Monthly Archives: Gorffennaf 2012

Plaid Cymru 2012

Once again Plaid fielded candidates in every ward. Their capacity to fill all the potential slots available appears to be increasing, with Stanwell and Sully the only wards with one candidate (as opposed to Cornerswell, Plymouth and Stanwell in 2008). Plaid’s inability to field the full slate of candidates in every ward means there’s an element of guesswork in determining performance.

As far as I can tell there are no estimates of the national share of the vote that Plaid, the Conservatives or Labour took in Wales. That may be a measure of multi-member wards, which makes it more difficult to attribute a share of the vote to particular parties (this is not an argument against multi-member wards – there are much stronger fundamental democratic reasons to oppose them). One way of more effectively measuring support in local elections where multi-member wards exist is to use the Single Transferable Vote, which enables an analysis of first preference votes. But why do they have it in Scotland and Northern Ireland but we don’t in Wales? After all, totting up the share of the vote is one of the least compelling reasons for moving to the STV system – here are some much more powerful arguments. And it’s the system of election recommended by the Sunderland Commission for Wales. The reason – as for many democratic deficiencies in Wales – is the result of internal party politics in the Labour Party, with former Assembly Member Peter Law forecasting “corridors running with blood” if the change were approved. And until the next Labour electoral disaster there’ll be no pressure from our lords and masters for a healthier democracy.

Back to Plaid. We can summarise the party’s performance thus:

  • Cornerswell – 27% down
  • Plymouth – 46% down
  • St. Augustine’s – 43% down
  • Stanwell – 20% down
  • Sully – 12% down

For the reasons stated in the posts, I don’t think that the results in Sully and Stanwell and strictly comparable with the others. And as I’ve noted above, these are the only wards where the party had just one candidate. So I’m going to use the three wards where we have directly comparable results in my analysis.

Plaid had a fairly disastrous set of elections in Penarth. They will refer to the London bias of the mediaand the lack of a mature national press in Wales as partly responsible. And although this is a story I will return to, the Secretary of State for Wales in consideration of establishment of the Assembly conceded:

There is obviously a strong case for broadcasting to be included in the assembly’s responsibilities. Broadcasting is important in Wales and there is a distinctive broadcasting agenda

But all parties have to operate in the current circumstances.

So what went on locally? Performance was comparable in Plymouth and St. Augustine’s, down about 45% on the 2008 results. But Cornerswell registered a fall of just 27%, so nearly 20% better than elsewhere in Penarth.

I’ve referred earlier to the dearth of election material for Plaid in Penarth – an absence that was rapidly eliminated in Cornerswell courtesy of Osian Lewis and Luke James. Since no other Plaid material came my way, I’m making the bold assumption that there wasn’t any.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if actually campaigning in a local election and delivering leaflets to your constituents made an impact in terms of your share of the vote? Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could find evidence somewhere that a combination of enthusiastic candidates and electoral material could boost your vote by 20%?

And is there a lesson for all parties here, and not just Plaid?

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Filed under Democracy, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Westminster

Action on Potholes

Well you can’t fault the Liberal Democrats for enthusiasm – they’re first out of the traps for what could be a long summer of pamphleteering. So it’s thanks to DW for scanning and sending me this missive from by-election hopeful Bablin Molik. It would be nice if Bablin could follow the lead of both Labour and Plaid in the council election and send me copies direct:

Perhaps they’ve just started to answer my question at the end of this post:

…we’ve seen astonishingly little activity from the Lib Dems in Penarth – they simply don’t seem to exist in town, and the evidence from May’s election proved the point. Yeah, sure, we get a bunch of Focus leaflets at every Welsh national and UK election, but just because Dominic Hannigan has posed at every Penarth landmark (note for future candidates, this means the pier and the clock roundabout) doesn’t mean he knows Dock Street from Marine Parade.

… Where on earth do they go from here?

It’s hats off to the Lib Dems for producing a leaflet with the sole focus on Penarth. I daresay it’s an approach that other parties might struggle to emulate.

But it’ll be interesting to see if they find enough material to fill more Penarth-specific leaflets considering that this one notes “Penarth residents have welcomed news”, “concerns raised by residents”, “residents are concerned”, “local people are rightly concerned” and “local people are rightly concerned” (a second time), but doesn’t give any evidence that Bablin has spoken to a single local person or resident. One might be forgiven for thinking that she’s struggled to find anyone willing to publicly commit their name to the  Lib Dem cause in a town where they picked up votes from just 3% of the voters in May and its only candidates were from Barry and Llantwit Major.

On to the content. I must ask Bablin what it’s like to live in the future. Because according to her, “massive investment in mainline services [was] announced last year”. For my money, the announcement she’s referring to is this one, which wasn’t even last month. So it’s peculiar to hear her refer to local Lib Dems having secured “extra investment to lines throughout Penarth…” when that news was also announced on the same day, at the same time.

And she happily refers to “promises to improve mainline services [but] not a single mile of Welsh track was electrified during Labour’s 13 years in power”. Bablin, not a single mile of Welsh track has been electrified during the Lib Dem’s 2 years in power, or any years of Conservative government either, so don’t get on your high horse until the sparks start flying out over south Wales. Let’s bear in mind that commuter lines into London were electrified in the 1930s before singing the praises of Westminster. Wales has been at the bottom of the heap, in happy company with Moldova and Albania, for almost a century. And we’re supposed to be praising the UK Government for finally giving us a fraction of what we deserve?

I’m sure that Bablin would make a great local councillor, and she’s setting out her stall 5 years early by focusing on potholes. So while I admire her ambition – presumably to stand in Plymouth ward given her interest in Plymouth Road – it doesn’t make sense to be crouching in the gutter when road maintenance is entirely the preserve of the Vale of Glamorgan council.

“It’s Bablin or Labour”, apparently. I don’t appreciate being lied to in election material. Bablin is well aware that candidates for parties other than Labour have already been selected. I know that she, like all candidates, will try to portray it as a two-horse race. But don’t try to mislead the electorate.

Overleaf we have more issues (the LDP and ‘green spaces’) that are going to be filling our local councillors’ postbags but are entirely irrelevant to a prospective parliamentary candidate. Unless that candidate actually has no idea what an MP deals with.

Finally, squeezed into the corner, we have one relevant article highlighting the Lib Dems’ pledge to a zero income tax bracket up to £10,000. Unfortunately she states that it is “well on the way” to being achieved. Which begs the question: how will an extra Lib Dem voice help if it’s already on its way?

The layout is a bit confusing. We’ve got so many different fonts – colours, sizes, bold, italics… Bablin, you need to sort out the publishing department in Cardiff South and Penarth Lib Dems. That most local of parties, with an address outside the constituency…

The photos are a mixture of good (next to train) and awful (out of focus by the station with a mystery person shoved into the frame). It’s a shame that Bablin hasn’t had time to get more than four photos of herself in Penarth because she’s had to re-use one of them.

The Welsh language apparently hasn’t entered the Lib Dem thought processes. But then that’s hardly a huge surprise if you look at the phenomenal Welsh language provision here.

And as for contact details, we’ve got a contact address and phone number in Cardiff Central constituency, an email address and website. A website which, I notice, is available not only in Welsh but in Haitian Creole, Azerbaijani and Chinese (simplified). Technology’s great, but Google’s no substitute for a real person who speaks one of the official languages of Wales.

You can also follow Bablin on Twitter @BablinMolik, although strangely for an electoral candidate keen – presumably – to gather support, she doesn’t publicise that on the leaflet.

Layout 3/10, Content 2/10

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Filed under Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Westminster

Liberal Democrats 2012

Next up for critique come the Lib Dems. Fielding a whopping two candidates, this is a party showing clear intent for the Penarth and Cardiff Central constituency in 2015. Intent to capitulate, that is.

Perhaps most interesting is not that both Lib Dem candidates came from outside Penarth, but that one of them who was going to stand in the Buttrills by-election in Barry on 2 August has withdrawn from the contest. Not just that, but he’s joined Plaid Cymru and is actively campaigning for Dr. Johnson. Well, if Damian’s stellar performance in Cornerswell can be replicated in Buttrills then Ian Johnson will be laughing all the way to his UB40.

I stated here that:

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.

But we’ve seen astonishingly little activity from the Lib Dems in Penarth – they simply don’t seem to exist in town, and the evidence from May’s election proved the point. Yeah, sure, we get a bunch of Focus leaflets at every Welsh national and UK election, but just because Dominic Hannigan has posed at every Penarth landmark (note for future candidates, this means the pier and the clock roundabout) doesn’t mean he knows Dock Street from Marine Parade. And while we’re on Dominic Hannigan, it’s interesting to see that his Lib Dem webpage has been updated, erm, never, since November 2009. No doubt he’ll have been working hard for Penarth “not just at election time” come election time.

The Lib Dems were estimated to have received 16% of the vote in May’s elections. Clearly they got a lot more than 16% somewhere, because Penarth pulled down their average by some margin. As I reported here, Lib Dem candidates managed to conjure up interest from just 3% of the Penarth/Sully electorate in May.

More questions than answers for the Lib Dems in Penarth, then. And the biggest of these:

Where on earth do they go from here?

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Filed under Elections, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Greens 2012

I’ll start my party analysis in order of those that had least presence in the election right up to those that won most seats. Because Independent candidates lack the party (and in most cases historical) context I won’t be analysing their performance.

So I start with the Green Party, which had one candidate standing in 2012. It’s not the first time that a Green candidate has stood in Penarth; Cornerswell and Stanwell residents with long memories will recall having the option of voting for a Green back in June 2004.

Clearly the Green Party is weak in the Vale of Glamorgan, with just two candidates willing to stand in the name of the planet. The Green Party of England and Wales mandarins in London must be scratching their heads, after all in Cardiff they managed to field someone in every ward.

But how did our St. Augustine’s candidate do? According to this report, the average vote reaped by Green candidates in the May elections across Wales and England was 9%.  But this is on a basis of 454 wards, and the 943 candidates stood in far more than 454 wards. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that the vote was up by 1% in wards they’d “fought last year” (do they mean ‘last time’?). On that basis I confidently predict that in 28 elections’ time we can anticipate a green councillor in St. Augustine’s. If anyone’s still around to let me know in 140 years’ time I’ll be most grateful.

I’m sure that living a Green lifestyle will add years on to your life, but I’m not convinced that even Anthony Slaughter will be around by 2150. But Anthony polled significantly better than the average, getting support from 15% of voters, which is much better than the average for a Green candidate.

That’s probably reason enough to be feeling pretty pleased – and just possibly opens up the door to a Green councillor in Penarth this side of doomsday.

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Filed under Elections, Greens, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Sully 2012

Well done to all you political anoraks out there who’ve been hanging on this long. Believe me, the wait’s worth it because Sully’s result turned politics in this corner of the Vale on its head.

Firstly let’s award myself 0/2 for this ward. Way back in April I confidently predicted that:

Sully will also keep its incumbent councillors, Conservatives Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe.

So I’d like to congratulate Bob Penrose (Independent) and Kevin Mahoney (UKIP) on their election victory. But how did I get it so wrong? First things first, let’s check out the stats.

It was no understatement that politics in Sully was turned on its head. Can you believe your eyes?!

I described the Cornerswell Conservative result as a ‘complete collapse’. So how should I describe this result that plumbs new depths? The Conservative vote shrivelled to just 44% of its 2008 result. Labour’s vote shuffled up by 9%, but was still lower than both of the Conservative candidates despite their horrendous performance. The Plaid situation is the reverse of that in Cornerswell and Plymouth where two candidates stood in contrast to one candidate in 2008. So I’m going to use the same logic, but in reverse, in my analysis of the candidate’s performance in Sully. That means that Plaid’s result was a reduction of 12%, which compared to other results locally looks pretty good.

You’ll notice that there are blanks next to Independent and UKIP in the stats table. That’s because I only consider an Independent candidate’s results as comparable if it’s the same candidate, and Bob Penrose didn’t stand in Sully last time. And this is the first time that UKIP has stood in an election in the Penarth area, and probably the Vale of Glamorgan as a whole. That means that there is no prior record with which to make a comparison. I’ll come back to just what a stunning turnaround this is after I’ve gone through the turnout figures.

Turnout in Sully was 1,571 out of 3,579 electors, for a turnout of 44%, which was the highest turnout by some margin in Penarth/Sully. It’s also anomalous in that Plymouth ward is relatively the least deprived in Penarth and yet its turnout was lower. Did something boost turnout in Sully?

More than half (56%) of voters put a X next to Independent candidate Bob Penrose’s name. That gives him an very strong mandate to serve. UKIP’s Kevin Mahoney managed to persuade 40% of voters to support him. The Conservative incumbents Sarah Sharpe and Anthony Ernest only managed to secure votes from 30% and 22% of voters. Labour candidate Paula Hardy got the nod from 21% of voters, while it was barely worth Plaid candidate Carolyn Mirza-Davies getting out of bed for the count: just 9% of voters thought she would be one of the best options.

So how about the 56% of the electorate that don’t think that politics matters? Subtracting our 10% to eliminate people who can’t vote leaves a practical electorate of 3,221. So in order for a different independent candidate to come top in 2017, they’d need to persuade 53% of the non-voters to cast a vote in their favour. I reckon this makes Bob Penrose the most rock-solid bet to retain his seat in 2017 (assuming he stands for election and doesn’t commit some awful social blunder in the interim). The combination of high turnout and high proportion of voters marking his card means that he’s the only candidate for whom more than half of the non-voters would need to be swayed by a new candidate – and given that such a result would take top spot and this is a two-seat ward, he’s definitely here to stay.

I should also put a caveat here. If local Conservatives, who apparently have done something to disgruntle the electorate, put in a big effort in Sully things could look different by 2017. Add into the mix the possibility that the Conservatives may not be part of the UK Government after the 2015 Westminster elections and therefore riding higher in the polls, and they could indeed be challengers for these seats. But for now I’ll stick with my current assessment.

So what happened in Sully? The Conservatives clearly had a total disaster. Their previous supporters abandoned them in droves, drawn across to the new kids on the block. Labour and Plaid were bit-part players in this election because two people who hadn’t previously stood for election in Sully were able to sweep into office – although Kevin Mahoney has certainly got some election experience under his belt. (And talking of Kevin, this alleged quote probably deserves an explanation from the man himself). But those of you who’ve followed this blog since before the elections in May will know that most of the information I was getting came to me in relation to St. Augustine’s and Cornerswell wards. I was totally unaware of the electoral wave that was gathering pace in darkest Sully until 4 May. Bob and Kevin were clearly doing a lot of things right for the people of Sully, Lavernock and Cosmeston. Perhaps in 2017 they’ll keep me posted!

But there’s another interesting strand of thought here. Kevin’s status in the party has been described here:

Kevin Mahoney was one of two UKIPPERS elected in the recent council elections in Wales. Some Welsh UKIPPERS have now suggested that he should replace John Bufton as lead MEP candidate in 2014. Bufton is now out of favour with Farage, plus he has health problems.

I’m assuming that UKIP will be putting forward a candidate in the Cardiff South and Penarth by-election. Lots of easy publicity, mmmm. But who should they put forward? It’s difficult to think of anyone better poised to make his mark than a sitting councillor who has a seat in the constituency (even if he lives outside its boundaries) and who has experience of standing in a high-profile election before. He might be even more inclined to stand if he considers that the Conservative performance in 2012 (not least in Sully) means it’s entirely credible that UKIP could take a sizeable chunk (this report suggests 10%) of traditionally Conservative support in the up-coming by-election. And wouldn’t a decent result in Cardiff South and Penarth just bolster his chances of getting that coveted top spot in 2014?

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Labour, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Announcing Penarth’s New MP

There’s nothing like getting a scoop in journalism. So I’m delighted to be able to announce today that the new MP for Cardiff South and Penarth will be Stephen Doughty. Many congratulations to you, Stephen, and commiserations to Dr Bablin Molik (Lib Dem), Luke Nicholas (Plaid), and whoever the Communists, Conservatives and other parties pick. Given that Alun Michael is retiring at the ripe old age of 69 and that Stephen is less than half Alun’s age, we can look forward to at least 37 years of Stephen’s beneficent rule. Who said that politics is unpredictable?!

I’m sure Stephen was the best candidate. But it hasn’t got him off to a wonderful start that allegations of gerrymandering by a certain father figure have been compounded by a twitter faux-pas*. (While we’re on the subject of twitter, perhaps it would be worth revisiting Doughty4CSP). One word of advice to Stephen – it’s great that you can call on advice from your more experienced friends and colleagues. But I can’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that Alun’s going to want his pound of flesh at some point.

And talking of seeking to influence decisions, I’m sure some of Alun Michael’s colleagues will be delighted at the strong stance he’s taking on making sure a local candidate is selected. People, for example, who were born and brought up here, tried to become an MP twice here and ended up representing this place. Or try a former Conservative activist who contested this seat and ended up parachuted in to represent these people.

But then parachuting in is something that Alun knows more about than most.

*Western Mail 16 July 2012 (story not online):

Oxfam boss likely to be Labour’s new MP

…Yesterday some eyebrows among Labour supporters were raised after a picture described by Mr Doughty on Twitter as showing the campaign team that helped him secure the nomination included Mr Michael. Mr Michael did not publicly endorse any of the candidates seeking selection and has denied being part of Mr Doughty’s campaign team.

A Cardiff-based Labour source said: “Alun’s repeated denials that he had anything to do with Stephen’s campaign were laughable. As we can see from the photograph now published from his campaign victory party, Alun is there in pride of place along with close family members of several party staff in Transport House (Welsh Labour’s headquarters)…

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Filed under Conservatives, Elections, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Westminster

A Decade On

I’ve previously mentioned the “quiet, distinctly Welsh revolution” that’s happening in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Welsh Government’s Welsh Medium Education Strategy Annual Report puts some statistical meat on the rhetorical bones of that post. The proportion of children being educated through the medium of Welsh in the Vale rose from 10.9% in 2001 to 13.7% in 2011. That sounds like progress to me. But how does the Vale compare to other authorities in Wales?

I’ve done a quick and dirty statistical analysis of my own here, using the recent Welsh Language Commissioner’s detailed figures on language competence. I’ll obviously need to update this analysis when the stats on bilingual people come through from the 2011 census.

A few figures stand out immediately. Firstly, only four authorities registered a decrease in the proportion of children being educated through the medium of Welsh over the decade: Anglesey, Flintshire, Ceredigion and Neath Port Talbot make the walk of shame. The Vale of Glamorgan’s figure of an increase in 2.8 percentage points puts us in 12th place in the league table, so just under half way. “Not bad, but could do much better” might be the report card. The Cabinet Member for education should be shooting off to stellar performers Caerphilly and Cardiff to pick their brains. Mind you, Conwy, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire have all recorded increases of more than 4 percentage points, so the ways to success are clearly an open secret.

But there’s another way of looking at these stats. In order to appreciate how well a local authority is meeting possible demand I’ve done another calculation. Now there are all sorts of caveats with this one. For a start, I’m using 2011 figures for children educated in Welsh and 2001 figures for bilingualism, which is another reason that I’ll need to re-calculate in a few months’ time. I’m also making the unreasonably optimistic assumption that all parents who are bilingual would wish their children to receive the benefit of bilingual education. And I’m assuming that the bilingual proportion among parents is the same as the average in the population as a whole – in some authorities the bilinguals might be overly represented in older age groups. But grandparents along with society at large can have a powerful influence on family values. The upshot is that I’m taking any excess in Welsh language education above the incidence in the public to represent extra demand from non-bilingual parents.

First things first, the Vale of Glamorgan is doing better here than on the proportionate increase in Welsh medium education – with a 2.4 percentage increment over bilinguals, we’re in 9th place. But look at our next door neighbours in Rhondda Cynon Taf – 8.3 percent more pupils receiving Welsh medium education than bilinguals in the population! Councillor Egan might look to invest in a Valleys Senior Railcard. Meanwhile, runts of the litter Flintshire, Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire all provide 5 per cent fewer (or worse) Welsh medium places than bilinguals in the population. Go figure.

Is there a political angle to all this? That’ll need another calculation – but this is where the process falls down. I’ve aggregated the relative placing of the local authorities on the two scores (proportion increase and demand responsiveness), and I was going to examine the political leadership of the authorities from 1994 to 2004 (because the figures for Welsh medium education relate to 7-year olds). But it’s not easy to find the composition of Cabinets in Welsh local authorities pre-Wikipedia. If anyone has a link to the information I’d be very grateful. In the meantime, and just for the record, here’s the relative ranking of performance on my two indicators (the number in brackets is the average ranking on both counts):

  • Caerphilly (3)
  • Cardiff (4.5)
  • Carmarthenshire (6.5)
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf/Torfaen (7)
  • Gwynedd/Pembrokeshire (8)
  • Merthyr Tydfil (8.5)
  • Denbighshire (9.5)
  • Conwy/Swansea (10)
  • Vale of Glamorgan (10.5)
  • Anglesey/Ceredigion (12)
  • Monmouthshire (15)
  • Powys/Bridgend (15.5)
  • Wrexham (16)
  • Neath Port Talbot/Newport (17.5)
  • Blaenau Gwent (19)
  • Flintshire (20.5)

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Filed under Education, Equality, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

A Journeyman for the Gravy Train?

I’m rather fond of democracy. I especially like being able to have a meaningful say in who my elected representatives are.

That’s why I was intrigued to see that the long-listing of candidates to succeed Alun Michael as MP for Penarth and Cardiff South took place in London. Did I say ‘succeed Alun Michael as MP’? Slip of the tongue. I meant as prospective candidate, of course.

It seems that the candidates to be the candidate had to impress the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee in order to go through to the selection event where “local party members” will have the final say. It’s nice to know that the Labour Party trusts its local party members so much. But why bother with the London event at all? Unless, that is, the real reason is to eliminate any ‘controversial’ but locally popular candidates, like the Backbencher of the Year in 1996.

And dragging candidates 200 miles from the seat for no apparent good reason seems not to be the most sensible idea to me. How about letting some of the party big-wigs come to Trowbridge, Butetown or, for that matter, Cogan, so they can see for themselves some of our problems?

The thing that really galls me in all this is that these internal Labour decisions are actually determining the next MP. And that’s down to our unfair, outdated voting system for Westminster elections. I wouldn’t give two hoots if a member of the Monster Raving Loony Party was elected as our local MP provided I felt I had a say in the matter. As it is I’m going to need a strong dose of this in order to haul myself along to the polling booth.

And talking of the Alternative Vote, Peter Hain won’t be pleased to see who London eliminated. But then Peter Hain is someone for whom democracy means many things. In favour of the Alternative Vote, he is so democratic that when the referendum was lost he called for a new electoral system in Wales, popularly known as “stuffing the ballot boxes” – a move that was supported by the Labour Party in Wales.  For most people, a shift from strongly democratic to strongly autocratic would be a long and tortuous path. Hain managed it in weeks.

But I’ll wish all the best to the candidates in the Labour hustings. They know that the winner is getting a ticket to the gravy train for life. The local party members know that the winner is getting a ticket to the gravy train for life. And the long-suffering ordinary hard-pressed punters in the street know that the winner is getting a ticket to the gravy train for life. So the local party members matter tremendously. Will they pick us a good MP or a journeyman?

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Filed under Elections, Labour, Westminster

Breathing Easier?

I alluded here that I’d received a response from the Welsh Government about the air quality problem in Cogan. It came from Robert Williams, who’s Head of Radioactivity and Pollution Prevention at the WG. It’s nice to see someone so senior responding to our concerns. Here’s what he wrote:

Controlling air pollution in Wales is a key objective for the Welsh Government. We are committed to tackling the sources of pollution and ensuring people’s right to clean air. Our air is cleaner than at any time since the industrial revolution, but we continue to work towards further improvements.

Local Authorities must carry out regular reviews and assessments of air quality in their area against standards and objectives in the National Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are statutory duties for local air quality management (LAQM) under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995.Where these standards and objectives are unlikely to be met authorities must:

  • designate air quality management areas (AQMAs); and
  • prepare and implement remedial air quality action plans.

Welsh Government oversees local authorities’ compliance with the Local Air Quality Management process. We are responsible for ensuring that local authorities undertake and submit assessments and reports on local air quality as required by the Local Air Quality Management regime. However, delivery of actions in the resulting Air Quality Action Plans is the responsibility of local authorities.

We have issued extensive statutory guidance setting out what is expected of local authorities in fulfilling their duties. The Local Air Quality Management Regime is currently under joint review by Defra and the devolved administrations.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council assesses and compiles yearly reports on air quality and follow our guidance to do this. Once these reports are submitted to us they are appraised by our independent contractors to ensure they meet the required standards.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council continually monitors pollutant levels throughout the Authority, in particular there are numerous monitoring sites within Penarth. An annual report is produced from the results of this monitoring. If the levels are high then a detailed assessment is carried out. Detailed Assessments are used to determine whether or not there is a likelihood of particular objectives under assessment not being achieved.  The Council has used this assessment on a number of occasions for the Nitrogen Dioxide annual mean objective in an area of Penarth where the data indicates the measured pollution levels are close to the objective levels.

The objective for this Nitrogen dioxide is either an hourly average or an annual average.  While Nitrogen Dioxide at a site may exceed 40µg/m3 on several occasions the average for the year is considered not monthly data.

The Vale of Glamorgan council monitors the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide and shares this data publicly. Therefore all interested parties are aware of the pollutant levels on Windsor Road. The Council has also recently commissioned a further detailed assessment for nitrogen dioxide for this area to determine whether or not the pollutant level is likely to exceed the objective over the next few years.  The results of this assessment will be available shortly and will inform the Council of the need for further action.

The Welsh Government holds a strong policy of dealing with air quality in Wales in a transparent way. The Welsh Government provides the platform (the Welsh Air Quality website) to enable all air quality data from across Wales to be made publicly available and is committed to this. We accept South Wales, along with most of the UK and other European Member States faces challenges in achieving compliance with UK objectives for Nitrogen Dioxide and all relevant parties are addressing these as a matter of priority.

There are a few points of recent interest to note both with this response and with recent developments.

Firstly, I’m delighted that air pollution – and good air quality – is “a key objective for the Welsh Government”. However I would question whether the oversight of the Vale of Glamorgan’s compliance with Local Air Quality Management has been adequate. For the reasons I referred to here, I’m still not sure why an Air Quality Management Area was never declared in Cogan. Just to recap – a European Directive states that the annual mean nitrogen dioxide level can’t be more than 40 ug/m3. That limit was breached in 2011 (41 ug/m3), 2010 (45 ug/m3), 2009 (46 ug/m3), 2008 (43 ug/m3), 2007 (47 ug/m3), 2006 (49 ug/m3)… you get the picture. Let’s bear in mind that in 2007 the Vale of Glamorgan predicted the annual mean value would be 22 ug/m3 and you get an idea of how chronically bad their forecasting has been, how cheerfully negligent the councillors were, and just how ‘stringent’ the Welsh Government’s oversight has been.

So I couldn’t help feeling that the UK Government got what it deserved when the European Commission decided the UK could not extend the deadline for achieving pollution targets. As I understand it Penarth would probably be included under the “Cardiff urban area” classification. But it turns out that the Vale’s failure to declare an Air Quality Management Area meant the Welsh Government wasn’t reporting failures to the UK Government, which wasn’t reporting failures to the European Commission. Oh dear. So when the European Commission confidently states “in most of the zones air quality plans were established and reported to the Commission within two years of the first exceedance plus margin of tolerance”, they haven’t exactly been told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Commission is satisfied that in the case of the Cardiff urban area, the UK’s authorities’ projections on nitrogen dioxide concentrations by 2015 “seem reasonable and realistic”, and the limit set out in European law for 2010 – to protect people’s health, let’s remember – has been postponed to 2015. But there’s a proviso. Article 22 of the Directive states that this postponement is only allowable if there’s an air quality management plan. And just as a reminder, for Cogan, there isn’t one. So should we hope that Cogan slides under the radar? I don’t very much care for the idea of Penarth taxpayers shelling out their share of millions of pounds in European Commission fines for the Vale’s failure to take air pollution seriously. But I care even less for the idea that the residents of Cogan are being subject to illegal pollution loadings year after year after year because councillors in the Vale haven’t had the gumption to confess there’s a problem. Perhaps the time has come for a complaint to the European Commission?

On a brighter note, I’m delighted to see that the Vale has commissioned another detailed assessment to determine whether or not nitrogen dioxide is likely to exceed the objective over the next few years. And there’s actually a chance that pollution levels could sneak below the legal limit because it just so happens that a golden egg has fallen into the lap of the Vale Council. From April to August 2012, Sustrans is running a Pesonalised Travel Planning scheme in Penarth. If all goes to plan, this could reduce the number of car journeys made by Penarth residents by as much as  11%. That might be enough to bring emissions under the legal limit – although if I were a councillor, or indeed the Welsh Government, I wouldn’t want to leave something like European infringement proceedings to chance. Anyway I’m sure the people of Cogan will be looking forward to breathing a big sigh of relief when all this is over.

It’ll also provide welcome relief to the Vale of Glamorgan Council, who frankly have done little to deserve this stroke of good fortune. They’ll want to be thanking Ieuan Wyn Jones for starting the Cardiff Sustainable Travel City initiative and Carl Sargeant for funding the Personalised Travel Planning element. Although it’s probably thanks to lobbying by Sustrans Cymru that either programme ever got up and running. I’d expect to see a few membership applications from some prominent Vale politicians dropping through the letter box at Bute Street over the coming months – starting with Rob Curtis.

3 o Sylwadau

Filed under Pollution, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government