Monthly Archives: Ebrill 2012

Your Local Party

Is it just me or are there just two wards where there is anything approaching political activity in Penarth? I know I forecast easy wins in certain wards, but surely these elections should be worthy of at least one pamphlet per ward? If you’ve been deluged with activity in, say, Plymouth ward, scan me the copies and I’ll do my best to review. Time’s running short though!

It’s no surprise that the two ‘active’ wards are St. Augustine’s and Cornerswell, since these are the only wards where the election will result in a changing of the guard. What has come as a surprise is that the only electoral information that’s made its way to me from Cornerswell has come from Plaid Cymru. I’m assuming that the Labour candidates do actually want to win this ward and have been knocking on doors with leaflets. It’s a shame that they haven’t followed Lis Burnett’s lead in sending me their copy. No free publicity for Rhiannon Birch and Peter King then – but that’s their loss. And has anyone received Conservative leaflets through the door? They’re the incumbents after all – or have they effectively conceded defeat in this contest?

I’m making an assumption here, which is that anyone who sends me copy is actually printing and distributing it. After all, this isn’t just a publicity zone for political parties. If anyone thinks I’m being taken for a ride please do get in touch: penartharbyd[a]

On to the latest Plaid leaflet then (that’s Plaid Cymru, Plaid Cornerswell and Plaid Cymru Penarth).

It seems that the Plaid Cornerswell candidates are switched on to local media channels. Apparently there’s an independent community website that ranked the Conservative incumbents Dorothy Turner and John Fraser just 1/10, and described them as ‘elect at your peril’. I bet that site is well worth a read. However I don’t think the conflation of the local councillors with a Leader of a different council works. I see what they’re trying to do – fling mud at the Labour parties generally and hope it sticks to the local candidates – but it’s a step too far removed to gain traction.

The three pledges on this leaflet mirror the three in Osian Lewis and Luke James’ previous version – namely, freezing council tax, affordable housing and support for business. That’s good for consistency and credibility, and all of them are (somewhat or entirely) local issues. Osian and Luke are keen to raid the council’s reserves to pay for a freeze on council tax. Mind you, Plaid is only following the lead from another party that’s been playing fast and loose with reserves.

I’m not sure exactly what’s on offer in terms of support for local businesses other than fighting for “more grants and loans”. That may be because actually there’s rather little that local authorities can do in the way of supporting local businesses. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, by the way. It seems to suggest that this manifesto pledge hasn’t really been thought through, and has been put in to make it look like Plaid’s on the side of business.

But I’m delighted to see that Osian and Luke have settled on a 50% affordable housing criterion for new developments. This is absolutely within the remit of local authorities. It’s not like Penarth has a chronic deficit of ultra-expensive housing, so a few more developments for people with less in their pockets than the captains of industry would be very welcome.

I’m also impressed by the quote that they’ve squeezed out from new party leader Leanne Wood (even if her grammar isn’t up to scratch). This is the kind of thing that takes a bit of effort to achieve, but gives the appearance of both a leader who has time for local candidates (and by extension, Penarth), and candidates who are influential enough to avail of their party leader’s time.

In terms of layout, I think these guys have cracked it. A nice mix of text and images, the fold-up section that means the householder can put the pamphlet in their window to show support, pleasing off-set of the green sections, consistent branding with the logo, and I’m a sucker for those bright quotation marks. They’ve even mastered the art of making a photo cut-out. Bravo!

I’m assuming that this leaflet is bilingual based on these candidates’ track record. The other parties could take a few tips from Osian and Luke.

Layout 10/10, Content 7/10.

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Filed under Democracy, Elections, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Committed to St. Augustine’s

Some political parties are really getting into the swing of sending me their election addresses. So thanks to Lis Burnett for sending through a Labour election leaflet for St. Augustine’s. The only parties not in on the fun now are Conservatives, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP. And I’m assuming that the Lib Dems and UKIP don’t actually have leaflets, and that the Green candidate has done enough already. So what have the Conservatives got to hide?

The latest offering comes from your Local Labour Team, from Labour/Llafur and Co-operative (I’ve yet to find out what the purpose of the Co-operative ‘Party’ is), the Labour Party, St. Augustine’s Labour and Penarth Labour. They seem to be taking the scattergun approach – use enough names and one of them will resonate with someone.

Someone they presumably weren’t hoping on eliciting resonance with might be the Electoral Commission. However, that’s exactly who would be most interested in noting the absence of ‘Printed by…’ on this leaflet, which is a legal requirement of all electoral material. Of course, we’re only seeing the proof version here; hopefully by the time it was printed, that detail was rectified.

Time to look at the content. Gwyn and Lis claim that their pledges “already demonstrate our commitment to local residents”. Actually, pledges do nothing of the sort – they’re a type of mini-manifesto on which the performance of elected politicians can be judged. But commitment to local residents is one thing that is likely to keep politicians in office – and I don’t mean to be cruel, but Lis was ousted in 2008.

Their pledges are now down to three, from the heady days of April 2012 when they had 12. A strong voice for St. Augustine’s, those celebrated Grime Fighters and re-introducing traffic wardens. Lis and Gwyn know that I have a much simpler suggestion to deal with the ‘problem of parking in Penarth’ which would actually raise revenue for the council. Hopefully traffic wardens as the solution to parking issues isn’t something they’ll be dogmatic about just because it’s one of their pledges, should they receive the blessing of the electorate next week.

I like the candidates’ approach to public services, with a commitment that residents be able to speak at scrutiny and planning meetings and some Cabinet meetings held in the evenings. I’m intrigued as to how much influence a Youth Mayor would have – and is this for Penarth or the Vale as a whole?

Lis is apparently Chair of the “welsh coalition for Social Enterprise”. I’ve looked around and can find no such organisation, but I have uncovered the Welsh Social Enterprise Coalition, of which Lis was recently voted Chair. It seems peculiar that someone with long involvement in this organisation – including becoming its Chair – hasn’t taken the time to verify its name.

I’m glad Lis and Gwyn have been ‘campaigning for the developent of community facilities’. Perhaps they can campaign for spellcheck on their computers next. But both these candidates have strong local connections, and there’s a nice, clear section detailing the myriad of ways in which they can be contacted.

Lis and Gwyn claim to have campaigned in favour of Pont-y-Werin, renovation of the Pier Pavilion and St. Paul’s Church, but it’s not a matter of public record so we have to take their word for it. One thing they are keen on, as with so many other candidates, is fighting. Whether it’s planning proposals, neglect, or just lack of a voice, they’re certainly in bellicose mood.

And talking of bellicose, I hear rumours that other candidates are a bit put out by the things Lis and Gwyn claim to have ‘delivered’. I have some sympathy with this – after all, it’s fine to say that you’ve campaigned in favour of these things, but it could be stretching things to claim ownership of delivery. Decisions on St. Paul’s Church, for example, were taken on 28 April 2010 and 29 February 2012 by the Vale Council (although Mark Wilson in on record as having raised St. Paul’s). ‘Gained agreement from Vale colleagues’ on the Pier Pavilion? Decisions were taken on this topic on 19 January 2011 and 20 July 2011 by Cabinet, which was necessarily comprised solely of Conservative Members. And ‘delivered Pont-y-Werin’? I’m not convinced that having Lis and Gwyn fighting was the crucial factor in delivery.

On design, this leaflet is, on the whole, well designed and attractive. They still haven’t taken note of the recommendations I made last time – such as the use of ‘sans serif’ font, making sure the font is consistent across the publication, evening out the spacing between lines… and sadly, the Welsh language is once more airbrushed from existence. Indeed, they even go as far as adding the unnecessary and cumbersome ‘Bridge’ after Pont-y-Werin. Note for people unable to speak Welsh, French, Catalan, or Latin: Pont means bridge.

Layout 8/10, Content 2/10

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Filed under Co-operative Party, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Local Action

What a thrill to receive the latest election missive (with thanks, via blog subscriber MD this time) from the Conservative candidates in St. Augustine’s ward. Incumbent Councillors Paul Church and Sophie Williams must certainly have the ear of someone special because in these times of financial hardship they haven’t had to scrimp on a full-colour A3 publication.

It’s good to know that our priorities are their priorities. Like increasing and ‘simplifying’ recycling (by fair means or foul), encouraging biodiversity and promoting sustainability and of course those strong enforcement measures for dog fouling (zero prosecutions or penalty notices for the last two years, and three in total for the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan in the four years since the Conservatives took office). Paul, Sophie, you’re better off not even mentioning topics about which you have to lie. Sooner or later, you’ll get found out.

This ‘priority’ section is a bit wishy-washy for me. I confess that I like the sound of improving the standards of school buildings, ensuring that every child in our county is safe and supported, and seeking further investment in all of our towns. But then show me the candidate in these elections that wants to drive down the standards of school buildings, put children into harm’s way and let our communities degrade. In fact, out of 17 priorities, the only one that’s partially identifiable as a Conservative idea (shared with their Liberal Democrat UK Government colleagues) is to publish the Council’s transactions above £500 online.

There’s a ‘promise’ of more action overleaf. Paul and Sophie have noticed the heralded demise of St. Augustine’s ward and are setting out their stall early for Penarth North, with the claim that the Vale has spent £15M on improvements to this area over the past four years. Presumably the bulk of this is via the renewal area – which resulted in expenditure of £15M, but over the ten years of the scheme, not just the four for which Paul and Sophie could conceivably take credit. And I can’t help noticing that the Welsh Government “provides local authorities with grants for housing renewal areas“. So how much of this £15M is the result of our councillors’ graft, and how much fell into their laps as a result of whichever administration secured the renewal area status in 2000? More importantly, is their claim that the “Conservative Council has spent £15M on improvements to north Penarth” true or false?

There are lots of stories on this page from elsewhere in the Vale, with Llantwit Major, Cowbridge, Barry Island and Barry all in the mix. But we’re also treated to a picture of the Pier Pavilion (at least they get the name right) and the news that they’ve invested £1M in this project, alongside £200,000 in Windsor Gardens.

They’re keen to highlight council tax. Just for the record, here’s the details of past council tax banding. Regrettably, the Vale’s institutional memory only goes back to 2006/07 (so much for transparency eh!), so I have no way of verifying that the Conservative administration has kept council tax increases low by historical standards. Ok, so the average percentage increase for the past four years at 3.4% is less than the last two years of the previous administration, at 4.8%. But it’s not entirely fair to compare four years with two, so we’re left guessing.

Also, given that increases last year and this year are less than the rate of inflation, things must be getting tight. To make the sums add up there might be some pretty serious ‘efficiency savings’ going on, or they’re raiding the reserves, or services are being cut. It could be a combination of the three. Certainly we’re given bald evidence of pillaging the reserves by £12.7M in their own information leaflet, and we know that financial pressure contributed to the Vale’s short-sighted move to an illegal system of recycling collection. According to their Labour opponents, social services spending is ‘out of control’, and certainly a £3.6M overspend in one financial year seems worthy of this description.

Finally, there’s a personal message to their constituents from Paul and Sophie. They claim to have kept their promises to the burghers of St. Augustine’s over the past four years. Unfortunately we haven’t got the historical record to see what they actually promised back in 2008. But given that in all three election messages we’ve had from the incumbents a quick scan seems to have unveiled a grand total of zero promises for the next term, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they had delivered on all their promises. After all, 100% of zero is, well, 100% (or is it zero…?!).

On the layout, it looks suspiciously like Paul Church has been dragged around this community over the course of 2 hours in one day. Or maybe he always wears the same blue tie, white shirt, cream jacket and black trousers. Perhaps the vacant expression is a result of his being in unfamiliar surroundings. Or perhaps he’s just coming to terms with the likelihood of not being re-elected, and losing the £28,780 annual income that comes with being a Cabinet Member (in addition to his £13,175 councillor’s salary – a grand total of £41,955 and just outside the higher rate of income tax). Sophie at least creates the impression of being out and about, or maybe she’s wiser and has the odd change of clothes out of shot. But overall the layout is professional and attractive. There’s a good proportion of text to images (even if several of the images under ‘local issues’ appear to be from places other than St. Augustine’s).

You know I’m picky and striving for perfection, so here are my comments for improvement of layout. Under ‘your priorities’, there’s no need to change the colour of the font on numbers 2 and 4. And under ‘a record of action’,  left-aligned typesetting would work better than justified, which in these short lines creates too much spacing between and within words. There’s also too much spacing between the lines in this section.

As we’ve come to expect from the Vale Conservatives, the Welsh language is a non-existent irrelevance. Ironically, although they concede that there is “growing demand” for Welsh language investment in the western Vale, it’s not worth the Conservatives using. And just look at all the resources they’re pouring into supporting this growing demand. One portacabin, at the looks of things. Meanwhile, they’re itching to get on with a “major refurbishment” of Llantwit Major (English Medium) Comprehensive, having just spent £21.5M on Cowbridge (English Medium) Comprehensive. Go figure.

Paul and Sophie are incredibly wide-reaching in their vision of ‘our community’. Given that “when local Conservatives win our whole community wins”, their winning community used to stretch at least as far as Derby. Happily, after the fiasco of their last publication, this publication was printed by Barry Advertiser Limited – a company I specifically highlighted in this post as losing out from their generosity to our brethren across the border. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Vale Conservatives exporting Welsh jobs to the English Midlands.

Layout 9/10, Content 2/10.

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Predictions for 3 May 2012

Well, there are just two weeks to go until the election, so it’s about time for my predictions for who’ll be popping the champagne corks on the morning of 4 May.

I’m basing my predictions on a combination of recent polling at the UK level and the most recent poll that includes Plaid Cymru as a separate entity. I’m looking at what happened in Penarth last time as compared to the 2004 results – in particular, what effect the poll ratings at that time might have had on the results, and forecasting a similar equivalent effect this time.

So at the UK level, in 2004, the average of three polls gave Conservatives 32%, Labour 34.3%, Lib Dem 20.3% and Other 13.3% – a Labour lead of 2.3%. In 2008, the average of four polls put the Conservatives on 40%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 20% and Other 11% – a 10% lead for the Conservatives.

For 2012, the BBC’s poll of polls indicates that as of 10 April, the Labour lead over the Conservatives in the UK was 9% (42% to 33%). The Lib Dem share of the vote has shrunk to 8% in total. The most recent all-Wales poll indicates that Labour have 47%, Conservatives 20%, Plaid 16% and Lib Dems 7%.

So back to the results. The fascinating thing is that on first glance there’s no consistent pattern across the wards. A 10% Conservative lead over Labour before the 2008 elections translated to the following:

  • Cornerswell – Labour vote decreased by 3%, Conservative vote increased by 29%
  • Plymouth – Labour vote decreased by 15%, Conservative vote increased by 3%
  • St. Augustine’s – Labour vote increased by 2%, Conservative vote increased by 39%, Plaid vote decreased by 8%
  • Stanwell – Labour vote decreased by 1%, Conservative vote increased by 30%, Lib Dem vote decreased by 28%
  • Sully – Labour vote decreased by 31%, Conservative vote increased by 20%, Independent vote decreased by 31%, Plaid vote increased by 63% (from a very low base)

So with a Conservative opinion poll lead of 10%, the Labour vote held up in highly contested wards but collapsed in Sully and Plymouth (wards where Labour stands no chance even in a good year). Meanwhile, the Conservative vote barely increased in the shoe-in ward of Plymouth but increased by 29% or more in the competitive wards of Cornerswell, St. Augustine’s and Stanwell. Incidentally, this seems to be decent evidence in favour of adopting the alternative vote system for local elections (as they have in Scotland).

So what does that mean for our hopefuls on 3 May? Broadly, I’m expecting the reverse of last election, with a slightly increased Labour vote (considerably higher in Sully and Plymouth) and a substantial decline in the Conservative vote, with one exception in St. Augustine’s where Sophie Williams’ vote will  remain high enough to grab one of the two seats on offer. Plaid’s share of the vote will increase across most wards, but particularly where the historic vote has been low. It’s going to be a miserable night for the Liberal Democrat hopefuls; both of them will record fewer votes than the Green candidate.

  • Cornerswell will elect two Labour councillors, Rhiannon Birch and Peter King, despite whispers of an energetic Plaid campaign. Turfing out John Fraser and Dorothy Turner will be a very welcome result for the people of Cogan.
  • Plymouth will keep its two Conservative councillors forever. Councillors Maureen Kelly Owen and Clive Williams will retain their seats until they drop.
  • St. Augustine’s is the most interesting ward of the lot. It’s got a history of electing candidates from different parties, and that’s going to happen again in 2012. It’s going to be the first ward in living memory to have two women councillors as Councillor Sophie Williams is returned alongside Lis Burnett.
  • Stanwell will keep its current Labour Councillors Janice Birch and Mark Wilson. Presumably life will be interesting in the Birch household since Rhiannon lives at the same address as Mark Wilson.
  • Sully will also keep its incumbent councillors, Conservatives Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe.

Penarth/Sully will end up with an even split of councillors, 5 apiece for the Conservatives and Labour, which brings us back to the same result as for 2004.  Regardless of what happens elsewhere (and seats will almost certainly change hands in Barry), this result alone means that the Conservative-run administration in the Vale will come to an end on 4 May. We’re looking at a coalition running the Vale of Glamorgan for the next five years.

It’s also the end for our Penarth wards which will dissolve in 2017 when the recommendations of the Local Government Boundary Commission come into effect. We’ll end up with the 4-member super-ward of Penarth South (Plymouth plus Stanwell) and the 5-member Penarth North (Cornerswell, Llandough and St. Augustine’s). Sully will remain stand-alone with two members.

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Welsh People are Staggeringly Incompetent

Many thanks to blog subscriber ST for sending me page 1 of ‘the Observer’ – the Conservative election pamphlet covering Dinas Powys, Llandough and Penarth. And before you go scrabbling through your recycling, ‘Welsh People are Staggeringly Incompetent’ wasn’t the title of one of their articles, it’s just a conclusion I came to from reading it. [Apparently there are 3 other pages – if anyone can find a way to scan the remaining pages I’d be delighted to provide a full review of the content and layout – perhaps the Conservatives themselves could follow Plaid’s lead?]

Something I saw in the leaflet gave me oblique cause to think about Secretaries of State for Wales. Stay with me everyone! – this post is going to take you somewhere quite logically.

Since the post of Secretary of State for Wales was created in 1964, we’ve had 18 Governors-General for Wales. Actually, that’s not strictly true, because Peter Hain, Paul Murphy and David Hunt have sat in Gwydyr House twice apiece (David Hunt for a grand total of 10 days second time around). But you get the gist. So let’s have a look at the constituencies represented by these 15 politicians during their appointments as SoS Wales:

  • 1964-1966 Jim Griffiths (Labour) – Llanelli
  • 1966-1968 Cledwyn Hughes (Labour) – Ynys Môn
  • 1968-1970 George Thomas (Labour) – Cardiff West
  • 1970-1974 Peter Thomas (Conservative) – Hendon South
  • 1974-1979 John Morris (Labour) – Aberavon
  • 1979-1987 Nicholas Edwards (Conservative) – Pembrokeshire
  • 1987-1990 Peter Walker (Conservative) – Worcester
  • 1990-1993 and 1995 David Hunt (Conservative) – Wirral West
  • 1993-1995 John Redwood (Conservative) – Wokingham
  • 1995-1997 William Hague (Conservative) – Richmond (Yorks.)
  • 1997-1998 Ron Davies (Labour) – Caerphilly
  • 1998-1999 Alun Michael (Labour) – Cardiff South and Penarth
  • 1999-2002 and 2008-2009 Paul Murphy (Labour) Torfaen
  • 2002-2008 and 2009-2010 Peter Hain (Labour) Neath
  • 2010-present Cheryl Gillan (Conservative) Chesham and Amersham

I’m sure the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that there’s a common factor here. All the Labour Secretaries of State represented Welsh constituencies. Six of the seven Conservatives to have held the post (Nicholas Edwards being the honourable exception) have represented English constituencies. Is it just me or could there be more to this than coincidence? Is there something in the Conservative mind that makes them think that Welsh representatives don’t know what’s best for Wales? Or, put another way, that English representatives know better? Perhaps they genuinely believe that Welsh people are too incompetent for this role.

So just how does all this tie in to the DP, Ll & P Observer?

If you look at the very small print close to the bottom of page 1 you’ll see that it’s printed by Harmsworth Printing, Meadow Rd, Derby. You’ll note that Harmsworth Printing is one of those struggling small local businesses that the Conservatives are so keen to support (£184M turnover in 2009). Its principal business is printing the Daily Mail.

It’s more than a tiny bit ironic that Cllrs. Paul Church and Sophie Williams say that they’re “keen to make sure… we secure the very best for you, for St. Augustine’s ward and for Penarth”. Hands up who thinks Penarth’s needs are best served by printing off thousands of sheets of election propaganda 170 miles away (in England) and trucking them in? And how about their pledge that “we always ensure that value for money where the public purse is concerned is a priority”? If this is their approach to their own party’s finances, I’m not sure they’re best qualified to be running our council. [I’d be delighted to receive election communication from other candidates, regardless of political affiliation, to hold our candidates to account – you can send your scanned copies to penartharbyd[a]].

Could it be that there’s not a single printer in the whole of Wales that’s not up to the job of running off a few thousand copies of a 4-pager? Try telling that to these guys.

Or could it be that the Conservatives in Penarth, like their colleagues at the head of the party, consider Welsh people simply too incompetent to deal with such a tricky job.

You decide.

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections

Scores on the Doors

The time has come, ladies and gentlemen, to award marks out of ten for our current crop of councillors. They’re all bidding for your votes for re-election, so this post is particularly important. And once they’re in, they won’t be going anywhere for 5 years. I won’t be commenting on other candidates because there’s a consistent track record of performance that the incumbents have revealed over time that will help voters decide whether or not they deserve the blessing of re-election.

In the spirit of transparency and open-ness, I’m going to lay out in full my scoring criteria.

Initially I’ll award each councillor a score of 5/10. There you go, who said I’m not the generous type? I think it’s fair to give our councillors the benefit of the doubt, too, because most of them go into this politics lark with the genuine intention of making life better for the residents they serve. Perhaps some of them have been in the game too long or have lost track of those worthy aspirations they once had. But let’s save judgement for later.

Communication has always been important in democracy. It’s as true today as it was back then. The ability to get in touch with our elected representatives is important for the electorate – even if we don’t take our politicians up on the offer of making contact. That’s why I find it especially galling that Cllr. Clive Williams has no means of email contact. How does he think people communicate in this day and age? Carrier pigeon? Or is it some evil plot of the Vale of Glamorgan webmaster to discredit him by refusing him – and only him – a VoG email account? Compare his page with that of Cllr. Anthony Ernest who has not one but three twitter accounts for us to follow. Not that the communications officers at the council will be too pleased with him for having taken the ‘@ValeofGlamorgan‘ twitter account, but perhaps they should have been a bit quicker off the mark. And Cllr. Ernest is living proof that twitter is a valuable way of communicating with your constituents whether you’re 18 or 80.

So it’s minus one point for Cllr. Clive Williams who hasn’t moved on from the stone age. And it’s plus one mark for Cllr. Ernest and Cllr. Sophie Williams (who also has an active twitter account @CllrSJCWilliams). If any of our other esteemed representatives has an active twitter account, do let me know for that extra point (and signing up tomorrow doesn’t count!).

Well as far as I can tell, our good councillors haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory over the past while, so I’m afraid that’s it for the bonus points. It’s downhill from here on in. But who’s got furthest to fall?

I’ll subtract one point from any councillor who’s been eagerly pushing through a project to incinerate the black bags from everyone’s houses that will see us all paying increased council tax for the next 25 years, and who cut off any chance of escaping from the decision by signing us up to as much as £3,000,000 in expenses if we pull out from the agreement.

I’ll knock off a point from anyone who voted in favour of one of the most incomprehensible decisions in Vale history to change our recycling system from one that achieves the best environmental outcomes at least cost to one that is illegal under European environmental law and that will have to be reversed to our old system in a few months.

I’m definitely removing a point from those councillors who have blindly let officials pull the wool over their eyes – and opened the council up to a European legal challenge and massive fines – by consistently allowing unlawful pollution loadings for the undeserving residents of Cogan. But on this subject I’ll save my most severe opprobrium for the incumbent Cornerswell councillors. What an unconscionable dereliction of your democratic duty to defend your constituents. I suppose it’s difficult for someone living with the fresh Bristol Channel breeze on their face to empathise with people choking on car fumes. Shame on the pair of you – and the gall of seeking re-election! I hope the hundreds of people reading this blog include large numbers registered in Cornerswell ward. So it’s an additional minus point from these two.

For those of you struggling with your abacus, I’ve done the maths myself. Drumroll, please:

With a fabulous 4 points – Cllr. Sophie Williams (St. Augustine’s, Conservative)

A thrilling 3 points – Cllrs. Janice Birch (Stanwell, Labour) and Anthony Ernest (Sully, Conservative)

A tortuous 2 points – Cllrs. Paul Church (St. Augustine’s, Conservative), Maureen Kelly-Owen (Plymouth, Conservative), Sarah Sharpe (Sully, Conservative), Clive Williams (Plymouth, Conservative) and Mark Wilson (Stanwell, Labour)

An ‘elect at your peril’ 1 pointJohn Fraser (Cornerswell, Conservative) and Dorothy Turner (Cornerswell, Conservative)

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Vale of Glamorgan Council

New Voices for Penarth

Many thanks to Plaid Cymru Cornerswell for biting the bullet and sending me their election literature direct. If other parties would follow their lead we’d soon have a comprehensive library of leaflets.

Osian Lewis and Luke James are the young Plaid hopefuls for Cornerswell ward, and their short biographies certainly reveal them to be local lads. The pledges are simple enough and for the first time we see genuine recognition of a bilingual Wales with full parity for both languages. Conservatives, Greens and Labour, take note.

A fully bilingual offer means that you need to be a bit cleverer about your use of space if you want to make sure the electorate is getting the information it needs. You might want to look at the Conservatives’ latest offer to see one way of getting more information into a space-constricted leaflet (not that theirs is perfect or the only way).

So while the council tax freeze is fairly self-explanatory, we’ve got no real idea how Osian and Luke will make sure there’s enough affordable housing for young people locally. Perhaps they need to look for inspiration towards places such as Islington, where there is a strategic target for 50% of all new housing to be affordable. Some developments in areas of affordable housing stress are now 100% affordable. Let’s face it, the only reason that developments such as Penarth Heights shouldn’t be substantially more than 20% affordable is if you feel for the hard-pressed developers (profit in 2009 £47.3M and with headquarters in down-at-heel Surrey) and think that they should be extracting more profit at the expense of people in Penarth.

Meanwhile, extension of business rate support is the purview of the Welsh Government, not local authorities, so it seems impotent to talk of “working with the Welsh Government to extend business rate support”. If the leadership of Plaid can’t persuade the Labour administration to adopt this, it seems unlikely that two additional councillors would swing the balance. Still, there’s nothing like ambition eh!

In design terms, the leaflet appears to be considerably more sophisticated than a standard ‘Word’ structure. The pictures are crisp, appropriate and bordered. I do wonder whether or not Rhuanedd Richards was strategically placed in order to make her appear the victim of a cartoon assault. Perhaps the picture was taken in Rhodri Morgan’s lounge.

The font is sans serif, which is good, but I can’t help feeling that a little more consistency in the font throughout the leaflet would be beneficial – particularly in the top half of the leaflet. I’d avoid underlining headlines and capitalisation. Osian’s biography in the English language side seems to be making a break for it – exit stage left – while on the Welsh language side, Luke’s is off kilter up north.

Another thing to watch out for on the Welsh side is hypenisation. As far as I’m aware most word processor programmes hyphenise in places that are appropriate for English words, not Welsh. Might be worth checking next time.

But given that this leaflet has two languages, the fact that there are only four names (Plaid, Plaid Cymru, Plaid Cornerswell and the Party of Wales) should cause some embarrassment to a few of the other parties.

Layout 7/10, Content 5/10.

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Filed under Democracy, Elections, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Grime Fighters

I suggested recently that the various Labour parties supported by Gwyn Roberts and Lis Burnett might be in financial dire straits. Nothing could be further from the truth! Just take a look at their latest glossy brochure, now in glorious technicolor (with thanks to blog reader TW). This seems to be extravagance of the highest order – don’t the Labour parties know that we’re supposed to live within our means?!

Gwyn and Lis are a bit more settled on the parties they represent now – it’s just Labour, St. Augustine’s Labour, Welsh Labour, Labour/Llafur and Co-operative (is there no Welsh word for co-operative?), Penarth Labour, and the Labour Party. Perhaps Gwyn and Lis can tell us why the Vale of Glamorgan Labour Party has withdrawn its support.

But if they’re extravagant on expenditure and nomenclature, they’ve suddenly become stingey on their pledges. A few short weeks ago we were treated to no less than 12 pledges, and now we have three. At least, three are clearly identifiable as pledges because they have ticks next to them. Are the ones with a scribbled-in box pledges or are they not? Impossible for anyone outside the Labour parties to know.

At least we know what the Grime Fighters will be. They’ll be appointed to “tackle dog mess and get our community cleaned up”. I hope they don’t mean this type of dump tackle – I don’t care how much they pay, diving into dog eggs all day long wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I’d like a bit more detail on how these GFs will be cleaning up our community too.

The re-introduction of traffic wardens takes a prominent place because “Labour wants to tackle the problem of parking in Penarth”. Is this the same Labour team that a fortnight ago assured us that they would “fight against car parking charges for Penarth town centre”? Could it just be possible that we could do away with both parking problems and traffic wardens by a simple system of parking charges or meters? But don’t just take my word for it, see what Professor Donald Shoup has to say on the subject.

I may not be the sharpest tool in the arithmetical box, but even I can see that it could be tricky doing everything that Gwyn and Lis are hoping to achieve when standing up for our older people (and they don’t just mean on the bus). They’ll reduce council tax for the over-70s, bring a multi-million overspend under control at the same time as providing new facilities specifically for older residents. Good luck!

I’m also interested to see how Gwyn and Lis’ determination to “stop the savage Tory cuts” squares with their parties’ leaders’ determination to continue the savage Tory cuts. There’s too much cognitive dissonance in this leaflet (including with its predecessor) to score highly under content I’m afraid.

Enough of the negative – I like the idea of the public having a voice at planning and scrutiny meetings, and I’m in favour of consultation, real or unreal. I also like the understated FSC certification that demonstrates that the paper comes from responsible sources.

Overall, this is a well-designed leaflet reminiscent of one fitting a central template. It has a mixture of fonts, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I have a few comments in this case. Firstly, the white font doesn’t provide very good contrast on the red and green. It’s worth looking at how the spacing between sentences can be evened out too. And aspiring politicians should always use a sans serif font because the serif style fonts such as that used on this blog are more difficult to read (and before you have a go at me, I’m restricted to one font type). By and large the images are appropriate (although we all know what a pothole looks like and it’s never going to make Landscape Photographer of the Year) and they’re bordered attractively. Finally, the request to display the ‘vote Labour’ sign in one’s window (Welsh invisible and therefore apparently irrelevant to the Labour parties who aim to support a thriving and vibrant Welsh language) means that for those who’ll be supporting Gwyn and Lis on 3 May, the recycling bin will be a less immediate fate.

Layout 7/10, Content 5/10

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Filed under Co-operative Party, Labour, Parking, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Candidates 2012

Here’s the link to all the candidates in this year’s elections. For the sake of brevity I’ll use short forms of party names and just two names for candidates (with apologies to Jayne Constance et al.).

Candidates for the local authority are:


  • Conservative – John Fraser and Dorothy Turner
  • Labour – Rhiannon Birch and Peter King
  • Lib Dem – Damian Chick
  • Plaid – Luke James and Osian Lewis


  • Conservative – Maureen Kelly Owen and Clive Williams
  • Labour – Tracey Alexander and Philip Rapier
  • Lib Dem – David Ellis
  • Plaid – Sandra Clubb and Marc Jones

St. Augustine’s

  • Conservative – Paul Church and Sophie Williams
  • Green – Anthony Slaughter
  • Labour – Lis Burnett and Gwyn Roberts
  • Plaid – Niclas ap Glyn and David Wilton


  • Conservative – Ken Lloyd and Christopher Williams
  • Labour – Janice Birch and Mark Wilson
  • Plaid – Adrian Roper


  • Conservative – Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe
  • Independent – Bob Penrose
  • Labour – Paula Hardy
  • Plaid – Carolyn Mirza-Davies
  • UKIP – Kevin Mahoney

Candidates for community councils are:


  • Conservative – John Fraser, Judith Fraser, Ken Lloyd and Alun Roberts
  • Labour – Tracey Alexander, Rhiannon Birch, Ian Courtney and Neil Thomas
  • Plaid – Luke James and Osian Lewis


  • Conservative – Anthony Ernest, Martin Turner, Wendy Van Den Brom and Clive Williams
  • Labour – Grace Busby, Evan Davies, Melissa Rabaiotti and Sheena Thomas
  • Plaid – Marc Jones

St. Augustine’s

  • Conservative – Paul Church, Kenneth Land, Sophie O’Donovan, Christopher Williams and Sophie Williams
  • Green – Anthony Slaughter
  • Labour – Lis Burnett, Rosemary Cook, Michael Cuddy, Philip Rapier and Gwyn Roberts
  • Plaid – Niclas ap Glyn, Sandra Clubb, Alwyn Evans and David Wilton

Sully community council is represented independently from Penarth and I have decided not to cover its activities.

There are just a few points I’d like to make about this list of candidates. Firstly, we see that the Liberal Democrats have finally recognised that the reorganisation of parliamentary boundaries means that they need to be active in Penarth to have any hope of winning Penarth and Cardiff Central in the UK Parliamentary Elections. In 2008 they had just one candidate in Penarth/Sully, Margaret Phelps in Stanwell.  This year’s two candidates are based in Barry and Llantwit Major.

The second is that half of the Labour candidates for local authority slots are on a joint ticket with the Co-operative Party. I think cooperatives are a good model for an ethical approach to business and I identify with many of the Co-operative Party ideals. Who, for example, would not concur that “people will achieve more by working together than they can by working alone“? The thing that intrigues me is that the Party works “in partnership with the Labour Party as its sister party to achieve these ends”. In other words, it’s the exclusive preserve of Labour candidates to label themselves as Co-operative, regardless of how well disposed towards cooperative ideals other candidates may be. This relegates the ‘party’ (it contests no seats in Wales) a subset of Labour. Which begs the question – what is the point of the Co-operative Party? Why doesn’t it just operate as a faction within the Labour Party like all the others?

Also intriguing is the absence of literature from the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. Perhaps the Lib Dems have decided to focus elsewhere in the Vale (or more likely, Cardiff). But given that Plaid have got a full slate of candidates, I’m amazed that I’ve had nothing through from any of my readers. Could it be that they’ve actually taken ‘working for us year round, not just at elections’ to heart, and decided that they’re ‘working for us year round, and not at elections’? This would be a novel approach at electoral tactics!

Finally, given that none of our current crop of councillors is retiring, I expect you’ll be delighted to note that I  hope to be shortly uploading a post giving ratings of our current representatives. Those of you who’ve been complicit in poisoning your constituents might be inclined to look away…

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Filed under Co-operative Party, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Penarth Town Council, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Fair is Worth Fighting For

I don’t know whether or not there’s zero activity in other wards in Penarth, but by jimminy, blog subscriber TW is keeping me abreast of developments in St. Augustine’s. If anyone has information on goings-on elsewhere I’d be very grateful to receive it (Penartharbyd[a]

And there’s a furious scuffle going on, with the third entry to the race being Anthony Slaughter. I’m sure the Conservative candidates will be delighted that someone else has an interest in fighting given how keen they both are on a good brawl. Like the Conservatives and much more impressively the Labour candidates, the Green Party isn’t too sure of its identity. Here we have Vale Green Party, Vale of Glamorgan Green Party, the Green Party, Cardiff & Vale Green Party, and, bizarrely, the document is printed and promoted by Cardiff Green Party.

And we’ve got a no-frills leaflet from a party that’s not famously associated with high-end production and splashy features. A quick tip though – free graphic design packages such as this one can do no end of good to an otherwise staid information leaflet. We’re not treated to anything other than information here, plus a photo that looks rather poor quality when reproduced and that would look more at home in a collection of Victorian memorabilia. So here’s my top tip to Anthony for next time – ask a friend with a half decent camera (not a camera phone) to take a photo of you with a nice smile and put a black (or green) border around it to make it stand out. Making a border is easy enough to do using the open source graphic design package I mentioned earlier.

Some people might think that content is all-important in political messaging. And of course, content is crucial. But producing something that looks attractive means that instead of someone being tempted to chuck your message – and all the hard work and expense that goes with it – straight into the recycling bin, they might actually read it. And if they read it, maybe they’ll lend you their vote. Now that’s got to be worth investing just that little bit of extra time and effort.

Rant over with, let’s get down to business. There’s really not an awful lot to say about design. I’m afraid it’s heading for a rather low score. Even the use of columns might have broken up the text enough so that the sentences are easy to scan. At least some of the articles are in boxes, which keeps them discrete.

On content, there’s a reasonable biography of Anthony, which tells us that he’s committed to Penarth and to sustainability. However, I’ve commented in one other post about making assertions – saying “he is very well known in the community” doesn’t make it so. Far better to let the reader infer that from the detail provided in the biography.

The Penarth Tree Forum sounds like a nice idea, although given the breadth of environmental challenges facing us in Penarth, I’m not sure it would be my choice for a prime slot in election material. It also sounds like the kind of thing that could happen through a group like Gwyrddio Penarth Greening rather than needing an elected voice to promote it.

The Beach Wardens also sound like a nice group. But again, is this really one of the main challenges we face, or is it something that the Greens think will go down well with the electorate? And the title ‘Green Party Beach Wardens’ is more than a little disingenuous and probably won’t go down too well with the Penarth Society. I’m also bemused by the claim that “litter is a main contributor” to the loss of 30,000 species per year. I don’t belittle litter as a costly public inconvenience in Penarth and in some places as a serious environmental problem, but I’m with the scientists who point the finger at climate change as the principal culprit for the slaughter of biodiversity. I’m sure Anthony would want everyone reading this blog to be reminded that far and away the main cause of climate change is burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas.

The item on fracking is the only substantive piece in the leaflet, but the Greens have probably missed their target audience here. Given that Anthony is standing for election to represent the electorate of St. Augustine’s, an item relating directly to the ward would probably have been a better bet. Again, I know that fracking is an issue in the Vale of Glamorgan and I’m not decrying mentioning it – after all, the Green Party has been active on this issue for some time – but it’s an article that could probably have been briefer and allowed space for perhaps a non-environment article? This is particularly relevant given the assertion that the Green Party “is much more than… simply an environmental campaign group” and apparently has policies on “energy, the economy, health, education and more”. Just a thought.

Sadly, there’s not even a token word of Welsh on this leaflet. It could just as well be a leaflet aimed at the electorate of Penzance as Penarth. This isn’t altogether a surprise, because the Welsh Green Party is tortuously described as a ‘semi-autonomous political party within the Green Party of England and Wales’, which is a constitutional arrangement that makes the Government of Wales Act look neat and simple.

Layout 2/10, Content 4/10

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Filed under Democracy, Elections, Greens, Vale of Glamorgan Council