Category Archives: Vale of Glamorgan Council

20mph – Societal Savings?

There are many amazing things you can find out if you look through South Wales Police’s disclosure log. Ever wondered how many bonsai trees have been registered as stolen in the South Wales Police force area? Fret no longer – the answer is revealed here.

But something even more interesting than the fate of miniature topiary grabbed my attention recently. Because someone asked for the injuries and fatalities recorded on the road network of Penarth.

I’ve dipped my toe in this issue before:

I’m no specialist in transport planning, but it turns out that Friends of the Earth  has done a bit of work on 20mph zones that makes the case pretty watertight. And that makes me think that we should go the whole hog, and make the entire communities of Penarth and Sully into 20mph zones (like you, I’m wondering why Llandough has been excluded from this report).

And the combination of injury statistics and various reports mean we can make some suggestions as to the number of injuries and fatalities that could be avoided by a 20mph limit in Penarth.

Firstly it’s as well to look at the factors that contribute to “pedestrian impacts”. The most common factor is “pedestrian entered carriageway without due care”, accounting for 73% of impacts. There are several others, but it’s clear that in not one case would injury or fatality be less likely if the car was moving more slowly. In fact, the reverse. By providing additional thinking and reaction time, injuries would be less severe, and fatalities less likely, if cars were moving more slowly.

Next, let’s see exactly what impact speed has on injuries.

www pdf esv esv20 07 0440 W.pdfwww W.pdf

Unsurprisingly, the faster the impact, the more severe the injuries. At 40-50km/h (that’s 25-31mph), 21% of injuries are minor, 66% are ‘non-minor’, and 13% are fatal. At 20-30km/h (12-19mph), 67% of injuries are minor, 33% non-minor and none are fatal.

If we assume that everyone driving in Penarth is law-abiding, but drives reasonably close to the limit, that means that for every collision with a pedestrian, you currently have a 66% chance of seriously injuring someone and 13% chance of killing them. In a 20mph future, you have just a 33% chance of seriously injuring someone, and no chance of killing them (bear with me, we’re dealing with statistics here!).

Ok, so I’m aware that rather a lot of traffic in Penarth doesn’t reach 30mph, but with a 20mph limit (using the assumption above), none of it would.

Back to the South Wales Police stats. It’s important to note that not all of the statistics will relate to pedestrians. But the same logic applies to any impact involving a vehicle. Some basic maths helps us clarify this. Kinetic energy (energy of motion) is defined as 1/2 (mass)*(velocity squared). So a one tonne vehicle travelling at 20mph has (roughly) 40 kJ of kinetic energy. The same vehicle travelling at 30mph has 89 kJ of kinetic energy – more than twice as much. Incidentally, the reason a motorway crash can be so devastating is that your one tonne vehicle travelling at 70mph has 490 kJ of kinetic energy.

In the 13 calendar years since this brave new century, a grand total of 1,280 people have been slightly injured on Penarth’s roads. Actually, it may be less than that number, because some people may have been slightly injured more than once. But it’s close enough. In a 20mph limit, you’re presumably much less likely to be injured at all in a collision. I’m going to assume you’re less than half as likely, because there’s less than half the kinetic energy to injure someone (45%, to be precise). That means that 704 people – people like these –  were slightly injured solely because a 20mph zone hasn’t been in place in Penarth.

How about the serious injuries? The statistics tell us that you’re half as likely to be seriously injured in a 20mph collision. That leaves 50 people who would have had slight injuries, rather than serious injuries, over the last 13 years. If you think that a 20mph zone is some esoteric idea with no concrete impacts, try talking to someone who’s suffered a broken pelvis as a result of a collision.

The title of this post is about societal savings. There are all manner of savings we make as a society when someone is reprieved from serious injury. Think of the police time, the medical time, the time spent off work or unable to care for relatives by the person injured. If you’re a hard-nosed economist, think of the reduced productivity of the workforce because people are convalescing at home instead of busy being productive at work.

But there are other societal savings, too. In a town where 20mph is the speed limit, we’re likely to see an increase in people walking and cycling. That’s because poll after poll tells us that most people don’t think it’s safe to cycle on the roads. Well, guess what? A 20mph limit just made it safe.

And people who bike to the town centre, rather than hop in their cars, cause considerably less wear and tear to the roads. Let’s take a similar car to the example above, whose weight plus driver is one tonne. Then let’s take a bike, whose weight plus rider is 100kg. The damage caused to a road surface increases to the fourth power of the axle weight. The axle weight of the car is 10 times that of the bike. That means the damage caused is 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 as much, or 10,000 times as much. A ten tonne lorry (on two axles) causes 10,000 times the damage of the car and 100 million times as much as a bike. Of course, you can’t carry a washing machine on a bike! But still, we’re now looking at real road maintenance savings for our hard-pressed, austerity-wracked Vale of Glamorgan.

And the serious footnote to this post?

Given that by and large people don’t die in collisions taking place at 20mph, if the 20mph zone had been in place since 2000, there’s a chance we’d have up to 12 people alive in Penarth, spreading love and happiness to their friends and families, who are lying in their graves right now.

Think about that next time someone canvasses your vote.

Gadael sylw

Filed under Democracy, Transport, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cogan Inaction

Isn’t it about time I ruffled the feathers again? After all, it’s been well over a year since I last took the Vale Council to task – yet again – over their desire to poison the good people of Cogan. At that time I said:

This decision is not before time. I pointed out here that the air pollution in Cogan has been beyond European legal limits since at least 2006:

What on earth is going on here? What have the people of Windsor Road done to deserve such negligence? The Vale’s forecasting and reporting has been chronically optimistic year after year after year after year after year afteryear after year, and the pollution load – particularly at the 154 Windsor Road station – has consistently breached European limits set down in the Ambient Air Quality Directive. And the Vale Council has done absolutely nothing to remedy the situation.

I even went as far as to ask the Welsh Government why no action had been taken – you can see their response and my analysis here:

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.

It turns out that some other people have been digging around in relation to the Vale’s willingness to get stuck in to declaring an Air Quality Management Area for Cogan. Because CG has sent me an email, received from the Vale on 15 March 2013. The Vale said:

Our consultation included a recommendation to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) for the area identified as likely to exceed the NO2 annual average objective. The responses from this consultation are now being considered and over the next few months a further Report will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet recommending a way forward

Then in December CG received the following notification:

Since the declaration of the AQMA earlier this year…

Whoa! So we have official confirmation that an Air Quality Management Area exists for Windsor Road as it runs through Cogan. Well blow me down, surely that deserves trumpeting on the Vale of Glamorgan website.

But funnily enough, this is the latest news you’ll find on the Vale’s website:

The Council have identified that nitrogen dioxide emissions from road traffic are likely to exceed healthy limits set by the regulations. We are also monitoring what is known as particulate matter and our results suggest that we need to carry out more sophisticated monitoring to further check these concentrations… In the Spring of 2013 we will review the evidence and comments from the consultation and make a decision on declaring your area an AQMA.

And even more peculiarly, the Vale doesn’t show up on Defra’s map of local authorities with AQMAs, nor is it listed in their directory. And, before you ask, it doesn’t exist in the list of local authorities whose AQMAs have been revoked.

So either the Vale’s officials are lying to their own constituents and salary-payers, or the officials are withholding information from their lords and masters in Whitehall.

Well I have to confess to being slightly cheered by the discovery that the Vale isn’t lying to us, friends. Because the Cabinet minutes for the meeting of 1 July 2013 approved this report, which instigated an AQMA as from 1 June 2013, which was a full month before the meeting that approved it. Details, details.

So why doesn’t Defra know about this? There are a few possible explanations, not all of which paint the Vale in such a bleak light. They may well have told everyone all about it. For sure, you’d never know what the Welsh Government was thinking on this issue. Believe me, I’ve crawled all over their website and just about the only mention you’ll find of air quality (unless you happen to live in Port Talbot) is the helpful definition that it is “a measure of how good our air is”. Certainly you’ll find the Welsh Government barely speaks of such vulgarities as Air Quality Management Areas.

So perhaps Defra does know about it but is just that incompetent that a full eight months after the designation date has failed to update its website. It’s difficult to be more confident where the greater incompetence lies: the Vale or Defra. One thing’s for sure, by the time you read this post, an email will have winged its way to Defra asking for their side of the story.

And in the meantime, we can all relax, because the Vale had 12 months to bring forward its Air Quality Management Plan from the date of designation. I’m looking forward to delving into that tome no later than 31 May.

Finally, in case the crew down Barry Docks don’t realise, this is an election issue. Either that, or you’ll need to find an alternative psephological analysis for why the vote for the incumbents in Cornerswell ward decreased by 53% in 2012:

… could the hint of a constituency scandal – the incumbent Conservatives having been complicit in the Vale of Glamorgan choking residents of Cogan – have made erstwhile Conservative voters simply unable to bring themselves to vote for the negligent pair of Dorothy Turner and John Fraser?

If there’s even the slightest hint of truth in that, then this May has served notice that negligent or incompetent councillors can expect to pay a heavy price come election time.

3 o Sylwadau

Filed under Cogan, Democracy, Pollution, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

Coastal Glamorgan

This is my name for a new local authority that encompasses what is currently Neath Port-Talbot, Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan. And if we don’t adopt it – or something like it – then Penarth can kiss goodbye to the remotest influence in any decisions of significance for the long-term future.

Sounds dramatic?

That’s because the implications of Penarth, and the rest of the Vale, being sucked into Cardiff (that’s what the new authority will be called – let’s not be under any misapprehension of the name of the new Vale plus Cardiff authority) are fairly dire.

Consider, if you will, this new metropolitan mega-authority. On current figures, it will have a population of 475,324 (348,493 +126,831). The Vale’s contribution is a paltry 26.7%.

Cardiff currently maintains 75 councillors. That’s 1 councillor for every 4,650 electors. The Vale has 47, or 1 per 2,700.

Now I’m not going to defend our generous comparative representation. In fact I’m in broad agreement with Electoral Reform Society Cymru, which wants to reduce the number of local authority councillors and increase the number of Assembly Members. But anyone who thinks that Penarth’s needs – or indeed those anywhere in the Vale – are going to be represented to any significant degree in the new super-authority is seriously misguided.

There are also implications for planning and new housing. Cardiff’s councillors will be licking their lips at the prospect of the Vale’s green fields absorbing much larger proportions of Cardiff’s proposed growth in the coming decades. Why should they risk electoral unpopularity in the few remaining undeveloped parts of Cardiff when they can direct new developments to the Vale? Let’s not forget that the Vale’s representation in the new authority is going to be one-quarter of the total.

And poor old Penarth. With our 30,000 population we’re going to become an insignificant part of the new uber-authority, equivalent in size to Ely plus Llanishen.

So how will Coastal Glamorgan solve these ailments?

The population of this authority will be 406,679 (139,740 + 140,108 + 126,831). The Vale’s contribution in population terms would be 31.2% of the total – but will be a shade under one-third of a triple-authority.  Pulling equal weight in this new authority with former neighbours from Bridgend and Neath Port-Talbot would mean no part having an overbearing influence. Equal representation, not becoming smothered by the city slickers.

But the population of Coastal Glamorgan would be greater than Cardiff. And that could be of economic benefit, because according to some economists, the size of an area’s population (agglomeration) is important in generating added productivity. And why shouldn’t Cardiff go it alone? After all, it’s apparently good enough for Swansea, Powys, and Carmarthenshire.

In terms of new housing, the Vale would be partnered with two authorities that are not experiencing rapid population growth. The housing allocation would be fit for the needs of the Vale plus these two other authorities, not made to fit the needs of a fast-growing capital city.

And as for Penarth. Wouldn’t it be better to be Coastal Glamorgan’s eastern gateway town to the capital city, rather than a nameless, faceless suburb of Cardiffshire?

5 o Sylwadau

Filed under Democracy, Equality, Housing, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

A Wasted Opportunity

Well that didn’t take long!

Back in February 2012 I suggested that the Vale of Glamorgan’s new ‘chuck it all in one bag’ recycling service was doomed from the start. Not only that, but that council officers knew that it was doomed to be an expensive failure and pressed ahead with the changes in the full knowledge that this day would come.

And now it has.

Here’s part of what I said 18 months ago:

So it looks like co-mingled collections are about to be placed on the scrap-heap. And that brings us back to our council tax.

The report on which this change was based (authors: Clifford Parish and Rob Quick) noted all sorts of ways in which the move to co-mingling would save lots of money (£284k) for the cash-strapped Vale. Presumably, the reverse move in a year or two will mean an awful lot of incurred costs. Not to mention an erosion in goodwill of Vale residents towards the recycling service.

Incidentally, it does seem a little odd that Clifford Parish in his role as Chair of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management Wales didn’t think that a legal challenge to the definition of co-mingling might be reason to approach this plan with caution. I’m not sure that an institution that “demands the highest levels of professionalism and excellence” would be overly pleased that one of its most august members had failed to take into account such an obvious risk to a major project. (And talking of major projects, a certain Cliff Parish is found hiding on the list of project executives of Prosiect Gwyrdd). But I’m sure the officers did what they thought was best using the information available.

The detailed reasoning for the end of co-mingled recycling in Wales is not what I’d anticipated. In a stunning turn-around for stupidity over reason, the Campaign for Real Recycling lost its judicial review that had challenged the government’s claim that co-mingled matches the European definition of waste “kept separate by type and nature” (for a bit more detail, see here).

But it seems as if the pressure put on the Welsh Government (and their stooges at Defra) has belatedly roused them from their stupor. Because the Welsh Government’s draft Environment Bill includes this gem of a proposal:

We are proposing to give Welsh Ministers the power to:
• Require businesses and the public sector to present their recyclable waste separately for collection;
• Require waste collectors to collect specified materials separately;

Ok, so having the powers doesn’t mean that Welsh Ministers will use them. But if Welsh Ministers weren’t minded to use them, why include them in the White Paper?

Further information comes from the unlikely hero of old Etonian hereditary peer Lord Rupert Charles Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley:

From 1st January 2015 an establishment or undertaking which collects waste paper, metal, plastic or glass must do so by way of separate collection. These requirements apply where separate collection:

(a) is necessary, in effect, to provide high quality recyclates, and
(b) is technically, environmentally and economically practicable.

Where waste paper, metal, plastic or glass has been collected separately all reasonable steps must be taken to keep that stream separate from other waste streams wherever this is necessary to provide high quality recyclates.

It is clear that the intention is that these requirements should represent a high hurdle. I am aware that co-mingled metal and plastic are relatively easy to separate at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). However, at present many of our existing MRFs struggle to keep glass shards out of the paper stream. In addition many MRFs produce low quality mixed glass which needs further sorting and can be uneconomic to re-smelt. I look to local authorities actively to address these problems, by the effective implementation of the new regulations and by tackling problems with operating practices.

Separate collection does not of course mean that each household will need more bins. For example, many areas have kerbside sort systems where materials are sorted before being loaded into the waste collection vehicle. The WRAP website is a useful source of help.

Any local authorities considering new collection or disposal plans should take care to ensure that they are placing themselves in a position to fulfil their legal duties from 2015. This is particularly important for local authorities who may be considering moving away from separate collection, or including glass within a co-mingled stream. Local authorities should consult their own lawyers as necessary, and should keep a clear audit trail given the potential for legal challenge.

Does anyone in the Vale remember “kerbside sort systems where materials are sorted before being loaded into the waste collection vehicle”? Yes, it’s the very same system that the Vale surrendered with such aplomb in September 2011.

The Environment Bill is set to become law in 2015 – and let’s not forget the ominous “potential for legal challenge” starting on 1 January 2015 if paper, metal, glass or plastic are not collected separately.

I anticipate some very tense discussions down at Barry Docks, starting, erm, round about now.

Gadael sylw

Filed under Vale of Glamorgan Council, Waste, Welsh Government

Anglesey, UKIP, the RAF and Johnny English

I know better than to question the judgement of Professor Richard Wyn Jones, election and governance guru: as far as I can tell his work is based on impeccable research. So when he tells us that UKIP “is surfing a wave of existentialist angst about England’s place in the world” it’s time to sit up and listen. His research tells us that UKIP’s supporters express the strongest sense of English identity, most dissatisfaction with the constitutional status quo in the UK (for which, read ‘devolution’), and unsurprisingly, strongest support for withdrawal from the EU. And when asked “which party best stands up for English interests?”, the answer – from a random set of the English public, remember – is as follows:

  • UKIP – 21%
  • Labour – 19%
  • Conservative – 17%
  • Lib Dems – 6%
  • None of the above – 16%

So what’s this got to do with Penarth?

It turns out that you can interrogate the 2011 statistics to ward level (and beyond). And nationality is one of the variables you can probe. It’s actually not too difficult once you know which site to use. For the purposes of this post I was interested in those people who class themselves as “English only”, “English and British only” and “Other English”. And the results for Penarth wards?

  • Llandochau – 8.0%
  • Stanwell – 8.0%
  • Cornerswell – 8.1%
  • Sully – 11.3%
  • St. Augustine’s – 11.4%
  • Plymouth – 12.0%

There’s been plenty in the news quoting UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farrage, saying “we are getting over 25 per cent of the vote everywhere we stand across the country”. Now as we in Wales know, the country Nigel’s talking about is England. Because in elections on Anglesey UKIP polled just 7% of the votes (although this was more than the Conservatives (6%) and Lib Dems (5%) polled).

But it does raise some interesting questions about UKIP’s tactics in the next local authority elections in the Vale of Glamorgan (in 2017). Given that it’s viewed as the party that best stands up for English interests, perhaps Kevin Mahoney should be looking at the parts of the Vale with the highest proportion of people identifying themselves as English. That means another set of figures, this time for the remainder of the Vale (likewise in ascending order of English).

  • Illtyd – 7.0%
  • Court – 7.8%
  • Buttrills – 8.2%
  • Baruc – 8.3%
  • Cadoc – 8.4%
  • Dyfan – 8.5%
  • Gibbonsdown – 8.8%
  • Dinas Powys – 8.9%
  • Castleland – 9.6%
  • Wenvoe – 10.1%
  • Peterston-super-Ely – 10.3%
  • Llandow/Ewenny – 12.4%
  • Rhoose – 12.7%
  • St. Bride’s Major – 14.1%
  • Cowbridge – 14.2%
  • Llantwit Major – 17.9%
  • St. Athan – 26.9%

In my previous advice to UKIP I suggested that:

In the wider Vale there are key characteristics of certain wards that UKIP could exploit. Multi-member wards with a strong Conservative showing would look most vulnerable, so they should look to target Cowbridge and Rhoose, and they could probably have a pop at Llantwit Major to test the water.

The census would suggest that I neglected St. Athan (admittedly, single-member) from the list. If I was a betting person, I’d suggest that a UKIP candidate in St. Athan could really put the cat among the pigeons. In fact, the three wards I recommended back in October 2012 plus St. Athan are far more appealing from the perspective of winning seats than anywhere in Penarth. Does that mean that in 2017 we’ll be looking at just the one UKIP candidate in Penarth, or will results in 2014, 2015 and possibly 2016 act as recruiting sergeants for UKIP in 2017?

And a final note of general interest. It appears that there’s a background level of ‘Englishness’ in the Vale, bubbling along at 7-9%. Then there are areas of elevated Englishness of 9-13% – in the Penarth area those wards are St. Augustine’s, Plymouth and Sully, and elsewhere it’s the rural Vale. The next cluster of higher Englishness is from 14-18% in St. Brides Major (which includes the plum coastal settlements Southerndown and Ogmore-by-Sea), posh/boutique Cowbridge and – for some less easily identifiable reason – Llantwit Major. And then top of the pile, with probably one of the highest proportion of English identifiers in south Wales, we have St. Athan. No prizes for guessing which RAF base is responsible for propagating a level more than 3 times the background level.

This is the same RAF of course that used to offer forces families in Anglesey special provision:

for the education of children of Service personnel based in North Wales who would otherwise be disadvantaged, academically and socially, by the bilingual teaching policy adopted within the Gwynedd and Isle of Anglesey Local Education Authorities

Given the anti-Welsh attitude of the RAF in Valley, perhaps it’s not surprising that UKIP fared as poorly on Anglesey as they did last week.

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Filed under Elections, UKIP, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Barking on Parking

I’ve locked horns with two of our Penarth councillors on a number of occasions in relation to their obsession with increasing the tax burden on residents for no good purpose. That’s how I put it anyway – they might class it as “Reintroduce traffic wardens to deal with parking problems in Penarth” and “Fight against car parking charges for Penarth town centre”.

Back in April 2012 this was my take on the issue:

To me it makes perfect sense for the Vale to be raising revenue from people who can afford to drive into town. We know that 21.5% of Vale households have no access to a car or van, and we also know that poor households are disproportionately represented within this sector. Why poorer people should be effectively subsidising richer peoples’ use of cars is beyond me – this seems to be a fabulous example of a regressive ‘tax’ regime. It seems that Gwyn and Lis are siding with the people who are best able to kick up a stink about things that disadvantage them – the thrusting middle class – rather than those who are less able to voice their concerns – older people or people just about scraping a living who haven’t got the time or inclination to trouble politicians.

And 10 days later I said:

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.

Followed a fortnight later by:

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.

The only argument I’ve ever heard in favour of free parking in Penarth is one voiced by local businesses – that charging for parking would kill their businesses because customers would decide to shop elsewhere. So perhaps Penarth businesspeople might be surprised to find out that in one Bristol suburb, for example, 2/3 of shoppers cycle and walk to shops and just 22% come by car. Businesses typically overestimate by double the proportion of people driving to go shopping.

But there are some deeper societal issues at stake here, aside from the usual arguments about accessibility to shops. ‘Free’ parking has a cost. It wastes money, degrades urban design, increases the area of impervious surface, it makes town centres less hospitable for pedestrians – and who buys from shops if not pedestrians? – and encourages overuse of cars. And then there’s the additional costs associated with driving, for which pursuit free parking is the principal beneficiary – air pollution, traffic congestion, collisions, wasted time and wasted fuel. These are the costs that society pays for not charging for parking in Penarth town centre. Who pays for ‘free’ parking? Everyone.

Now Lis and Gwyn would probably snap my hand off if I told them I had an invention that could help  wean us from our vehicles and make Penarth’s streets less dangerous, congested, and polluted. The funny thing is, it’s not my invention. It’s been around for 80 years or more: the parking meter. And the parking meter hasn’t stood still for 80 years either. Technology has enabled parking meters to change the rates charged in order to facilitate the most efficient take-up of parking (85% occupancy seems to be the ideal). San Francisco has just such a scheme, in which parking charges vary from $0.25 to $6.00 per hour. And as you’d expect, payment can be made by mobile phone, and you can download an App that will not only tell you the going rate but will help find you a vacant slot. Meanwhile Oklahoma City has come up with a novel idea it calls “Pay and Display”, although perhaps the novelty here is that the units are solar powered.

Charging for parking spaces can increase revenue in businesses. It might seem counter-intuitive – after all, people could just as easily vote with their feet – sorry, tyres – and pop over to Barry, Cowbridge or Cardiff to do their shopping, where they can find plenty of free parking. But over the pond in Seattle, restaurants’ takings and profits both increased when car parking charges were extended from 6pm to 8pm. This finding is hardly surprising if you look at the history of parking meters. When they were first installed, in Oklahoma City, shops fronting parking meters reported increased sales, and streets without them begged the city authorities to install them.

And the rationale? When you charge people to park cars in busy areas, you get a higher turn-over of vehicles, meaning more potential customers. And in quieter areas, lower parking rates can attract additional patronage. The idea is that parking spaces in the town centre should be used by people doing business there, going shopping and eating in local cafes and restaurants, not by workers or other long-term parkers. Short-term parkers are less sensitive to the price of parking than to the length of time it takes for them to find a space.

I don’t know one person who doesn’t think that parking in Penarth is a problem, especially at busy times. But it’s not a problem of lack of spaces, it’s a problem of insufficient turnover. Turnover that can be improved by charging for parking. It’s well worth checking out the experience of Old Pasadena in the USA to see the difference that can be made to civic space by charging for parking. Clearly there are three areas of Penarth that would benefit from a car park charging arrangement: Penarth Station car park, the pier, and the town centre (Glebe Street, Windsor Road and Ludlow Street past the Royal Mail depot).

Finally, I can’t be the only one to have noticed Sustrans Cymru’s moving campaign “Where have all the children gone?“. Their excellent 4-minute video is most definitely worth watching. In a Penarth whose streets are absolutely dominated by cars and traffic, I challenge any of you to not regret the passing of the possibility of playing in the street.

So it’s time for Gwyn and Lis to recognise that there’s no such thing as free parking. Parking without incurring a charge has a cost to all of us. Society pays it, and people driving their cars are free-riders on the backs of the rest of us. If our local councillors are truly concerned about social justice and equality, they’ll run the traffic warden scheme for a year as a pilot that enables them to tick the manifesto box and then get Vale officials to examine the case for parking charges in town. And I haven’t even mentioned that parking meters actually generate revenue for the council, revenue that could be put towards, for example, installing free wi-fi throughout Penarth town centre, making it the first fully wifi-capable town in Wales. Or towards making sure that the street furniture is spick and span, the streets litter free always and the paving of the highest quality. The trick is to spend the money where it’s generated. And let’s bear in mind that everyone would benefit from these public improvement measures, so there’s a good chance the electorate might smile on it too.

I look forward Gwyn and Lis’ Damascene conversion.

2 o Sylwadau

Filed under Labour, Transport, Vale of Glamorgan Council

Electoral Strategy for Conservatives 2017

My word, it’s been a while since I focused on the local authority elections! What with the excitement of the Penarth and Cardiff South by-election, some other election and the census, the poor Conservative and Labour parties must have thought I’d clean forgotten about them. Not at all. It’s about time they benefited from the same level of incisive electoral advice I’ve already given the Greens, Lib Dems, PlaidIndependents and UKIP.

The Conservatives took a beating in the 2012 local authority election. Prior to the election they held 8 of the Penarth/Sully seats, with Labour on the remaining 2. And after the election, the only 2 seats they kept hold of were the 2 Plymouth seats that I’ve previously described thus:

Plymouth will keep its two Conservative councillors forever.

Why did they take such a hammering?

I’ve become convinced that local elections in Wales are as closely related to the abilities and competence of councillors as they are to the fortunes of the Norwegian cheese industry. That is, not related at all. Or at least, that’s the case in authorities (such as the Vale) where the battle is principally between Labour and Conservative.

The fate of members in the Vale is entirely bound up in the relative popularity of those two parties in Westminster.

What’s that you say? You want proof?

  • Poll May 2004 – Labour 35%, Conservative 34%. June election Penarth + Sully seats Labour 5 Conservative 5. Vale seats Labour 16 Conservative 20.
  • Poll April 2008 – Labour 31%, Conservative 40%. May election Penarth + Sully Labour 2 Conservative 8. Vale Labour 13 Conservative 25.
  • Poll April 2012 – Labour 41%, Conservative 32%. May election Penarth + Sully Labour 6 Conservative 2. Vale Labour 22 Conservative 11.

So when the two big parties are evens in the polls, the seats are split evenly. A 9% lead for either party in the UK polls spells catastrophe for their opponents. Incidentally I stand to be proved wrong, but I’m assuming that in the 1996 and 2000 elections the results were 8 seats for Labour both times, with 2 for the Conservatives (if anyone can send me the details that I haven’t been able to find online I’d be very grateful).

Does that make depressing reading? I think so. It means that in Penarth, no matter how hard you try to be a good councillor, the effort is irrelevant. All that counts – at least, for candidates from the Labour and Conservative parties – is how well your party is faring at Westminster. What a fickle bunch we are!

Part of the reason for this is that local elections in Wales are viewed with total irrelevance by the British (read English) media. And since it’s from the British media that most people in Wales derive their news, it’s hardly surprising that turnout in local elections here is so abysmal (39% in 2012). So what does that mean for councillors? The answer to that question depends on whether you’re a ‘good’ councillor or a ‘bad’ one.

If you’re a good councillor (Conservative or Labour) you’ll want your record of hard work and success to be rewarded with electoral victory. But how can you achieve that if your fate is exclusively tied to that of your mother party? The answer lies in where the editorial decisions are taken for the news that most people receive. Currently those decisions are taken in London. But they could be taken in Cardiff, which would presumably mean a much greater focus on local elections in Wales, if broadcasting were devolved. So the sensible strategy would be for good councillors to push within their respective parties for devolution of broadcasting to Wales.

But let’s look at this from the perspective of a bad councillor. You get paid handsomely for doing next to nothing. The last thing you want is to actually be accountable to the electorate. In that case the very best tactic for you is to ensure broadcasting remains the preserve of London. That gives you a 50:50 chance of being elected at any one election, which is surely better than a close to 0% chance if people are better informed as a result of increased press and media scrutiny.

And if you’re a victim of circumstance – or voter, as some people like to call us – then have a good think about which of these two options serves your interests best.

There’s not a tremendous amount I can add to supplement this electoral strategy. The Conservatives were the only party to run a full slate of candidates in Penarth so they can’t do any more on that front. Perhaps they might be well advised to get candidates from within the wards they’re standing – after all this little incident didn’t go down too well last election:

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.

They certainly need to beef up their number of female candidates.

And while I’m thinking of it, the Conservatives would benefit from ensuring that each and every one of their electoral missives is printed in south Wales, if not the Vale itself. After all, we wouldn’t want any future embarrassing posts like this or this, would we?

4 o Sylwadau

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

Torfaen Syndrome

I mentioned in my last post that people in the Vale had been suffering from Torfaen Syndrome. I think it’s worth exploring this issue in a little more depth.

My definition of Torfaen Syndrome is the propensity for parents of children attending non-Welsh medium schools to assume that because their children are attending schools in Wales they are necessarily going to be bilingual. This manifested itself particularly during the 2001 census (41.5% of children aged 3-15 in Torfaen were recorded as having some level of Welsh language competence (page 64 of this report)), and part of the reason for the apparent decline in bilingualism in Wales in the intervening decade is the recognition that a non-Welsh language education does not produce bilingual citizens. Even in Torfaen. Not that this characteristic is confined to Torfaen alone – Blaenau Gwent’s equivalent figures in 2001 were 34.9%, Newport reported 36.4% and Monmouthshire rated 36.0%. The Vale of Glamorgan was positively restrained in 2001, stating that just 29.4% of children were bilingual.

So what happened in 2011?

Unfortunately I need to use a slightly different set of figures in order to make an exact comparison. Blame the statistics people, not me. But here are the results for local authorities in south east Wales – in each case, the percentage of children aged 5-15 speaking Welsh in 2001 is listed first, then 2011:

  • Bridgend:                              27.6%,  27.1%
  • Vale of Glamorgan: 32.5%, 32.0%
  • Cardiff:                                  27.9%,  29.2%
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf:       31.5%,  32.7%
  • Merthyr Tudful:                26.6%,  24.5%
  • Caerphilly:                           36.4%,  36.3%
  • Blaenau Gwent:                  38.8%,  34.0%
  • Torfaen:                                46.6%, 40.3%
  • Monmouthshire:               40.6%, 42.0%
  • Newport:                              41.3%,  38.6%

Now you know why it’s called Torfaen Syndrome!

I referred in my last post to the proportion of children receiving Welsh language education in the Vale. At primary level it’s 13% and at secondary level 9% (the difference is largely a result of increased capacity at primary level feeding through into a growing secondary school).

I’ll accept that perhaps 1% of children attending English-medium education will end up bilingual. Perhaps I’m being a little generous, but some of my acquaintances are bilingual having received education through English in Wales. But we’re still left with the chasm of reporting between a maximum 15% of children realistically being bilingual and the reported level (by parents) of 32%.

What impact does this have on the Vale statistics? Well, the total number of children in the age category 5-15 was 16,499 at the census date. So we need to subtract 17%  (32%-15%) of this total (2,805) from the Vale’s population of bilinguals (13,189). Which leaves 10,384, or 8.5% of the 122,018 population. That’s a significant drop. Am I worried about the accuracy of the census? A little, but then what holds for the Vale presumably holds for all authorities in the grip of Torfaen Syndrome, so the relative place of the Vale (16th in Wales) is probably reasonably sound.

Perhaps one thing revealed by the census is  the desire among parents in Wales for their children to speak Welsh. Little do they recognise that that desire will  only become realised if they send their children to Welsh medium schools.

On this, I’m more than a little surprised by the 2009 Estyn report for Ysgol Pen-y-Garth, which suggests that:

About 29% of the pupils come from homes where Welsh is the main language

Given that Welsh speaking skills are at their highest in Stanwell ward of Penarth, with 11.8% (less if we accept the existence of Torfaen Syndrome), unless bilinguals are reproducing at more than double the rate of monolinguals, something is amiss. But as to the Welsh medium system’s ability to churn out bilinguals, as the latest (2009) Estyn report for Ysgol Bro Morgannwg points out:

All pupils speak Welsh as a first language or to an equivalent standard within the school.

Despite the fact that just 9% of pupils come from Welsh-speaking homes.

So here’s a message for parents, and future parents, who could be seized by Torfaen Syndrome. You can hope that the English-medium education system will work miracles. Your chances of one of your children ending up bilingual are substantially less than your chances of having 6 children all of the same gender.

The only way to guarantee bilingual children is for them to receive Welsh language education.

4 o Sylwadau

Filed under Education, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

Where Can I Find Bilinguals?

There’s been a fair amount in the news recently about the number of communities in Wales where the proportion of bilinguals is >70%, >50% and so on. But I’ve been thinking about these figures. Why are 70% and 50% such important figures?

Then it struck me.

If you assume that conversations between individuals take place at random, then 70% takes on tremendous significance. Because it’s the level of community language competence at which you’d expect the number of Welsh-language conversations in the street to dip below half. How can that be?, I hear you ask.

So 70% of the population is bilingual, and 30% is monoglot English speakers. The proportion of conversations in this hypothetical community is as follows:

  • 0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49 (49%) between two bilinguals – which for the most part means they will speak Welsh to one another.
  • 0.7 x 0.3 = 0.21 (21%) between a bilingual and a monoglot (conversation in English)
  • 0.3 x 0.7 = 0.21 (21%) between a monoglot and a bilingual (conversation in English)
  • 0.3 x 0.3 = 0.09 (9%) between two monoglots – conversation in English

This shows the power of deferring to English as the common language. People have commented for donkeys’ years that the willingness of bilinguals to defer to English has been (at least partly) responsible for in-migrants not bothering to learn Welsh. Perhaps here’s a statistical demonstration of why that might be detrimental to bilingualism in a community – because all of a sudden more than half the conversations in an overwhelmingly bilingual community are in English.

As it happens, conversations don’t just happen at random. According to bilingual friends of mine, it’s common for bilinguals to tend to preferentially socialise with other bilinguals – and to do so through the medium of Welsh. The scale of that preference varies according to the level of bilingualism in a community, so I’m told. But I can’t help thinking there’s something in this simple statistical model that should ring warning bells in communities in the west and north.

And the significance of 50%? Well, this is a bit easier. Clearly if you’re one of the 50% who is bilingual then where you live in a community of majority bilinguals it makes sense for you to start conversations with unfamiliar people in Welsh. As soon as it dips below 50% then the hassle of more often than not being told that the recipient doesn’t speak Welsh means that you’re unlikely to bother starting conversations in Welsh. Which leads to Welsh not being heard on the streets and an increase in the perception that it’s not a community language. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the apparent failure of the (former) Welsh Language Board’s “Start all conversations in Welsh” campaign.

But back to the Vale. Ward-level results have been published for Welsh language competence. So let’s delve into the data…

  • Llandow/Ewenni – skills 23.6% – speak 14.8%
  • Baruc – skills in Welsh 19.8% – can speak Welsh 13.4%
  • Wenvoe – skills 18.6% – speak 13.3%
  • Peterston-super-Ely – skills 18.8% – speak 12.6%
  • Cowbridge – skills 19.1% – speak 11.9%
  • Stanwell – skills 17.4% – speak 11.8%
  • Buttrills – skills 17.0% – speak 11.8%
  • Plymouth – skills 16.6% – speak 11.4%
  • Illtyd – skills 16.4% – speak 11.1%
  • Cornerswell – skills 17.0% – speak 11.0%
  • Dyfan – skills 16.2% – speak 10.9%
  • Cadog – skills 15.1% – speak 10.9%
  • St. Augustine’s – skills 16.8% – speak 10.8%
  • Court – skills 15.3% – speak 10.7%
  • Rhoose – skills 15.8% – speak 10.5%
  • St. Bride’s Major – skills 18.0% – speak 10.4%
  • Dinas Powys – skills 15.2% – speak 10.0%
  • Gibbonsdown – skills 14.2% – speak 9.7%
  • Llantwit Major – skills 15.2% – speak 9.6%
  • Castleland – skills 14.0% – speak 9.4%
  • Sully – skills 13.6% – speak 8.7%
  • Llandochau* – skills 14.1% – speak 8.4%
  • St. Athan – skills 12.8% – speak 8.0%

*I will call Llandochau by its proper name henceforth (reasoning by Dic Mortimer)

So for the many people who are thinking of moving to the Vale (4,400 annually) but who want to live in as Welsh-language a community as possible, the answer appears clear. In Llandow/Ewenni ward in rural western Vale a shade under one in four people has Welsh-language skills, and more than one in seven people speaks Welsh. The chance of a random conversation in the street being bilingual? Slightly greater than 2% in Llandow/Ewenni – although of course for people who are bilingual it’ll be 14.8%.

But if someone is dead set on Penarth and wants to find fellow bilinguals, their preference should be Stanwell where 11.8% of people are bilingual. Throughout Penarth town the proportion of bilinguals is greater than 10%, although it’s disappointing to see Sully and Llandochau in single figures, scrabbling around for last place with St. Athan.

Given that the average proportion of bilinguals in the Vale is 10.8%, it’s nice to see that Penarth town is either at or above that figure. Why do I consider that a good thing? Because even if the chance of random conversations in the street being in Welsh is little above 1%, it adds to the recognition that we live in a country blessed with two languages.

Finally, it’s worth the recap that far and away the highest proportion of bilinguals is in our young people. So while just 4.2% of people aged 75-79 in the Vale are bilingual, that figure is more than eight times higher among the 10-14 cohort (35%). This figure is surprisingly high given that 13% of Vale children are in Welsh medium primary schools, and 9% in Ysgol Bro Morgannwg. It seems likely that parents in the Vale are suffering from Torfaen syndrome.

And a final note of disappointment that the Welsh Government has decided to pull all funding from Menter y Fro today.

This post has been modified to rectify my error that indicated Baruc to have the highest proportion of bilinguals. My thanks to IJ for pointing out this error.

10 o Sylwadau

Filed under Education, Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council

A Once-in-a-Century Election

I’ve been thinking about democracy, Wales, the UK and Europe for a while, and David Cameron has helpfully prodded me to examine the issue in greater detail. After all, the independence campaign in Scotland is making hay over his in-out EU referendum project. If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

So let’s have a look at the baseline. I wanted to find out: how influential have Wales’ general election results been in the UK context over the last 150 years or so? And as a corollary, how useful was your vote in the overall scheme of things. The test I put the results to was this: If Welsh results were excluded from the election, would the result have been any different? You might find the results surprising.

I’ve used the UK Parliament’s report as my source for 1918-2010 results, and Wikipedia prior to that (hence the lack of detail).

Governing party(ies)
Welsh MPs from opposition parties
Governing majority
Did your vote count?
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
 Conservative + Lib Unionist
Liberal and Labour
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 345 vs 325 (20)
 Liberal + Irish Parliamentary
Labour and Conservative
 346 vs 324 (22)
 Conservative + Liberal
9 Labour, 3 Conservative, 4 Liberal
 459 vs 248 (211)
18 Labour, 10 Liberal
 334 vs 281 (53)
 Labour (minority)
4 Conservative, 11 Liberal
 191 vs 424 (-233)
16 Labour, 10 Liberal
 412 vs 203 (209)
1 Conservative, 9 Liberal
 287 vs 328 (-41)
 Conservative + Liberal
16 Labour
 510 vs 105 (405)
18 Labour, 6 Liberal
 429 vs 186 (243)
4 Conservative, 6 Liberal
 393 vs 247 (146)
4 Conservative, 5 Liberal
 315 vs 310 (5)
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 321 vs 304 (17)
27 Labour, 3 Liberal
 344 vs 286 (58)
27 Labour, 2 Liberal
 365 vs 265 (100)
6 Conservative, 2 Liberal
 317 vs 313 (4)
3 Conservative, 1 Liberal
 363 vs 267 (96)
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 1 Independent Labour
 330 vs 300 (30)
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 301 vs 334 (-33)
8 Conservative, 2 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 319 vs 316 (3)
21 Labour, 1 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru, 1 other
 339 vs 296 (43)
20 Labour, 2 Liberal, 2 Plaid Cymru
 397 vs 253 (144)
24 Labour, 3 Liberal, 3 Plaid Cymru
 375 vs 275 (100)
27 Labour, 1 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 336 vs 315 (21)
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 418 vs 241 (177)
2 Liberal, 4 Plaid Cymru
 412 vs 247 (165)
3 Conservative, 4 Liberal, 3 Plaid, 1 Independent
 355 vs 291 (64)
 Conservative + Lib Dem
29 Labour, 3 Plaid Cymru
 363 vs 287 (76)


So in the 146 years since the Reform Act 1867 there have only been 3 elections where members returned from Wales have made the slightest difference to the outcome of an election. This isn’t to say that individual members haven’t made an impression; David Lloyd George being one such example.

But as for casting your vote? Only people aged 57 and over can claim to have had any influence over the outcome of an election in the UK.

This result isn’t really that surprising. There are currently 40 MPs representing Welsh constituencies out of 650 in total. The Welsh voice is drowned out by the 73 in Greater London alone. I’m not suggesting that Greater London shouldn’t have more MPs than Wales – I’m a democrat, after all! But it got me thinking.

Most political parties have staked a fair amount of political capital on ‘sending a message to Westminster‘ at various elections. But it turns out that the only election where you’re pretty much guaranteed to have no impact other than sending a message is the one where you’re electing MPs to sit in Westminster. Unless you’re hanging on in there for the once-in-a-century election where your vote actually will make a difference, you’re better off casting it in a way  that will send a genuine message to Westminster – whatever you want that message to be.

This lack of influence means that Wales will continue to have things done to us by other people who know best, in all areas that are not devolved. Think taxation, benefits, foreign affairs, defence (war), energy, policing, justice and so on. And your vote matters not a jot.

Conversely, some parties will try to persuade you that your vote is wasted if you vote for so-and-so party in a UK election. That’s blatantly false, because it’s the one species of election where your vote is almost guaranteed to achieve nothing but send a message, regardless of the party you vote for.

However there are elections where your vote makes a genuine difference to the way things are run around here. Those are local elections and elections for the National Assembly. These are two sets of elections where precisely what you should not be thinking about is sending a message to Westminster. Frankly, Westminster couldn’t give a hoot what results Wales coughs up even in a UK election, so why anyone thinks the powers that be will bat an eyelid at Assembly or local elections I have no idea.

But local elections are important because decisions are made that affect all of us on a day-to-day basis, like planning decisions, the proportion of affordable housing in new developments, the number and location of new developments, education policy, the location of schools, what schools should be closed or opened, where and how you access social services, libraries, sports facilities, local traffic and highways, how frequently your recycling is picked up and so on. You should be voting for the candidates and/or parties that provide the most compelling suite of policies that reflect your needs.

Likewise, at the National Assembly, don’t vote for a party because you think you’ll be sending a message to Westminster. That really is a wasted vote. Check out the manifestos and consider which of the parties best meets your ideas on education, health, economic development, culture, housing, highways, planning and the environment.

I asked at the start: If Scotland were to become independent, how would that change Wales’ democratic relationship with the remainder of the Former UK?

The answer is that there’s an ever-so-slightly increased chance that votes cast in FUK general elections would be able to have an influence on the outcome. But the best way for us to service our democratic needs in Wales is to make sure that issues that matter to us are ones we can have an influence over.

So if sending our young people to war is something important to you, look to get defence devolved to Wales. If economic growth is your bag, you’ll be looking for taxation powers. And if health and education are your crucial issues, well you’re probably already happy with the way your vote can have an impact on the way things are done. Even if you’re not over the moon with the way things are being done!

4 o Sylwadau

Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government, Westminster