Thursday, 20 May 2010

Peoples Manifesto for Anglesey - First Draft

  
Exactly one week ago today, as a first step towards starting a grassroots 'good governance movement' on Anglesey, I asked contributors to help in providing suggestions to create a "Peoples Manifesto" for local government on the Island. I'm delighted to say that the thread received close to one hundred comments - each containing constructive suggestions and proposals addressing almost every aspect of local government on Anglesey. Diolch yn fawr to you all!

Below I have attempted to compile all the comments and suggestions to create a 'first draft' of our Peoples Manifesto:


Education and Leisure

  • Commission a review of all Ynys Mon primary and secondary education needs in the short and long term so that any rationalisation of services is taken based on an understanding of  what the Island's educational needs are to prepare for the future
  • Allow the formation of 'free schools' so that parents can choose in which language they want their children to be educated - this is particularly important in order to make Anglesey more attractive to entrepreneurs who might like to settle and develop businesses in Anglesey
  • Protect local libraries as they provide the means for residents to enhance their knowledge and skills
  • Commission a review of all leisure facilities on the Island, both in the public and private sector

Social Services

  • Work in partnership with adjacent local authorities, the NHS and private providers, in order to identify and eliminate costly duplication of services and encourage and support good working practice.

Highways, Transportation & Maritime (including the Port of Holyhead)

  • Recognise that improved transport links to bring Anglesey closer to the business centre of the UK are absolutely crucial for encouraging businesses to set up on the Island and further economic development
  • Campaign for an upgrade to the North Wales costal main line (its crazy that it takes one hour to get from Bangor to Chester)
  • Campaign for Holyhead to be linked to proposed highspeed rail link - this would make Holyhead the prime gateway to Ireland.
  • Campaign for Anglesey Airport to fly to an extended destination list, including London, Ireland, Midlands, etc. and not just Cardiff 
  • Accelerate the re-provision of services along the Gaerwen-Llangefni-Amlwch rail link
  • Consider putting highway services out to competitive tender
  • With relation to Holyhead Port: build on good work already achieved by working closely with Stena and others to develop the port commercially and encourage trade as a gateway to Wales and North England

Legal Matters

  • Separate the functions between the running of the Council, and policing of the Council, by the appointment of Good Governance Commissioner to deal with complaints against the council not resolved by the council including: Freedom of information requests & Compliance with Data Protection Act.

Economic Development

  • Recognise that the Island's future rests on promotion and support of small businesses, not just one or two large employers; therefore consider ways to reduce the costs of running small businesses and provide support to encourage growth of existing small businesses and establishment of new ventures
  • Promote the inward migration of forward thinking entrepreneurs
  • Hold an independent review into the cost effectiveness of the policies followed by the IOACC's Economic Development Department
  • Set up a committee or similar grouping of successful business people on the Island who can advice and review the actions of the council Economic Development Department. 
  • Provision of better training opportunities on the Island

Tourism

  • Promote Anglesey's unique prehistoric, Celtic and Druidic past by developing a visitor centre to provide more information and better access at Barcloddiad Y Gawres or Bryn Celli Ddu (this is especially important when you consider that the majority of tourists brought by cruise liners to holyhead currently get on coaches for day trips to Betws Y Coed etc off the island!)
  • In relation to the above point, campaign for the return of the Llyn Cerrig Bach treasures from Cardiff, and house them at a suitable venue
  • Anglesey's uniqueness is that it is an island - promote that uniqueness by promoting its as destination for water sports, yachting etc.
  • Promote and support Anglesey's windmills rather than closing them down - Anglesey was called Mon Mam Cymru due to its flour production therefore these windmills are an important part of our heritage
  • Consider creating a big attraction in the centre of the island, something like Greenwood Centre crossed with Eden Project crossed with Center Parc, including walking, riding and cycling paths. Boating etc. 3 swimming pools with slides, waves etc. Discounted entry and season tickets for residents.The site could be council owned. They would plan the layout, build infrastructure like roads, carparks, paths, WCs and some buildings. then have say 20 or 30 plots scattered around for rent.

Environment, Property and Smallholdings

  • Renovate the incredibly poor state of some of IOACC tenant farms

Corporate Management

  • Investigate the feasibility of entering into partnership arrangements with neighbouring authorities in order to reduce cost, duplication and functions (e.g. share chief officers)
  • Investigate the feasibility of devolving greater powers to community/parish councils
  • Improved control over the priorities of the local police
  • Set up a 'Good Governance Commission' led by someone from outside Ynys Môn. Any complaints not satisfactorily resolved by the Council should be referred to the commission
  • Complete transparency regarding council officer salaries over certain threshold - no ifs, no buts.
  • Requirement for candidates standing to become a councillors publish their manifesto online on the council website 2 months prior to elections 
  • Independent candidates should also state prior to the election which grouping they will join if elected

Planning

  • More consistency and transparency
  • Review whether industrial agriculture represents 'unspoilt' natural landscape which currently prevents planning permission being given to build on this land
  • Consider introducing a scheme whereby people can build traditional cottages in vernacular styles using local materials. Don't allow paved or tarmaced drives, but promote walking to a house. Promote renewable energy. This would create affordable homes, a whole industry to support it, revive traditional building skills, give hope to local people and keep them here, and demonstrate meaningful sustainable living, not just tick-box style schemes currently in-vogue.

Procurement

  • Greater transparency (all procurement projects greater than £10,000 to be listed on IAOCC website)
  • Preference given to local firms
  • Relaxation of some ridiculously over-the-top 'box ticking' which currently prevents smaller Anglesey firms from being able to bid for IAOCC contracts

Wylfa B

  • Support Wylfa B, but insist that Horizon also sets up a suitable multi-million pound charitable fund on Anglesey (similar to the Shell fund) which can used by IOACC to provide support to certain activities (esp. economic developement, education & leisure)
  • a reduction in electricity bills for everyone on the island should Wylfa B get built. A 30% reduction would save households several hundred more £ a year.

Shell Fund

  • Insist that there are members of the public sitting on the Shell Trust. 
  • Also that the Treasurer of the Trust files his reports on time; not doing so smacks of contempt for those whose money it is.

Provision of Council Services

  • Working with the Post Office, other local providers and community council’s establish where possible one stop shops in the provision of council services. Provide funding to develop training for non council staff in provision of such services.

I'm sure that on reading through the above many of you will have additional thoughts or ideas which you might like to include. Equally you might like to edit or adjust these existing items. Accordingly I would like to invite everyone who is interested to directly edit the above document which I have hosted on an online collaborative editing site. You can access it as follows:

Password:    druid

On logging on feel free to give yourself a 'username' (you don't need to register or give your email so its completely anonymous) and make whatever changes you think will improve this draft. In doing so remember that you are making a solid contribution to improving the current mess we have in Anglesey County Council.
    
P.S. I should also add that if someone wants to have a go at improving the structure of the whole thing, grouping items better and generally enhancing and simplifying the text, please be my guest!
      

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a superb piece of work for a first draft - and all without spending the usual £30,000 on a consultant to tell us what we already know we want.

Brilliant! Let's get this into the papers to show to IOACC that the old ways of doing things just don't wash any more.

Anonymous said...

I am humbled Druid. Usually I like to take the piss but, respect, that's a good piece of work.

Councillor Barrie Durkin. said...

Druid.

This is Democracy at it's best.

A far cry from the current situation under Cllr McGregor's reign of aristocracy

Cllr Barrie Durkin.

stats man said...

Druid - Thank you for your hard work. A very good beginning and hopefully the start of an honest and constructive discussion about the future of the services provided by the council.

I would remind politicians that this is not a bandwagon, but an honest attempt by the Druid to fill the void already left by them.

Anonymous said...

Druid, I work in an integrated Health - Social Services County wide team in England. The principle is excellent at a grass roots level - easier access to nursing, psychiatry and psychology etc via a through service referral process. Joint team working, multi-disciplinary team working and so on.

However, it is the support infrastructuire that lets us down. Two seperate computer systems that do not 'talk' to each other; use of data protection stops cross-service e.mails between practitioners, new access to medical records system currently only on NHS sites....and too many managers!

I wish you every success with your manifesto. For the first time in years I can actually say, hand on heart, that something as political as this is actually makes sense.

Hope it all gets the publivity - and recognition - it deserves.

The Griffin

Anonymous said...

A nice post by Griffin.

As for computers and other infrastructure problems - these are often some manager's wonderful idea that they can't accept has gone pear shaped. Contracts can be terminated if good managers insist on fair contract wording. Instead, most just sign on the dotted line and feel a hero - for a while.

Anonymous said...

Data access shouldn't be the problem it is.

Issue a data specification and insist every system can import and export a minimum dataset.

Use XML. Let other people design different ways of viewing and using the data.

IT companies often sell very old systems with a new interface tacked on, and don't want their client to know how primitive things are under the hood.

That is the usual problem why systems can't talk to each other IME.

Managers who have blown a few million on a duff system usually try to bluster through long enough to pick up a pension, very few admit they are in the wrong job.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of good IT companies - there's one in Parc Menai - that specialise in software that makes different databases talk to each other properly.

It's just a question of looking into what each company promises, making sure you have superb-quality IT people assessing the contract, and keeping a very tight control on progress.

stats man said...

I don't think it's a problem with software providers but a lack of clarity across different authorities - different systems, software etc. Already there are examples of good procurement work done in many areas especially in XML.

The policy I suggest should be along the lines of - "Where there is a need to share digital information in the interest of the public, the Council shall establish best joint working practices, with the NHS, adjoining councils and other providers and share the funding of such system within clearly defined parameters and budgets. The views of the public using the service as well as of those of key front line staff being consulted at all key stages."

Dyfed said...

I agree that this is an excellent start. How sad that no even the political aprties on the island - let alone the indies - will put forward a manifesto such as this during local elections.

Anyhow, here are my comments on some of your points:

Schools: I'm pretty sure the Education Department have carried out such a review before embarking on the current closure programme. I was present at the Eduation Commitee when it was being briefed on the plans. Many people may not like the policy but I'm sure it was based on a thorough review.

'Free schools': allowing schools to opt out of Welsh language teaching would be a detrimental step, not least for the language itself. Great work has been done through education in ensuring a future for the language. Your policy would surely work against that work. And do we know for sure that people are choosing not to come here because of language poilcy? Any reviews on this?

Good governance Coms: Don't we have one already - in the Ombudsman? Other authorities also exist for people to make complaints to, like the police who will undoubtedly investigate if allegations are made and proof is available. The council is also being overseen by a board appointed by WAG and has had a chief exec imposed on it. Despite several complaints (that have not been substantiated by anything more than inuendo as far as I can see) the board and DB are working well and are beginning to turn things around.

A bid attraction: local gov should NOT be involved in this area. Private companies are always better at setting up and running such things. But of course we had an application for development of retail park plus leisure facilities at Ty Mawr - and there was a howl of protest.

Windmills: it would be great to see more working windmills up and running. But if it was viable for additional attractions such as the one we have at Llanddeusant then someone would have pushed forward with it. Plus Llynon involved spending a lot of public money if I remmeber correctly, and there's not much of that around at the moment!

Local firms given preference: is it not the case that tenders are given on the basis of best price? Though I agree local firms should be given more buisness, the dangfer is of having to pay more, resulting in higher taxes. Few would want this in reality.

Build using local materials: I thought the council was in favour of this - local stone, slate roofs etc. But the costs are far higher. Not sure how defensible it would be add costs to local people already struggling with housing.

No paved and tarmac drives: not sure if I understand this one. But taking it at its plain meaning then surely this would be taking planning restrictions too far. I right leaning bloig like yours should surely be advocating relaxing planning rules, not tightening them.

Public sitting on Shell fund: the public do sit on Sheel fund - as democratically elected councillors. If we don't like what they do we can vote them out in two years time. They all have tenure of four years only. If we don't vote a new lot in it's partly our fault things don't change.

Provision of council services: the POs would love it! But it would take a significant investment of public funds. Again, the money isn't there.

Sorry to have only listed my negative reactions. There are many good ideas in your list, Druid.

stats man said...

To Dyfed,

Thank you for your contribution. We need an honest debate about how services are delivered on the island.

In respect of a good governance commissioner I would comment as follows:

The fact that the Welsh Assembly intervened shows things where not OK in the past, the 'overseeing board' aren't going to be there for ever. It would be better in my mind if the council where self policing albeit through a independent commissioner, who's functions would be clearly explained to the public. Rather than wait for complaints, the commissioner could demand compliance and proof of.

And to finish, the fact something has already occurred (review, report) should not be a hindrance to revisiting such policy or objective. We have a new national government after all, and no doubt new budget levels.

Anonymous said...

Dyfed. With regard to schools; The National Curriculum has to be taught in all schools and Welsh is a core subject i.e. compulsory.

In Ynys Mon all schools are Welsh Medium, that is they aim to teach through the medium of Welsh.

People who come to Anglesey and are of working age and have children genuinely do not want Welsh medium education. A lot of people with children will come for the construction of Wylfa B.

There has been research into why people fail to settle in Gwynedd and Anglesey (Dynamics of demographic change and migration in N.W. Wales) and this identified the problem of Welsh Medium education for incomers.

One grant maintained school in Ynys Mon does offer English medium education. It is the largest primary school on Anglesey with more than 400 pupils drawn from all over the island. This suggests demand.

In any case it is easy for the Education department to test demand by sending out a questionaire to all parents.

Remember 80% of children in Wales are taught through the medium of English. Every county has the option of a Welsh medium or English medium Education except for Anglesey, Gwynedd and Ceredigion.

If we are to draw in young entrepreneurs we must provide education which is acceptable to them.

If we are going to cross off every move because it risks one sacred cow or another we end up with the status quo. And we'll deserve it.

Y cochyn sais said...

may i suggest that an over riding principal of practice is adopted: that being one of looking towards long term sustainable developments. i would see this as the key to IOACC moving from the sad doldrums it seems to be slumbering in at the moment. Anglesey does have quite a unique flavour.
as it is a first draft should this be looked at a working document - how does Druid see this will progress - are prospective councillors going to be asked to "sign up" to this as a general manifesto?
are we going to have a step into the "new age" of politics where parties and political heritage is forgotten and making things work so people are happy is of paramount importance?
i hate to sound an old cliche but shouldnt there be more what can i put in rather than what can i get out?

stats man said...

To 'Y cochyn sais', the problem in the past has been the lack of 'political parties' manifested by the majority of Councillors being independents (even independent of the independents) without a clear agenda (or manifesto) to be judged by.

Maybe we are entering a new era of accountability, which OMG is about asking the people what they want, in the interest of all and not the few. And why not, quite clearly the old political system has failed.

Anonymous said...

Counc. Durkin 14.50
I think you mean autocracy ....there is nothing aristocratic about our Clive !!!

Anonymous said...

Thank God for a 'voice of reason' as expressed through the very sensible comments of Dyfed. This blog is becoming monotonous as it is sometimes becoming sinister - and I challenge the Druid and his supporters to bring out his so called people's manifesto which states that the Welsh Language is not only unimportant but even detrimental to the island. Come on Druid, show yourself as a 'real' person and have the courage of your own right wing and reactionary convictions to put a name and a face to the manifesto so that we can all see who you are and what you really stand for - and then see what happens?!!

Anonymous said...

In terms of external private investment, has the question been asked (or answered) whether investors have been put off from investing by the Welsh Language Act?

"O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us."

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon 00:15 - sorry if I am "monotonous" in wanting to improve the current forlorn state of this Island. Is it really "sinister" to advocate that there should be at least one English language medium school on the island? I personally believe that it is parents that should choose what language their children are educated in - not the Government. Anglesey is not a "Welsh Theme Park" - it is a living, breathing economy which has been badly battered by the recent recession, and we have to ensure that it has a future.

Dyfed's points are eloquent, well argued and constructive; Yours contain no argument for the continued provision of welsh only schooling, just ad hominem attacks. If you are passionate enough about the issue make your case.

Anonymous said...

Good points from Dyfed.


Regarding the big attraction idea, the council *could* do things to make such an idea a reality. They do own land, have authority, have the knowledge to select sites, the wherewithall to build access roads, carparks, drainage, the power to direct and help large investors. I know private companies can do the attractions themselves better, but would rarely arrange themselves into consortiums to do something this big.

I don't know how this type of thing could be achieved, but in some ways it would be a similar development to a business or retail park, with separate businesses set up within a commonly managed/owned facility.

The difference is that the purpose is to build an attraction that is worth coming on a day trip from Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham, which won't happen with a retail park plus bowling/cinema. All that is happening with these developments is business is being taken away from local family owned shops or places like Llandudno, no new money is coming in.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Dyfed

Thank you very much indeed for your constructive criticism. Its comments like these which really help us refine and improve the manifesto as we go forward. Here are my replies to your individual points:

Free schools - Its a good point, Dyfed. Personally I am not against either English or Welsh language education, I simply believe that parents should be able to make the choice in which language their children are taught - not the Government. Are people choosing not to come here because of the current language policy? Anon 17:25 makes a good case that they are. I would add that as Gwynedd also has a Welsh-only policy, it means that people settling here can't simply cross the bridge to find an English-language school, they have to go even further afield.

Good governance Coms - Another good point. As stats man says the recovery board etc will not be here forever - I think it would be a good idea to create a permanent independent ombudsman's office which will continue into the future.

A big attraction - Another good point, and I would also say that Anon 09:09 makes a good response. Its clear that making such a big attraction into reality would require both the council and local businesses to work together.

Windmills - True - but should lack of money prevent us from holding this up as an aspiration?

Local firms given preference - A fair point. I guess the emphasis has to be on making it easier for local businesses to compete. Currently, as I understand it, the tendering process requires companies to jump through various administrative hoops which acts as a disincentive to smaller firms which do not have the manpower. I would be happy if someone with more experience could expand on this point...

Build using local materials & No paved and tarmac drives - Again very good points. As you say I personally am in favour of relaxing planning rules. Perhaps the key here is to allow building in places not previously strictly allowed if the new building is built using local materials in a traditional manner.

Public sitting on Shell fund - Here I do disagree. The Councillors are our representatives - but I see no harm in ordinary members of the public also being able to sit on the Shell Fund advisory board. How those ordinary members of the public could be selected is another matter.

Provision of council services through POs - Again we can call this an aspiration.

Dyfed, again thank you very much for your comments - I hope you will continue to let us know what you think. I will revise the manifesto to take into account what we have discussed here.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon 09:09 - I think you have hit the nail on the head there.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Y cochyn sais - I'm now considering the best way to present the manifesto to both the council as a whole and individual councillors. More news on this point soon.

Anonymous said...

Is this all going to be allowed to founder on the tiresome "Language Issue"?

Everyone knows that the Welsh Language protectors can pop up in their hundreds on blogs and in letters pages, but let's have some common sense.

A year or so ago an Irish entrepreneur made the point that he and others like him were reluctant to set up business in the Welsh areas of Wales because of Language regulations.

The Language activists say "good" we don't want you anyway.

Already we have had Osian Jones for the Welsh language society leading opposition to Wylfa B, not because the Welsh Language society has strong feelings about Nuclear Power but because of the risk Wylfa B poses to the "Language and Culture" of Anglesey.

Let me de-construct that for you.

Wylfa B will bring lots of people from England to work in Anglesey.

Those English people will not be Welsh speakers like us.

We don't want those non Welsh speakers here.

Let's stop Wylfa B so that no English people come to live here.

And so we go round. Every major development which risks people coming in from outside is to be opposed on "Language and Culture" grounds.

The only developments allowed are those which are controlled by the Local or Assembly Governments which will make sure that only "Our local people" get employment.

The world doesn't work like that; we NEED outsiders!

Anonymous said...

If the "Language and Culture" argument were true, there should be a demonstrable effect from the last 45 years of building and running Wylfa.

Unless it isn't true.

Can anyone enlighten me?

I'm not sure who benefits from these language decisions - the employed make them, the unemployed suffer by them.

stats man said...

Can I build on the one stop shop idea, it's really about villages or towns where there are empty shops, and small sub post offices or post offices not in the main shopping area. By coming together Post Office, Council, community or town council, charities or other providers then it may be feasible to lease empty shop and open as a one stop shops. There is nothing worse than an empty shop, and think of the benefits - i.e section for tourists. I know its still very vague, full of if and buts, but lets make it a strong aspiration.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on Language:

as I understand it, in Eire all schoolchildren learn Goidelic Irish.
The road signs are bi-lingual.
I don't know how their government apparatus works in regard to the duplication of documents in Irish and English. I'm also not sure what the situation is regarding Goidelic as a 'living' language,(first language in the home) - can anyone enlighten me?

Any businesses locating to Ynys Mon that fall under the remit of the Welsh Language Act have to make provision for the additional costs of translation and printing, where it applies.
This is more likely, than not, to create a disincentive to setting up business in Wales.

I've always thought that a bigger factor in the problem of diluting the Welsh language is first language speakers leaving the area; whileas a portion of English incomers will learn Welsh(to varying degrees).
I suspect that incomers from outside the UK are more likely than English first language speakers to learn Welsh as they are likely learning English as well. I understand that Chinese students at the University are proving more proficient (generally)than UK English students at learning Welsh. (or so my student son tells me.

stats man said...

I may be wrong but my understanding is that the Welsh Language Act does not apply to the majority of private companies.

Reasons for not moving into Wales or United Kingdom to establish production base is manpower costs, and may I be as bold as suggesting conversion costs of pound to euro (or vice a versa). Also the new engines of the world economy, with growing internal markets are China and
India.

There are in some cases, a strong argument why providing a welsh service would be of benefit to a company.

The subject for another day is the relevance of the welsh language to everyday use by us, especially the youngsters, and it's place globally.

Anonymous said...

I'll Quote the Bangor University research for you on the subject of integration and migration from North West Wales;

"For most of our respondents the difficulties of finding suitable work and/or filling jobs was the paramount concern. Next most important to economic considerations were questions to do with the social situation with regard to the Welsh Language and the operation of the local political and cultural system"

Or the evidence of a 28 year old coming to Gwynedd;
"Language issue is the only element of life here which makes her feel insecure. She feels it is a barrier in the jobs market."

Or a couple who moved from the Midlands.

" people have asked them why they don't move away. Had to have phone number changed as message left on tape "Why don't you learn Welsh" "

or "An English informant who moved to Menai Bridge from cumbria to take up a job as a NHS manager in Gwynedd- a move he "bitterly regretted". For him, the key issue is the Welsh Language. Despite being very highly qualified his wife couldn't find a job and was told jobs would go to Welsh speakers, "irrespective of their qualifications." Eventually took work in Scotland and husband retired early. "Doesn't want to set foot in Wales again even on a day trip."

This research was commissioned by Anglesey and Gwynedd Council to find out why people failed to stay in North West Wales.

It is full of people who have been driven out by language and culture issues.

Ther question is can Anglesey afford to continue with this or is it going to actively invite young entrepreneurs or wealthy commuters to the Island?

There really must be a move to create an English medium schooling system to operate alongside the Welsh Medium system.

I think it was 1974 that Welsh medium schooling was introduced, many more famillies had Welsh as a home language at that time than now. At present only about 40% of school children in Anglesey come from homes where Welsh is the first language yet there is no provision for any parents to opt for English Medium education.

Anonymous said...

I copy an anonymous post which appeared under "Does Anglesey need a Mayor". It seems more appropriate here;

"Druid - produce, proclaim and promote your so called people's manifesto and then see what happens - come on let's see what people really think about your Anglesey masterplan - which excludes and denigrates the language of the majority of this wonderful island people and enclave."

23 May 2010 04:04

This poster makes an assumption about the "Manifesto"; That it "excludes and denigrates the language of the majority"

It does no such thing as far as I can see but the other point which is inferred is well made; No one in their right mind would seriously put their name to any document which asked for even one designated English medium school in Anglesey for fear of the vitriolic attacks they would suffer from the likes of anon. 23rd May 04:04.

Strangely enough it is the council which acts unlawfully in not canvasing opinion concerning English Medium schooling; I think the 1944 Education Act gives parents the right to demand that their children are taught according to the parents wishes. It is this act which was drawn on by the 1993 Welsh Language act to give a duty to councils to canvas the opinion of Parents as to whether they wanted WELSH medium education for their children.

Only three councils haven't done this; Anglesey, Gwynedd and Ceredigion. The reasoning being that since all parents have Welsh medium Education in those counties, then there is no point in asking. Do any parents now or in the future want English medium education? Who cares as long as the educational advantage remains with the Indigenous Welsh speaking population?

There is one other dubious point made by Anon 04:04;

He refers to the "Language of the majority of this....enclave".

I take it that he assumes that because, in the 2001 census, 60% of the population said that they COULD speak Welsh that means that all those people have Welsh as their language of choice. That is not necessarily the case. 60% of children in Anglesey schools have English as their home language. Nevertheless they will technically be able to say that they "Can speak Welsh" at the 2011 census. It will not be "Their language" which will remain English.

Gareth said...

I realise the point of the post was not Welsh Medium Education, but seeing as it's veered towards it, I can no way let this pass.

I have met countless people over the years who have expressed their regret at not being able to speak Welsh, and wish they had learnt it as a child. As someone who is learning German and being in my mis 20's, I can only speak from experience when I say it's much easier the younger you are.

I learnt English when I started primary school, and it's almost effortless at that age. Will someone please explain to me what negativity comes from being able to converse in two languages rather than one? Having English schools with a few welsh lessons a week isn't going to make anyone bilingual, but going to Welsh schools is.

I have many mates who may have grown up in an English speaking household but can fully understand and speak Welsh to an adequate level. I imagine their schooling is the difference between sitting in on chats in the pub and joining in, as opposed to sitting there with no clue as what's going on.

I really hope that many of the posts on here (which have made me very angry reading some of whom) are not a reflection on the views of the majority.

Gareth said...

By the way, why should there be a choice for English incomers to choose to educate their children in English? It's almost cruel to deprive their children of being able to converse in mother language of thousands of people locally surely?

I'm not saying that Wylfa B should be opposed on cultural grounds by any means. But to the few doubters that it has any effect at all, there are many pockets in Northern Anglesey where Welsh is never spoken, which was not the case before it was built. That's a crying shame, in my opinion at least.

Anonymous said...

Touche Gareth - my views and opinions to a T. Let the right wing anti-Welsh crowd that populate this blog answer that point... 'Will someone please explain to me what negativity comes from being able to converse in two languages rather than one? Having English schools with a few welsh lessons a week isn't going to make anyone bilingual, but going to Welsh schools is'.

The more people who realise the true reason, nature and values of this blog/blogger the better it will be for Ynys Mon (notice that the Druid comes to rescue Anglesey and not Ynys Mon!!).

pete said...

No-one has said there is a negativity from being able to converse in two languages, so why pose the question?

What they have said is this:

- Ynys Môn needs private investment

- Private investors are put off by the Welsh Language Act.

- Ynys Môn needs incomers/new blood.

- Incomers are put off by lack of English Language education.

- Everyone wants to learn in their first language.

Children who speak English at home will learn Welsh through the primary education system, but anyone starting in welsh education older than about 10 will be at a severe disadvantage. No thinking parent would wish it on their child.


I have to say that being able to chat in the pub isn't a very strong argument for the millions of pounds it costs. Got any better ones?

The Druid of Anglesey said...

"By the way, why should there be a choice for English incomers to choose to educate their children in English?"

Like many people from this Island of a certain age I had to move away when I was younger to find work. Before returning to Ynys Mon I have been fortunate enough to live and work in several different countries. In each of them you will find "international schools", formed to teach the children of roaming businessmen in the languages of their choice: be it English, German, French, or even Japanese. Accordingly I have to confess to being genuinely taken aback by the strength of opposition by some commenters to the suggestion that it might be a good thing to allow one English medium school on the Island so as to give parents a choice.

As one of the poorest regions in the whole UK (and indeed Europe according to some OECD reports) with a massive net outflow from the island of young people - can we really afford to be so complacent? I would argue that it is of little consolation to Welsh families on this island if their Welsh speaking sons or daughters are unable to live close by because they have had to travel off the Island to South Wales or even England to find work. With the closure of Anglesey Aluminium, the imminent decommissioning of Wylfa A, and the countless other jobs lost on the island, things are only going to get worse in the foreseeable future. Yet it appears that to openly discuss the possible necessity of relaxing the Welsh-only schooling policy to attract incoming businesspeople is taboo. Would we rather the Island 'died beautifully' instead?

However, having said that - I will be sorely disappointed to see the many excellent measures contained in the manifesto we have been creating discarded because of just one...

stats man said...

The school education policy is determined by the Welsh Assembly, and whilst good points have been raised on either side of the debate above; lets us not loose focus on the key aim here, which is to improve the running of the council for the benefit of all.

In that respect also, can I humbly ask that the manifesto be positive based on our priorities, our hopes and our aspirations. It's not about other people or what they may or may not have achieved. Mentioning individuals does nothing to improve matters.

Dyfed said...

I've re-read my comments and am red-faced as I notice how many typos crept in! Sorry!!!

Anyhow, let me thank the Druid for responding so positively to my comments. When a positive debate is had good things can happen. Often on blogs the level of debate can be very low indeed!

It's sad the language issue has dominated the comments so far - but maybe there is something to be investigated here. I wasn't aware of the report/s prepared on the issue and am grateful that someone has mentioned it/them. Any links available? I'd be interested in reading them.

For those of us who are Welsh first language this is a very sensitive issue. For decades up until the 1990s (possibly) the language was under threat of extinction. A handful of people fought very hard to ensure public policy was changed so that the language was taught in schools, used on road signs, and generally respcted. I was a child in the 1970s and had very little education through the medium of Welsh even though I was a pupil in a small village school in a Welsh speaking area. In secondary school only two subjects (apart from Welsh itself) were available through the medium of my first language - history and geography. All other subjects were taught through the medium of English - no choice available.

In the same period all road signs were in English only. Councils up and down Wales refused to change this policy - until the Welsh Language Society decided to embark on direct action and paint the signs over with green paint. In many other areas, too, giving the language equal status with English has taken a lot of hard work by a few committed people. And yes, some were imprisoned for their trouble.

It was changing these policies that ensured the language turned a corner and became viable once again. Without them the battle would have been lost. For some that may be insignificant, but for anyone who cares for culture, heritage, national pride etc, then it would be have been a sad day indeed.

Why do I say all this? Only to try and explain to those who sturggle to understand why a reveresal in some or all of these policies is such a sensitive issue for many. It strikes at the heart of our identity as Welsh people.

It saddens me deeply that some incomers have had to encounter resentement from locals. Harbouring resentement towards those who have hurt you is not a good thing and I am sorry if you have had to face it.

But I am not sorry that the continued fight for the life of our language is to be taken into account in deciding public policy. It should be a factor. And for the People's Manifesto to have true credibility in our communities across this island, then the heritage, culture and language of Ynys Mon needs to be a significant part within it.

Having said all that I liked the suggestion made by the Druid about 'International Schools' in other countries. Do all incomers in, say, France, have an opportunity to go to such a school, or do most have to be a part of the local school system and do as the French do and learn the indigenous language?

Anonymous said...

Here is another true story from the other perspective; an overzealous teaching assistant banned children from speaking English *IN THEIR BREAKTIME* and made them stand facing the wall if she heard them.

Anglesey, 2010.

Anonymous said...

I've tried twice to post a comment using a username, rather than Anon but they're not appearing

Anonymous said...

Firstly. Some education policy is dictated by the Assembly but there is no edict from the Assembly that says Ynys Mon has to have all welsh Medium schools; that decision predates the Assembly.

The Assembly (and the 1993 Welsh Language act) does say that each local authority must identify the demand for Welsh Medium education and respond to it.

The Assembly does not mention the possibility of any parent asking for English Medium education where this is not available.

The original reasoning behind Welsh medium education was simple:

"It is self evidently wrong that a child starting school should be confronted with a teacher speaking a language which he does not recognise."

However the Education system in Anglesey and Gwynedd dictates that at reception level and Key stage 1 teaching is completely in Welsh and English is not introduced until key stage 2.

We who live here are used to this but no one coming on a three year contract to Anglesey would consider such a situation as anything but cruelty to a four year old who had heard no language other than English in his short life.

So what's to happen if there is a Wylfa B? As possibly hundreds of children arrive from England (or Scotland, Poland or Lithuania) and enter primary education they will be whisked off to the specialist Welsh immersion schools in Moelfre and llangefni then whisked back to Primary schools all over Anglesey.

Firstly the school system can't cope with this; the immersion schools are already being misused as children who started in Welsh medium at age four are sent to Moelfre at year five when it has become well evident that their Welsh does not allow them to follow classes. Secondly, and Gareth might like to think about this, what happens to the character of schools in Cemaes, llanfechell, llanfaethlu or Carreglefn when the playground turns English?

Anglesey has its collective head buried in the sand with regard to Education. Welsh medium works for kids from Welsh speaking homes. It works when at least one parent is fluent in Welsh and it works for English kids who are self confident and quick learners as long as they are in small classes.

Education is for ALL kids though and Welsh Language dogma shouldn't be allowed to get in the way.

How many children Educated in Anglesey from four years old and with niether parent a Welsh speaker go on to be sufficiently fluent in spoken and written Welsh that they can take a "Welsh Essential" job at Anglesey Council?

I know that 80% of office staff in Anglesey are completely fluent in Welsh, that's in an Island where just 44% of people over the age of three are fluent in Welsh.

So how many of that 80% working in the Council owe their Welsh language fluency entirely to schooling in Anglesey rather than being brought up in a home where Welsh is spoken?

If we are going to have a sensible debate, and I know people who work at the council read this blog, lets have an answer:-

Just how good is Welsh language teaching in Anglesey at enabling school leavers to take up Welsh essential jobs?

Anonymous said...

There is of course A "London Welsh School" which teaches exclusively through the medium of Welsh until children are 7 when they are introduced to English.

I believe it is supported by the Welsh Language Board as long as there are 20 or more children studying there.

Welsh Medium ok in London, English Medium no chance in Anglesey?

Ynyswr said...

Not quite the same. Not like the kids attending the London Welsh school will be unable to speak English is it?

Anonymous said...

Is there anywhere else in the UK a secondary school teacher with no business experience would be employed to run an organisation like Menter Mon? Is this why we have no real business ideas, but lots of history trails and information panels?

stats man said...

To Anon 7:07 not sure what Menter Môn has to do with the manifesto.

Furthermore I'm sure I read somewhere that it has recently won through to the UK Enterprising Britain award finals as the regional winner for Wales. Not bad for an ex school teacher then!

stats man said...

Can I add:

All Councillors to partake in training about good local government governance, planning law and other regular refresher courses as required. This being mandatory to continuing as a councillor.

And for debate

A Councillor who is member of the Executive Board shall not be a governor of a school. (To eliminate potential conflict of interests.)

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Dyfed - thanks again for your comments and for taking the time to explain to everyone the reason why some Welsh people feel so passionately about the schooling issue. I think your contribution may have gone some way towards defusing the tension between various commenters.

"Having said all that I liked the suggestion made by the Druid about 'International Schools' in other countries. Do all incomers in, say, France, have an opportunity to go to such a school, or do most have to be a part of the local school system and do as the French do and learn the indigenous language?"

Yes, in my experience it is always possible for children to attend the local schools and learn through the medium of the local language. However, many business people who are on short- to mid-term postings prefer not to interrupt the schooling of their children and therefore opt for the International Schools in whatever language which will also generally follow the curriculum and exam system of their home countries.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Stats man - both excellent suggestions. I will add them to the manifesto.

Anonymous said...

The schooling issue should not be too contentious. All that is being said is that English Medium schooling should be a CHOICE. The same choice that exists for everywhere in Wales except Anglesey, Gwynedd and Ceredigion.

What is so wrong with that?

Research scientist said...

Think I might be of help with Cymraeg education issues. I was born and raised on Anglesey and was in school from the late 80's to 00's. It is policy in Wales that Welsh is taught through to GCSE level (approx 16 y/o). This can be done as first language or second language, depending on what is spoken at home. English medium education for other subjects is mosr certainly available on Mo^n, particularly in the more Anglicised areas, for example Holyhead High School, where teaching outside of Welsh lessons is English medium. And the Irish businessman referenced earlier has a cheek in criticising welsh language provision - the Irish language laws are stricter than Wales, particularly in so-called Gaeltacht areas (gaelic only signs in some of these areas!) - and they haven't been met with the same success as us Welsh!! My understanding also is that Welsh language laws have limited applicability to the private anyway.

Otherwise I love some of the discussions on here!

Democracy: The People Rule said...

Dyfed - I'd like to clarify a few points I obviously failed to get across last time:

(1) No tarmac drives: this is in relation to doing-up abandoned cottages and such like that often lie in the middle of fields, built when feet were the main method of movement. So, this would allow traditional renovation and people to live here in a more sustainable way, without having to urbanise the settings of those homes with modern driveways and similar. So, rather than tightening planning, it would actually be a relaxation of planning in terms of seeing the rural idyll less as a place empty of people, and more as a living landscape where people are encouraged to be in and contribute to. This misconception of the countryside is a common complaint levied at people like National Parks and so on. As someone pointed out earlier, the green fields of Britain are actually an industrial agriculture landscape.

(2) The Shell fund. Quite right to say the public are sitting on this in the form of elected members. But that is to ignore the severe problems we have with the quality an integrity of some members, who may well not be representing the public in quite the way we would hope for. My own experience of a meeting recently was one of a handful of councillors taking part in a grand self-justification exercise, rather than having an open, wide-ranging discussion that accepts different ideas. There was as much effort put into mocking the topic I put forward, including interference in my private life, as there was of anything else.

Anonymous said...

I've spent the last few days working through the IOACC web-site to see if I can locate evidence based assessments of the current situation and see what the strategic plans are for the different departments (I'll be posting more details of my search later on).
Can anyone help me with the following two questions:

Where can I find a copy of the Ynys Mon Coastal Development plan? -the one that 'zones' the different areas into 'heritage, environment, cultural, water sports, etc'
I'm sure I saw a glossy brochure detailing the zoning last year or the year before, however searches of Google and Ynys Mon web-site have turned up nothing.

Secondly I 've pasted the recommendations from the auditors report 15th July 2009 here:

The Auditor General makes seven recommendations directly to the Council for improvement, including calls for it to:
 Amend its political arrangements within 12 months, setting clear strategic priorities and direction;
 Re-structure senior management within 6 months to address deficiencies with corporate leadership;
 Take immediate steps to restore trust between some members and some senior officers;
 Improve planning decisions within three months;
 Make arrangements for improving citizen engagement by the end of 2009;
 Improve the way it responds to complaints by 31 March 2010; and
 Make arrangements for strengthening corporate services within six months.

Does anyone know if these recomendations have been actioned and completed yet?

If anyone can provide answers to these questions it will help me in making additions to the draft manifesto.

Prometheuswrites

I'll Leave Now for £100,000 said...

I think we will have to wait until about October, 12 months from when Mr. Bowles first arrived. The latest report of the Recovery Board to the Minister might appear on the blog shortly; it says that structural changes have taken place quite nicely, but that actual change is much less certain; it strikes a clear note of caution about the possibility of a relapse to past behaviour of the sort that we've seen for 14 years already.

A Little Bird Told Me... said...

"Where can I find a copy of the Ynys Mon Coastal Development plan?"

Lord knows! Despite having close links to the relevant departments, I have yet to see anything substantive about this scheme. The Council's website is one of the worst I've ever visited, and struggles to make itself look like it wants the public to know anything current.

Anonymous said...

@ 16.39
I've just read the 6th recovery board report (courtesy of Mr D)and agree with your comment.

I think my point above was that 6 of the 7 recomendations should have been completed by now; and I was wondering about progress on those specific matters - especially that one about citizen engagement.

Looks like the recovery board has been reading the blog too - they seem to be asking for 'manifestos' from each political grouping, by my reading.

Prometheuswrites

Anonymous said...

The language IS a problem. No matter where in the world children seem able to speak American. Coke, Fanta, Pepsi all the cartoons and films are no problem to them.

I was educated start to end in Anglesey. Welsh was the lnguage of Primary and I was fluent. By the time I left Secondary I had lost my ability to speak in Welsh. So, if all teaching was in Welsh the youngsters would learn the language by defult, I belive. Are there any teachers here who could comment please?

Would GCSE / A level students lose anything being tacght sciences in Welsh, I think here of a Welsh taught girl, passed everything well through the medium of Welsh, she then joined the Army as an officer but they put her through an intense programme of English because her in English commnication skills and spelling were not good.

Sadly, there are so many people in this world killing each other and yet if the Martians attacked the old we would stand side by side to repel the invaders. Why can we not be human brother and sister to each other, actually I think on the whole we are, it is just the weak who want to be at odds, it gives them a feeling of status.

Thank you Druid for this facility.

Anglesey Islander

Anonymous said...

Anon 17:22

I would like to see some input from a teacher or two with regards to Welsh Medium Education.

My impression is that it varies (too much) from school to school. I think that where there are small classes in Primary and the majority of kids are First Language Welsh speakers then Welsh is picked up by English Kids.

If classes/schools are bigger and English kids in the majority then Welsh is not effectively learned by English kids.

Secondary schools look at the language ability of each child and teach accordingly, therefore Primary Education is key.

Anonymous said...

Whatevere changes might or might not take place in education / language education the big test will come when Wylfa B gets underway. There will without doubt be a massive influx of workers and families adding youngsters across the age range into the schools. Some will be late school teens and it would be unfair at their stage to impose a new prime langauge on them, for the younger ones I do not see it as a problem.

As I thought earlier, and as also suggested by another correspondant
it would be valuable to have a GCSE / A level teacher contributing here.

Anglesey Islander

Anonymous said...

Language issues in higher education:

See this link on the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west_wales/10172492.stm

We are not alone in discussing educational language issues.

I'd like a further breakdown on these figures - actual speakers AND/OR learners in separate categories.

stats man said...

Sorry if I missed the point on schools but -

I though secondary schools on the island where already bilingual, in that you could decide which of languages to sit your exams in.

In respect of primary schools, I was led to believe that at this early age they can learn different languages easier than later in life. There are numerous examples of say a Welsh farther marrying a French mother and their children being able to speak welsh, French and English - all fluently and better than the parents. Whether they decide to continue to use the welsh language latter would be their choice.

But let's not be afraid to debate these issues. I myself have no children and am unlikely to have any, and on this subject will follow the views of parents. But also lets not forget the views of those in school currently.

Also I had to resit my English language, so sorry for any bad grandmothers.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, or unfortunately, whatever your background or political persuasion may be, this is conclusive proof of what I originally said... the language is and must be a consideration and central to the debate about the future of Anglesey. This blog, and its central blogger, is either oblivious of that fact or actively campaigning againts the language - both of which are incredibly naive or incredibly political. No other country in the world would proclaim that their failure as a people - economically, socially or environmentally - was down to their language and culture , but that is the claim here by the Druid and his right-wing and anti-Welsh supporters (sorry Druid, a 'diolch yn fawr' as in one particular response does not constitute or negate the obvious anti-Welsh tone or nature of your general blogs). Its still the same over 100 years on in Ynys Mon (not Anglesey), we are all backwards and the real reason for our backwardness is that we are Welsh and speak Welsh. As I stated before , this was the conclusion of then infomous 'Blue Books' and it is still the assumption and conclusion of most of the bloggers here - including the so called Druid. In the Ynys Mon of old , the Druid would have been scrificed on the altar of truth by his/her own countrymen/women.

Anonymous said...

You don't know much about the Blue Books do you?

The inspectors noted that parents were contemptuous of any attempt to teach in Welsh "Why teach us Welsh; we already speak Welsh"?

The Welsh speaking teachers were of very low grade (not trained) and invented preposterous methods like the "Welsh Not" which was discovered and reported on by the school inspectors. The inspectors were exasperated and contemptuous of this foolishness.

You can revisit old myths all you like Anon 02:33 it still doesn't make them anything other than myths.

Anonymous said...

Interesting debate about influx of Wylfa constructors.

Only one thing, though: it's happened before, so what schooling modifications came about then?

Anonymous said...

Anon 13:27 Wylfa A was constructed BEFORE Anglesey became a county with only Welsh Medium Schools.