Friday, 12 February 2016

No Justice for Rural Wales

The decision by the Tory Government to close Brecon Courts means there is no prospect of justice for many rural Wales residents,

This means the many hearings will now take place in Merthyr Tydfil of which Brecon was already a satellite.  Merthyr is of course highly accessible. From Rhayader it is ONLY an hour an a quarter away by car. But what if you can't drive Travelline Cyrmu comes up with the solution.

To get to the bus station in the morning you need to leave Rhayader at 0645hrs. This gets you in by about 0945. On the way back the latest you can leave the bus station and get home the same day is 1515.

So just remember to hope the case before you is not delayed.

So what has our new Conservative MP got to say about this. Well, hmm, yes a look at his web site reveals, wait for it NOTHING. In all his debates, press releases and campaigns the courts don't appear once.

Of course some cases may end up closer to home in Llandrindod Wells but there is no guarantee for that at all.

Welsh Lib Dems respond to Flooding Challenge

No one can easily forget the flooding experienced across the UK this winter and whilst Wales has fared better than most there have been some problems. However the height of the flooding coincided with the motions deadline for Welsh Spring Conference and armed with personal knowledge and a Facebook policy group I set out to write what I hope is a reasonably comprehensive start point for our party to move forward.

The motion in full can be found within the conference guide but in keeping with all good things political it comes with a 10 point call for action.
Conference calls for:
1. The Welsh Government to replace existing planning guidance with respect to development in the flood plain with a new robust strategy. 
2. All future risk modelling be based on a "known record level extent model" for flood management. 
3. The Welsh Government to introduce new Planning Design Notes and Building Regulations to improve the resilience of properties identified as being at risk of flooding and reduce the impact of surface water run off.  
4. The Welsh Government to develop whole-catchment plans for Welsh rivers designed to reduce the flow rates of water through the catchment.
5. The Government in both Cardiff and Westminster to make grants available to householders in flood risk areas who want to put in place improvements to their properties that improve the resilience of the property to future flood events.  
6. The Government in Westminster to work with the insurance industry to produce new renovation guidelines designed to increase the resilience of properties in the face of repeated flood events.  
7. Local Authorities to immediately remove all housing allocations on areas identified to be at risk of flooding from their development plans except where planning permission has already been granted and work commenced.  
8. The Government in Westminster to introduce a presumption against siting well heads for fracking in areas identified as falling within a flood risk zone.  
9. The Welsh Liberal Democrats to actively participate in any review of flood management including making a submission for policy changes based on this debate.  
10. The introduction of lowland farm management plans which promote the development of water meadows and the use of lower grade agricultural land for flood control measures.

These measures in themselves will not provide the solution. Our weather patterns have altered considerably in the past 20 years what once fell as snow in autumn is now heavy rain. Water is not trapped in frozen ground as upland bogs remain just that. Moreover one persons flood defences have become someone else’s flood.

This motion has set out a new approach, we need to consider the whole catchment in our plans and far from speeding up flows we must seek to slow them down keeping water in the hills for as long as possible. If we are to use farmland for deliberate short term water storage it must be limited to under a week beyond that even pasture will begin to suffer and some of our most productive farmland will be lost.

However most significant of all is our approach to the planning and reconstruction process. We have already built where we shouldn't have so renovation must also include resilience and the insurance industry should plan that into any settlements made. We shouldn’t make matters worse either, the 20 or 100 year return event is no longer a sustainable model for prediction instead we should move to a known historic event model for planning. We should also review all current allocations and if they are in areas where there is an historic record of flooding developers must show how that is to be managed or have the allocation removed.

Finally we must protect our environment at all costs. When a street floods the police will tell you not to go into the water because of contamination risks. So this motion takes that forward and states clearly that Welsh Lib Dems would introduce a presumption against the development of any well relating to fracking within a known flood extent or where there is evidence of localised surface water flooding.

Elements of this motion will feed into discussions we will have post May if we are in a position to form a government in Wales.

Any local party wanting to adopt them or bring the motion to their own regional conference is more than welcome to use the full text.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The 2015 General Election as a Play List

Looking back on a disappointing election I wondered how it could all look if put to the titles or lyrics of popular music so here goes with my GE2015 Play list

The campaign

The Leaders debate. Eurythmics - Sisters are doing it for themselves.

The Tory campaign. Iron Maiden - Fear of the dark.  

Lib Dem campaign. Steelers Wheel - Stuck in the middle with you

UKIP.  Steven Miller band. The joker

Polling day

Scottish results. Queen - Another one bites the dust. 

Alastair Carmichael MP. Elton John  - I'm still standing

The aftermath 

For everyone who voted against the Lib Dems because of the coalition and now have a Conservative MP.  Joni Mitchell - Big yellow taxi.  

Douglas Caswall MP. Police - So lonely, 

Plaid Cymru. Ultravox - All stood still.  

Scottish Labour. Capercaillie - Ravenscraig 

Conservative Government. Orange Juice - Rip it up or Rod Stewart - First cut is the deepest  

UKIP and short money. Show of hands - Ignorance, arrogance and greed

Lib Dems. Yazz - Only way is up

SNP Abba - The winner takes it all. 

Nick Clegg resignation. Denise williams and Johnny Mathis - Too much, too little too late  

Our future. Oysterband - Put out the  lights

Friday, 17 September 2010

Richard Livsey

I have been meaning to restart this blog for a while but the sad news of the death of Richard Livsey was the last thing I expected to be the reopening topic.

Richard was without doubt a politician from a different era. Someone who cared about his constituents not just climbing the greasy pole. I remember all too well the shock of sitting on the back step of my house in Aberystwyth in the 1992 sun learning that not only had Geraint lost his seat by Richard had as well. Yet I also remember the welcome I received from him when I moved across to Rhaayder a couple of years later and his tireless efforts over 5 years to keep the Lib Dem flag flying and retake the seat.

When he held the seat his activity didn't stop there his contribution to the yes campaign, his amazing casework load and his support for both Roger and Kirsty were amazing to see. Even after ennoblement he continued the rounds of village fetes and coffee mornings as before.

Outside of Wales his legacy will be but a footnote on history mainly remembered as a by election winner and little more. Inside Wales he will be viewed as one of the key political influences on my generation of Liberal Democrats many of whom are now in positions of influence in Westminster, Cardiff or councils across the land. Inside Brecon and Radnor he will be remembered as one of their best MPs.

In 1997 we used the slogan "everyone knows someone who has been helped by Richard Livsey" changed to the past tense it sums up his political life.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Fear of Crime

For the first time tonight my dad is worried about crime. To be precise he is afraid of being burgled. He wasn't this morning in fact it hasn't crossed his mind once in the nine years he has lived in the house that someone could lift the windows out to get in.

So what has changed well this morning he got a leaflet inviting him to meet a double glazing salesman.

The first I knew was mid afternoon when he rang me seeking some advice was £6k reduced on today only discount to £4.5k a bit much for replacing the downstairs windows. I was with him yesterday and this hadn't cropped up so why was he considering this now?

A little gentle probing revealed that the salesman had majored on how vulnerable his windows were to breaking in they could "just be lifted out" and this concern was the main reason he was now considering the purchase.

I just about kept my anger under control and pursuaded him that this was not a reason alone to purchase and if he was keen to then he needed to get several quotes. "But this was today only I got back" so I went though the whole distance selling process etc. He finally agreed that this was not a good idea and rang off to tell them he wanted more time.

Five minutes later he was back it was now the absolute rock bottom of £4k and was this now acceptable again security was the concern. I told him no if they were so keen for his business they would always find discounts and in the mean time why not get the local police to send a crime prevention officer round to look at the overall security of the house without any vested interest. He agreed.

What incenses me though is that even today companies are allowed to prey on the fear of crime to try and pressure sell products to older members of the community.

I await with interest the report from the cpo if there is no problem I will be suggesting to my father to make a formal complaint about the sales technique used but how many other people dont have a son or daughter on the other end of the phone? Without doubt it is time for a new look at doorstep selling tactics it seems that some double glazing salesmen even now havent changed since the 80's

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The politics of potholes

We are all seeing it, the huge levels of damage to tired road surfaces caused by the recent winter weather and the consequent burden on the local authority budgets. However a simple question springs to my mind and that is should the government be picking up some of the tab?

Why you may ask and here is the rub.

When Lord Adonis intervened and required Councils to stop gritting on all but the highest priority routes he did so under the guise that this was in effect a national emergency scenario. The consequence is that councils across the land cut back on their secondary gritting regime.

It is on these roads I focus my attention. Under normal conditions these would have been treated and damage significantly reduced as a result.

Now if we accept the argument that this was a national event it places it on a par with Foot and Mouth in 2001 or the 2007 Flooding. In both of these events the Belwin Formula was applied allowing Councils to claim back expenditure related to the incident.

By their intervention in a council duty there is a strong case to put that the damage to the network on the roads published as being gritted but which were not in order to protect the truck road network is a direct result of government action in a civil contingencies event. As such the Bellwin Formula should apply and we should be placing pressure on the government to ensure the consequences of their actions are not once again borne by the council tax budget

Monday, 18 May 2009

Go now Mr Martin

While there are plenty of call for the speaker to go and some suggesting successors one question that has to be considered is timing.

Now, in a month or at the general election.

Our current speaker would prefer to hang on, resign honourably and stand down as MP at the same time or so it would seem. In that time he would without favour reform the expenses system at both entitlement and back office level and restore confidence in the office which he as so patently failed. A nice thought but put another way he as the man that could stop the mess at any time over the past 9 years and cleaned it up in private but didn't now wants our trust that he can do it in public.

I THINK NOT and I have 20 years of campaigning under my belt and am thoughougly sickened by the whole mess. He should go now rather than put into place a system that his replacement may themselves deem too lax and seek to reform.

So now or in a month or two.

Personally it has to be now but I suspect it may be best for the country for him to see things though to publication of the full expenses let his watch carry all the juicy revelations and not leave a new Speaker having thier opening days tainted by the past.

So publication day it is and I hope a real competion for the post let us the public see the election not hide it behind closed doors. Place an obligation on every party in Westminster to nominate at least one candidate in the next ten days with thier expenses published immediately and require them to publish their alst 4 years of expenses on nomination.

Lets see detailled manifestos of how they plan to reform, a full question time debate and public involvement... and let them face an independant review of manifesto vs actions in 24 months time with a commitment to resign if they are found to have reeged on those promises

We as a political elite have too many good candidates out there being frightened or sickened out of Westminster politics by the baying of the Fleet Street pack. So let us once and for all send a message out that our politics is fundermentally clean its just got a few rotten apples within it that need checking on the compost heap