the road. After all, voting LibDem and Tories in Powys in 1999 and 2003 didn't help did it?
Thinking of buying a house in Powys? Read this first!

The news that Powys now has the fourth highest percentage of houses in Wales valued in the top band of £223,001 or over might come as a relief to the County Council as it calculates the revenues due from their Council Tax but for pensioners on a fixed income it offers a daunting prospect. Escalating property prices do not provide an income and Plaid Cymru, which has already secured transitional relief for those who were rebranded severely, has recognised the problem by proposing to replace the Council Tax with a local income tax which takes account of people's ability to pay, not the value of their house!

A further shock came last week for those trying to get on the property ladder in Powys when statistics showed that house prices in the county had increased by no less than 110% in just 5 years. Powys remains one of the counties with the worst differentials between average house prices and average wages and Plaid Cymru has recognised this problem by proposing grants for first time buyers so that our young people can continue to live and work in the county. Added to Plaid's policy of helping students who live and work in Wales for 5 years after graduating to repay their loans these plans offer the most concerted attempt of any party in Wales to tackle the problem of affordable homes for all.
Spilt the Home Office - and devolve it too!

John Reid's intention to split the Home Office has confirmed what we devolutionists have been saying for a long time and also supports the claims made last week by the Presiding Officer, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, that we in Wales could do at least as good a job on our own (it would be difficult to do worse!) if not better.

Terrorism and Immigration are rightly areas which are best dealt with on a UK level and could be terms of reference for a UK Parliament. The other sections however, including domestic policing, are those which are much better dealt with on as local a level as possible and should be the remit of the Welsh Assembly or an expanded Welsh Parliament, as they are already in Scotland.

It is plainly stupid that education (or parts of it at least) is devolved to Cardiff but that the Probation Service, as part of the Home Office, is remote-controlled from London. It is difficult to have "joined-up thinking" if we are unable to have joined -up policies. It's like knitting a jumper in Cardiff only for the sleeves to be attached in London, when neither knitters are looking at the same pattern!
Socialism or Britishness - you can't have both!

It is flattering of Jeff Jones to compliment all us "talented people in Plaid" (Plea for Labour Autonomy, Western Mail, 18 Jan) but his article illustrates all that is wrong with Labour - basically that as a British-based party, dependent on English votes, it will never, ever implement anything even approximate to a traditional Labour/Socialist agenda.

When Blair won his landslide in 1997 and actually, for the first time, won the majority of seats in England, he did things to education and the health service which even Maggie Thatcher shyed away from and led us into 5 wars. Middle England is implacably opposed to the sort of classless, cooperative society which Old Labour espouses. The sort of socialist programme which Jeff Jones identifies with will only ever be delivered in Wales when we are able to set our own agenda and decide our own priorities which has no chance of happening until we have at least a Scottish-style Parliament.

For those of us in Plaid, the good of the common people, those born without privilege or inherent advantage, call it "Socialism" if you like, is more important than being British. Socialism in one country, Wales, could be a reality, but never if we wait for British Labour to deliver it.

For some of us principles are still more important than electoral success. After all, if you sell your soul like Blair has, what's the point of winning elections?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why are we so grateful when we get back our own money?

The news of the development at St Athan is to be welcomed indeed, particularly the number of jobs which it entails.

Before we get too euphoric, however, over "the largest investment by the UK government ever in Wales" let us remember a few things.

First, it's our money, our taxes which are being "invested" in Wales. It's not some kind of gift from Westminster. We pay enough taxes - direct, indirect and stealth - to jusitfy this many times over.

Secondly, although £58m a year is a large sum it represents only 3.8% of the total MoD budget which ought to be spent in Wales were we to receive our "fair share" of the defence budget based on population.

Thirdly, while this is a welcome investment it comes at a time when other public investment is being cut back particularly in the county councils of Wales who could easily identify £58m this year which they feel they deserve (after all it's only £2.6m per council and many of them were preparing to find this through 1% "efficiency" savings).

£58m is a lot of money and it sounds more simply because Wales has been so neglected by the UK government in the past but the Iraq War alone has so far cost 100 times that amount. The money is there when it's needed. What a pity that we sound so pathetically grateful when we simply get back what we have put in many times over.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Plaid increases pressure against Post Office closures

Plaid Cymru this week stepped up the campaign to save sub post offices in Wales. In Westminster they called to re-allocate contracts and to provide adequate funding for sub post offices and colleagues in Cardiff Bay put pressure on the Assembly Government to make representations to the UK Government opposing the planned closures.

In an Early Day Motion tabled in Parliament Plaid’s Westminster Leader Elfyn Llwyd MP, called on Members of Parliament to join him in condemning post office closure plans and to support the party’s campaign to save threatened rural post offices in Wales.

Also this week Plaid launched their online petition opposing sub post office closures: The petition will be presented to the DTI.

Although post offices are in the private sector they do provide a vital public service, especially in rural areas where they often double up as the only retail outlet for miles.

In taking away vital income streams such as television licence and the processing of benefits and pension entitlement, the Government has made it practically impossible for sub postmasters and mistresses to earn a living and is forcing them to close their businesses.

It is Plaid’s priority to put pressure on the DTI to re-allocate contracts and provide adequate funding to sub post offices to expand on the services they offer.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Plaid increases pressure against Post Office closures

Plaid Cymru this week stepped up the campaign to save sub post offices in Wales. In Westminster Plaid MPs called to re-allocate contracts and to provide adequate funding for sub post offices and colleagues in Cardiff Bay put pressure on the Assembly Government to make representations to the UK Government opposing the planned closures.

In an Early Day Motion tabled in Parliament Plaid’s Westminster Leader, Elfyn Llwyd MP, called on Members of Parliament to join him in condemning post office closure plans and to support the party’s campaign to save threatened rural post offices in Wales.

Also this week Plaid launched their online petition opposing sub post office closures: The petition will be presented to the DTI.

Although post offices are in the private sector they do provide a vital public service, especially in rural areas where they often double up as the only retail outlet for miles.

In taking away vital income streams such as television licence and the processing of benefits and pension entitlement, the Government has made it practically impossible for sub postmasters and mistresses to earn a living and is forcing them to close their businesses.

It is Plaid’s priority to put pressure on the DTI to re-allocate contracts and provide adequate funding to sub post offices to expand on the services they offer.

The Economic Case for Welsh Independence

With polls showing 52% of Scots in favour of independence and 58% of people living in England in favour of Scottish independence maybe it is time to think again about the economic scenario should Wales become “independent” of the rest of the UK. I say “independent” because no country is really independent these days and the term tends to conjure up images of complete separation and isolation. The UK, along with all the other countries in the EU, has ceded some of its legal independence to the European Commission and has ceded other rights to the UN. It is also a signatory to a number of international agreements and has binding terms of operation with the G8 group and the World Bank and IMF so not even the UK acts completely “independently” in all it tries to do. By “independent” I simply imply that Wales would be a full member of both the EU and the UN and would negotiate its position in any external concords. But crucially it means that wealth created and taxes raised here in Wales could be spent exclusively in Wales.

Size Does Matter – Small is Good!

It is not the size of a country which determines its success. Eight of the ten richest countries in the world, including all 5 Nordic countries, have populations of less than 10m. Slovenia (pop 2m) is already richer than Wales and Luxembourg (450,000) enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the EU. In Ireland (pop 4m) in the 1960s living standards were two thirds lower than those in Britain, only 20% went to Higher Education and there was mass emigration because of poverty yet by the late 1990s Ireland enjoyed a higher standard of living than Britain because it maximised its potential and optimised its position as a small country. Small countries are more agile and can respond more quickly to global opportunities, small countries are more cohesive, information flows more quickly and they have more of what economists call social and network capital. Small countries can also clearly identify their interests and tend to guard them fiercely. In addition natural resources (though Wales has plenty of these) are no longer essential to a successful economy and distance is no longer a determining factor for profit making (at least in “information” industries).

The Legacy of Direct Rule

The 1536 Act of Union abolished Welsh laws and effectively created a single country of EnglandandWales (Scotland voluntarily joined the Union in a looser sense in 1707). From 1536 until 1999 Wales was basically under “direct rule” from Westminster where its MPs were hopelessly outnumbered when it came to voting on national interests. The Welsh Office was established in 1963 which introduced some decentralisation into Wales but it only administered the decisions already made in Westminster. The 1999 National Assembly for Wales brought about a small element of devolution but only some matters were devolved to Cardiff and the decision-making was confined to secondary legislation.

The net effect of centuries of “remote control” has been a scandalous under-investment in Welsh public services and a woeful neglect of its historic problems including the legacy of the extraction industries. The GVA (gross value added) per capita is now £3000 or 22% less than the UK average and still declining. Wales’ long-term growth from 1972 – 2002 was 16th, i.e. bottom, of the EU countries, with Ireland and Luxembourg, two of the smallest countries at the top and its projected growth to 2013 is the lowest of all the UK regions.

Will Things Ever Get Any Better?

Is it inevitable that Wales will continue indefinitely as the “poor man of Europe”? For the second time in 6 years the Valleys and West Wales have been considered so poor that they have been given Objective One money from Europe to try to lift them from the chronic cycle of unemployment and deprivation. On a crude level it is probably true to say that Wales has 5% of the UK population and generates about 4% but consumes about 6% of its wealth so on the surface it looks as if Wales is relying on “subsidies” from the rest of the UK to keep it afloat but there are a number of assumptions here which need to be challenged.

First it has to be said that while the current situation makes Wales look like a “debtor” nation (and, it should be remembered, most nations, except for China, are) historically Wales has generated vast amounts of wealth for the UK exchequer which have been spent outside Wales. One can only guess at the billions of pounds (on today’s levels) of tax which have been levied in Wales in the past when Coal was King. The first million-pound cheque was signed in the Coal Exchange in Cardiff in 1913 and, had Wales been able to spend the taxes raised here exclusively in Wales, we would have been like present-day Norway – a small country enjoying a very high standard of living on the basis of having natural resources which the whole world wanted.

Secondly, historically and still today, natural resources such as water, electricity and forestry are “exported” to England with no identifiable taxation returning to Wales.

Thirdly, it also has to be said that it doesn’t matter how much “subsidy” Wales appears to receive from the rest of the UK no amount of money will ever, ever compensate for the tragic and avoidable loss of innocent life on 21 October 1966 when 114 children and 28 adults were engulfed in a tide of coal waste in Aberfan.

Coming to the present, however, it is not inevitable that there be a perceived gap between what Wales puts into and what it gets out of the UK.

First, the government itself admits that there are “no meaningful statistics” about the tax collected in Wales apart from personal income tax – nobody has any idea how much corporate tax, VAT or other taxes such as vehicle licence is raised in Wales because it all goes to London before it is redistributed to Wales. Better figures exist for Scotland but even there it has recently been calculated that Scotland was in “credit” to the UK by £300m last year. This is particularly interesting as Scotland receives public spending per person of £7346 each year compared with Wales’ £6901, England’s £5940 and a massive £7945 for N Ireland. Wales is quite possibly “richer” than the figures on personal wages and income tax suggest.

Secondly, it should be possible for Wales to increase its wealth by following Ireland’s example in its economic miracle and cutting corporation tax. This would attract firms and compensate somewhat for the physical remoteness of Wales from major markets and generate more corporation tax, jobs and, hence, income tax. An independent Wales would also probably join the Eurozone (as Ireland) which would give a further impetus to businesses.

Thirdly, Welsh tax payers’ money is currently being used to “subsidise” UK projects which Wales really has no interest in. Wales has no need of nuclear power and the Assembly has voted against any new power stations (though is powerless to stop them being build in Wales because the decision rests with Westminster). The UK government, however, is setting aside £75bn for decommission costs for the new generation of stations of which Wales’ share is nearly £4bn. It is inconceivable that an independent Wales would want to share in the new Trident nuclear deterrent so we would receive £1.75bn back from that. An independent Wales would probably also baulk at having to contribute 5% of the £32bn the UK spends on defence each year. The UK government is currently paying £161bn for PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schemes, almost all of which are in England. Wales should receive a rebate of £8bn. Given that the Welsh Assembly receives only £14bn from the UK in the first place this already amounts to virtually a year’s budget and some of it would recur each year.

Fourthly, it is true to say that the UK government does spend money in Wales of course. The DVLA in Swansea organises the collection of car tax for the whole country and there are UK armed forces stationed and training in Wales. The Patent Office for the UK is based in Newport and the government may shortly be sending a lot of jobs to St Athan – its biggest investment ever in Wales. Historically, though, the government has invested nothing like the money Wales should have received according to its population or its “need”. In Defence, for example, 85% of government money is spent in the south-east region of England.

“Wales Can’t Survive Outside The UK”

Of course nobody knows whether Wales would prosper economically as an independent country or wither on the vine but there is not one of England’s former colonies from the USA to India or Hong Kong which is banging on the door and begging to be ruled once again by the mandarins in Westminster. Wales has enough expertise to succeed and is just the right size to carve out a number of “niche” markets for itself. Even coal, of which there are millions of tons left to be extracted, could once again become a source of wealth for Wales with the development of “clean coal” power generation. Wealth could be increased and need could be decreased as the ill health legacy of heavy industries wanes and the workforce becomes better educated as Wales' curriculum and assessment policies are currently almost entirely dictated by Westminster.

Ymlaen at Cymru Newydd!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Plaid promises a laptop to every new secondary school pupil

Every child entering secondary school will receive a laptop if Plaid Cymru wins the National Assembly elections on 3 May – a promise which has been welcomed by teachers, parents, union leaders and, of course, pupils throughout Wales.

As a teacher myself I am acutely aware that pupils from poorer backgrounds do not have the same resources for learning as other pupils. This scheme will at least even out some of the disparity and help all pupils to gain access to the internet and to present their work in a more professional manner. I am especially pleased that the deal includes upgrades and repairs for as long as the pupil is in school so the price tag of £10m per year seems very reasonable indeed.

Plaid’s laptop for pupils scheme will not be available to pupils in private schools.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Where would we be without England?!

Lord Falconer's "Where would you be without England?" speech displays the sort of brazen arrogance and nauseating patronage we have sadly come to expect from those who look down on us Welsh from their lofty Anglo-British pedestals.
Without a doubt it is England which has gained most from the institution of the United Kingdom. We can only guess at what Wales would have become had the billions of pounds (by today's standards) of corporate and income tax raised in Wales from the coal extraction industry alone been spent exclusively in Wales. At the very least we would have been like modern-day Norway, a small country with one of the highest standards of living in the world because the rest of the world wanted what we had in abundance. And one can only guess at the standards of education we would have reached had the majority of our pupils not been taught in what was effectively a foreign language after 1847.
Wales is in the state it is today - most of it muddling along at 75% of UK average wealth - not by some inexpicable quirk of fate but because of generations of exploitation and mismanagement by "absentee landlords" in the shape of Westminster governments who have used the wealth generated from Wales for a grand "British" experiment. I don't hear any of its former colonies from the USA through to Ireland, India or Hong Kong clamouring to be ruled again by the UK.
The concept that Wales is somehow permanently dependent on the UK derives from an outdated notion of what the UK is for. If it is to be a Union for the 21st century it should be a union of equals not, as now, where one country dominates and exploits the others politically and economically. Wales has nothing to prove. It was grown up as a political state when England was still running around in short trousers and would benefit from much looser rather than closer ties with the UK