Tag Archives: Dorothy Turner

Labour 2012

Well, difficult by-elections aside, someone must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves. That someone would be the Labour Party in Penarth. They extended their reach to their joint-highest ever, 6 of the 10 councillors on offer.

At an individual ward level the Labour candidates’ results were:

  • Cornerswell – 15% up
  • Plymouth – 23% up
  • St. Augustine’s – 20% up
  • Stanwell – 36% up
  • Sully – 9% up

In a similar manner to fortunes at Plaid and the Conservatives, we have a general trend here for Labour of a rough 19% increase across much of Penarth. But we’ve got a slightly different story for Labour in that performance was especially good in one ward, and relatively bad in another.

I’ve already explained my thinking around the result in Sully here, where Labour (and Plaid) “were bit-part players in this election”.  Something went on which the Labour candidate was clearly unable to influence.

But Stanwell – which I described in June as “one of the least interesting wards” is anything but uninteresting for Labour apparatchiks. If the vote increase in one ward can be double that in the rest of Penarth, then the Labour campaign here was very persuasive. I can only imagine that Janice Birch and Mark Wilson must be excellent councillors. It’s not easy to get people to vote for you in an election, unless you’ve proven your worth to the electorate time and time again.  And to have such a strong showing in a year which was in any case “Labour’s best council results since 1996” was some result.

I’d described the 15% increase in Cornerswell as a ‘high water mark’, given the swing to Labour across Wales. But it’s a water mark that could be breached – if Rhiannon Birch and Peter King take sage advice from Janice Birch and Mark Wilson. Given that Rhiannon shares an address with Mark Wilson, that shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. Let’s see what 5 years living under the same roof as one of this election’s star performers can do for Rhiannon’s fortunes in 2017!

The Labour Party in Penarth need to ask themselves the same question as the Liberal Democrats, but from a distinctly different vantage point: where on earth do they go from here?

I’ll be looking at all the parties’ electoral strategies for 2017 in my next post, so I’ll help them answer that question then.

But in the meantime, let’s take a quick look at those candidates from all parties who managed to achieve a swing substantially better than the Penarth version of the national swing. I’m assuming that achieving a result in line with the Penarth swing for each party was achieved by doing the minimum (which I call the ‘do nothing’ scenario) – perhaps a leaflet and a bit of doorknocking, but that the result was based primarily on how the electoral game was playing out at a Wales and UK level.

There are three examples that stand out. Firstly, Janice and Mark (see above) for Labour. Secondly for Plaid, where the Penarth trend was a 45% reduction which Osian Lewis and Luke James managed to buck by 18% – the same scale of improvement above the trend line as the Labour star performers. The third example is the Sully outliers of Bob Penrose and Kevin Mahoney, because although there’s no Penarth trend for Independents or UKIP their results are striking.

And in the other direction – those candidates who appear to have done spectacularly badly, somehow contriving to do even worse than the ‘do nothing’ scenario?

Paula Hardy in Sully polled about 10% less than the Penarth Labour trend. Sully also provided bad news for the Conservative candidates Anthony Ernest and Sarah Sharpe (especially Anthony), who were about 25% below the Penarth Conservative trend. And the other candidates to have suffered ‘complete collapse’ in vote share of the same order were Dorothy Turner and John Fraser of the Conservatives who stood in Cornerswell. This should be worrying the Conservative Party. There was something about these four candidates that rendered them totally unpalatable in this election. Conservative strategists need to determine what that was before entrusting them to electoral contest again.

Rho sylw

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

Conservatives 2012

The Conservatives were one of just two parties to put up a full slate of candidates in each ward.

I wasn’t expecting them to do great – the opinion polls at the time were clear enough that it wasn’t going to be a great election for them. But I don’t imagine even in their worst nightmares the Conservatives would have been prepared for what actually happened. Their performance varied from ‘only dropping by 29%‘ to ‘worse than complete collapse‘. The home of the South Wales Shadows Club has been shaken to its foundations.

At a national level the Conservatives lost 61 of their 166 councillors, or 37%. And in Penarth? In April they had eight councillors and as from May they have two. How careless – they’ve lost 75% of their Penarth/Sully contingent, well above their Welsh average!

But let’s examine Conservative performance at ward level:

  • Cornerswell – 53% down
  • Plymouth – 29% down
  • St. Augustine’s – 29% down
  • Stanwell – 33% down
  • Sully – 56% down

There are clearly two groups of performance here. The average drop in support across much of Penarth was 30%. But over in Cornerswell and Sully it was closer to 55%. In electoral terms, that’s about as bad as it gets. So what happened?

The paucity of electoral information coming my way in April 2012 left me shell-shocked at the result in Sully. I’ve previously noted that the Conservatives there

apparently have done something to disgruntle the electorate

Their previous supporters abandoned them in droves

Bob [Independent] and Kevin [UKIP] were clearly doing a lot of things right for the people of Sully, Lavernock and Cosmeston

Perhaps there’s not really much to add to that analysis.

But there are a few additional factors to consider in Cornerswell. Firstly, the Plaid vote in Cornerswell was relatively resilient (dropping just 20%) in the face of a Wales-wide pasting (otherwise known as ‘a difficult night‘). While it’s unlikely that Conservative voters would have swelled the ballot box on behalf of Plaid in large numbers, it’s not outlandish to think that some Conservatives would have made the long leap left. Labour’s vote only increased by 15% – rather poor by comparison with results elsewhere, and also not likely to have been as a result of much inter-party mobilisation. I don’t want to infer too much into the significance of this blog, but 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.

1 Sylw

Filed under Conservative Party, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Pollution

Cornerswell 2012

This post has been updated to incorporate turnout figures: with thanks to Osian Lewis for pointing out the link.

Here’s the first of my analyses of the wards of interest to Penarth. The others will follow in good time.

I’ll award myself 2/2 for Cornerswell. I predicted Labour would take both seats and so it proved. Congratulations to Rhiannon Birch and Peter King.

At the risk of sounding uncharitable, I’m not going to offer commiserations to the outgoing councillors John Fraser and Dorothy Turner, for the reasons stated in this post. They neglected their constituents and thoroughly deserved to go.

So what happened in this election? We have the bald results here.

The most compelling feature of these results is the complete collapse in the Conservative vote to just 47% of the 2008 level. In fact, judging by the 2004 result, this means that Cornerswell is looking safe for Labour for the following term, 2017-2021. Or at least, it would be if Cornerswell existed in 2017. It won’t, but that’s a story I’m going to return to at another time.

The Labour vote increased by 15%, which is a respectable but not excellent result. Look around Wales today and you see a tidal wave of Labour across most of the country. A 15% increase in those terms is relatively modest and suggests that the Labour vote in Cornerswell is going to be resistant to increases above today’s level. I would call it a high water mark, but in fact any such statement is irrelevant because of the reorganisation of ward boundaries in Penarth.

There are two ways of assessing the Plaid vote this time round because there were two candidates instead of one. Either you take the total vote as a huge 45% increase on the vote last election, or you see it as a 27% reduction. I’m taking the second approach because in a multi-member ward I don’t consider votes for two candidates as additional to votes for one in a previous election. On the plus side, both candidates were within 100 votes of both the previous councillors, although that reflects more on the Conservative vote collapse than a Plaid surge.

The Lib Dem candidate was the only one in Penarth to spectacularly fail to breach triple figures.

Turnout in Cornerswell was 1,491 out of 3,948 registered electors, giving 38%. This is the second-lowest turnout figure of the Penarth/Sully wards.

More than half of those who voted (53%) placed an X against Rhiannon Birch’s name.  She has a very strong mandate to represent Cornerswell. Perhaps only she can explain her substantially better showing than Labour colleague Peter King, who nonetheless gained votes from 47% of those who voted. Or is it the well-known ‘alphabet effect‘? The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that throughout Penarth, every single candidate with a surname earlier in the alphabet received equal or higher votes than the candidate from the same party but with the later surname. Perhaps we’ll see a renaissance in the use of ‘ap’ surnames amongst the Welsh political classes that has worked so well for Niclas ap Glyn!

John Fraser and Dorothy Turner of the Conservatives managed to inveigle 25% and 23% of voters to mark their cards, while Plaid’s Luke James and Osian Lewis got the nod from 21% and 19%. Meanwhile, just 4% of voters could bring themselves to vote for the Lib Dem candidate Damian Chick – overall, the Lib Dems captured votes cast by less than than 3% of the Penarth/Sully electorate.

Perhaps the most intriguing element of this is the non-voters. Now let’s be clear from the outset: not everyone who’s registered to vote is eligible to vote. Between registering and election day, some people die, some go to prison (yes, even in Penarth!), and some will become incapacitated and unable to vote (although the advent of postal and proxy voting alleviate this latter issue). And then you have people who are registered in more than one ward or local authority, mostly perfectly legally. They may choose which to vote in and may have chosen to vote elsewhere than Penarth. For the sake of argument, I’m going to suggest that these factors knock 10% off the total registered voters. If anyone can come up with a more accurate alternative I’m all ears.

So in Cornerswell we’re down to 3,553 voters, and our practicable identifiable turnout is now a (slightly) more respectable 42%. Subtract the 1,491 who voted and you’re left with 2,062 non-voters who could have cast their vote on 3 May.

Now for the politicians out there, you’ll be left drooling. An independent candidate with no history of activity in the ward only has to persuade 39% of the non-voters to support them to come top of the list in Cornerswell. That’s assuming that in the meantime you won’t take a single vote from any other candidate.

And what makes non-voters vote? Well, you’re the aspiring politicians. But here’s a starter for ten. Don’t take your electorate for granted. Find out ways to solve problems they have (believe me, being outside the system is sometimes a better way of achieving this than being an existing councillor). Have a smile for them every time a door closes in your face.  If something is more properly dealt with by another level of authority – MP, AM or MEP – put the constituent in touch with the relevant person without it looking like you’re passing the buck. And communicate, communicate, communicate. Tell people what’s going on and, if you can’t achieve what you set out to, tell them what prevented you.

Good luck over the next 5 years!

15 Sylw

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

Your Local Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Layout 10/10, Content 7/10.

7 Sylw

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

Predictions for 3 May 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Sylw

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

Scores on the Doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Sylw

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

Don’t Hold Your Breath…

I was intrigued to read this story about our friends in Cardiff the other day. It certainly gave me cause for thought. What’s the latest on the Vale of Glamorgan’s one and only Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), down in Cogan?

It turns out there isn’t an AQMA in Cogan. My mistake.

But there’s a bit more to this story.

According to the snappily titled “Air Quality (Wales) Regulations 2000“, there are strict limits for a whole host of air pollutants. These limits come from the European Union, because other than NASA they’re pretty much the only ones who actually care about the air we breathe. The pollutant that’ll be of most interest to readers of this blog is probably nitrogen dioxide. That’s because it mainly comes about from car exhausts – and the Regulations state that the annual mean can’t be more than 40 ug/m3, and that an hourly mean of 200 ug/m3 can’t be exceeded more than 18 times per year.

Back in 2009, the Vale Cabinet examined an Air Quality Progress Report (you can find all the Vale’s air quality information here). Pretty boring stuff, 155 pages of largely technical data, blah blah blah… and the council approved the officer’s recommendations that no action be taken. I hope we’re all reassured.

However, history should give us cause for caution. In April 2005, the Vale’s officials cheerfully forecast “no exceedances predicted for either objective (annual or 1 hour mean…) by the relevant year 2005”. And they said more or less the same (“unlikely to be exceeded”) in 2007, despite there having been 144 exceedances for the hourly mean in 2006 (Table 3.3). And Table 3.4 shows that several of the monitoring stations along Windsor Road are within a fraction of reaching the annual mean limit of 40 ug/m3, with one station (at 160 Windsor Road) recording 46 ug/m3. Strangely enough, section 8.2.1 of the report concludes that there were no exceedances of the 40 ug/m3 limit – a conclusion which appears to be in direct contravention of the facts. The Council’s predicted nitrogen dioxide level at this station in 2007 was 22 ug/m3. Astoundingly, the report went on to conclude: “a Detailed Assessment is not needed”, and “It is unlikely that the 2005 or 2010 annual mean or 1 hour mean objective will be exceeded and thus there is no need to proceed further”. This, despite the Welsh Government’s clear recommendation in 2006 that “the local authority should continue monitoring carefully at this location and should exceedance be identified then this data should be used as the initial stages of a Detailed Assessment and the Council should not wait for another year of reporting before proceeding’.

Well, we finally got our Detailed Assessment in December 2008. I have no idea why it was commissioned against the advice of the Council’s 2007 report (could it be they actually heeded the Welsh Government?!), but we should be grateful that something was done. What we should not be grateful for is the spectacular failure to foresee the continued air pollution problems on Windsor Road. Section 3.6.2 of this report tells us that “the exceedences of the objective for nitrogen dioxide are unlikely to occur in 2010 for residential properties in the area”. Well, last time I checked, it would be pretty hard to argue that 160 Windsor Road and its environs are not residential properties. And the conclusions (section 4) are beyond belief. Apparently, results from instruments “confirmed that the annual mean objective of 40 ug/m3 has been met in 2007”. That directly contravenes the evidence presented in the 2007 progress report, and, bizarrely, in Appendix 1 of the Detailed Assessment itself. And this report is particularly crucial, because this is the one the Vale Council has relied upon to not declare an Air Quality Management Area.

So I took the liberty of interrogating the data just a little bit. The joy of this is that anyone can do so at this website, so you can all check my figures if you like. Now I’m mostly interested in present-day effects, so I wanted to know what’s been happening in 2011. And it turns out that the 40 ug/m3 limit was  breached in the Windsor Road monitoring station four times (out of 11) and at the 154 Windsor Road station six times. We’re not just talking ‘just over the limit’ either. On two occasions the latter station’s reading was exceeded by 35%, and the former by 30%. By my calculations the 40 ug limit was exceeded in 2011 (actual figure 41 ug/m3) at 154 Windsor Road.

That raised my concern level even further. So I looked at all the results between 2007 and 2011. And sure enough, back in 2010, we had 45 ug/m3 at both 154 Windsor Road, and ‘Windsor Road’ station. 2009 saw another failure at 154 Windsor Road – 46 ug/m3, and 43 ug/m3 in 2008.

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 after year 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. You can see for yourselves here that the Vale Council has done a great job at keeping its head down – note that the council is apparently ‘not relevant to exceedences’.

There’s more than a faint stench of negligence here. Someone, somewhere, in the Vale of Glamorgan knows that the residents of Cogan are being subject to air pollution that can cause inflammation of the airways and affect lung function. But as ever, I’ll save my most indignant criticism for our democratically elected and accountable representatives who are supposed to be keeping track of air pollution in Penarth.

Firstly, this is a matter of corporate responsibility so all Penarth councillors are complicit in this failure to tackle the chronic poisoning of Cogan. But what on earth do Councillors John Fraser and Dorothy Turner think the residents of Cornerswell ward are paying them £13,175 a year for? Surely the first priority for any councillor is to look after your electorate? Cllr Fraser sits on the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee. Hands up who thinks he’s excelled in scrutinising environmental pollution in his own ward? And how about Cllr Turner, who’s the Children’s Champion, Older Person’s Champion, Older People’s Champion and Vale representative on Disability Wales? You’d have thought she might have a bit more concern for people whose lungs are just developing or might be especially vulnerable to pollution. Most reprehensible of the lot is Councillor Hunter Jarvie who is the Cabinet Member with responsibility for Public Protection and who is also the Vale representative to the National Society for Clean Air. Unbelievable. Unfortunately the good citizens of Penarth aren’t in a position to pass judgement on Cllr Jarvie, but for those of us with friends and relatives in Cowbridge, I’m sure they’d be interested to learn just how diligent their representative is.

As for what happens next, if I’m not very much mistaken, the ONLY way that the Welsh Government will avoid infraction proceedings by the European Commission for failures to meet the nitrogen dioxide standard by 2010 is if there is an air quality action plan in place that will attain the level by 1 January 2015. But in the Defra/Welsh Government Air Quality Plan the Vale is invisible.

The Vale’s approach appears to be ‘cross your fingers and hope no-one notices’. Well guess what, councillors. Someone just did.

14 Sylw

Filed under Democracy, Pollution, Vale of Glamorgan Council