Monthly Archives: Ionawr 2012

Burn Baby Burn!

No, not disco inferno, but certainly a hellish scenario.

The fact that we’re running out of landfill space in Wales should come as no surprise to any of us. For years we’ve been spending too much, often on credit, buying useless junk that until recently would have ended up being tossed in the black bag – out of sight, out of mind.

Things have improved a lot in Wales. In 2001, we recycled (and composted) 7% of waste and by September 2011 we were recycling 46% (45% for the Vale of Glamorgan). But that means that 55% of our waste is still ending up in our black bags. Residents of Penarth, we should be ashamed of ourselves!

Hence the Vale of Glamorgan Council is one of five local authorities in south Wales that have teamed up to finance and operate ‘Prosiect Gwyrdd‘ – a project to find a long-term solution to the problem of our waste mountain. The project is ‘technology neutral’, and apparently considered all the bids on their merits. But when the shortlist of four was unveiled in December 2010, the only options under consideration were incinerators.

I’m no fan of landfill, but it seems to me that there must be better options for dealing with our waste than chucking it into a furnace. Burning loads of plastic and nappies and dog mess isn’t going to make Wales smell any better, and it’s probably not going to be a great homeopathic remedy for Uncle Gwyn’s emphysema.

But as it turns out, there IS a better option. Just across the Severn there’s a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant that’s alive and kicking, and delivering surprisingly good results. Ok, so they’re still burning plastic film (10% of the waste), and about 20% of it ends up in landfill. But there are all sorts of interesting products, including a ‘compost-like output’, ‘refuse derived fuel’ and lots more recycling. What’s more, this project has been delivered on a 9 year contract.

Whoa! Did someone say 9 years?

So why is it that Prosiect Gwyrdd is looking at a 25 year contract? (for those who are interested, it’s tucked away in points 7.9.1 and 10.5.1 of this document). 25 years ago the word recycle didn’t even exist! What do the far-sighted officials at Prosiect Gwyrdd imagine we’ll be doing with our waste in 25 years’ time? Still chucking 55% of it in the trusty black liner? And if this incinerator proposal is anything like some of the others, there’s likely to be a guarantee from the local authorities that we’ll send no less than a certain tonnage of waste to the bonfire of the vanities (a ‘fresh air’ clause) that could see the residents of Penarth paying for an incinerator to sit idle, just like the long-suffering taxpayers of Stoke-on-Trent. That doesn’t sound like value-for-money to me. Where’s the political oversight of these asinine decisions?

Prosiect Gwyrdd came into existence in 2006. All five local authorities wished it into being. And decisions backing the project have been taken time and time again at the Vale of Glamorgan council (Scrutiny 17 July 2007, Cabinet 25 July 2007,  Cabinet 17 December 2008, Scrutiny 27 May 2009, Cabinet 3 June 2009 and Full Council 30 June 2009). This means that it’s a political decision that can be reversed.

So let’s have a look at every Penarth councillor who’s been backing an incinerator for south Wales so we know who not to vote for in May.

Ex- Penarth councillor Nigel Gibbs (Cornerswell, Labour) and current councillors Janice Birch (Stanwell, Labour), Paul Church (St Augustine’s, Conservative), Anthony Ernest (Sully, Conservative), John Fraser (Cornerswell, Conservative), Maureen Kelly-Owen (Plymouth, Conservative), Colin Osborne (Llandough, Conservative), Sarah Sharpe (Sully, Conservative), Dorothy Turner (Cornerswell, Conservative), Clive Williams (Plymouth, Conservative), Sophie Williams (St Augustine’s, Conservative) and Mark Wilson (Stanwell, Labour) make up the sorry contingent. Sadly, as you will probably have worked out, this is in fact the full roll-call of Penarth councillors (including Sully and Llandough).

I’m starting to get an idea now for a very interesting post in April. It’s going to look at all the candidates desperate to serve the residents of Penarth ‘year round, not just at election time’ and give jolly good reasons why certain ones shouldn’t be sent back to Barry Docks. And for those of you who’ve been gaily sending us down the waste road to perdition, you can be fairly certain you’re not on my Christmas card list.

By the way, if you can document an error in my analysis of the situation then please let me know: penartharbyd[at]gmail.com]. I will happily correct any errors.

7 Sylw

Filed under Elections, Recycling, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Waste

Penarth and Cardiff Central

Minor modifications aside (apologies to the residents of Sully), Cardiff South and Penarth has been the relatively unchanged Westminster preserve of Alun Michael and Jim Callaghan before him since 1983. No longer. If the draft changes to Westminster constituencies are approved in October 2013, Penarth will be saying ‘hwyl fawr’ to Splott and Trowbridge, and ‘shwmae’ to Cathays and Gabalfa.

What does this mean for representation of Penarth’s citizens at Westminster?

The answer would appear to be ‘not a lot’. The electorate of Cardiff South and Penarth was already the biggest in Wales, at 73,690 and the proposed electorate will be 76,346, so our relative representation is reduced by about 3.5% (spare a thought for the electors of Arfon whose representation has been reduced by 45%).

Who would our representative be? Well, probably not Alun Michael. He’s confident of getting the nod to be Labour’s Police Commissioner for South Wales and will be stepping down as an MP. That coincidentally means a by-election for the shortest-serving Cardiff South and Penarth MP in history. I won’t be shedding many tears over Alun’s departure. His awful performance as First Secretary to the National Assembly for Wales along with his ‘strong support’ for the Iraq war and for renewing the UK’s nuclear arsenal are a matter of public record (I guess it’s easy to be generous with other people’s money when you’re on an MP’s salary). I just hope that the general contempt in which he appears to be held in Penarth is replicated throughout south Wales and he fails to get the £85,000 top job at South Wales Police. I know of die-hard Labour supporters who either abstain or vote Labour with a peg on their nose and with gritted teeth because of Alun Michael.

I’ll leave the analysis to the psephologists, but it seems unlikely that the Liberal Democrats will muster much support in Penarth given their total absence from the town’s politics (yes, I know, “fighting for Penarth residents year-round, not just at election time”). The Conservatives are unlikely to take this seat in the next millennium and Plaid have done a decent job of subsidising the Electoral Commission through fairly consistently surrendering their deposit in Cardiff South and Penarth and Cardiff Central. That means a fairly safe Labour seat for the rest of the 21st century, or until Wales become independent, whichever comes sooner.

The biggest shame is that our under-representation in the Senedd isn’t being rectified (80 AMs would be a good start). Per million people, Wales has 20AMs – there are 25 MSPs per million Scottish people and 60 MLAs per million people in Northern Ireland. Can we seriously expect our AMs to make cogent contributions to important Committee meetings when they’re appointed to up to three Committees?

So for the record, I’m delighted that these reductions in MPs are taking place. Welsh MPs – over-represented in any case – pass most of their casework onto their Assembly counterparts. Just how certain politicians are crying ‘foul’ is beyond me. A few less piggy snouts in the Westminster trough will do us all a power of good.

Finally, I’m going to respond to the consultation with the simple comment that our constituency be renamed “Penarth and Cardiff Central”, and I would urge all you loyal readers to do likewise. Why we should play second fiddle to a portion of Cardiff is beyond me. If it’s good enough for Gower (and Swansea West) and Caerphillly (and Cardiff North) then it’s good enough for Penarth.

13 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Elections